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Christianity a Copy Cat Religion?|
Q. I've seen many internet sites that talk about Christianity being a copy of other religions like in that internet film, Zeitgeist. But, are there some general principles to tell people who are influenced by this stuff? I can't always remember everything you mentioned in your detailed review of the film, Zeitgeist, or other things like it.
Yes. There are some simple principles to be aware of when faced with this kind of hostile attack on our faith. Thanks for asking - I'm sure others feel as you do and would like to be armed with a few "defensive maneuvers."
First, look at the credentials of the people who write accusations against Christianity. Do they have a legitimate degree from an accredited university?
Knowledge of Languages&History
Do they have knowledge of several ancient languages?
Do they have expertise in ancient religions and history?
They should have at least looked over some conservative scholar's works such as historical accounts by Dr. Ben Witherington III or Dr. Craig Evans. A true scholarly study will include accounts from both a liberal and a conservative bias.
Second, check out the chronology of supposed parallels to Christianity. There are some fables which early on had no relationship to Christianity but later added characteristics post-Christianity. These parallels often demonstrate that the evolved myth borrowed from Christianity - not the other way around.
Some Gnostic writings and Egyptian fables have shown this to be true. We are often presented during Easter or Christmas with some "new" gospel that reveals the new truth of Christianity that was "hidden" away for centuries. These are designed to challenge orthodox Christianity. Almost always they are found to be third or fourth century writings from the Nag Hamadi library in Egypt - clearly known to be Gnostic literature bearing little resemblance to first century church history.
Third, check out the publishing dates of the sources used by hostile critics. Concerning the hundreds of sources supposedly used in the film, Zeitgeist, the majority are dated from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This was during a "History of Religions" school of thought that had invaded our seminaries and colleges.
This biased viewpoint carelessly used Christian terms to describe earlier events in other religions - then anachronistically attributed Christian terms and concepts to these earlier religions. In other words, call something in another religion a "baptism" or a "flood" and then marvel at the parallels to the Bible accounts. More recent archaeological finds and better language-interpretation of ancient sources refuted this school thoroughly. Even secular scholars don't normally make this same mistake anymore.
Fourth, be aware of the bias of scholars. Some believe that nothing concerning Christianity can be true because miracles don't happen. Period. They neglect to consider the possibility of a God who intervenes in His creation. They don't consider that if there is a personal God, then we must allow the possibility of miracles - including resurrection and healings. Christian scholars don't believe we live in a "closed system" where God cannot intervene in history. As C.S. Lewis said, "God became a creature who lived among His own creatures." This is the primary thesis of Christianity.
No Perspective on Religion
A few scholars don't believe in religion, either. They believe that mankind's long-term quest for God is simply an evolved, genetic predisposition to want a powerful deity influencing events in men's lives. They call this a "God Gene." Really…seriously, they do!
Many secularists don't believe in "sin." They think religious people made up the idea of "sin" in order to control others. They think that Christians, Jews, and Moslems just want to "rain on mankind's parade" - we are just a bunch of party-poopers and fun-killers.
Other secularists feel we shouldn't be living under the thumb of the Ten Commandments or other religious prohibitions or standards. For this reason they would like to outlaw the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or any other religious books containing rules. They think we should be allowed to abort and murder our unborn - even our babies up to two years of age. We should allow adults to have sex with children. We should allow and encourage children to form homosexual relationships. We should legalize prostitution and drugs for all ages. In other words, humans should be allowed to do whatever they please. There are scholars who promote this anti-religious, amoral bias in their writings.
One thing we noticed in the film Zeitgeist is that events were called "crucifixions" which were really appropiately called "murders." Other events were called "resurrections" which had no parallel to the Christian concept of a bodily resurrection from the dead. Some river or ocean events were called "baptisms" or "flood accounts." They clearly were not, however. The producer was very loose with the vocabulary terms of the parallels he supposedly found. Be careful of this.
One terrific advantage we now have with the internet is that readers can check-out the resources for themselves. Read the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example. While this is certainly a type of deluge account, when compared to the biblical flood story there is little comparison. Check it out for yourself.
Some of the biblical comparisons with astrology or other things are just ludicrous - plain silly. These are aimed at an uninformed audience. Check out the supposed comparisons for yourself - don't take the producer's or author's word for it.
Remember that almost all religions will share concepts of a deity, concern with an afterlife, principles and rules of living, and so on - that is why belief systems are coined "religions." Just because two belief systems share concern with an afterlife, for example, does not mean they have stolen from one another. They are just "religions" who are defined by these concerns.
These are some of the general cautions to use when confronted by hostile critics on the internet or elsewhere. We try to teach our readers that they are qualified to make evaluations for themselves. Readers can decide for themselves and distinguish between which car to purchase, which cereal has better nutrition for families, and which colors to paint a house. In the same manner, readers are capable of distinguishing and discriminating between the finds of scholars, too. Don't sell yourself short! Check it out.
Evans, Craig. 2006. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Downers Grove, ILL: IVP.
Strobel, Lee. 2007. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Witherington III, Ben. 2004. The Gospel Code. Downers Grove, ILL: IVP.
Author Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins, earned a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, and teaches women at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where her husband, Ken, serves as Director.
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