Belief unto death. All for a lie?
by Dwight Stanislaw
The establishment and spread of the Christian faith is unique among all religions in that both rest on a historical event (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ) witnessed firsthand, unwavering belief that what was witnessed actually happened (i.e., what happened was a true state of affairs in reality), and the resolve to share this conviction in the face of adversity up to and including death. So, with these points in focus, would the apostles have been persecuted even unto death for something they knew they did not actually witness or was, in fact, untrue? Before looking at this issue, there are a few objections which need to be cleared up in order to move on.
First, as critics often decry, people believe lies, spread lies, and even die for lies all the time. In fact, they claim, Christians accuse all other religions of being a lie and point to the willingness of those adherents to go to their deaths as believers also. However, each of these criticisms miss the mark considerably when examined further. We can tie them all together and see it is true that people believe lies knowingly or unknowingly, but in each case, the individual either has something to gain from believing and spreading the lie, is uninformed, or has possibly been deceived purposely.
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Most often, people will believe, go along with, and spread lies because they have something to gain by doing so (e.g., self-preservation, fame and fortune, a good name, personal/academic/professional advancement and recognition, protection of assets, and so forth). Other times, people will simply believe a lie because they are uninformed or do not have enough information to know whether or not they hold an untrue belief. And finally, people will believe lies based on their trust in another person or entity who has willingly deceived them due to various motivations. In the case of the apostles, none of these reasons adequately account for their willingness to believe.
First, as far as things of the world were concerned, they had nothing to gain and everything to lose (e.g., family, friends, social status in the community and synagogues, financial means, and even their lives). Second, they were certainly not uninformed about what had happened because they were eye-witnesses to the events. And third, while charges have been leveled by critics that the apostles were involved directly with a conspiracy, I am unaware of any attempt to substantiate a scenario in which the apostles themselves had fallen victim to the deceit of others…
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