Just in time for Christmas 2017, an atheist group put up a billboard in Dallas with the message: “Just skip church. It’s all fake news!” This is right next to a manger scene.
Well, certainly the manger scene with the shepherds and the wise men together at the same time reflects poetic license. The Bible tells us the shepherds came first. The wise men would have come long after that. But the atheists are throwing out the whole thing—including the baby in the manger.
In an article about this billboard (12/1/17), Dallas TV station Cw33.com quotes the president of American Atheists, who said, “Everyone know that the stories we’re told in church aren’t the truth.”
Really? And Christmas and Jesus are just “fake news”?
But this is 2017 because Jesus was born in AD 1. Well, actually, He was likely born in 5 B.C. Dennis the Fair, the 6th century monk who created the Christian calendar (BC, AD), had overlooked an emperor or two in his calculations.
Fake News? Tell that to the former legal affairs journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel. About three decades ago, he endeavored to disprove Christianity so he could win back the heart of his formerly non-Christian wife. He applied the laws of evidence he had learned at Yale Law School and the investigative techniques that served him well at the Trib to the claims of the historic Christian faith. To his chagrin, he learned that Jesus is anything but “fake news.”
He condensed his findings into what became a mega-best-selling book, The Case for Christ, which was made into a 2017 movie. I have interviewed Strobel a few times through the years. In one of those discussions, he said, “As a journalist, I’ve learned to investigate the reliability of documents. And when you look at the documents that make up the New Testament of the Bible, they meet the tests of reliability that historians use.”
Fake News? Tell that to Catholic writer Gary Michuta, who wrote a book called, Hostile Witnesses: How the Historic Enemies of the Church Prove Christianity (2016). On my radio show, Michuta explained what he means by “hostile witnesses,” “They’re hostile to Christianity, and yet, they run into certain truths they just can’t possibly deny or ignore.”
In his book, Michuta notes that the indirect evidence for Christ—evidence found outside the New Testament and not influenced by Christians—is unusually powerful.
Muchita says: “[I]n modern times it became popular to claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. The pagan Roman historian Tacitus had no notion of this claim. His concern was to write about the persecutions under Nero. If Jesus was just a mythical figure fabricated by Christians, Tacitus would have had every reason to point it out—but he didn’t. Instead, he speaks about Jesus as someone who actually lived and was executed under Pontius Pilate—confirming that Jesus was not myth.” (p. 14)
Fake News? Pliny the Younger wouldn’t agree. Concerned about Christians in his corner of the Roman Empire, this magistrate from a region in modern day Turkey wrote to Emperor Trajan around the turn of the 2nd century (again, so numbered because of the birth of Jesus).
In that letter (c. 112), Pliny talks of the beliefs and practices of Christians in his area: “[T]hey had been in the habit of meeting together on a stated day, before sunrise, and of offering in turns a form of invocation to Christ, as to a god: also of binding themselves by an oath, not for any guilty purpose, but not to commit thefts, or robberies, or adulteries, not to break their word, not to repudiate deposits when called upon.” (Michuta, p. 72)
Fake News? Dr. Gary Habermas, who has taught at Liberty University since 1981, would disagree. The author/co-author of 42 books on Jesus—about half on the resurrection—wrote a classic book called, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus (1984). Habermas concludes, “[A]ttempts to debunk the historicity of Jesus in whole or in part have failed…Usually such attempts ignore myriads of evidence that disprove these alternate hypotheses. Perhaps this is why most well-known critical scholars also shun such theses.” (p. 181)
Fake News? This is just a way to pretend that Jesus, who made each of us and to whom we will all one day give an account for our lives, has no binding authority on us.
As Dr. James Allan Francis said of Jesus in his “One Solitary Life”: “All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.”