Is the story of Jesus a conspiracy theory?
When is skepticism unreasonable? Even with video evidence some still won't believe. Rob Buckingham was an a skeptic and atheist until he had an encounter that transformed his life. A conversation confronting skpeticism, conspiracy theories and finding true fulfillment in life.
Rob Buckingham is the Senior minister at Bayside Church - a contemporary multi-site church in the southern bayside region of Melbourne. Rob is also a part of of Melbourne's media community having worked with Easy Music 3MP and 89.9 Light FM. Rob and his wife Christie also co-host an interactive TV Chat show called The Exchange.
This Bigger Questions episode is a re-edit and re-release of Episode 38 (recorded under the show's former title, hence the absence of episode number).
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
Today we’re thinking a bit about skepticism. So I thought I’d test you on conspiracy theories - skepticism towards generally accepted explanations of events in preference to some alternative covert theory.
Rob, what do you make of conspiracy theories?
Landing on the moon really is a remarkable event. Even with living eyewitnesses and video evidence, some people just won’t believe! Now in your youth you were a self-professed atheist. Was that how you felt about Jesus?
But you were spiritual?
As a fifteen year old, did you ever think you’d be a pastor as a church?
Can you tell us what changed, what happened?
What was it about Jesus that convinced you to change?
The Bible: the encounter with the skeptic
In the Scriptures we meet a skeptic who encounters Jesus. The story comes from the New Testament book of John, one of the four biographies of Jesus’ life that we have.
In this particular episode we hear about a man Philip who encounters Jesus and is convinced that he is the one special one, the one promised in the Jewish scriptures. A bit like the ‘Special’ prophesied in the Lego Movie to be the greatest, most interesting, most important person of all time. So Philip goes to his friend Nathanael and says in John 1, verse 45;
“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael’s response is fascinating, he asks,
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Why was Nathanael so skeptical?
Do you resonate with Nathanael’s skepticism?
It’s interesting that NASA issued a statement clarifying that it really did land on the moon in 1977 less than 10 years after the moon landing in 1969. People have a proclivity to skepticism. Now there’s a sense in which skepticism is reasonable isn’t it?
When is it time to stop being skeptical?
The Bible: What changed his mind?
Well, Nathanael’s mind was changed. Initially Philip implored him to put aside his skepticism and ‘come and see’.
So Nathanael decides to give it a go and goes to Jesus. Do you think that some people today aren’t even willing to ‘come and see’ - they are so skeptical and closed that they won’t even consider Jesus?
Was that your experience?
And then Nathanael encounters Jesus in a way which changes his life forever. Jesus seems to have something special. What was it about Jesus that seemed to convince the skeptical Nathanael?
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Nathanael immediately recognises Jesus for who he was - the Son of God, king of Israel. Jesus is almost dismissive of Nathanael’s initial enthusiastic expression of faith when he says in verse 50;
“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
Jesus claims here that when you actually encounter him, he will be far more than we ever imagine him to be. Is that your experience of following Jesus?
The Big Question
Do you think that the story of Jesus could be just a conspiracy theory?
How does an encounter with Jesus provide an answer to life’s big questions?