Atheism has gone viral these days. The New Atheism is making many headlines and they are selling many books and making a lot of appearances. I certainly am no professional apologist, but I try to read some of their stuff and think through what they are saying. And I have no comprehensive response to offer as so many apologists are doing (see Amazon.com for authors such as David Bentley Hart, Douglas Wilson, Scott Hahn, and many, many others), but what I sometimes hear these professional apologists saying, I tend to agree with: many of the arguments by the "new" atheism are nothing new at all. Here are a few statements from atheists that show how much they talk right past Christians and their Bibles. Jerry Coyne, from Why Evolution Is True, makes this statement:"here are two more things that can’t happen, given what we know about modern biology: a human female can’t give birth to offspring unless she is inseminated, and people who are dead for three days don’t come back to life." And his comrade-in-arms, Sean Carroll, makes a similar statement:"We know more about the natural world now than we did two millennia ago, and we know enough to say that people don’t come back from the dead." Sorry for the sarcasm, but no kidding? Really? We had no idea...
Whatever scientific research is being done by these guys (Coyne is an evolutionary biologist and Carroll is a cosmologist), may be fantastic and all, but these sorts of statements are not arguments at all and sail right past the rest of us quite safely. Why is that? Because we know this already! These facts are thousands of years old. We know and the folks in the first century knew quite well that virgins don't have babies and dead people don't sit up. Not normally, often, or regularly.
When Mary had a baby bump before she married Joseph no one suspected the visitation of the Holy Spirit. This is why she fled from home to hide out with her cousin. And when Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus's body in his garden tomb no one expected what happened on Sunday morning. This is why all of his disciples went into hiding and few of them believed the reports of the women returning from the tomb. Indeed these events were highly unexpected, even if prophesied, and it is the sheer and absurd unlikelyness of them that makes it so amazing.
Now these events are a matter of historical investigation. They are enshrined in the New Testament witness to Jesus of Nazareth by writers claiming to provide personal eyewitness testimony of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of this most unlikely of Jewish peasant prophets. The historian's dilemma is manifold. For one, explaining how this came to be believed almost immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus. Two, explaining how the followers of this Jewish Messiah spread His Gospel so quickly and expansively, not by the sword, but, in fact, in spite of the sword, many of them giving their own lives testifying to this Jesus. And three, explaining the amazing impact of the Christian faith on its world. The Christian answer is that God Himself broke into human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Of course Coyne and Carroll and others can respond by simply re-stating that virgins don't concieve and dead people don't walk, and they can walk us through the pregnancy wing of the hospital and through every graveyard in the world, and we can agree with them. Yep, that's not a virgin birth. No, they probably won't dig themselves out and starting walking tomorrow. And within the totally god-absent universe that their minds inhabit, they are right, we should never expect otherwise. But that's not the universe we live in. There is a Creator God and Jesus of Nazareth is the one black swan that proves otherwise. And if Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead, His one resurrection gives the rest of us cause to rest in hope.