Bones of Jesus And Evolution
Everybody’s heard the story by now: Filmmaker James Cameron has produced a documentary, The Lost Tomb of Christ, that claims that the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdelene have been found in the same family crypt in Jerusalem.
You’ve also probably read some of the reaction from Christians. In local newspapers around the world, this reaction is usually given by priests, pastors, reverends and the like. They’re called up by reporters, and asked to give their opinions about the idea that the bones of Jesus might have been found.
Almost every single one of these clergy rejects the idea right away. In fact, they don’t just reject the claim that James Cameron has documented the finding of the bones of Jesus. They absolutely reject the possibility that such a thing ever could happen.
For example, in a South African newspaper, Anglican bishop Rubin Phillip is quoted as saying,
“In terms of scripture Jesus ascended from this world. It was not only a spiritual ascension and resurrection, but a physical one, so there can’t be any remains of Christ. The person making these claims sounds like a fraudster looking for publicity. I don’t think any Christian would take these claims seriously because it goes against biblical teaching.”
Pay attention to the argument being made by this bishop. He isn’t saying that James Cameron sounds like a fraudster because the argument James Cameron makes in his film, or the fact that he uses to make that argument, are faulty. Bishop Phillip is saying that James Cameron sounds like a fraudster because his film fails to agree with what the Bible says is true. In this view, any idea that does not fit with biblical teaching is regarded automatically as a fraud – even before the facts of the case are considered.
A quote in the same article by another Anglican priest, Chris Townsend, illustrates the broader problem revealed by the reaction to The Lost Tomb of Christ. Townsend says, “It will be very difficult to verify if the bones are indeed those of Jesus… We should be more concerned with living the good news, not worry about bones.”
On the one hand, Townsend declares that there must be a high threshold of proof that the found bones are those of Jesus. On the other hand, Townsend requires a very low threshold of proof for the “good news” that Jesus was was the divine son of the creator of the Universe, and never died but instead was put on a cosmic train up into the sky, where, in spite of the low levels of oxygen and complete lack of food (not to mention toilet facilities), Jesus is now still living, almost two thousand years later.
Townsend wants us all to “not worry about bones”, but concentrate on following his religion’s beliefs about reality. That ought to sound familiar. Creationists have been saying the same about biological evolution for generations. The arguments that are used to prematurely reject James Cameron’s claims are the very same faith-based evasions of reality that have been used to reject Darwin’s theory on the origin of species through natural selection. Forget the facts about what the old bones say, we’re told. We’re asked only to look at what the Bible says is true, and never mind about the ways that external reality fails to match that truth.
For myself, I’m quite skeptical of the claim that the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdelene have been found and identified to within a reasonable doubt. Biblical archaeology has a rotten reputation of fraud in such matters. A few years back, a funeral vessel was found that was claimed to have the name of James, the brother of Jesus, written on it. It turns out that the inscription was fake.
However, skepticism is not the same thing as automatic rejection. It’s doubt. I doubt the claims made by James Cameron’s documentary, but I haven’t seen the film yet myself, and so I recognize that I really don’t have enough information yet to say for sure that they are unlikely to be true. In fact, my skepticism encourages me to see the film for myself. For a skeptic, doubt is a precursor to true consideration.
What bothers me is not the fact so many Christians are rejecting the reality of the bones. Rather, I am disturbed by the way that they’re making this rejection instantly, before they have had the chance to seriously consider the facts, or even watch the documentary.
These Christians, who are willing to dismiss evidence without even looking at it, don’t worship Jesus. They don’t even know Jesus. They worship a book. Their religion ought to be called Biblism, not Christianity.
This is not just a semantic distinction. There’s a big difference between religious people who try to follow the teachings of Jesus as written about in the Bible, and religious people who try to follow the Bible.
Biblism is not just the consequence of failure to think clearly. It is a threat to free society. The Bible worshippers are so fixated on their idol of a book that they cannot imagine it being untrue in any way. They don’t keep this certainty to themselves, but try to force it on others. They work to impose their book on everyone else.
Using the Bible as justification, they try to control what we can see on television, how our children are taught in school, who we marry and how we divorce, when we have children and when we go to war. Bible worship has practical consequences for us all, whether or not we are Biblists ourselves.
People ought to have the right to believe such strange ideas as those of the Biblists. However, we ought to skeptical of the claims Bible worshippers make, lest we become subject to them.