What about Zeus?

A friend of mine is a pastor-in-the-making who is interning at a church and exploring all the questions of ministry that pastors-in-the-making get.  Recently he told me that someone had suggested that ancient cultures had invented goImageds, and Christianity was just one more invention.  That seems to me a shallow and unnuanced take, and I think reality is a little more complex.  It seems that if God had created us for himself, we would naturally be inclined to seek him out. After all, all creation points towards him (Psalm 19), and his existence is so clear that we are “without excuse” for not believing (Romans 1:20).  He is actually not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27), and he rewards our seeking (Matthew 7:7).  So given that we’ve been built with a GPS that points us back to him, it seems that a host of ancient gods would not be disproof of Christianity, but rather proof all the more.  If we’re made for God, it makes sense that we would reach out for him and try to grasp him, and where we can’t find him, we would make up substitutes.  The ancient pantheons are not grounds for dismissal of Christianity.  They’re only the groundwork for true revelation.  The fact that we guessed repeatedly and sometimes close doesn’t mean that Christianity’s similarities to other religions prove it false, only that Christianity in fact satisfies our deepest longings and proves to be the the bullseye around which we had been misfiring.  Ancient religions were simply set-up to the real thing and proof that we were hardwired for the God who would soon reveal himself to us.

These are the kind of speculations captured in Hardwired: Finding the God You Already Know.

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8 thoughts on “What about Zeus?

  1. That’s an interesting thought. But why do you think your god took such a long time in the revelation process? Do you not feel sorry for the people who worshipped obviousy made-up gods like Zeus or Pachamama because there was no route available to the one true god? I’d be annoyed if I were in hell because following this god’s plan for me I’d been born in an obscure cannibalistic Papua New Guinea tribe with no links to Christianity.

        1. The Bible never explicitly addresses the subject. Rather, it says that God is both loving and just. So as a Christian, for those things which he has not explained, I trust that he knows better than I.

  2. So we’re presented with two competing hypotheses. Religious similarities stem from either the fact earlier ideas are influenced by later ideas, or from the fact earlier ideas stem from a drive towards a particular type of religion.

    This is where we can sprinkle a bit of the scientific method into the mix to try and figure out which is right. The trick is to figure out where the ideas would disagree with each other. The situation where, if the first was true we would expect y but if the latter was true we would expect x.

    I suspect such disagreement would likely surround the events of Jesus’s life. These aren’t part of the nature of God, so shouldn’t be present in earlier traditions that are identifying such nature. However, if it is a case of the story of Jesus being influenced by earlier traditions then these events should have some precursor.

    So the question is, do these earlier traditions involve bread and/or wine representing the deity, a crucifixion, a certain number of disciples, and so forth.

    1. Actually, your examples simply confirm my point. Bread and wine were primary sources of food and drink in the ancient world, so they would have been used in any kind of religious ritual. However, the idea that tactile elements of food could be used sacramentally as a precursor to the life of Jesus confirms my idea that we are hardwired for the real thing. Likewise, ancient numerologies manifested in religious participants is a precursor. And crucifixion had been around for at least 500 years, so the fact that it was a common form of torture and execution doesn’t discount my point. So to try to dismiss Jesus because there are similarities between the Bible and other religious narratives is not the scientific method in the slightest – it’s overt bias.

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