Norman Barker performed a duet with Judy Garland in the 1948 film “Easter Parade.” His son, Dan, became a pastor, before falling away from his Christian faith in 1984.
In 1990, Dan Barker, by then a devout atheist, published an essay, which he titled “An Easter Challenge For Christians.” And he has reissued his transparent attack on Easter every year since then.
This year, his challenge appears on a blog hosted by the so-called Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist hate group, based in Madison, Wisconsin, for which Barker and his wife serve as co-presidents.
In his anti-Easter essay, Barker writes, “My straightforward request is merely that Christians tell me exactly what happened on the day their most important doctrine was born.”
The atheist suggests that, since he first issued his challenge nearly a quarter-century ago, only an Assemblies of God pastor and Lutheran grad has ever taken him up on it. And neither ultimately got back to him.
But here’s the rest of the story that Barker, the deceiver, conveniently ignores: His challenge is not “straightforward.” Indeed, “The important condition of the challenge,” he writes, “is that not one single biblical detail be omitted.”
Of course, such trickeration is to be expected from those who shake their fists at God; who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ; who disbelieve that He conquered the grave.
Barker seeks to cast doubt upon the Easter story by deconstructing every jot and tittle of the four Gospel accounts of the Easter story, as well as the briefer accounts that appear in the book of Acts and I Corinthians.
He maintains that any putative discrepancy in the Biblical accounts, any apparent inconsistency in Biblical detail (however small, like the matter of whether visitors to Christ’s empty tomb on Easter morning saw one angel or two), is prima facie evidence that the resurrection was a fiction.
But that’s an absurd proposition. Sure there are discrepancies in the Gospel accounts. But no more than those to be found in reading the various biographies of, say, Abraham Lincoln. Does Barker question whether Lincoln truly served as president of the United States?
And while the atheist makes the case that the Gospel accounts of Easter were ahistoric, they actually were corroborated by the first century Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
In the Testimonium Flavianum, Josephus writes about “Jesus, a wise man” who was “a doer of wonderful works.” He attests that Jesus was condemned to the cross and that he appeared “alive again the third day.”
Barker can dispute Josephus’ historic account of the Easter story, as he questions the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But there is no dispute, no question that something miraculous happened on the first Easter Sunday.
For the frightened disciples who abandoned Jesus on the night he was arrested, who hid themselves away when he was crucified, were suddenly emboldened three days after Christ’s death.
In His name, they set out to make disciples of all nations. And it is no coincidence that, two thousand years later, Christianity is the world’s dominant faith.