G’DAY WORLD 192 – John Dickson, author of “The Christ Files”

Okay okay, so it’s time I gave the Christians some airtime.

Today my guest is John Dickson.

John Dickson

John has degrees in theology (Moore Theological College) and ancient history (Macquarie University). He holds the position of Honorary Associate in the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, and is engaged in ongoing research into early Christianity. He also teaches a course on World Religions for the Macquarie Christian Studies Institute. John began his writing career in 1993 and has since produced twelve titles, winning Australian Christian Book of the Year in 2000 and 2005. His books have focused on the relevance of the Christian faith in the contemporary world. An ordained Anglican, John has spent the best part of a decade working as a local church minister (most recently with St Andrew’s, Roseville). He has since accepted the role of Writer-in-Residence for Blue Bottle Books, a position which affords him the freedom to research, write and speak on a fulltime basis. John also hosts ‘Reflection’, weeknights at 10pm on Sydney’s FM 103.2.

John and I discuss the historical argument that Jesus of Nazareth actually did exist, based on his book “The Christ Files”.

The Christ Files

This is a pretty long show, about one hour twenty. I’m going to be in Sydney until late tomorrow night so there won’t be a show Thursday. This one is long enough to last you at least a couple of days.

If you’re interested in reading more about some of the subjects we discuss in this show, such as the Q Document, the Gospel of Thomas, or the background behind the ancient pagan and Jewish sources which mention Christianity, you can find my source sites on my religion del.icio.us page.

19 thoughts on “G’DAY WORLD 192 – John Dickson, author of “The Christ Files”

  1. Hey Cameron,

    Looking forward to part two. As a someone who tends to call himself a Christian I just like to support you in your wrestle with Christianity. Christianity is still the most dominant (although not as much as it used to be) religion in Australia and if my faith (or anyone else’s) can’t stand up to a few questions from a guy who hosts a podcast show then it’s probably not worth very much and not very well thought through.

    With any belief system or religion I think there are a few key questions to wrestle with.

    1) Is it historical (if it claims to be)
    I think it’s probably fair to say that Jesus walked around amazed some people got killed and a group of people started a religion based on the premise that he rose from the dead and were prepared to die for that belief.

    2) Does it have it’s own internal logic (that’s the if God is loving why does God kill people kind of questions)
    This is where you were going with John Dickson at the end of the show. This I think is many Christians greatest weakness and one where there are a few opinions so please don’t take John Dickson’s word for this as final. If he sticks to standard evangelical lines he’ll probably be really heavy on the idea of atonement. Having said that it’s fair to say that his ideas would represent a really big chunk of what Christians believe particularly those of the evangelical persuasion.

    3) How can you square this with what you can and can’t prove.
    I do honestly believe there is going to be some element of faith in any religion or any relationship for that matter. I don’t think that I can prove my wife loves me. I can prove that she over exaggerates how good looking I am and does kind things for me more than anyone else. So I have faith that she loves me and given what I can and can’t prove I think that’s a fair assertion to make.

    Any way thanks reading and for the show.

    Peace.

  2. Cam, I really enjoyed this podcast. One of the best podcasts I have listened to in a long time. More like this please. Be great to have John back on the show. He speaks well and I was pleased to hear you let him do so.

    I enjoyed the questions you asked and the answers given. Be great to cover some more stuff like this. Maybe something on the the Knights Templar? (my spell check says that’s spelt wrong…?) From a historical perspective.

    This was really very good Cam. Thank you and I appreciate the fact that you have included people with real world qualifications in these subject areas to speak on the show. It has certainly added kudos to your show and I for one loved it.

    I don’t want this thread to be about religion so much as the fact that it was a great podcast. Come through with the promise of having John back. Thanks Cam.

  3. Chris – thanks for the comments mate. I think you probably *could* create an whole heap of experiments to prove whether or not your wife loves you. And even if you couldn’t, I’m not sure what point the example makes. Your wife is real. We can prove her existence. You assume she loves you until proven different. God, on the other hand, we have no evidence for. Not to mention that even if a god did exist, there would be no valid evidence whether or not he cared a damn about you. And nobody is suggesting you should create a system of morals around whether or not your wife loves you.

    Dave – thanks mate. Knights Templar would be a great show to do. I’ll try to find someone to come on.

  4. Hey Cameron,

    I think you’ve got two separate points there.

    One is “Is it possible for something to exist if you can’t prove it exists?” That was the only point of the “love” analogy. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, one thing that maybe both could agree on is that “God is a being than cannot be proven to exist by science”. Now wether that means God does or doesn’t exist (or wether than makes God disappear in a puff of my own logic) is perhaps another question, and something I’m personally wrestling with.

    My guess is that for most people of faith that they probably believe in God not because they were able to deduce that from evidence around them but rather that they assumed it to be true and then induced it to be true by what they have experienced. Even as I write this I can see that this is not in anyway close to convincing and it’s not meant to convince you or anyone else, just maybe to give you an idea where people are coming from. (If that makes sense – remember mathematical induction at school??). Any way, the real point is that I don’t think that either side is going to show a proof that will convince the other side to change their mind. I just wanted to say that so you don’t spend too much time banging heads with people who believe in God over this point.

    Your second point is the “if God does exist so what, does that automatically mean we have moral code we have to live by or that God gives a damn about us?” this I think will be much more fertile ground for discussion.

    That’s not to say that your first point of wanting some proof is not a valid one by any means, and certainly it’s not something that’s naturally hard wired into us, the high percentage of atheists in France and Sweden is an example. I have great empathy for anyone like Kenny (from the movie of the same name) who said “When God presents himself to me, I’ll give him my full attention. Until then, I’m pretty busy.” and the God I believe in does too.

    Thanks for reading – sorry for the long comment – hope it helps in some way.

  5. Chris, thanks for the great comment. I don’t think I’m going to change the minds of too many dyed-in-the-wool believers. However, I do think, as you suggest, that there are lots of people around the world who are Christians by default. They’ve never really given it much thought and it doesn’t have a major impact on their daily life. If we can move those people over to the “conscious rationalist” side of the ledger, then we can perhaps get them to support rationalist ideals such as scientific progress and human rights.

    Yes – things can exist even though we don’t currently have proof of their existence. However, this is a pretty large category, and includes fairies, unicorns, goblins, etc. I agree with Kenny that to give such things much attention is an exercise in futility unless presented with some pretty compelling reasons.

    I like your idea that even if god *did* exist, why would he give a damn about us? A god who invented the entire universe, with billions of planets, stars, life forms, etc… why would he give a damn about one particular lie form? Isn’t that the height of arrogance?

  6. Hey Cam,
    Finally having a chance to listen to this. Did you email the historians and did they confirm (which I can’t remember what you were testing (think it was your parallels with the Egyptian god)) what John was saying.

    Great podcast (so far) and agree with Dave, more like this.
    Molly

  7. I was also thinking while listening to this podcast. You were quoting all the millions God is meant to of killed but how many has Science killed? Maybe for the next Podcast you could quote the figure that Science or Scientists have killed, murder, etc.

    Molly

  8. But you are! And your telling Christians that science is a better thing to follow then religion. Therefor why shouldn’t Science and Scientist be put up to the same tests and analysis as Religion and God? Its your test not mine.

    Molly

  9. I’m just pointing out one of the reasons why the Yahweh myth is particularly dangerous and has lead to so much violence in his name. It’s because the very foundations of the religions that have sprung up in his name is violent.

  10. So you think that someone is planning to Flood the earth in the name of God?
    And if that is your reason, when are you going to start campaigning against violent videos and Rap music too? There meant to cause much violence as well. And what about the internet for that matter? How many have caused pain to others because of the internet?

    Come on! Get really dude.
    Molly

  11. As I said earlier Molly, when people start worshiping scientists/rap/the internet/hollywood movies as gods I’ll bother with them.

    This isn’t a campaign against violence, it’s a campaign for reason and a plea for rational thinking.

  12. I still think your being very inconsistent (but then again that inconsistence is very consistent) in your views in this matter!

    I would argue (probably unsuccessfully) that the people that killed after watching movies or listen to songs are worshiping them in the same way that people that killed in Gods name are following God or Jesus or the Christian ideals.

    Molly

  13. Hi Cam,
    Just got round to listening to this show and I thought it was a great Podcast. I loved all the fact based stuff. It did get a bit ugly in the last 5 minutes when he started talking about Christianity and shut you down a bit, so it will be interesting to see how the next show goes. I think John should be very grateful to have such a well read and well prepared interviewer who asked such insightful and thought out questions. Well Done Cameron.

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