Saturday, September 28, 2013

George Jonas errs seriously

It's been a busy week, and by lunch now I have managed to skim-read the piled up newspapers and get them out for recycling.  What caught my attention, as per usual, are well written commentaries in the National Post, which we still pay for and have delivered to the doorstep.

George Jonas is a very good writer and I generally enjoy his quirky observations.  But what frightened me today is the statements in his this week's column on Syria:
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/09/25/george-jonas-syrian-subterfuge/

He says that  "Christians dwelled safely in the House of Islam for 1400 years."  Ayaan Hirsi Ali has challenged people publicly on this statement.  Christians have been held as Dhimmis in Islamic societies, that is as second class citizens, paying extra taxes and suffering other disadvantages.  It is astounding to think that our elite commentators are not aware of this and other long-standing problems.  It frightens me that the West knows so very little about history, about religions, about history of religions.  Our elite has been teaching us "to think" but no facts.  Thinking is supposed to supersede and facts are always debatable.  But now we are a society of ignoramuses.  When will people actually read the Bible and read the Koran and know something of what they speak?  When will we again go to primary sources and read, study and meditate and then spout forth? No, we just spout forth.  It is deplorable;  so very deplorable. DEPLORABLE.

Another reader responded in the Post with this rebuttal. 


Religious persecution

Re Syrian Subterfuge: George Jonas, Sept. 25.
George Jonas errs in suggesting that Christians “dwelled safely in the House of Islam for 1400 years.” Christians, along with Jews, have been persecuted or forcibly converted since the beginning of the Muslim conquest of the Middle East and beyond.
In modern times the Middle East has been ruled by secular tyrants with whom the Christians usually sided because those dictators offered them freedom of religion. With the collapse of these dictatorships, there is a growing religious persecution, in Iraq, Egypt and now Syria.
The Western public must awake and see the Syrian rebels for who they really are. The dwindling pro-democratic element among them no longer calls the shots and has no chance of gaining the political power once Bashar al-Assad is gone. If the right to protect is the Western political mantra, we must look ahead and focus on protecting the Syrian religious minorities from the assured persecution that is coming, should the Al-Nusra Front and other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria win and establish a Sunni caliphate over the land.
Anthony Ludmilin, Surrey, B.C.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality

Someone has argued that there are several subjects completely tabu these days:

--One, discussing that homosexuality is not healthy.    http://www.frc.org/?i=IS01B1

--Two, arguing that Islam is Not a Religion of Peace.

  (We don't need to link to anything to prove that it is not. We see it on all our many screens.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Panels of Atheists

I sat up and watched
Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris Ayaan Hirsi Ali in an hour's worth of panel discussion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsDt5Ub5JLM

I enjoyed it because some interesting points were made, especially about Islam and the internet--but now it's too late in the day to write about it.  If you watch it, I think you will find it worth and hour's time spent.

What is astounding, always, is the hubris that has confessing atheists continually claiming that they are the only people who think rationally and freely.  Really, they are dogmatists of another sort, which they will never admit.  BUT they have a good vocabulary.

And sometimes they have some good points, such as:  does the wafer turn into Christ's body, as per Roman Catholicism. -- Obviously the bread is still bread, chemically speaking.  Even Luther proclaimed this five hundred years ago, before Chemistry.  So we don't really need Richard Dawkins for this enlightening tidbit.  (He just thinks that slime turns into DNA somehow.  I don't know about you Richard.  I think we should question your sanity, too.)

Sam Harris closing with the wistful thought "what will I do with the Santa Claus shaped hole in my life?"  Was somewhat ironic.  Only barely would they acknowledge that human life is about something more beyond "science".

Pakistan / Blood

Before I even went to church, yesterday, there was news on Facebook of the suicide bombing of a large, historic Christian church in Pakistan.  There were about 600 worshipers and about 60 killed.  The news of such horrendous massacres reach us almost every day nowadays, though nothing quite like this, usually with the violence perpetrated by Al Qaeda or Sunni Muslims.  It could put a pall on every day.  Everywhere Christians are hurt and persecuted in the vilest ways, with churches and property destroyed, people abducted and disappearing, fleeing and becoming refugees.

At church, communing, it became particularly meaningful again, that we are participating in Christ's body and blood.  Why blood?  Why crucifixtion?  Why such nasty imagary? -- They often say to us. -- Because we suffer.  Because we die.  Because our Lord died.  Just like we do.  Because of sin and evil.

In the sacrament we all participate.  Your blood spilled in Pakistan is my blood, is Christ's blood.

People look to be "one".  This is how we are one.  We are one in the blood.  We "are" one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/world/asia/pakistan-church-bombing.html?_r=0

Even the suicide bomber.  He wants to go to Paradise and this is how he thinks he will do it.  But the price for his paradise is already paid by the One whom he persecutes.





On someone's FB post there was this comment, which helped some:

 Herr, wie lange noch? Wir haben den Zusammenbruch des Kommunismus erlebt. Und der Stein aus Dan. 2 rollt weiter. Dann, wenn es niemand meint, wird auch der radikale Islam seine Kraft verlieren.


--It means: "O Lord, how long?"  We have experienced the collapse of communism.  And the stone from Daniel  2 rolls on further.  Then, when no one thinks it, also radical Islam will lose its power. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weddings

We were happy to attend a wedding, yesterday.  It had been quite a while.  Since we are in such an in between age group, we have our child married but no nieces and nephews yet, and those in our age group are thankfully mostly in stable marriages not requiring us to deal with second marriages.  Also, in our age group, not many have died yet, so that we don't have widows and widowers remarrying, either.  So, as we see, all has been quiet on the weddings front. -- Funerals, yes.  Funerals of the generation ahead of us are coming rapidly, as of late; sad to say.  `

Therefore, a wedding to attend, and to not be the mother-of-the-bride for, just relaxing and enjoying, turned out to be a rare treat.  It filled me with no regrets about my life not going the way I want it to, as some weddings had when I was younger, since a good chunk of my life must be over already by now.  I just took it in, contentedly.  What filled me with joy and amazement besides the glorious young couple in splendor of youth, of  gorgeous hair and lovely complexion, not to mention stunning figures--were the opening readings.  Christ is our bridegroom and the church is the bride. -- We know this of course, but there is a difference between knowing it and having the object lesson come down the isle in full regalia.

Oh, but really what a homely bride this church seems at time, we the church full of sinner/saints, and yet resplendent in the clothing of righteousness given to us.  We are to our groom this glorious creature.  What love in his eyes.  His eyes.

The world may think we are a joke and derides us.  We ourselves don't know our own value and dignity always. It is a humbling thing to be the bride of such a great man.  What mercy and love.  We sing about it all the time.  But look at this bride and groom.  We are the crown of creation, of our God's achievement, the assembly of the blood-bought.

This bride came down the isle by herself because her father was the minister. The Father and the groom were both waiting at the front.   So it is.  Our loving God has everything ready for us, and our time will come. And we will be just as happy and just as white.



Friday, September 20, 2013

Istanbul / Poetry

It's a bit of a strange thing when the Statcounter informs you that "Istanbul" came to read your post on "Luther on the Turks."

All the unrest in the Middle East including in Turkey distresses me greatly as the spill-over into other countries continues.  Even though people such as Reza Aslan promote a general type of "spirituality" which makes Islam and Christianity into something that does not touch upon "reality", the texts are pretty clear about how "real" they claim to be, and most people don't miss the message and continue to fail to live in a metaphorical land.

I thought this article about poetry was also interesting, in connection.  Poetry is powerful because it relates to what we consider "real".  You cannot get away from historicity, try as you may.  http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/09/poetry-isnt-as-useless-as-a-lot-of-poets-say-it-is/279539/?utm_source=Poetry+Sept+18%2C+2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chrystostom on Prayer




Prayer is how a Christian lives and breathes.  (HT Cyberbretheren)


Chrystostom Book I, De Orando (On Prayer)


He who does not pray and have a heartfelt longing to speak with God in prayer certainly has no understanding or life in him.  For it is a certain sign of great foolishness, to regard lightly or not understand such a great glory (to speak with God), also not to have a desire and love for prayer, and not be able to conceive of and understand that such is the sure indication of a human who is dead to God, who does not fall to his knees in prayer at the feet of the Lord Christ.  For in the same way as this body is dead when there is no longer breath in it and the arteries cease to pulse, so is also the man dead in his soul and stinking, when in it there is no breath or pulse of anguish and of the heart.  Therefore, if I see a person who does not love and value prayer, it is soon certain that there is no Christian understanding in him and that such a person is not adorned or endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. 




Monday, September 16, 2013

The Reformed and Baptism / R.C. Sproul/ John MacArthur

The Reformed brothers and sisters are to be respected for their thorough biblical search and zeal for the word, as well as love for Christ and the lost.  They display a lot of good sense, scholarship, and honesty, in general.  I respect them highly for all this. -- And yet they are wrong.

As Jesus said, the first can be last.  The Reformed feel that they needed to complete the Reformation, that Luther is a mixed bag and blessing, but in various ways it is they who have undone the Reformation, leading people's gaze back to themselves instead of the cross and the promises.  And by necessity, they do not really agree with each other on major subjects, such a baptism, since the center is not the cross and God's gracious action.  And while they criticize, many do not understand the position they are critiquing.  It is an intellectual mess.  It arises partly from the view of the sacraments; Luther was incredibly prescient when he drew the line on the table.  "Is" is "is".  The Word is too strong for him.

Down in their hearts the Reformed know that our only hope is to trust in God's goodness in Christ, and here we are one again, but meanwhile the doctrine needs sorting out. The confusion is not wholesome.  It is always most pernicious for the weak, whom we really must seek not to offend.

There are two strands of matters related to baptism, I pursued last weekend.


A.  Here is a debate someone directed me to:

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/baptism_debate/credo-baptist-position/
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/baptism_debate/historic-paedo-baptist-position/?


I listened to them both and made notes.  See the summary below.  Reading it would take you 10 min.  Listening to the talks would take 2 hours.


B.  Here are a couple of places I commented last week:

beggarsallreformation.blogspot.ca/2013/09/luther-on-death-of-unbaptized-infants.html
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.ca/2013/09/a-primer-on-luthers-view-of-baptism-for.html


With respect to the debate in A. above, let me summarize for you and for me:

John MacArthur, who must be well-known but was up til now unknown to me, gave a talk promoting the so-called Credo-Baptist position.  I don't know anything else about the man, which may be a deficiency, but this is not disturbing me much, at the moment.

John MacArthur begins by lamenting that there is currently a disinterest in baptism, that there are large groups of Christians who have been going unbaptized, not following the scriptural command to be baptized. --This complaint strikes no chord with me at all.  In the Lutheran church we do not know this problem, as believing families come to church together and bring their babies to be baptized rejoicing in God's gifts.   MacArthur might look at Lutherans as another group he mentions, the "baptized unregenerate".  (It makes one think that MacArthur is probably sure that he and his own family are regenerate and baptized.)

MacArthur makes the point several times that the Reformation is not complete, because the paedo-baptist position relies too heavily on tradition, instead of scripture.  He criticizes with this statement not only Luther, but also a whole swath of Calvinist Reformed, who hold some kind of middle position, which I don't personally quite understand, not having it had clearly presented to me.

MacArthur rejects infant baptism as un-scriptural.  He goes so far as to quote Schleiermacher and German scholars.  We should see a big red flag, here.  Schleiermacher and recent German scholars have been the fathers of modern liberalism who do not take the scriptural witness as seriously as the Reformation did.  These "scholars" are said to have been pointing out that there is no proof until the third century that the church is baptizing infants.  (How important is this to us?)

He then promotes the principle, which he calls "Calvinist" that "if scripture does not command it, it is forbidden".  He means to have this apply to infant baptism.  I have not heard this principle mentioned in this way or context, before.  If this is a Calvinist saying, I can see how it has influenced the Puritans.  If there are no organs in the Bible, we should have no organs in church.  If they did not celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25th in church, in the Bible, we should not have Christmas.. etc.  It seems a very restricting principle and very unfortunate. (Maybe this is why some won't have buttons on their shirts and trousers, because they did not have buttons in the Bible.)  (This is pretty sad, stuff.  Around here, in Alberta, we have a lot of Hutterites living in colonies.  They struggle with in-breeding as result of their strange, un-modern ways of living.  My daughter dated a very good-looking young, strong, blond man for some time who was regularly approached by Hutterites for sperm-donations.  [Sperm donations are ok, though not mentioned in the Bible?  I suppose Abraham tried to engage in egg donation for his fertility needs.]  I meet the Hutterites mostly at Walmart in their old-fashioned garb, speaking some kind of German dialect.-- One wonders that they are permitted to shop at Walmart, in the first place.  Everything you can buy at Walmart, must really be forbidden, except for pomegranates, dates, wine, lamb and grains, maybe.  They are descendants of the original Anabaptists.)  We can see that this restrictive principle does not serve, at all.  It should be discarded, right now.  If the Bible does not explicitly mention something, it does not automatically mean that is is disallowed.  It seems so mindless.  We have never been told not to use our minds.

MacArthur then makes some swipes at the Roman Catholics and their high view of tradition and history and their rights to interpret.  He even quotes Luther, of all people, out of context, against himself, in a way that does not fit or is reasonable in this general discussion of baptism.  MacArthur seems to be grasping at straws, drawing on Luther where he sees fit and discarding him when it suits, never minding the internal consistencies.

But seriously, MacArthur just keeps going from bad to worse.  He now enumerates all the family baptism mentioned in the Bible and dismantles them based on the fact that none of them specifically mention that there were infants involved in the entire-household baptisms.  Then he engages in a circular reasoning that says that "household" means "believing household" to start with and since children can't believe, they are not part of the "household".  It looks like he is making everything fit into his own scheme.  He similarly just dismisses the "and your children" in Peter's Pentecost sermon.  It just means that the same "conditions" apply to the children. -- If this is scriptural exegesis, it makes me shudder.  If this is the "gospel", it makes one wonder what is the "good news."

He then looks at 1. Cor. 7, where the question is examined as to what to do if a believer is married to an unbeliever.  It says there that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by association and not to put him or her away based on the difference.  What MacArthur hears said there is that the unbelieving spouse benefits from a holier and more rarefied environment and that's about it, nothing else is meant.

Then he goes on to look at circumcision.  He labors to show that circumcision is not a sign of personal faith, but a sing for the need of cleansing.  It is to show how deep our iniquity and depravity is.  By the depravity of our children we see what iniquity we produce.  And, also, since girls were not included in circumcision, this can all not be a matter of faith, but simply of ethnic identity.

Has MacArthur not read what the entire Bible says about circumcision and Abraham's faith?  What did Paul so clearly and specifically say to link Abraham's faith to his righteousness and the promises he had from God, in which he trusted.  I am afraid, that I must say that MacArthur is indeed depraved, and we need not look to his children and grand-children to see the problem.

In the end, he wraps this whole thing up by blaming Luther for giving in to the state church and abandoning his initially lofty ideas.  The so-called Reformation took a bad turn and people like MacArthur are needed to finish it properly.

--This is just simply beyond the pale.  Luther never once wavered on his high regard of baptism and, specifically, infant baptism in believing families. Infant baptism was never an issue until the Radicals came along.  Infant baptism in the Christian communities does no disservice to the gospel message.  Instead it is a way in which the gospel is passed on.

OK!!! Let's move on the R.C. Sproul's talk and rebuttal.  Sproul is not a Lutheran, but I will not concern myself with quibbles I might have with him upon closer examination.  We will just mostly deal with what he said in rebuttal, at this point.

Sproul mentions, right of the bat, that MacArthur insists on having the argument based on nothing but scripture, and that is fine.  However, we should note, that scripture does not explicitly command or prohibit infant baptism.  From this silence we must draw the right inferences.  This is really where it is at. -- We are all deeply desiring to be scriptural.

Excellent point right of the bat.  As he said, we don't go far by showing a great grasp of the "obvious."  (Yes.)

Then, he says, because we are talking about inferences, it behooves us to be humble and charitable in this discussion.  (Yes.)

These preliminaries out of the way, Sproul begins by looking at circumcision.  With circumcision we have some "continuity" and some "discontinuity" in connection with baptism.  With circumcision we have a sign of the covenant, which is a promise of redemption.  Abraham believed and rejoiced.  To view circumcision as an ethnic difference only is what invited the "scathing critique of the prophets and St. Paul."  Circumcision cannot have meant "less than faith".  Sproul continues by mentioning Moses.  Moses had delayed the circumcision of an infant and was called on the carpet for this.  The sign of redemption is commanded to be given.  Infants in the visible community of faith, the Old Testament church, were commanded to be included in the invisible household of faith.  (We seem to be talking about Exodus 4:24-26.  My study Bible says:  "The story implies that Moses should have circumcised his son before leaving for Egypt."  Good connection, it seems.  When Moses went back to his people, his son ought to have been circumcised.  It was a big deal with the Lord seeking to kill him.)

Sproul now seeks to make an important point:  He says that MacArthur is 1000%  wrong to say that others do not believe in believer's baptism.  In all cases of adult baptisms, confessions of faith are required and heard first.  And he emphasizes that it does no good to argue over what we all agree upon.  So we should again look at the instances of baptisms in the Bible.

With these examples, we find that none of the adult baptisms are baptisms of children of believers.  All the adult baptisms are of first generation believers.  There simply is no example in the Bible of a so-called "believer's baptism" of a child of Christian parents.  THERE  IS  NO  SUCH  OCCURRENCE.

In addition, says Sproul, the New Testament is in all ways a better covenant than the Old. Therefore, the New Testament covenant will be more inclusive rather than less inclusive, than the Old.  It makes no sense then, to make inclusion into the covenant community harder than it was previously.

The burden of proof is on the side of MacArthur's position, he says.  There is a silence in scripture on the state of infants, but it is a screaming silence.  The church simply assumed the position of infant baptism in believing families.  It was doing what is was always doing, which was including the children of believers in the the family of the church. It was the natural and default and yes, historic, practice, in continuity with the OT church and the baptizing of entire households.

In this connection, Sproul finds 1. Cor. 7:  14,15  meaningful, demonstrating a special relevance to this discussion.  Let's look up the passage:  "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."  (My study Bible explains:  "One is often led to faith through the example and testimony of a faithful spouse;  therefore, they are made holy in Christ.  Children may be nurtured in faith by the believing parent.  An unequal marriage does not automatically corrupt them.  Rather, through receiving the Word, they are made saints clothed in Christ's holiness.")

Sproul comments on this in the following manner:  even where a couple is unequally yoked in marriage, the child is the benefactor of the believing parent's faith.  Explicitly stated here we have that the offspring of at least one believing parent is included in the covenant community.  (!)

He says that we have here a dramatic object lesson of the spoken promise.  The child has the promise spoken to it and receives the "sign" of the covenant.

(As a Lutheran I don't like so much the word "sign", but I can see how it serves in some ways.)

Sproul says, as a parent you can then say to your child that "if you trust in this promise, you will be saved."

(As a Lutheran, I find in the way that Sproul turns this phrase, an uncertainty and an "if" that makes the promise questionable and contingent on the sufficiency of my trust, in a way taking with one hand what the other hand gave. -- Of course, trust is what is needed. -- Of course, trust, is what has us moving forward in faith, hope and joy. --  Of course, trust is where the rubber hits the road.  But this trust must be about what God accomplishes and also what he gives in baptism. This trust is outward looking not inward looking.)

To conclude, Sproul says that he has articulated a different position from MacArthur's and that we should take care not follow our Christian "subculturist" view, submitting to it blindly.

I think he made his point.  I find MacArthur's talk wrong and distasteful, poorly informed and misleading, on all counts.


You may also like this skit from Lutheran Satire:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwxHzo0QVYY





Friday, September 13, 2013

Sing to the Lord of Harvest


"My" new choir sang this song for me this week.  They did a wonderful job, picking up the various parts right away.  I haven't heard anything so lovely in a while.  XO  

The fourth verse is not in the LSB (Lutheran Service Book), but it is also good.
(Public Domain)


Sing to the Lord of harvest,
Sing songs of love and praise;
With joyful hearts and voices
Your alleluias raise.
By Him the rolling seasons
In fruitful order move;
Sing to the Lord of harvest,
A joyous song of love.

By Him the clouds drop fatness,
The deserts bloom and spring,
The hills leap up in gladness,
The valleys laugh and sing.
He filleth with His fullness
All things with large increase,
He crowns the year with goodness,
With plenty and with peace.
Bring to His sacred altar
The gifts His goodness gave,
The golden sheaves of harvest,
The souls He died to save.
Your hearts lay down before Him
When at His feet you fall,
And with your lives adore Him,
Who gave His life for all.
To God, the gracious Father,
Who made us “very good,”
To Christ, Who, when we wandered,
Restored us with His blood,
And to the Holy Spirit,
Who doth upon us pour
His bless├Ęd dews and sunshine,
Be praise forevermore!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

North Saskatchewan River Valley



My nature walks take me down here to the mighty North Saskatchewan River.  The geese are gathering, though this year's September has been providing a wonderful "Indian Summer" so far.  However, it is not enough to convince the flocks to stay around.  Something else is giving them the clue.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Life at the Moment

Dear Reader, I am, at the moment, swamped.  I have taken on new work, a new choir, a new exercise regimen.  My husband's bookkeeping beckons and someone wrote me today "How is the website for the next Life Life conference going?"  Well, it has not been going.  In fact, I had not been aware that this was my assignment, since I had missed the committee meeting.

I really want and should write something about the videos in the last post regarding Reza Aslan's book, but I am lacking the steam and the time.  There are five messages in my "personal Disqus",which I am sure won't be kind or pleasant.  I don't feel like looking at them either.

For relaxation, I have been reading a book I bought on the last shopping trip to West Edmonton Mall.  (I don't buy anything there besides books and lunches. My husband should not feel too bad about it.)  This one is titled:  "On Writing Well.  The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction." by William Zinsser.  As one would expect, the book is a non-fiction book that is well written, and enjoyable to read.  All the excerpts are well chosen and inspiring further plans of book purchases.  Well, maybe some are free on I-books.   

The book reminds me of why I love non-fiction so much more than fiction.  You can read just as much as what you have time and stamina for--and then lay it down.  Let the information circulate and percolate and find a home in the neural network.  Fiction works you all into a lather and then you have to keep on reading compulsively to the often bitter or emotional end.  It reminds me of some of the conversations I have been having.  There are individuals who want to work you into a lather and then keep you arguing, ad nauseam.  Unfortunately, I am a weak-kneed female and don't know when to quit.  It is my own damn fault. 

Well, thank you Mr., Dr. Zinsser, whoever you are.  Your book is refreshing and hopefully will have salutary effect on the writing quality of this humble servant.  I do want to write, but I want to write better than I have been. --  That is all I can say today.  God bless you.  I feel better for having written at least this much.





Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Reza Aslan again

I've been involved with the two Amazon Reviews below.  Some of us have come to believe that Greenwarrior and  others are Reza Aslan himself.


http://www.amazon.com/review/R29ZLJJA87JRL7

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1CWI84IREFFTW/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_alt_1


I also watched these, but don't have time to comment right now:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RG6uuFWoNdE#t=15



Monday, September 2, 2013

Young@Heart / Singing is Good

I am going to buy this movie, based on a recommendation, for the seniors' choir I've been asked to lead.  Perhaps, we can view it together sometime during the year.  Our choir wears tartan sashes--sporting a somewhat different look.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001BBAVKQ/ref=ox_sc_act_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A17HFOGE43EDXX


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lewis: What are we to make of Jesus Christ?

Surfing the net a bit before going to bed and came across this below--what a good way to round out a beautiful Sunday.  I, too, believe the gospels are reliable and that Christ is unique.  No one would have invented this story and made up such a man.  

What are we to make of Jesus Christ ?  An essay by C.S. Lewis ; Oxford 1944

Quote entire:

"What are we to make of Jesus Christ ? This is a question which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Jesus Christ, but what is He to make of us ? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic element about it. But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of ' How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man ?' This problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got to almost generally admitted depth and sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned , even by those who are opposed to Christianity. In fact , I find when I am arguing with very anti-God people that they rather make a point of saying, ' I am entirely in favor of the moral teachings of Christianity' --- and there seems to be a general agreement that in the teaching of this Man and His immediate followers, moral truth is exhibited at its purest and best, it is not sloppy idealism, it is full of wisdom and shrewdness. The whole thing is realistic, fresh to the highest degree, the product of a sane mind. That is one phenomenon.

The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of this Man's theological remarks. You all know what I mean, and I want rather to stress the point that the appalling claim which this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of His career. There is, of course, the one moment which led to His execution. The moment at which the High Priest said to Him, ' Who are you ? ' ' I am the Anointed, the Son of the uncreated God, and you shall see Me appearing at the end of history as judge of the Universe.' but that claim in fact, does not rest on this one dramatic moment. When you look into His conversation you will find this sort of claim running through the whole thing. For instance, He went about saying to people, ' I forgive your sins. ' Now it is quite natural for a man to forgive something you do to him. Thus if somebody cheats me out of $10 it is quite possible and reasonable for me to say ' Well, I forgive him, we will say no more about it.' What on earth would you say if somebody had done you out of $10 and I said, 'That is all right, I forgive him'? Then there is a curious thing, which seems to slip out almost by accident. On one occasion this Man is sitting looking down on Jerusalem from the hill above it and suddenly in comes an extraordinary remark -- 'I keep on sending you prophets and wise men. ' Nobody comments on it. And yet, quite suddenly, almost incidentally, He is claiming to be the power that all through the centuries is sending wise men and leaders into the world. Here is another curious remark: in almost every religion there are unpleasant observances like fasting. This Man suddenly remarks one day, 'No one need fast while I am here.' Who is this Man who remarks that His mere presence suspends all normal rules? Who is the person who can suddenly tell the School system they can have a half-holiday? Sometimes the statements put forward the assumption that He, the Speaker, is completely without sin or fault. This is always the attitude. 'You, to whom I am talking, are all sinners, ' and He never remotely suggests that this same reproach can be brought against Him. He says again, ' I am begotten of the One God, before Abraham was, I am,' and remember what the words 'I am' were in Hebrew. they were the name of God, which must not be spoken by any human being, the name which it was death to utter. Well, that is the other side. On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claim which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble man. There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him ' Are you the son of Bramah?' he would have said, ' My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.' If you would have gone to Socrates and asked , ' Are you Zeus?' he would have laughed at you. If you would have gone to Muhammad and asked ' Are you Allah?' he would first have rent his clothes then cut your head off. if you had asked Confucius, ' Are you Heaven?', I think he would have probably replied, ' Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.' The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you. We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects---- Hatred---Terror--- Adoration. There was no trace of people experiencing mild approval.

What are we to do about reconciling the two contradictory phenomenon? One attempt consists in saying that the Man did not really say these things, but that His followers exaggerated the story, and so the legend grew up that He had said them. This is difficult because His followers were all Jews; that is, they belonged to that Nation which of all others was the most convinced that there was only One God-- that there could not possibly be another. It is very odd that this horrible invention about a religious leader should grow up among the one people in the whole earth least likely to make such a mistake. On the contrary we get the impression that none of His immediate followers or even of the New Testament writes embraced the doctrine at all easily.

Another point is that on that view you would have to regard the accounts of the Man as being legends. Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legends and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don't work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from this bit of Platonic dialogues, there are no conversations that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature , until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence. In the story of the woman taken in adultery we are told Christ bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger. Nothing comes of this. No one has ever based any doctrine on it. and the art of inventing little irrelevant details to make an imaginary scene more convincing is a purely modern art. Surely the only explanation of this passage is that the thing really happened? The author put it in simply because he had seen it.

Then we come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, ' The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.' On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ's case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writes thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don't mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has risen in the Universe. Something new had appeared in the Universe: as new as the first coming of the organic life. The Man, after death, does not get divided into 'ghost' and 'corpse'. A new mode of being has risen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it ?

The question is, I suppose, whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis. That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe, down to manhood--- and come up again, pulling it up with Him. The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost. It is either lunacy or lies. Unless one can take the second alternative ( and I can't ) one turns to the Christian theory.

' What are we to make of Christ?' There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, 'This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go,' but He says, ' I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.' He says, ' No man can reach absolute reality, except through me. try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved. He says, ' If you are ashamed of Me, if , when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life, eat Me, drink Me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.' That is the issue."