When I had some downtime over Christmas, I decided to take my sons’ advice and started posting short clips from the film on TikTok. It’s really been a very interesting experiment as I get to see lots of feedback from Christians as well as non-Christians. There have been many wide debates, mostly respectful; some I’ve been involved in, most I haven’t been.
The most interesting part for me is to get more direct evidence that many Christians not only seem to have no idea about the current scholarship on the New Testament, but they are absolutely convinced that I am making all of this up. Of course, that’s one of the reasons I made the film in the first place. I was tired of having one-on-one conversations with Christian friends about the scholarship and having them accuse me of making it up.
Speaking of which, one of my old friends, a Christian I’ve known for 25 years, admitted to me recently that he is no longer a believer. I don’t know if my film had anything to do with his de-conversion (I didn’t ask), but I know that my discussions with him 25 years ago were part of my journey that eventually lead to making the film. I had only done some very basic reading on biblical scholarship back then, and when we got into heated but friendly discussions about the history of Christianity, he would challenge me on certain facts which prompted me to read more literature.
Speaking of de-conversions, I got a direct message on Twitter this week from a guy who said the film helped him leave Christianity, after a lifetime of being an Evangelical. As I told him, I didn’t make the film with the intention of de-converting people, but it’s always nice to hear stories like his, and it makes the time and effort we put into the film worthwhile. One less Christian means one less person submitting their children to Christianity, which has long-term trickle down benefits to society.
Anyway, back to the Christians debating me on TikTok. In addition to the general lack of knowledge about the scholarship, I also find that a surprising number of them are rather abusive and wish me violence. I get a lot of comments like “now make a film about Islam and see what happens!” Charming. I also see a lot of comments where, instead of challenging the facts presented in the film, people just want to attack the scholars and scholars in general. My usual response is to suggest they “play the ball, not the man” and try to avoid ad hominem attacks, which tend to demonstrate a lack of intelligence. I also find that people who attack experts in general, rather than challenge the facts or interpretations of the evidence presented the experts, do so because they are unable to challenge them, and would rather just rant and scream and denigrate scholarship to cover up their own lack of knowledge.
I’m always happy for people to challenge a fact or an interpretation of the evidence, because I only care about getting as close to the truth as possible. Christians should want the same thing.