30.03.2003 Feature Article

Christianity Under Attack

Christianity Under Attack
30.03.2003 LISTEN

--- A Reflection On Anti-Christian Writings By Mr. Boahene It is an undeniable fact that Christianity is under attack. It has always been under attack since its inception when the enemies crucified Jesus Christ and persecuted the Church. The truth of God has also been under attack since the creation of the world when the evil one entered the Garden of Eden and distorted God’s word, plunging humanity into ruination. It is therefore, not recommended, but commanded, that Christians be armed not with human weapons, but with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Some people have assaulted Christianity as being irrational, superstitious and absurd. Yet, too many Christians do not seem to care that Christianity is often ridiculed. They may complain that it offends them, but do little to rebut the charges by offering a defense of the Christian World View in the marketplace of ideas. Scripture commands all Christians to have a reason for the hope that is within them and present this with gentleness and respect to the secular world (1Peter3: 15). For some Christians, faith means belief without evidence and argument. However, God does not require us to suspend our thinking faculties to believe in what he has made known. God declares to Israel, “Come let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). It is against this background that the attack against Christianity by Mr. Boahene cannot go without response. In his latest article published on the Ghanaweb on February 2nd, 2003, entitled, “Traditionalists and Not Christians Deserve to Celebrate Easter,” Boahene claims that it is the traditionalists and not Christians that should celebrate Easter. He asserts that Easter is a non-Christian custom celebrated centuries before Jesus was born which was imposed by Emperor Constantine on Christians for political expedience. He claims that the Reformers like Luther and the Puritans rejected Easter, and the English Parliament struck Easter and Pentecost from its Calendar. As Boahene has done in the past, he uses such deceptive titles to unleash his venomous attack against Christianity. In this article the writer attacks the physical resurrection of Christ, and cast aspersion on the Bible’s claim of the death of Christ on the cross. He argues that the Apostle Paul who preached the physical resurrection of Christ was a Diaspora Jew who neither knew Jesus nor was taught by Him. He maintains that St. Paul did not understand Jewish mysticism (Judaism). In his earlier articles, the writer attacks the deity of Christ, equating Him to Osiris, and challenges the canonization of Scriptures. In my first rejoinder and subsequent articles, I pointed out that Mr. Boahene’s intention was more than expressing his dismay at the excesses in the Charismatic churches. However, I believe, there were some readers who could not see through his sophistry and sensational writings. Nevertheless, I held on to this position until the writer revealed his true intention in his last article. He writes in his last article, “ My articles are meant to show that Christianity is not superior to Ghanaian Religion …”. The question is why did so many readers miss it? The answer, I believe, is that he is a good “storyteller”, for which I give him credit. He is good at sensational writings and sophism in communicating his falsehood against Christianity.

There is a resurgence and dominance of sophism in our present generation that scares me. I write under a pseudonym, “Sophism” because it is a word that summarizes my frustration at most of the writings I have read of late. Sophism deals with illogical statements that appear to be logical to the untrained. To the sophists, it does not matter whether they are trying to persuade people of the truth, or lead them into error by sophism.

The objective of the present article is to present the flaws in Mr. Boahene’s reasoning, and the disingenuous way in which he wrenches his sources out of context. I will argue that Mr. Boahene presented a distorted view of Christianity, clothing it in Charismatic-excesses garb. This I believe makes his articles very… “dangerous,” to the “untaught believers” and others not grounded in the Scriptures and Church history. Furthermore, I will show that the writer resorts to diatribes based more on misinformation, than careful research, and sound reasoning. Anyone with more than rudimentary knowledge of logic, history, and Theology can make mincemeat of his articles. They are full of half-truths, faulty and incomplete research, logical non-sequitors, faulty reasoning and outright misinterpretation of history and theology

First, let us examine one of the contradictions in his articles. In his third article where he stated the rationale for his articles, he writes, “ the Morale of the article (Has God Ambushed Ghana?) was that there are excesses in Charismatic churches, which need to be addressed given the churches’ increased role in the Ghanaian society.” I belief this objective was stated in response to my assertion that his intention is not about charismatic excesses but rather an attempt to discredit Christianity. In contrast to his earlier stated objective, Boahene made it known to his readers in his final article that his [true] intention for writing his articles was to show that Christianity was not superior to Traditional African Religion. He writes, “My articles are meant to show that Christianity is not superior to Ghanaian Religion and to stress that the prosperity of Ghana depends on the appreciation of our culture. They are working.”

This is exactly what I have been telling people since he wrote his first article. He declares that his writings are achieving their purposes. Yes, they are working because it easy to deceive many with sensational writings and sophistry. As I pointed out in my critique to his articles, the claims in his articles are inconsistent and contradictory. As is said in the science of logic, “inconsistency is always a sign of error. It was Samuel Johnson who said, “ There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave, and seek prey only for himself.” Good advice.

Second, let us analyze his claim that Christians do not deserve to celebrate Easter because it is of pagan origin. The first issue is the word “Easter” itself. This objection is irrelevant and illogical in many countries, because the word for this Christian spring festival in other languages has no connection with the word “Easter.” It is interesting to note the similarity of names used for the Easter festival in other languages. In French it is “Pasques”- in Italian, it is “Pasqua”- in Spanish, “Pascua”- in Danish, “Passke”- in Dutch, “Paasch”-in Welsh, “Pasg”- in Russia, “Passhah.” These words were derived from the Hebrew name of the festival of Passover, which is “Pesach.” Literally, this means “He passed over.” Second, it can be argued that the resurrection of Jesus was celebrated in the spring for centuries in Christendom before the word “Easter was adopted as a name or label for the festival in English language. Even if we assume that the word Easter has a pagan derivation, Boahene’s argument that simply because a word has a pagan origin make it out of bounds to Christians is untenable as would be demonstrated soon.

There are myriad of things in our society that have their roots in the pagan cultures; the names of the months of the year, the names of the planets, and the names of the days of the week all have their roots in pagan cultures. Sunday and Monday were related somehow to the worship of the sun and the moon. Tuesday stood for Tiw, the god of war. And Wednesday is derived from Wooden, the chief god in Germanic mythology. Thursday originally stood for the Germanic god of the sky or of thunder. Friday comes from the goddess of love. Saturday is from Saturnus, or Saturn. The question is whether something that is pagan in its origin still carries the same pagan connotation as it once did. In our present culture Easter has become Christian in meaning instead of pagan. That which has its roots in paganism is often divorced from its original meaning, and invested with new, non-pagan meaning over time. We do not think of these deities when we say or use these names in our everyday language. Indeed, the Oxford dictionary defines Easter as “The most important of the Christian festivals, commemorating the resurrection of Christ and observed annually on the Sunday, which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox.”

Thus, if the word “Easter” was associated with an ancient goddess, it does not mean that we cannot use the word today in a different context. We have many words in the English language that were connected with ancient gods. For example, our word “ cereal” comes from the name of an ancient goddess of agriculture, “ceres.” The word “cloth” comes from “clotho,” the spinster goddess who was said to spin the thread of life. The word, “hymn” comes from the god of marriage, “hymen.” When we use the word “cereal” during breakfast time, we are not thinking of the goddess “ceres” or worshipping her. If we were to divorce ourselves from everything pagan, we would have to go out of the society. Jesus put it in a better way when He said; “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Christians can only separate themselves from the evil aspects of the culture as much as they can, and make an effort to live the best godly lives they know how.

Also, apart from Christian critics, who want to use the celebration of Easter to discredit our faith, there are some Christians who object to celebrating Easter because we are not commanded in the Scripture to do so. While it is true that we are not commanded to celebrate Easter, one would ask whether silence means prohibition? The Scriptures do not mention some of the good things that are done in churches today: choirs, Sunday school, prayer-altars, and weddings. These may not be necessary, but it is quite presumptuous to argue that we should not do these things simply because they are not mentioned in Scriptures. The guidelines are that we must line anything we do with the Scriptures to ensure that our practices are consistent with the Bible’s explicit commands, and principles. It will be illogical to say that we cannot do something simply because it is not mentioned in the Scriptures. If anyone, for reasons of conscience, wishes to abstain from the festivity that is his or her right as a Christian. But, I will not let go unanswered that celebrating Easter at home or in church is somehow sinful or unchristian.

In his attempt to discredit the Bible Boahene asserts: St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and the prominent church scholar in the 2nd century wrote a book called Against Heresies (2, Chp 22:5), which was crucial in establishing church orthodoxy. He defended a belief of the church, which charismatic christians will find blasphemous. He wrote that the elders of the church in Asia Minor, who knew Apostle John, affirmed that Jesus suffered at his 30th birthday but was over 50 years when he died.

The writer wrenches Irenaeus writings out of context. If Boahene had presented all of what St. Irenaeus had to say in context then people might have understood his point in context. First, Iranaeus point is that Jesus’ humanity identifies with human beings of every age. Irenaeus goal was to debunk the claim that Jesus died at age 30 as a young man as opposed to a mature teacher. His point is that Jesus was older than 30 years when He died. In another words, Jesus lived past the first stage of life (13 to 30), and was in the stage of life between 31 and 50, which extends into “ old age” as they saw it in Roman’s times. In this sense, Jesus was qualified to be a teacher, since a Jewish rabbi had to be more than thirty years to be recognized as a true teacher. Think about it. Irenaeus says the Gospel testifies to this. Does the gospel ever say that Jesus was 40 or 50? Of course not! Instead, John’s Gospel presents Jesus as thirty years old at the time of His baptism, and then gives a 3-year narrative. So Mr. Boahene misinterpreted Irenaeus, because he did not read Irenaeus statement within the cultural context and the sensibilities of a 2nd century Greco-Roman Christian, but with a narrow, modernist view.

Now about the reformers attitudes to Easter, it may be argued that not all reformers were against the celebration of Easter, yet Boahene never acknowledged this, much less discussing it in his article. For example, Francis Turretin (1623-1687) is acknowledged as the master of reformed Theology in his time. He taught in the Academy of Geneva and was considered the guardian of the Reformed Faith in Europe, if not the world. He asserts that besides the Lord’s day there are other festival days properly so called whose celebration is necessary per se and by reason of, mystery, not by reason of order or ecclesiastical polity only. Turretin declares, “We deny against papists” (Presbyterian and reformed, 1994, vol 2). He never mentioned that it was wrong or even unprofitable to observe festival. He simply wanted to be clear that this is redemption from church authority, not a matter of the faith per se, as is the Lord’s Day.

The position of Luther was based not only on his reaction against the observance of the host of holy days established by the Catholic Church, but also on his radical distinction between the Old and New Testaments. In large Catechism (1929), Luther explains that the holy days are altogether an external matter, like the other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to particular customs, persons, and places, and now have been made free through Christ. So it was not that all Reformers were against festivals like Christmas and Easter, as Mr. Boahene would like his readers to believe. And even those who objected to them did not do so purely because they considered the celebration of those festivals as having pagan origin.

Boahene further argues against the Bible’s claim of Jesus’ physical resurrection, and challenges the Apostle Paul’s knowledge of Judaism (which he referred to as Jewish mysticism). He writes: The discovery of ancient books banned by Roman Church support only a spiritual resurrection. They show that Gentiles and Diaspora Jews who did not understand Jewish mysticism thought that the resurrection of Jesus was a physical encounter (Gospel of Peter; Epistle of Barnabas; Lords Teachings to the Twelve Apostles). St. Paul, the prominent Apostle who preached the physical resurrection of Jesus was a Diaspora Jew who never knew Jesus nor was taught by his disciples. It has been documented that James, the brother of Jesus organised a public lecture at Jerusalem Temple about the true doctrine of his brother, with Rabbis Gamaliel and Caiaphas questioning him (Clementine Recognitions). It was difficult for Paul to get recognition from the ! Apostles (Gal 2:11-16; 2 Cor 11:16-19). I have quoted this portion of his article extensively because it contains a lot of inaccurate assertions, which I intend to refute. His denial of Christ resurrection will be discussed in a separate article. The sad thing about the above claims is that the true picture has rarely been portrayed accurately or worse still, seems in some cases to have been actively concealed by the writer. For anyone to state in absolute terms that the apostle Paul did not know Jewish mysticism, which I take to mean Jewish religion or Judaism, is quite preposterous. I will let the Apostle himself talk about his own background since Boahene’s argument is not about the authorship of books ascribed to Paul. The apostle declares that he was a child of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5; 2Corinthians 11:22). He proudly identifies himself as an “Israelite” and a “Hebrew born of Hebrew” (Philippians 3:5) and extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers and excelled his peers in Judaism (Galatians 1: 14). St. Paul, though a diaspora Jew was educated strictly according to the law of his fathers at the rabbinical school conducted in Jerusalem by the great rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, a teacher of the law respected by all the people (Acts 5:34). Today it is generally agreed by scholars that Paul’s heritage, so far from being basically Hellenistic, was principally rabbinical, and that his Christian theology was broadly shared by the early apostles. It is difficult to understand why someone can read all these credentials from the Bible, History and the latest Archaeological findings and come out with the above claim.

Also in the above quotation, the writer claims that it has been documented that James the brother of Jesus organized a public lecture at Jerusalem temple to lectures them about the true doctrine of his brother. To strengthen his claims, Boahene cited “Clementine Recognitions.” What he does not tell his readers is that people who have studied “Clementine Recognition” in depth have come to the conclusion that the writings are neither factual nor didactic (instructional). Dr Thomas Smith writes: The Recognitions of Clement is a kind of philosophical and theological Romance. The writer of the work seems to have had no intention of presenting his statements as facts; but choosing the disciples of Christ and followers as his principal characters, he has put into their mouths the most important of his beliefs, woven the whole together by thread of fictitious narrative.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V111, Introductory Notice to the Recognitions of Clement) Even Jack Concrad, (an atheist, socialist, an anti-Christian writer) writes regarding the Clementine Recognition, “ Interestingly though, the account of the Clementine materials is highly mythologized.” Yet Boahene presents it as a factual document to his readers.

Beginning from his first article where Mr. Boahene equated Christ to Osiris, he has tried hard in subsequent articles to link Christianity to ancient mythology of dying-rising god. In his last article he went to the extent of taking the Scriptures out of context to equate Jesus Christ to his village god (Bruku). He writes: I am amazed about the universality of religious accolades. Bruku, the God of Kwahu came out of a Rock; Mithra, the Persian God was born out of a Rock; and Jesus, the Christian God was a Rock (1Cor 10:4). Bruku is called Kwasi, which shows the day in which he came to life; Mithra rose on Sunday; and the Christians also say that Jesus was restored to life on Sunday. Unlike Jesus who was said to have left an image in the Shroud of Turin, it is believed that the Chief Priest of Bruku can never be photographed when the Spirit is on Him. Time and space will not allow me to explain fully the verse quoted by the writer. Boahene takes a verse that appears to every objective person (Christian and non-Christian) as a mixture of typology, analogy and metaphor and gives it a wooden literal interpretation to suit his own agenda. The identification of the rock with Christ by Paul in 1Corinthians 10: 4 is meant to serve two purposes: first, to emphasize the typological character of Israel’s experience, that it was by Christ Himself that they were nourished in the wilderness, and second, to stress the continuity between Israel and the Corinthians, who by their idolatry practices, were repeating Israel’s mistakes and were in danger of receiving the same judgment. I would advise readers to read the verses in context and draw their own conclusions.

By inference, Boahene’s argument runs roughly like this: there are many features of Christianity that resemble features of other religions, especially ancient pagan religions. The conclusion is that Christianity copied the ancient mythology of dying-rising gods. This construct of the dying-rising gods was developed and popularized by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James Frazer in the late Nineteen and early Twentieth centuries. Frazer asserted that the religions of the ancient Near East provided several examples of dying and rising gods who had emerged from primitive belief-systems similar to these, most notably Attis, Adonis, and Osiris.

The major problem with Frazer theory is that the construct of the dying and rising gods is simply a whimsical speculation. The distinguished scholar J. Z. Smith, a man who by no means can be considered a Christian sympathizer, wrote a seminal article for Mircea Eliade’s Encyclopedia of Religion (New York 1987), in which he challenged various alleged examples of dying-rising gods and showed in methodical details that none of them actually fits the category described by Frazer or Boahene. Indeed the allusion to the parallelism between Attis, Adonis and Osiris to Christ suffer from a fatal flaw in each case of dying and then failing to be resurrected. Dr. Ronald Nash a distinguished American Philosophy professors writes, “One must avoid any suggestion that there was one common religion. While a tendency towards eclecticism or synthesis developed after A.D. 300, each of the mystery cults was a separate and distinct religion during the century that saw the birth of the Christian church.” Nash continues: Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. It must be pointed out that the many alleged similarity between Christianity and the so-called mystery religions are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Furthermore, Boahene’s argument offered to show Christianity dependence on the dying and rising gods suffers from the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things are similar, one of them must have caused the other. Not only doesn’t mere coincidence prove causal connection, but also, similarity does not prove dependence. In all, I would like to state that Mr. Boahene presented a distorted view of Christianity to his readers. He used sophistry and sensational writings in presenting his case against Christianity, clothing his real message in Charismatic excesses. His assertion that Christians do not deserve to celebrate Easter, simply because the word “Easter” has a pagan derivation is not based on any sound reasoning as shown. His alleged parallelism between mystery religions and Christianity is either exaggerated or fabricated. I will also say that there are many more claims that can be refuted, but that will require a lengthy article. There is overwhelming evidence to back the claims by Christianity. It would therefore be worthwhile for the skeptics to do their own investigations instead of relying on sensational writings and sophistry by people intending to discredit Christianity. Christians do not take a blind “leap into the dark, “ but rather a step into the light. As someone said, “the rejection of Christ is often not so much of the mind, but the will, not so much I can’t, but I won’t.” Let us come “Coram Deo”: Before the face of God.

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