Knowing your audience is important.
For example, if a columnist were speaking to you as an audience, praising a Jimmy Carter quote won’t get him very far. More likely, it would damage the credibility of the guy who dared quote him. Similarly, if you’ve waded into the Political Left websites, anyone daring to praise Dubya is instantly discredited, no matter what point he was trying to make.
But if, say, a ClashDaily writer were addressing the political left hoping to persuade them, there would be wisdom in referencing what one of their heroes (JFK, perhaps) said or did which we might find praiseworthy. In doing so, you build credibility, and the audience will become more receptive to the points you might want to make.
Now why did I begin like this?
There is a story floating around, yet again, (*yawn*) claiming that there is no historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. It has been posted elsewhere on ClashDaily.
It would be easy to wade in, and present some the ages-old replies to these allegations. This is, after all, by no means a new idea.
Like most attacks against Christian Orthodoxy, the claim gets trotted out, scholars argue for awhile, until it becomes thoroughly discredited (yet again), and the whole idea gets tucked away in some ideological closet until yet another generation discovers this “shocking truth” <clickbait> that — you guessed it — nobody ever knew before now. At last! The truth can be told!
I could take that approach. But I will not. Why? Many skeptics who read it will dismiss any rebuttal as biased, and might just assume that the claim is true until disproven.
Instead of that approach, I will quote, and link to an atheist who will rebut this idea himself. Any biases he may have (and we all have some) would tilt away from, rather toward, credulity toward the life of Jesus. Obviously, we will disagree on many things he will have to say, but he does make some solid points in refuting this particular story. In his own words, from Patheos, Neil Carter:
There are at least a handful of things about the origins of the Christian religion which we can reasonably conclude based on the things that we know. Among them are that there was most likely a guy named Jesus who preached and was killed outside Jerusalem, and that after his death a diverse following emerged which built around that event a narrative which grew to become the Christian faith.
The existence of two or three professionals within the study of antiquity claiming that Jesus never existed does not signal a sea change in that field. There haven’t been any new discoveries in the past few years which signal any significant changes in that discipline. The only thing I see that’s changed is public opinion.
He goes on to say…
Too much has been made of the contemporary silence about Jesus. Exactly how much notoriety would you expect a Jewish peasant to have in his context? How worthy of public record was the life and execution of an itinerant rabbi from Galilee? The civic leaders of the time didn’t even consider the names of those executed important enough to record for posterity. While highly colored by religious bias, the amount of information we have about Jesus is still impressive in comparison to any other non-official person of his time, even when pared down the most essential details. It’s true that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But it’s not extraordinary to claim that an itinerant Jewish preacher got in trouble with the law and was executed, nor in that day and age would it be extraordinary to see a following emerge around his life and teachings.
He’s concerned that Atheists are so emotionally invested in wanting theories like this one to be true, that they are doing exactly what they tend to accuse believers of doing: believing something without any real justification of doing so.
As I have said, Mr. Carter’s views of Christian truth claims are completely at odds with my own. But on the question of the day — “was Jesus of Nazareth an actual, historical person?” — we completely agree. And for that, I shall give him credit.