Friday, March 6, 2009

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, part 4

This is Part 4 of the apologetic regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ as set forth by Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli which I am summarzing here part by part, and lifting large parts of the chapter directly onto here. If I'm inserting my own opinion, or using other sources I will make it clear.

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.

Why then did anyone believe Jesus' claim to be God?
The simple reason is that Jesus of Nazareth was good, wise, and trustworthy. The same thing can be found in Buddhism. The claims of Buddhism are equally incredible to Christianity. To believe that we are all living in perpetual illusion, our thoughts are false, that you and I and time and space are all illusions, and that everything is in actuality nameless and empty. People have believed this doctrine not because Buddhism seemed likely, or obvious, but rather because Buddha seemed true.

The same principle explains how Christianity expanded from 12 apostles around 30 A.D. to a billion believers today. We believe the astonishing claims of Christ's divinity because we believe Jesus Christ. To deny Christianity, you have to deny Jesus, and his claim to divinity.

The Impossibility of the Alternative
As to the fact that Jesus claimed to be God, perhaps the New Testament texts lie, or perhaps Christianity is a myth. But... this raises more difficult questions.

1. If the Gospels lie, who invented the lie and for what reason? Was it Jesus' apostles? What did they get out of the lie? Martyrdom--hardly an attractive temptation. Don't liars typically have selfish motives?

2. Why did thousands suffer torture and death for a lie? Pascal said "the human heart is very fickle," and particularly the heart of a liar. The enemies of early Christianity simply needed to produce one confession from one of Jesus' disciples that it was all a lie, a hoax. After myriad forms of torture and bribery were attempted, not one disciple or apostle cracked.

3. What force sent Christians to the lions' den with hymns on their lips? What lie is capable of making a man like that? Christianity conquered the world mainly through the force of sanctity and love. Saints, not theologians, converted the world. You cannot fake sanctity.

4. If it wasn't a lie, but a hallucination, or a myth mistaken for a literal truth, who were the fools who believed it? There isn't another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe.
Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millennia had strictly forbidden his chosen people to confuse him with a creature as the pagans did--this Creator-God became a creature, a man--a crucified criminal. Hardly a myth that arises naturally in the Jewish mind!
5. If it wasn't the Jews but the Gentiles who started the myth, where did it come from? Of the 27 books of the New Testament, only two were written by Gentiles.

6. If it were a myth, it could not have been a myth that could have started during the lifetime of those who knew the real Jesus; it would've been publicly refuted by eyewitnesses who knew the facts.
Other religious founders, like Buddha and Muhammad, were indeed "divinized" by later myths, but at least two or three generations (more usually two or three centuries) had to pass before such myths could be believed. But the "myth" of Jesus' divinity goes back to the very earliest times and documents.
7. Why has the "muth" continued to attract the brightest minds in history? If you pit Paul of Tarsus, John the Evangelist, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, John Damascene, Origen, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Boethius, Erigena, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Bonaventura, Scotus, Ockham, Nicholas of Cusa, Cajetan, Luther, Calvin, Kepler, Ignatius Loyola, Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkeley, Copernicus, Newton, Kierkegaard, Newman, Pasteur, Jaspers, Marcel, Galileo, Tolstoy, Chesterton, Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis against Machiavelli, Hobbes, Renan, Freud, Drawin, Marx, La Mettrie, Skinner, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Ayer, and Paine it would hardly be a fair fight.
Aquinas argues that if the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie inhistory and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldy pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth
No one has ever satisfactorily answered the simple question: If Jesus is not God, as Christians say he is, then who is he?
Next--The Main Arguments attempting to explain away what Jesus is/was.

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