[From the archives.]
I read a news article the other day that had me thinking that truth is stranger than fiction. It was about a man who went to the dentist for a sore tooth, was put under anesthesia and woke up with a mouth completely sans teeth. Not a molar or incisor in sight. Gum resting on gum, lips squashing up against each other like folds on an accordion, chin-to-nose emptiness in the oral cavity.
The story went on to explain that the man, who lived in Poland, had gone to his ex-girlfriend for his dental work. Oh-ho, I thought. The story said he had a bad toothache and his regular dentist was out of town so he went to her. She was only too eager to fit him in the schedule. See, he’d done her wrong by taking up with another woman; that’s what led to their break-up, since this taking up was before he’d informed her that their own relationship was over. There he was, in her chair, and she put him under the deepest anesthesia he could still wake up from. She took out the aching tooth and reportedly thought to herself, “Why stop there?”
So she didn’t.
To add insult to injury, the story said the new girlfriend then left him because “she can’t be with a man without teeth.”
“What some people will do for revenge”, you might be thinking. But this story turned out to be “What some people didn’t do.”
A week after reading that article I saw a follow-up on msnbc.com. They’d called the police department in Wroclaw, Poland. They called Poland’s Supreme Chamber of Physicians and Dentists. Someone even checked the regional chamber overseeing dentists in Wroclaw. No one had heard of the dentist, the boyfriend, or the missing teeth. There was no man; there was no dentist; there wasn’t even a sore tooth. The whole thing was a hoax.
Here’s the part that gets me. The U.S. news outlets that ran the original story include the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, MSN, the Huffington Post, and Yahoo News. Are they all infallible? Certainly not, but one would think it unlikely that all of them would end up showing their fallibility in the same way on the same day over the same bogus story.
A Report that Stands Up to Scrutiny
A lot of people hear Christians talk about God and think the stories are too good – or perhaps too awful – to be true, and tend to respond this way:
Creation: But what about the Big Bang?
Sin: Hey, we all make mistakes.
Crucifixion: Sounds like a horrible way to go.
Heaven: No harps and long white robes for me thanks … although having wings and flying around sounds kind of cool!
Resurrection: Sure, tell me another.
People hear these kinds of things and, if they don’t dig into them, they understandably consider them a bit too much to take. One thing about Jesus and the good news we call the Gospel, though, is that God doesn’t require us to take it on face value. He provides eye-witnesses. Here are two separate accounts:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life [Jesus Christ]. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:1-2.)
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7.)
So at this point some might say, “Sure the Bible says that stuff, but why should I believe what it says?” Because it’s true and the non-Bible evidence backs it up.
Ancient historians like Josephus and Tacitus (both decidedly non-Christian) attest to the fact that Jesus really walked the earth and was crucified by a Roman Governor, just like the Bible says. Other contemporary records talk of the work (the miraculous work, in many instances) that Peter, John, Paul and the other Apostles did in the years following Jesus’ death. His body really was laid in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers, and it really wasn’t there when the sun rose on the third day of his death despite those guards being on duty.
The early church knew these historical facts were so important that they included them in one of the earliest statements of faith: “he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again.” (Council of Constantinople, 381 CE.)
Christians claim a faith supported by evidence, not something that falls apart under scrutiny like the story of the vengeful dentist.
Too Good Not to Be True
There you have it. Believe it or don’t, but don’t reject it because you think it’s just another made up story. That position won’t stand up to scrutiny.
Believe it because it’s true.