Last week we received copies of a new apologetics book edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig called Come Let Us Reason. I’ve only had time to read a couple of the essays and I am very impressed. I read chapter 10 “Does the Story of Jesus Mimic Pagan Mystery Stories?” by Mary J Sharp and chapter 11 “Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Parallelomania on Steroids” by Mark W. Foreman. Both were incredibly well done. Previous to this I had never heard of the Zeitgeist movie so this chapter was very informative and intriguing. Foreman explains the movie as follows:

Zeitgeist (a German word meaning ‘spirit of the age’) was produced and written by Peter Joseph and was released online in June of 2007. The film is a two-hour documentary conspiracy theory that attempts to show a connection among three supposed frauds: Christianity, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the domination of the world events by international bankers. The film is made up of three parts, each part dedicated to one of these three supposed frauds. For purposes of this essay, we will only discuss the claims from part 1 about Christianity.” (170)

You can imagine that as Foreman dismantles the shoddy logic and poor scholarship of this part that the others are probably just as fallacious. To give you a taste of this essay I’ll give you the conclusion here:

“Imagine we are 2,000 years in the future. Through some sort of cataclysmic event only a handful of documents of history of the United States are available, and these are just fragments. After sifting through these fragments, a small group of historical enthusiasts come to a radical conclusion: The myth of President John F. Kennedy is based on the earlier myth of Abraham Lincoln. Their reason for such a conclusion: ‘Just look at the parallels!’

  • Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846; Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.
  • Lincoln was elected president in 1860; Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
  • ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Kennedy’ each have seven letters in their names.
  • Lincoln had a secretary name Kennedy; Kennedy had a secretary name Lincoln.
  • Both married, in their thirties, a 24-year-old socially prominent girl who could speak fluent French.
  • Both presidents dealt with civil rights movements for African-Americans.
  • Both presidents were assassinated on a Friday, in the back of the head, before a major holiday, while sitting next to their wives.
  • Both their assassins were known by three names consisting of 15 letters (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald).
  • Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was captured in a theatre; Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and was captured in a warehouse.
  • Both assassins were shot and killed with a Colt revolver days after they assassinated the president and before they could be brought to trial.
  • Both presidents were succeeded by vice presidents name Johnson, from the South, born in 1808 and 1908 respectively.

“This example shows that insignificant, spurious false, and misleading parallels can be used to argue just about anything. When one considers the fallacies that permeate the ‘parallelomania’ of Zeitgeist, one is left agreeing with Rahner: ‘It is and remains a riddle how in the period of unrestricted ‘comparative religion’ scholars should even have ventured a comparison, not to speak of trying to derive the basic doctrines of Christ from Mystery religions.’ But it is Adolf von Harnack, writing in 1911, who deserves the last word here:

‘We must reject the comparative mythology which finds a causal connection between everything and everything else, which tears down solid barriers, bridges chasms as though it were child’s plan, and spins combinations from superficial similarities. . . . By such methods one can turn Christ into a sun god in the twinkling of an eye, or transform the Apostles into the twelve months; in connection with Christ’s nativity one can bring up the legends attending the birth of every conceivable god or one can catch all sorts of mythological doves to keep company with the baptismal dove; and find any number of celebrated asses to follow the ass on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem; and thus with the magic wand of ‘comparative religion,’ triumphantly eliminate every spontaneous trait in any religion.'” (184-85)

This is a beautiful conclusion to an articulate and able rebuttal to this “documentary.” Youth groups would be particularly well-advised to get a hold of this book and study its contents before going off to college where the kinds of theories the book addresses are especially prevalent thanks to the internet.

Come Let Us Reason is from B&H Publishing and is a paperback with 336 pages and sells for $24.99.