SKEPTIC: One of the major reasons I'm not buying the Christian story anymore is that Christianity has been shown to be a copycat religion, having borrowed most of its significant elements (virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc.) from pagan and mystery religions that were present in the region hundreds, even thousands, of years before Christianity arrived on the scene. It's interesting to me that early church leaders like Tertullian felt it necessary to try to explain this problem by claiming that it was the Devil who employed a "diabolical mimicry" by causing these elements to appear in other religions hundreds of years earlier.
PREACHER: I would like to see how you verify the statement above. I believe that quite the opposite, Judaism and Christianity have been copied by the other religions. Then, there are some elements that might be just common knowledge that date back to antiquity. For instance, many cultures have traditions about a world wide flood, or mention the existence of angels or evil spirits. Possibly modern man is too quick to deny what he hasn't experienced, yet.
SKEPTIC: There is a large body of scholarly work that can verify the long list of striking parallels between Christianity and pre-Christian religions. But the interesting part of your answer, to me, is that you seem to be saying that the story of Noah's Ark and the idea of angels or evil spirits were, indeed, traditional elements of Christianity that came from prior religions. Or am I misunderstading your position?
PREACHER: Just because a religion is considered "pagan", that doesn't mean that that religion is completely deficient in conveying some truth. There are many values that Buddhism (for instance) would share with Christianity. Men are created in the image of God and by nature would have common ways of thinking that are good and right, and common very real experiences concerning the supernatural (both good and evil). The difference in our views ultimately goes back to our view of what really happened in history, especially pre-history. Unless we can travel back in time there is no way to verify, except if there is accurate historical information about those times. Archeologically speaking, I believe the Bible is the best resource we have. If you believe that man evolved from a lower creature and gradually developed to where he is today, it would be presumed that religion as well evolved from animism and polytheism to the higher religions and ultimately culminating in naturalistic humanism. Those of us who remain at the religion level just haven't arrived, yet. If you believe that God originally created man as someone who could have fellowship with Him and then fell into sin (turned away from Him), it would make sense that: 1) God would be interested in getting man's attention in some way (thus the Scriptures) 2) All of mankind would have some rudimentary remembrance of that relationship with God, but having turned away from Him would have produced surrogate ways of reaching out beyond themselves. One of the most obvious themes of the Old Testament is the issue of idolatry. The creator God comes first, then the people turn to idols. The true religion came first and through the passage of time, men who turned away from God distorted the truth. Christianity is "arrogant" enough to claim to be the original true religion ,that is it started from when God created the first man.
SKEPTIC: I agree that different religions sometimes share values. But what we're talking about here is the fact that the life story of Jesus is practically identical to the life stories of a whole host of gods that were worshipped by pagans long before Jesus came onto the scene. This suggests that early Christians plagiarized, or perhaps more kindly, borrowed virtually all the important elements of the Christian narrative. For today's Christians who contend that Jesus represents the "original true religion," this represents a profound dilemma. Was this just an amazing string of coincidences? Not likely.
PREACHER: If anything, Christianity has borrowed extensively from the Jewish Torah (Old Testament). Other religions may have been influenced by the Old Testament as well. That would be especially true during the diaspora of the last 400 years before Christ. As for the "practically identical life stories of gods" that Jesus is supposed to be a copy of, I would like to see the translations of the original documents and real evidence and not the comments of some skeptical scholar who has his own axe to grind. That being the need to rationalize his rejection of the Christian faith. If indeed those alleged sources about Jesus having been an identical copy of a pagan god are reliable enough, then the world of Biblical scholarship should be buzzing about that. Surely Time Magazine or Newsweek and Christianity Today would have had headline articles about it. The Davinci Code even made a big splash, so what have we here? LOL
SKEPTIC: So is it your position that "skeptical scholars" have risked their reputations by making up a bunch of lies to "rationalize their rejection of the Christian faith?" Seems to me that the more accurate observation would be that fundamentalist Christians are really good at ignoring any facts that contradict their fragile belief system. These are not new ideas that have just appeared on the scene. The genesis of these ideas can be traced back to the French Enlightenment.
PREACHER: So, you appeal to the French Enlightenment. That is only several hundred years ago. Is, therefore, everything recorded before the "enlightenment" took place unreliable, especially if it has the label of Christianity on it? It is interesting that since the "enlightenment" the Christian faith has spread throughout the whole world. It's demise has been rather limited to the places where this "enlightenment" occurred. We now send missionaries to those countries and some of the folks there have responded to the Gospel anew, after they see that it doesn't have to be associated with the political power the Catholic church wielded in the past.
Back to the real issue in this post though: Christ is referred to as the Hope of the nations. Even pagan religions express the need that people have for a relationship with their creator. That the pagan gods seem similar to Jesus Christ, just expresses that the majority of men are searching for some sort of salvation. Those pagan religions were just a step that God (He created everything including the people with all the religious viewpoints) used to prepare them for the real Savior. That could be one reason why the Gospel spread so fast in the early centuries.
SKEPTIC: The pagan religions were "just a step that God used to prepare them for the real savior?" So God let people worship all those false saviors for hundreds of years as a kind of placeholder until the real thing happened to come along? Why would God need any steps to prepare people for the "real" savior? People weren't ready for the real thing? It was just too big and scary? Sorry, I don't get it. Seems to me that God would come up with a better plan than that. I mean, c'mon. He's God.
PREACHER: Sounds to me like you would want to give God some advice on how He could have better reached out to us created beings.