Reza Aslan—no relation to CS Lewis’ lion of the same name—has made a career out of reinterpreting and often trying to debunk Christian beliefs. Now Salon reports that Aslan has taken to attacking the New Testament, notably the historicity of the four gospels.
“I’ll put it in the simplest way possible,” Aslan has declared. “The Gospels are absolutely replete with historical errors and with contradictions.” The fact that Aslan is not a historian, or a biblical scholar, or a theologian, or even a Christian does not deter him in his critique of Christian belief. He is, in fact, a sociologist, whose 145-page thesis was titled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework.”
Aslan is an Iranian-born American who converted to evangelical Christianity at the age of 15, reverting to Islam just before entering college. Though he has gently questioned details about Mohammed’s childhood, he has avoided criticizing the Qur’an, preferring instead to focus his attention on the Bible—a book he does not believe in.
This is not Aslan’s first run-in with Christians. In his book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Aslan depicted Jesus of Nazareth as a seditious political revolutionary whom his followers had to reinvent as a peaceful spiritual leader.
In his address at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council last February, reported on recently by Salon, Aslan said that the Church fathers who assembled the canonical New Testament “didn’t care” whether “what they were reading was literally true.” The early Christians, says Aslan, were not particularly interested in the facts of Jesus’ life, but rather “in the truth revealed by Jesus’ life.”
So, they literally “constructed these stories about Jesus,” he said.
These assertions contradict the central thread of his book Zealot, whose “underlying assumption,” according to the Economist, “is that if Jesus has any significance at all, it is to be found in the facts of his earthly existence.”
While Christians readily recognize several inconsistencies in the several gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, which have rather simple explanations, they have never seen this as a reason to discredit the entire historical record that they embody.
Catholics, for example, who can hardly be called fundamentalists, believe that the historical record of the New Testament is accurate. The Catholic Catechism states: that the Church “holds firmly that the four Gospels, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”
Reading Aslan’s confused thoughts on Christianity it is easy to see why he abandoned his faith in it. It is harder to understand why he insists on trying to ruin it for everybody else.