Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Christ of History

Conservative Christianity is one of the few systems of belief that is firmly rooted in history. If Confucius was totally unknown to history or if he were someone else, his teachings would be substantially the same. If Buddha was not Buddha, his beliefs would remain unchanged. But if Jesus Christ was not who He claimed to be and did not do what He was claimed to have done, Christianity becomes a totally different faith. This is why those who try to water down Christianity to fit modern philosophical convictions end up with something wholly unlike the original.

The first issue is who Jesus Christ is. According to conservative Christian teaching, He is the God-Man, God come in the flesh. This implies He was one of four things. He was a legend so blown out of proportion by His followers as to be unrecognizable (and if so, we have to ask why they did it). A liar of of the most viciously evil type (because He asked people to trust in Him for eternal life and be willing to give up everything for Him in this world). A madman who honestly thought what He said was true but was wrong. Or He was who He is claimed to be--God come to rescue us from our sins. But what people would rather believe is He is someone like Confucius, a great ethical teacher who was gradually blown out of portion over time. But this is not plausible. After 2600 years it is till clear to those who read his writings what Confucius really was. But in at most 200 years (probably less than that) Jesus was supposedly so distorted as to be unrecognizable (see Matthew 7:21-23, 11:27; John 8:58, 10:30, 14:9; Hebrews 1:8; Philippians 2:6).

The other issue is what Jesus did. It is the Christian contention that He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and rose again to conquer death. Paul contends that if Christ did not in fact return to life from the dead, then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). If this was some sort of a scam, we have to ask how they pulled it off, and if it was a mistake, how it was made. But this does not seem to be some later window dressing but the very heart of the Christian message (1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Romans 4:24, 25; Colossians 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 5:15 ).

It is not my purpose here to provide a detailed defense of the Christian faith. But it is my point to show what the issue is. It is not about a moral code or a mystical experience. It is about God invading history to deliver us from sin and death when we could not deliver ourselves. This is the issue, and we must chose whether to accept this message or reject it as the biggest hoax of all history. These are the choices; there are no others.

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