Monday, May 6, 2013

Intellectual integrity

To build on the previous post, most of us instinctively know there is a God. Sure, some resist the idea but we essentially know this to be true almost without thinking (blink)... There's a source for everything.
For every iPhone manufactured in Shenzhen, China, there is a Cupertino: a Mastermind that creates, invents, designs, plans. So here we sit on a spinning globe with an awe-inspiring natural world around us and an intricate and miraculous human body. Cupertino must exist.

"OK, fine," you might say, "So there's a Cupertino, a Headquarters... So what?"

Christianity says Headquarters sent Christ to Shenzhen to rescue all of us factory workers and the Christ was God in the form of a human. This is where things get a little wild. I can hear The New York Times editors chuckling... Either way, this claim would mean that Cupertino is not just a creative Force who is apathetic about your life, but a personal God of love who may be trying to contact you. The faith contends that the Jesus question is the cosmic question that can unlock the secrets of life, the question of all questions (maybe that's why people who don't even believe in God curse Jesus when at their wits end, or suddenly find Him when their plane is going down... the instincts are absolutely correct! We can trust them.).

There's a source for everything. For every iPhone manufactured in Shenzhen, China, there is a Cupertino, a Mastermind that creates, invents, designs, plans. 

No other world religion was founded by a person who claimed to be God. History has seen prophets and teachers pointing to God but no one claiming it. Admittedly, our response either calls for a good laugh (if Jesus lacks credibility, by all means let's carry on without Him...) or may dissolve us into a puddle of joyful tears at some point as we reframe life through the clarity of this Story. If we are intellectually honest, I think we'll realize that there are really only two possible answers to the question: He is the real deal or this is a complete scam.

(This is a big obstacle on the path to Christian faith, especially to educated Westerners... To claim "Truth" is offensive to our cultural conditioning, even though claims to truth have been accepted by nearly every society up to this point. It can scare us off in search of more "inclusive" religions as we pursue our interests in spirituality. But since we pretty much agree there's a Cupertino, don't you think Cupertino would have a specific product rollout strategy? Don't you think Cupertino would come up with a master plan to engage its end-users? Cupertino wouldn't have some sloppy strategy or shoot from the hip and "cross" their fingers... No way. If it's the Mind of God, it would have to be a brilliant, grand plan.)

This claim would mean that Cupertino is not just a creative force who is apathetic about your life, but a personal God of love who may be trying to contact you.

So here is the problem that I hope we can avoid... Many people, and most intellectuals, arrive at a sort of non-answer to the Jesus question that lacks intellectual integrity and consistency. The frequent answer is: Jesus was a good moral teacher. This is the "reasonable" answer that may be affirmed by atheists, skeptics, elites or even people in the pews, maybe convenient avoidance. It's sort of a partial thumbs up for Jesus. But this answer doesn't hold up in the light of reason because so much of what Jesus said was wrapped up in statements about His identity. Jesus cannot merely be a good teacher; that option is not even on the table.

The frequent answer is: Jesus was a good moral teacher. But this answer doesn't hold up in the light of reason... that option is not even on the table.

The moral teachings of Jesus were couched in His identity claims... "I am the Way, the Truth, the Life"; "I am the Door"; "I am the Gate"; "I am the Good Shepherd"; "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end"; Jesus said He had authority to forgive sins as he healed people and performed countless miracles; He said He will be the final Judge, He said He's the Savior of the WorldHis eternal Kingdom will reign forever at the end of History in the "new heaven and earth." And this crazy religious talk would seem ridiculous to me too if I hadn't sorted out the identity question and examined the evidence (it was way too much for the 1st century world to take as well, so they killed Him... or at least they thought they did).

If you remove the founders of other religions, you are arguably left with a philosophy in tact because the founders are not key to the religion. But if you remove Jesus from Christianity you are left with nothing. That's because it's all about Him and who He is (God); His unique claims and constant ability to back up His claims (e.g., miracles, resurrection, prophecies fulfilled, etc.). Christianity says that to find the key to life is to finally bump into a hard bottom of all reality, which is not an idea, philosophy or cause... but a Person.

If you remove the founders of other religions, you are arguably left with a philosophy in tact because the founders are not key to the religion. But if you remove Jesus from Christianity you are left with nothing. 

We cannot in good faith affirm Jesus as a good moral teacher while denying the claims about His unique identity. That doesn't work. It would make Him a lying, scandalous teacher, not a good teacher. We can freely reject Him but He cannot stand as good teacher only. That leaves us with only two options. Is He a fraud... or Lord of all?


Is He a fraud... or Lord of all?


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