Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tomb Hoax

This morning I was working out with a friend at the local gym. The news channel had an interview with Simcha Jacobovici (director of the Discovery Channel "documentary," The Lost Tomb of Jesus) and Brent Bozell (founder and president of the Media Research Center). I could see the screen but I didn't have a headset to hear what they were saying.

My friend, who had a headset, gave me a running account of what these two were saying. All I could do was watch the body language and manner of the men.

I was hoping that Bozell would be measured in his response and not look like a crazy fundamentalist who was incensed that anyone would even question one of the core teachings of Christianity. Based on what I saw and my friend's commentary, I give him a B-.

I got to thinking that most people will remember how we respond to this rather than the facts that we give them to show that it is little more than a hoax.

And let's make no mistake about it. This "discovery" is a complete fabrication. (Here's a list of resources to support this position compiled by Denny Burk.)

Facts are important. Christianity claims to be a description of reality. If its description doesn't correspond to what we discover, then there is a problem. If Jesus did not bodily "rise from the dead," then Christianity becomes irrelevant.

However, people rarely make decisions based on facts. And in this post-modern culture, this is becoming increasingly so.

In this environment, it is not enough to have the facts on our side. If we bury people with objective evidence but do it in a manner that is condescending, hostile or unkind, then we lose the argument. How we communicate is even more important than what we say.

Speech Act Theory (which I must admit I don't fully understand) asserts that utterances often do more than convey information and that when utterances are intended to convey information they often communicate more than the bare meaning of the words.

For example, the gospel proclamation, "Jesus is Lord," is a speech act. It calls people to submit to the authority of Christ and denies any rival claims.

So here's my point: when we respond to the claims of this "discovery," we are doing more than just citing facts to support our position. In fact, what we say is often less important than how we say it.

Here are some things we need to be careful not to imply in this discussion:

  • "I am offended that anyone would dare to question a basic tenet of my faith."
  • "Anyone who doubts the truth of Christianity is a fool."
  • "Anyone who disagrees with my view of Christianity will be condemned to eternal punishment."
  • "Faith is independent of observations of reality."
  • "Christianity can be proven true by science and historical evidence."

Instead, we should be intentional about communicating the following:

  • "I'm not afraid of the truth. My commitment is to the truth."
  • "I believe that Christianity is true, but if it were shown to be false I would abandon it."
  • "I have persuasive evidence for the truth of Christianity, but in the end it comes down to faith."
  • "Whatever you believe, I will treat you with dignity and respect because of what I believe."
  • "Any claim to disprove a basic belief of Christianity should be taken seriously initially."
  • "But this particular claim will not stand up to honest scrutiny."
  • "I will let the experts speak for themselves."

Long after people have forgotten about the facts, they will remember the manner in which Christians responded to this "discovery."

Who we are is a much more powerful testimony of the truth of the gospel than what we say.

Pastor Rod

"Helping you become the person God created you to be"


jeff franczak said...

"How we communicate is even more important than what we say."

I agree. Well stated.

As we purposefully love our neighbors as ourselves, I expect that the "how" part of the communication will naturally follow.
(see Mark 12:28-31)

Pastor Rod said...


The "documentary" is going to make a "factual" response by Christians even less effective. It created a visually persuasive case. The position of the filmmakers is a complete fabrication, but we must be extremely careful how we address it.