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The Proofs of the Christmas Pudding

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By:William Murchison | December 23, 2014

Bethlehem. Ah. Yes. There we were as a matter of fact, and not many weeks ago, either. Also at Nazareth. Also—of course—at Jerusalem, where everybody goes who goes to the Holy Land, with a sense of immense events and occasions to be taken in, the more so as Christmas draws near.

I can say this about the Holy Land: Its rocks and crevices and seas and flaming sunsets prove nothing to those who have declared themselves immune to the proofs pointed to for the past couple of millennia in terms of the baby known to history as Christ the Lord. You drive past a hillside reported as the hillside occupied by those shepherds summoned by angels to attend the newborn child in his manager. Was it the place or wasn't it? Who knows? Who knows for that matter, pious claims notwithstanding, where the baby himself lay? If he lay anywhere. If there was a baby at all.

The acid skepticism of centuries past concerning the reality of the Christian revelation bubbles in the 21st century to a degree, and with a corrosiveness, unseen for quite a long time. Or so we imagine. How do we know, really? What are the thermometers for taking the spiritual temperature of previous ages? In the end, what can we know about things we have not ourselves seen?

The Washington Post last week provided a forum for the questioning, the overt doubting, of an Australian author it identified as Raphael Lataster, lecturer in religious studies at the University of Sydney and author of the book, There Was No Jesus, There is No God. An interesting title, I might remark parenthetically, from a scholar named for one of the archangels.

Whatever the case, no jury can ever indict Prof. Lataster for the crime of ambiguity. The gospel accounts of Jesus' birth and life? Can't take 'em seriously, Prof. Lataster contends, concocted as they were "by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom had obvious biases." St. Paul never claimed with his own eyes to have ecce-ed the homo. His gaze rested on a spiritual Jesus, high above the world. This "historical" Jesus who entered the world in a stable, performed (as Prof. Lataster might view it) feats of magic, offended the Jewish leadership, got himself put to death on a cross—where did such a one come from?

Wave all the Bibles you want to in front of the man. He isn't buying any of it. He sees no possibility of proof.

A world of touch and taste understands what he means. We're to take this stuff on faith? Not the most popular word in the 21st century—faith; implying, it seems to many, the suspension of reason, the embrace of the unknowable.

The oddity of that attitude consists in the difficulty that comes with knowing anything beyond the shadow of a doubt: the existence of Prof. Lataster, for instance. Well, the Post says he wrote this piece. I didn't see him do it, did you? How do I know the Post didn't make up his whole persona? Oh—you could introduce me to him? That's on the assumption you can prove the man being introduced is Raphael Lataster and not some hired actor.

See how the "proof" business goes? What can we ever know that someone can't question if the will exists to question it? The question of worldly "proofs" when it comes to the birth and life of Christ turns far more on the need not to believe—the need to subordinate, if not conquer, personal ambitions and jealousies—than on the need for a demonstration of supposedly believable "facts." The baby of Bethlehem asks entirely too much of those who follow him—to wit, everything they have.

A second oddity crops up here. For the millions who for centuries have self-identified as Jesus' followers and disciples, often at mortal cost—"proof" of Latasterian quality never comes into the equation. It's always, yes, oui, da, ja, por supuesto. Latasterian culture, if it ever stooped to consider such things, might be impressed by the simple endurance of Christianity in fundamentally unchanged form—all suspect "proofs" laid aside; the proofs of love and sacrifice outweighing them all in the end. Beats even the brief sight of a Palestinian hillside, I can assure you.


Willlam Murchison's latest book is The Cost of Liberty: the Life of John Dickinson. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at




Ray Olson
St. Paul
12/23/2014 04:53 PM

  Amen, Friend Murchison.

Tom Piatak
12/23/2014 04:54 PM

  The Post's publication of Lataster's diatribe is yet another manifestation of the War on Christmas. The Post certainly doesn't mark Moslem holidays by soliciting essays attacking the Koran, nor does it mark Passover by running pieces casting doubt on Moses. Such nastiness is reserved for Christian holidays. Indeed, lest any of the Post's readers wonder why it was running Lataster's piece when it was, the article ran with a large picture of the Nativity scene featured last year in St. Peter's Square.

robert m. peters
12/23/2014 05:44 PM

  Mr. Murchison, many if not most in the West, particularly among those of the academy and the elites have become or made themselves to be subhuman. Man created in the image of God can know through his senses, can know by applying reason and logic to that which he has acquired through the sense, and can know through the capacity to apprehend divine revelations. These ways of knowing and the knowledge and understanding acquired by them are intended to assist man in becoming the image bearer of the Christ. It is a truncated man, a subhuman, who rejects his divinely created capacity to know his Creator through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments of the Church, through the teachings of Holy Scripture and through the manifestations of the Created Order itself, as St. Paul suggests in Romans 1. In state schools (I do not use the term "public" because "public" does not equal "state."), from Kindergarten through post-doctoral programs pupils and students are allowed to function only as subhumans - no apprehending the Divine in Latin, in art, in music, in history, in math, etc. I have used the analogy of marriage as a parallel to yours supra. If one is a skeptic that I am married, I cannot use a ring (anyone can wear a ring), a marriage certificate (likely forged), a child (marriage is unnecessary for having children) or my wife (a lying concubine) or a minister (known myth makers). The celebration of our Lord's First Advent come in spite of all of this; and His Second Advent will come in spite of all of this. Christmas for those who can apprehend is an annual love letter of the Lord to His Bride, the Church.

Jim D
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
12/24/2014 05:28 AM

  The Washington Post vulgar and blasphemous article is to be expected this time of year, I wonder what their twisted minds will come with during Easter. Tom is right they would never do this to any other religion especially Islam. To do so would mean the they would have to give up the idolatry of multiculturalism, one of the holy sacraments of the Left. Multiculturalism is nothing but a smoke screen for cultural marxism, an ideology which now dominates all the the institutions of the westrn world. Be they the media, academia, the judiciary and unfortunately now many churches. Only when the specter of cultural Marxism is expelled can the Western World be restored. This is battle those of us on the true Right must fight and win. May God grant us victory.

12/25/2014 09:17 PM

  Mr. Peters, your comments always serve as a powerful complement to the author's chosen topic. I frequently find myself scanning the comments section for a comment from you after reading the piece itself to see what insights you will offer on the subject. I am never disappointed.


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