Apologist Jon Topping introduces the topic of the podcast - the believability and basics of the Christian faith. He explores how he personally came to know and believe in Jesus.
Hello and welcome to the Ultimate Questions podcast, my name is Jon Topping, and I’m thrilled to be starting this podcast, and glad to have you along for the ride. I’m an apologist for Power to Change’s “Ultimate Questions” apologetics team. I’m also an adjunct professor at Masters Bible College and Seminary, Where I teach philosophy, ethics, and apologetics. The point of this podcast is going to be to go through different apologetics related issues. We’ll deal with a different element of each issues during an episode. So we’ll try and take our time, and get into all the nitty gritty points involved. I’ll also be trying to do this in a way that anyone could listen to this While we’ll go into a lot of the finer points. I don’t want this to be so abstract and high level that only people with degrees will listen. The point, ultimately, is to help you, the listener, become equipped and strengthened. Also, if anyone is listening who isn’t a Christian I would love for this to be a chance to introduce you to new ideas. Get you thinking about these topics a bit more. Apologetics, really, is just trying to answer all the difficult questions people have about the faith. If you have any questions you’d like to be address on the podcast DM us on Instagram, and we’ll be doing future episodes dedicated to just answering those.
There are all sorts of questions that challenge Christianity. We’ll be diving into them, and going into a bunch of the little nuances in those topics. Often times Christians are scared to send their young people off to university. I was one of these students that had their faith challenged during their education. I was attending Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, learning video and film production. I was introduced to arguments against Christianity that were very convincing. See in my situation, I had every opportunity to become strong in my faith. When my faith was challenged, I STILL found it incredibly discouraging
Really, it rocked my whole world. This is probably the biggest and most crucial moment of my life. I was raised in a pastor’s home and became a Christian at a young age. I read the Bible through half a dozen times.I had gone through all the Sunday school and youth group programs. I was even baby Jesus in the Christmas play one year. As I got older, I started using some of my abilities in the church. I had been getting into videography, because I would film extreme sports competitions. The church found out, and started using me to help their video department. As I was doing this sort of thing more and more, and high school was ending, I thought, “hey, I could probably make a living doing this”. So I went to school for video production.
While I was there, as part of the program, students had to take a class on current events. From a film perspective, we would look at culture, news, and media being produced. Then one week, the teacher showed a video to one of the sections of the class. The film was made by a guy doing basically everything on his own (video, sound, script writing), from what I understand. It was a way to kind of show all us young students the kind of thing that we’re capable of. “See this guy got famous doing something like this, you can too!” But as she watched the film with the class, she thought, “uhhhh I don’t know if this was such a good idea…”. The film is called Zeitgeist, and is basically all on conspiracy theories: the banks are trying to take over the world, 9-11 was an inside job, and then there was a whole half hour that was dedicated to proving Jesus isn’t a historical person. That Jesus never existed.
So as she watched this with the students, she realized it probably wasn’t wise to show something this controversial in class, so she decided not to show it to the next section of the class, which was the section I was in.
So the next day after my class, my friends from the first section started to ask me about the film, which I obviously hadn’t seen. They knew I was a Christian, so I guess they wanted to know if I had answers, or if I was totally stumped, or what. So since I hadn’t seen the film, I went home that night to check it out. It’s a very convincing film. He talks down to you, making you feel like an absolute idiot for being a Christian. He goes through a whole bunch of history, and mythologies, and really proves that Christianity is a false religion, that is just a tool being used by people to control others. It’s quite well done, and is pretty convincing, and for me, it was a really discouraging, and actually hurt my faith quite a bit. I still believed in Christianity, I knew Jesus, I had experienced God, I had seen miracles happen in the lives of those around me, and even in my own life, but it was still a really hard film to watch, because it felt like he was proving, objectively, that my faith had to be false.
The main argument he gives in the film, is that Jesus is a myth based on other myths.
So he goes through a bunch of examples from ancient history, using the Egyptian god Horus as the big example, showing all these qualities of Horus, and then showing that Christianity stole a lot of the ideas with its concept of Jesus. So for example, there’s this really great part from the film where you can get his point.
I’ll read you a little bit of the script: “Broadly speaking the story of Horus is as follows, Horus was born on December 25th of the virgin Isis Mary. His birth was accompanied by a star in the east which in turn three kings followed to locate and adorn the new born savior. At the age of 12 he was a prodigal child teacher, at the age of 30 he was baptized by a figure known as Anup, and thus began his ministry. Horus had 12 disciples he travelled about with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. Horus was known by many gestural names such as the truth, the light, God’s anointed son, the good shepherd, the lamb of God, and many others, after being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for three days, and thus resurrected.”
So the point of this is, if the myth of Horus was around two millennia before Jesus is said to have been born, obviously Christianity draws influences from these other ancient religions. That’s why we see so many parallels, because it’s a common mythological structure for savior figures in ancient religions. The film maker shows a big list of tons of other figures from other religions. Showing that all of them have similar stories to Jesus, but predate Jesus. The point being that, obviously, Christianity is just another ancient myth. There’s a bunch of other really powerful statements in the film like this. And after watching it, I just sat there, disturbed by what I had just seen. I went back to school, and just hoped that nobody would ask me about this issue again. It plagued me for probably a week or two. I was thinking about it all the time, and was actually distraught by the whole thing. For whatever reason, I didn’t ask my dad about it, I didn’t ask my youth pastor about it, I didn’t ask my lead pastor at the time, even though he loves this stuff, I didn’t even check the internet! I don’t know why, I guess I just assumed this was news, like no one had ever heard this before or something.
So I let this bother me for a week or two, until I finally couldn’t handle it anymore.
I needed answers. So I went to the library. I had never been a scholar, and didn’t read much at all. I found the video creator’s list of books he used to make his film, and got as many as I could. I ended up looking at about eight or so of these books. What I learned from doing this was, basically, the guy was lying the entire film! Now notice, I wasn’t reading Christian apologists. I was reading the sources HE used to make the film! Just by reading his own books, I could see that he was messing with the data. Quickly it became apparent that much of what he was saying was misinformation.
So here’s just a little bit about what I’m talking about:
The film claims that Jesus and Horus were both born Dec 25.
Scholars recognize that Jesus wasn’t really born on Dec 25.
Christmas actually is celebrated on that date because of pagan religions.
There’s two thoughts on this: Either Christians were influenced by pagans.
Or, Christians made Christmas on this day to overshadow the pagan holiday.
Either way, it’s quite unlikely that Jesus was born then.
Another claim is that Horus was visited by three kings.
The problem with that is that Jesus wasn’t. He was visited by a large group of “magi”, or wise men. Kind of like the scholars at the time. There also weren’t three of them. There were three types of “gifts” referenced in the Bible, but the group was probably much larger.
Another claim was that Horus was born of the virgin named Isis Mary.
Now that’s interesting the film maker said “Isis Mary”. The mom’s name was Isis, not Mary.
Her name is never Mary. I tried quite diligently to figure out why he said her name was “Isis Mary”, and the path to try and MAKE her name Mary was so incredibly convoluted I could barely follow it. It was so contrived and just made up, I felt embarrassed I had believed it.
Also, Horus’s conception story involves the parents having sex, so it wasn’t a virgin birth.
There’s a lot of mixed up stories for these things, but basically, Osiris (Horus’ dad) was split into pieces, and Isis puts him back together, but she can’t find his penis. So she makes him a new penis, puts him back together, and he comes back to life. They then have sex, and make Horus. Does that sound anything like the virgin birth?
But the filmmaker makes it seems like it’s the exact same, and a rip off
So just a few more: the film maker says Horus was baptized at age 30 by “Anup the baptizer”.
Again, this is just false. There is a figure called Anup the baptizer, but he has nothing to do with Horus’ story.
Horus is said to have 12 disciples, he didn’t. One story says 4, one says 16, and another doesn’t give a number.
The biggest claim made in this film was that Horus was crucified, dead for three days, and then resurrected back to life, and that all of this was to save humanity from their sin.
The one major problem with that - Crucifixion hadn’t even been invented yet!
Also, I remember reading one of the authors that the film maker used, and he commented on this concept. He was actually insulted that people had been using this story to compare the deaths of Jesus and Horus, because he was a big fan of Horus.
He explicitly stated that Horus did NOT die for humanity, but died for his father, Osiris, and that this was much more noble that Jesus’ death.
So did the film maker just happen to not read that part of the book?
At the end of the day, I had found so much information contradicting everything in that video. It actually made me incredibly upset. I had really been struggling in my faith, doubting, going through an existential crisis. For what? Because I had believed the lies of someone trying to mock my beliefs? I had just been believing lies full of misinformation, and I let that challenge me? Then, I got even more mad when I thought to myself, all my friends watched this video. They are all mocking Christianity now, thinking of it as stupid myths and fairy tales, because this random film maker had made this piece of propaganda. Because of this, I started sharing what I had learned with some people in my class. I was able to show them the different lies that had been presented, however, their response wasn’t “yay let me become a Christian!” Instead, they had other challenges to the faith they wanted answers to. Also, sure, Jesus might not have been a myth, but what reason is there to believe in Him as your saviour? I had never really thought of things this way before, so I got interested, and looked into it. I ended up finding out TONS of information about the New Testament, and about the life of Jesus, from a historical perspective. Through this time, I had learned a lot about these matters, and had the opportunity to share what I had learned with a lot of people I went to school with.
However, I quickly realized that most people don’t know about this kind of stuff.
I started talking to people online about these things, and I made a few little YouTube videos to try and share what I had learned. I ended up doing this sort of thing a lot, and really felt like this is what God wanted me to do with the life He had given me. From there, I ended up going to Tyndale university in Toronto, and got a bachelor’s degree with a double major in philosophy and theology. I had some really great profs there, who I will hopefully be able to get on this podcast, and they really encouraged me to continue my education so I could get involved in apologetics. They told me the best place for me to go would be Biola University, in California. So I went there, and took the Master’s degree program in the philosophy of religion and ethics. After that, I ended up teaching adjunct at Masters Bible college and seminary where I teach philosophy, ethics, and apologetics. And I also landed the job here, at Power to Change, where I work on the Ultimate Questions apologetics team.
I actually find it really funny that the enemy tried to use this piece of atheistic propaganda to challenge my faith, but it ended up getting me involved in ministry, where now I actually have a job helping equip other people with answers to these tough questions! So in this podcast, we’re going to be diving into these sorts of topics. Difficult questions that challenge people in their faith journey and other challenges that people have against the Christian faith, that keep them from accepting that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15 "but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."
You are actually supposed to have a reason for your faith, and that’s what this podcast is going to be about.
To begin, I figured we’d start out the podcast by looking into some of the historical matters that relate to the Christian faith. We’ll be looking at the New Testament, whether it’s reliable, how different skeptics attack the text of the Bible, what textual variances are and how they affect the faith, what we can learn from sources outside the Bible, and all sorts of different topics like this. Next time on the podcast, we’ll be looking at a common challenge against the reliability of the New Testament. Isn’t the New Testament just copies of copies? Translations of translations? How can it be reliable? So I hope you’ll join me next time as we start diving into these topics, on the Ultimate Questions podcast, from Power to Change Students.