If character is about anything it’s about honesty. But what has character to do with belief? Does belief create good character or might belief adversely affect character? Belief that honors and is based on the good, the true and the beautiful should enhance character. So it is that we read in the gospels that the truth shall make you free. We, who were raised to believe Jesus was the Son of God, took for granted that the Gospels were an accurate record.
Yet the Gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Biblical scholars tell us were written sometime in second century, around 100 years after Jesus was said to have lived and also after those who wrote them likely had died, that someone else wrote them and listed those names as the authors. It is unlikely they were even written by those who were said to be Jesus’ disciples. Moreover, the words we have taken as verbatim or paraphrased, certainly wouldn’t pass as good reporting today that should be believed by educated thinking people. For example, we read that Jesus asserted his kingship for which he said he was born: See John 18:37 that reports a conversation between Pilot and Jesus:
Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the TRUTH. Every one that is of the TRUTH heareth my voice.’
Are believers told they are witness to the Truth based on weak evidence? Common sense tells us if we were to use that kind of evidence in court at best it would be akin to hear-say, second or third hand.
Character matters. Our credibility as truthful hinges on careful weighing of sources and of substance, and herein lies a second factor that I never thought to question as I was raised to believe. That factor was whether there is good evidence that Jesus actually was one who was born, whether born immaculate without a human father, whether he fed the thousands from a few baskets of food, whether he raised Lazarus from the dead, and whether he came to life after crucifixion and ascended into heaven. To say the least, Jesus is poor history. Even Paul who was one of the earliest Christians never mentioned Jesus’ virgin birth or his disciples.
In the many other than Christian writers of the time of Jesus, there is no mention of Jesus–no mention of him by contemporaries of his day, no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificate. Even in the entire first century, there is not a reference to Jesus by any non-Christian, non-Jewish source. (See David Fitzgerald, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All and Valerie Tarico, founder of Wisdom Commons and author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com)
From the pulpit we should hear the truth. Have you ever heard some or any Christian clergy acknowledge that they base their profession on shaky and impossible to find evidence? Should I trust scholars such as Fitzgerald and Tarico, whose research challenges what I was taught to believe? No that would be dishonest.
What I should do, if I have character, is to discover if the facts that they say are lacking can be found. The truth is what matters if I am a person willing to commit myself only to what I can know is true and unwilling to say something is truth that lacks evidence. Does that prevent me from evaluating and finding value in the maxims and Golden Rule good sense embedded in even a fictionalized account of one like a Jesus? No.