Powell wrote a fascinating article in Newsweek. He reviewed the Iraq debacle among other things.
While he did not mention religion, I could not help but see the similarities between military decisions like the one in Iraq and how we all try to find answers to questions of faith. Both require sorting out different kinds of information.
In trying to figure out these great questions, we are doing intelligence work. The accuracy of what we find is based on the reliability of our informants.
Leading up to the Iraq war, Powell made a now-famous speech where he declared it was certain Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Shortly after that, he learned no one talking to him had actually ever talked to the person who had “seen” the evidence. It turned out the person who had “seen” the evidence was known to be unreliable.
Powell says there are four rules for good intelligence:
“Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Then tell me what you think. Always distinguish which is which.”
When we are reading accounts of the origin of Christianity, these would be good rules to follow. What we know comes from surviving written material by known and reliable authors of that time as well as unreliable origins. We need to distinguish which is which.
If we “think” a god directed what was taking place, we need to distinguish this from other things we know to be true. Otherwise, we are claiming weapons of mass destruction exist when they don’t.