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Why Jesus?

Last in a series on the search for meaning in a world that doesn't want to bother with it.

by Everett Wilson
June 4, 2005

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Why Jesus?
The aim of this essay is that you will take the time to consider Jesus as he is, which can be done only from the pages of the New Testament itself. My experience has been that most people who reject Jesus, either consciously or by default, know little about him. What they reject is the caricature of him that they have perceived from one or more of several sources: 
  • Their own, or their parents', rejection of the church for one reason or another, often unconnected with Jesus as he is; 
     
  • Their own lack of "religious" emotion, perceived by them as lack of need;
     
  • The faulty teaching of  Sunday School or other Bible teachers who teach the Bible third-hand rather than from their own  direct reading of it;
     
  • One-sided, dull, or thin preaching that filters out the biblical Jesus for the sake of the preacher's point (or the avoidance of one.)
     
  • The absurd reports  on sources like The Learning Channel and The History Channel, which  concentrate on obscure and secondary sources rather than on the coherent body of material that forms the New Testament;
     
  • Outright, intentional, and mocking versions of him.  A comic version of Jesus is an unlikely candidate for Lord of earth and heaven.  
You get the idea.  Those of us who declare publicly that Jesus is God himself as a human being, come to earth as the full and complete answer to the search for meaning,  are not asking others on the search to believe us except as a stage of the search; we are asking you to believe us enough for you to pick up the Bible and read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John until you get a clear picture of Jesus as he is. You can test what you read against this assertion:  No single person in the history of the world has claimed as much about himself as Jesus has. No single person has modeled his claims as consistently as Jesus has. No single person has put himself forward as both perfect human and infinite God, the One who gives his life for the sins of the world and who takes it up again in Resurrection.   
In summary, I propose that Jesus is the one who meets the criteria stated in essays seven and nine:  

  1. For God to be known, He must reveal himself and everything about himself; he is not open to our discovery without this revelation.
     
  2. God must be known on his own terms, not ours.
     
  3. As God  enters our reality from outside, so we must enter his from outside.   
     
  4. We cannot impute more than the idea of God's  existence; we cannot assign any meaning to him that goes beyond his self-definition.  
     
  5. We believe in order to know; we learn in order to believe. 
It's either true or a tall story. The awareness of that choice makes people tend to believe him when they get to know him for themselves. If you reject him anyway, you will not find anyone to replace him — that is, one covers so much ground so coherently in what he says and does. The primary word of most religions is "I'll fix you up so you will have a better life." The primary word of Jesus is, "I forgive you, and give you eternal life." The difference is huge.  
 
Mark Van Doren was not writing a Christian apology but stating an ontological fact when he wrote, "There are no substitutes for God."  Atheism is both brave and sad, because it has no adequate substitutes for what it denies. It must settle for less because it does not believe in more. The search for meaning is aborted because there is no ultimate meaning to hope for.    

Van Doren had  by all accounts a much healthier mind than the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, yet Kierkegaard engaged the search at both length and depth.  I do not agree with everything he said, even the parts I understand, but this this isn't about mental health; it's about meaning, and the faith required to lay hold of it.   So I agree with these words of Kierkegaard,  and have for the forty years since I first read them. 

Thou plain man! The Christianity of the New Testament is infinitely high; but observe that it is not high in such a sense that it has to do with the difference between man and man with respect to intellectual capacity, etc. No, it is for all. . .    
—"My Task," published after his death, 1855.                    http://sorenkierkegaard.org/kw23c_2.htm 

Like many believers before and after, Kierkegaard goes on to point out how difficult Christianity is.  So we'll end this series on a lighter note from the Roman Catholic wit G. K. Chesterton.  

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.
Chapter 5, What's Wrong With The World, 1910
http://www.chesterton.org/acs/quotes.htm#Religion%20and%20Faith

Previous Installments of this Series:
1. The Possible Possibility, 10/2/2004
2. The Legitimately Weird, 10/16/2004
3. Nature and Supernature, 11/29/2004
4. Designer Jeans, Designer God, 1/6/2005
5. What Mathematical Certainty?, 2/2/2005
6. Credible, Not Verifiable, 2/28/2005
7. The God of Ultimate Meaning, 2/28/2005
8. Dialogue with a Postmodern Nephew, 5/11/2005 
9. Why the Bible?, 5/21/2005

Comments (4)


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R. McNaughton from CT writes:
June 6, 2005
Everett: Thanks, one more time. I have appreciated Martin Luther, for the most part, but he totally rejected Aristotle. You, on the other hand, are an Aristotelian, as I am. He still continues to influence the thinkers of the world these 2000+ years.

Over the years, when I have listened to the description of the God athiests don't believe in, I've found that I don't believe in that God either. Read the Gospels is the way to go.

Everett Wilson from The Partial Observer writes:
June 7, 2005
R McNaughton wrote, You, on the other hand, are an Aristotelian, as I am.

Thanks for the affirming words. As to Aristotle: it's all so sixth and seventh hand that I didn't know I was an Aristotelian, and I didn't even know Luther wasn't. I'm like the character in Moliere who was delighted and affirmed when he learned that he could speak in prose!

Everett



Celeste from Kuwait writes:
July 31, 2005
I wonder if the pastor could clarify a few points which I don't understand from this article. He talks about Jesus and then he talks about God. He says God defines himself. First of all, where in the New Testament does he define himself? And secondly, how does Jesus describe himself and what divine attributes does he assign to himself?

Everett Wilson from The Partial Observer writes:
August 4, 2005
In response to Celeste, here are some passages in the New Testament where God defines himself. Remember that to Christians the Bible is the Word of God, in which the writers quoted were speaking truly of God. As Karl Barth put it, God now says what the text says. I am responding publicly because the question came in this forum. I will be glad to continue the discussion privately with anyone who emails me at evwilson@chibardun.net

Of Jesus, God said This is my beloved son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him.

Matthew 3:15.

Jesus said about himself:

I and the Father are one. John 10:30

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Also Luke 10:22)

The Book of Hebrews said about Jesus:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Hebrews 1:1-3

St. Paul said about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by [6] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together Colossians 1: 15-17

John said about Jesus:

John 1:1-2. 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

There are many more statements predicated on the fact that Jesus believed himself to be the Son of God and that his followers agreed that this was so.

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