The cover story of a recent Newsweek, which can be found here, is titled thus: "Who was Jesus?"
The author of the article, Dr. Bart Ehrman, is a professor of New Testament Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. For those who take Christianity seriously he's a proverbial button pusher. Below is the final paragraph of his article, as well as my response to it.
"These are books that [are] meant to declare religious truths, not historical facts. For believers who think that truth must, necessarily, be based on history, that probably will not be good news at all. But for those with a broader vision, a more generous appreciation of literature, and a fuller sense of theological meaning, the story of the Christ-child and his appearance in the world can be founded not on what really did happen..."
If the events did not happen in real history (granted, precise dates aren't incredibly important), then there is no Christian theology. The study of the Christian God is centered around God being born a man, living a man, dying a man, and rising again a man. A real one, in history. If those events did not take place then there is no real Christianity. Without the reality of the crucifix and the empty grave, there is nothing to celebrate. Death is not defeated. Evil wins.
When you die you stay dead.
Sure, as Ehrman points out the birth narratives may be off by a bit as they concern dates and the number of wise men, etc., but if somebody loses their faith because there were 19 wise men and not three, then they probably didn't have much stock in their beliefs to begin with. But if Jesus was not born and did not live and did not die and rise, then we've got nothing to hope in.
Dust to dust. Good game.
One final thought: There are many explanations to the problems raised by Ehrman, and many, many scholars (believing and non-believing) who straightforwardly disagree with his findings.
"But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."