Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Problem With Jesus

The Da Vinci Code, The new Cameron Movie, the uproar at the Mel Gibson movie... will the controversy ever end????

Get comfy folks. Jesus is just as controversial as he was when the rumor of his birth hit the ears of Herod.

We are in to the 21st century and the world is still as fascinated as ever with the person of Jesus of Nazareth. There are countless books, blogs, magazines, movies and seminars dedicated to discount the truth about him. I have been involved in discussions on several blogs that wish nothing more than to see Jesus join the ranks of fairies and unicorns. There was a seminar in the 70s and 80s put together by “Christian” scholars who tried to strip the gospel of all of its miracles. There have been plays that have portrayed him as a homosexual, paintings of him immersed in urine. The list goes on and on and on.

Why all the hubbub? Well most might say: "Well, the demons tremble at his name and the very nature of man repels this truth because he walks in darkness." I do not disagree with that sentiment but I think there are three main reasons, on the surface, that we will never cease to have this discussion until his return.

1. Jesus was a real man who taught wonderful things. Our whole western civilization is built upon the principles that he taught and lived.

2. He performed miracles. You see, the Gospels have this little problem about them. They have the distinct aroma of the real but they also have those pesky miracles. The man was the greatest teacher that ever lived. The greatest human being that ever lived. Hardly anyone argues that. The Gospels represent his loving and eternally wise character beautifully. They also contain Jesus walking on water, calming storms and bringing people back to life from the dead.

3. He claimed to be God. The big one. Lewis said it best. You know the quote: "Lord, Liar, or lunatic." Here Jesus goes a place that only faith can take you. Even the miracles can be tolerated or humored but not this. If you believe a single word he says then you must believe this as well. The “opt out” clause was never in a single phrase he spoke.

There is God and there is man. Something is dead wrong with man and everyone knows it. Only God could set such a thing right. He started with the Jews. Through them he entered the world and made things right for those who believe it. That concept was even over the heads of the Jews at the time. They wanted a great conquering warrior who would squash the Romans. God’s plan was a tad bigger. He was to squash death itself for mankind.

In my opinion, these are the primary reasons why people keep returning to the person of Jesus for admiration or attack. They want to believe it and they don't. The want to ignore him but they cannot so they attack. The world's view of Jesus is beautifully summed up in a conversation with Einstein about Jesus. (who never converted)

"I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.

Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a clever word"


FancyPants said...

I wonder what kept Einstein from converting? Such strong admiration for Jesus, admiration that goes deeper than repect for his teachings. It seems like he senses the truth in Jesus.

Just a thought.

Great post. I have a friend (obviously, your friend, too) that is a Jew and from what he says has a deep admiration for Jesus, too. He also has not converted. As you know, we'll have talks for hours about Christianity and how he sees it, and it seems after everything's said and done, it comes down to you either believe what Jesus says about himself or you don't.

Because if you believe that what he says is true, that He and the Father are One, that if you've seen Jesus you've seen the Father, that Jesus is God, it's not hard to believe in the resurrection.

But if you don't believe that Jesus was who he says he was, I would think it would be easy to become angry at him. All this great stuff he did and taught, but then goes and says something crazy like that.

Very hard to stay neutral with Jesus.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Good thoughts. Jesus told us very specifically that it would be this way, too. He said He came not to bring peace, but a sword. The prophecies about Him said He would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

And what you are talking about is exactly why. He wanted to sharply divide those who would believe, and would understand so totally that they were willing to give up everything and follow Jesus, from those who (for whatever reason) just weren't ready to hear it or refused to hear it. I also think this is why the Lord has such strong words for lukewarm existence -- because that's somebody who in word is proclaiming to believe in Jesus, but in deed is not, thus trying to have the best of both sides of the argument.

As somebody who believes in Jesus, it is this lukewarm state of being that frightens me the most. It is an easy place to drift toward, and we have to be constantly vigilant about the condition of our hearts.

Pendrax said...

People who are openly hostile toward Jesus are the easy part of the problem. They have often thought deeply about the issues and have a set of beliefs they are willing to try and support. That allows for discussion and the potential for change.

The ones I worry about are the ones who don't see the problem. They look at the surface of our culture and see a bunch of mostly incomprehensible, arcane belief systems and conclude that everybody is equally right-wrong. It doesn't really matter so much what you believe, only that you believe. Mostly these are young people who have grown up in a Christian environment. The kinds of people who have passed through our youth groups and gone off to the big-people's world of the university. They encounter articulate, intelligent, reasonable atheists for the first time and are blown away. Not completely, but enough to realize how "childish" their simple Christian faith actually is. They respond by making their faith more adult, dropping the crazyness... miracles, a god-man-savior, virgin birth, heaven, hell, devils and demons.

What they're left with is something much safer... something deadly... an inoculation against Truth.

In his book The Last Christian Generation Josh McDowell says of these young people, "They read from the same Bible, talk of a personal relationship with God, and say biblical truth is important to their lives, but their beliefs and behavior are not consistent with what the Bible identifies as a true follower of Christ."

They honestly don't see the tension that we do in the Lord-Liar-Lunatic image. Scary.

Seth Ward said...

Good point Rob. That is scary. Great thoughts fancy and c-hammer. More to say... will comment after church.

Seth Ward said...

Rob, I have been thinking about that since we last talked...

I wonder if some of that is doomsday talk on Josh's part. Maybe not. The college kids that I encounter are just as shaken up as other college kids when you start with the "Jesus was God" bit.

I totally agree about the tolerance though. It is certainly a different beast than it used to be. "The last Christian Generation" seems to be saying "watch out... if we aren't careful, Christianity will die out..." This is literally impossible. Every single Christian could die tomorrow and the Church would still rise and spread.

However, this may not be what he is saying...

Susanne said...

I agree with you, Fancypants, that it's hard to stay neutral with Jesus. Most of us have tried at some point, and it just doesn't work. I also wonder how people like your friend can admire Jesus and think He was a great person and not believe that He was who He said He was. I had a Buddhist friend like that.

I agree with what you're saying, Rob. So many kids go to college and want so badly to be seen as "intelligent" that they deny Christ. It happens so gradually that they don't realize it's happening. They're taught that not only must they be tolerant of other people's beliefs/lifestyles, but they must also accept that those beliefs/lifestyles are okay...otherwise they will be thought of as "ignorant" or "intolerant." They start to pursue knowledge above anything else. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:5, "...having a form of godliness but denying its power." They start to think that the "Oprah religion" (New Age - there are many ways to everyone and do good, and you'll be okay) might not be too far from the truth after all. They start to think that the reason they didn't know the truth when they were growing up is because they were so sheltered (how many times do you hear this from college kids???). The truth that they don't realize is that the college world is what is so "sheltering." At college, they're only around other kids their age for the most part, they're so busy with their studies and activities that it's easy to give up their daily quiet time with God and stop reading their Bible, and it's so easy for college professors to brainwash them because everything is so new and exciting to them that they'd believe almost anything. I know this because I was much like this in college. I still professed to be a Christian, and I even attended a local church, but I strayed from God for many years. When I finally started really studying my Bible and praying earnestly to God, and when I started loving myself enough to "be careful how I walked," I realized that the Bible is Truth after all. I though, "Holy Cow, my parents were actually right?!" Amazing. The problem is you usually can't just tell people the truth...they have to learn it the hard way. We need to pray that these Christian college students will stand up for their beliefs instead of cowering down and letting the enemy get a foothold. We need to pray for God to keep these kids safe and keep calling them back to Him like He kept calling me back.

FancyPants said...

For anyone still reading....

Tolerance is a difficult concept. For example, Suzanne said, "They (college students) are taught that not only must they be tolerant of other people's beliefs/lifestyles, but they must also accept that those beliefs/lifestyles are okay...otherwise they will be thought of as "ignorant" or "intolerant."

I think that being tolerant of other people's beliefs is a different thing than being tolerant with another's lifestyle to the point of it affecting one's own convictions and decisions.

By being tolerant with another's religion or beliefs, I mean that a person respects the other's intellect, reasoning, and tradiiton leading to their belief. And perhaps even opening one's mind as to why they would believe that. Take for example, my Jewish friend. He can believe what he believes with sincerity and integrity. There might even be things about his religion that line up with mine. There might even be things that I admire, like say, Passover. I am tolerant of his religion, but still hold to my beliefs. He challenges me to put my faith to the test. Ask the questions. Reason the answers. This is exciting and a precious thing. Do I think he's right? No. But is it OK that he believes it? Yes. Would I like for him to enter into a life with Christ, inheriting new life and freedom into eternal glory? Yes. But tolerance is in fact there.

Now what if my Jewish friend wanted to get me drunk and high all the time? (Which he absolutely does not.) Should I tolerate that? Nope. Should I get mad at him for doing those things? No, not really, I don't think I should. Sure I'd wish he didn't for his own good, but he's able to make his own choices. I just don't have to choose them.

Now this is where I think Christians could do better. Do I turn away from him? Do I stop calling, caring, asking, loving? No, I shouldn't.

Pendrax, I am not exactly familiar with what kind of beliefs you are mentioning. But it seems to be a luke warm approach to Christianity. Leaving out the parts that are difficult. Keeping the parts that are popular. This is definitely scary.

Pendrax said...

Our society will tolerate absolutely anything except intolerance. (Not my thought, but I can't remember where I stole it.)

Christianity is intrinsically intolerant. Jesus didn't leave any other path open to us. There is ONE way.

We confuse tolerance for love. They're very different ideas.

It's late. Too many short sentences. Sounding pushy again. Sorry.