Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is Jesus God? pt 1/4

Okay Internet, let's get started on a new gem from Today's piece is written by Paul E. Little and titled "Beyond Blind Faith" The teaser begins, "Is Jesus God? Here is a picture of the life of Jesus Christ and why it's not blind faith to believe in him..." Hey, I've long said that if there is credible evidence for a god, I'll no longer be an atheist. (The question of worship is separate. First I need to know IF a god exists, before I can determine if it is holy.) So let's dive right in to all this not-just-blind-faith evidence!
It is impossible for us to know conclusively whether God exists and what He is like unless He takes the initiative and reveals Himself. We must scan the horizon of history to see if there is any clue to God's revelation. There is one clear clue. In an obscure village in Palestine, 2,000 years ago, a Child was born in a stable. Today the entire world is still celebrating the birth of Jesus.
So why doesn't he just reveal himself already? Also, the supposed virgin birth of Jesus (and all the other demi-god messiahs who came before him) in "an obscure village in Palestine, 2000 yearas ago" is hardly a "clear clue" of any god's existence, much less his/her/its revelation. Oh, and while most of the globe does celebrate the winter solstice, birth of Mithras, Saturnalia, or even Christmas in some incarnation of the holiday, that again isn't evidence of "God's revelation." I mean, how many people honestly worship Thor anymore, yet all across the English-speaking world, once a week we commemorate Thursday!*
The Life of Jesus - Is Jesus God?

He lived in obscurity until He was thirty, and then began a public ministry that lasted three years. It was destined to change the course of history. He was a kindly person and we're told that "the common people heard Him gladly." And, "He taught as One who had authority, and not as their teachers of the Law."
Lived in obscurity (like most people?) Check. Had a 'ministry' like millions of clergy, rabbis, witch doctors, shaman, "encouragers", prayer warriors, and cult leaders over the millenia? Check. Was he really "destined" to change history? That's an awful lot of question begging. For one thing, it presupposes destiny exists. Can we say Jesus did change the course of history? Again, I'm hesitant. I don't think Jesus on his own, without say Paul and Constantine and all those bloody popes, would have changed history. I think it is more accurate to say that the Story of Jesus has changed history (and whether or not this has been a beneficial change is another question entirely.)
It soon became apparent, however, that He was making shocking and startling statements about Himself. He began to identify Himself as far more than a remarkable teacher or prophet. He began to say clearly that He was God. He made His identity the focal point of His teaching. The all-important question He put to those who followed Him was, "Who do you say I am?" When Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", Jesus was not shocked, nor did He rebuke Peter. On the contrary, He commended him!
Wow, and no one has ever claimed to be god before. I mean, that is like proof that Jesus was really god! Right? Oh no. Turns out LOTS of crazy men over the years have claimed they were god/god's son/god's messenger/the second coming/messiah/savior of all mankind. It's kind of a good schtick for cult leaders especially. Heck, Charles Manson claimed to be Jesus and Satan.
He made the claim explicitly, and His hearers got the full impact of His words. We are told, "The Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."

On another occasion he said, "I and My Father are One." Immediately the Jews wanted to stone Him. He asked them for which good work they wanted to kill Him. They replied, "We are not stoning You for any of these but for blasphemy, because You, a mere man, claim to be God."
Entertain for the moment, if you please, the possibility that Jesus was no more the son of god than Simon of Paraea or Athronges, two other Jewish men Jesus' supposed age, who also claimed to be the messiah. If he was just a man, then weren't the Jewish leaders right to try to kill him for his blasphemy? After all, the first four out of ten commandments are all about Yahweh being a jealous, touchy sort of deity. He ordered stoning for everything from planting two seeds in the same furrow to not screaming loudly enough while being raped. Weren't they right to want to kill him, if he wasn't the son of god and he was claiming to be so?
The Life of Jesus - His Identity Revealed

When a paralyzed man was let down through the roof wanting to be healed by Him, He said, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." This caused a great to-do among the religious leaders, who said in their hearts, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Heh, while the Catholic Church certainnly seems to think they can "absolve" sins, so maybe this isn't such a big deal in today's modern world? Besides, faith healing is only impressive if you already believe it works, like fortune telling, ghost hunting, and homeopathy.
At the critical moment when His life was at stake, the high priest put the question to Him directly: "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"

"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy."
Just try to think for a moment if this wasn't some guy from 2,000 years ago, but someone today. Think about a guy who just starts walking around claiming to be god or the son of good, surrounded by slavish followers. You're likely to think this guy's a nut, and maybe evil or blasphemous, too. It's only because you've been told Jesus is the messiah - over and over and over again - that you find HIM to be the hero in this story. You say, "Well, it is so obvious he's the son of god. Why didn't they believe him?" in shocked Sunday School voices. But you have to understand, men throughout time have been believed to be gods. Jesus wasn't the first or the last, or the one with the most original story. Why do you believe this one?
So close was His connection with God that He equated a person's attitude to Himself with the person's attitude toward God. Thus, to know Him was to know God. To see Him was to see God. To believe in Him was to believe in God. To receive Him was to receive God. To hate Him was to hate God. And to honor Him was to honor God.
David Koresh claimed to be the son of god. Marshall Appelwhite claimed to be Jesus reincarnate. Muhammad Ahmad claimed to be the Mahti (something akin to the messiah or second coming in Islam.) They all claimed to BE god. Honoring them was honoring god. How is your Jesus any different?

Tomorrow we'll get into "The Life of Jesus - Four Possible Explanations" (think C.S. Lewis.) Glad to be back online and with all of you Anteaters!

* I remember once when I was very young, maybe only 4 or 5, my grandmother was deliberating whether she ought to teach us the "traditional" days of the week, or whether we ought to use a Hebrew calendar instead. I don't think she was considering it very seriously, but the fact that our days of the week are named for Roman and Norse gods genuinely concerned and offended her.