Monday, May 26, 2014

On proof of divinity

Dear Hannah,

If you want me or anyone else to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, I'm afraid you're asking for something that can't be done.  It's been over two-thousand years since Jesus walked the earth and people had enough trouble believing Him back then.  Thomas had to see the holes in Christ's hands before he even believed what the other Apostles had told him.  I don't see how it could be any easier now.

Some apologists like to point to the fact that Christianity first exploded in Jerusalem, which is the same city in which Jesus was publicly executed.  This assertion is reasonable, but that's about it.  I don't think it's entirely likely that when a man dies in a city, a lot of people from that same city are going to convince their friends that He's been resurrected -- unless He spends 40 days leading them after His death.  Whatever city you live in, imagine a movement of several thousand people immediately beginning there, right after one of its criminals is executed by popular demand.  People are stupid and superstitious -- especially back then.  But I don't believe they were that stupid.  It's just as likely that something miraculous happened.

A second argument people use, which is valid but less convincing, concerns the prophecies about Him themselves.  The reason why I find these troublesome is because not all of them seem to really be about Him at all.  They're about other people, and then they just become really bizarre, like the passage in Isaiah 7, which begins about a very specific person, and then begins rambling about someone who is very obviously not that person.  If this is how God chooses to speak to us, I suppose it's His right; but I think His methods are strange.  I suppose anyone who's been infinitely surpassed by another would always think his superior strange; but it could also be argued by atheists that Christians have taken passages which are unclear, and applied them to something the passages had nothing to do with.

Some of the prophecies are clear enough to be inescapably Messianic, such as the ones in Zechariah, Isaiah, and Malachi, but these are the minority.  David's Psalms are supposed to be a great comfort, but they're mostly confusing like Isaiah 7: I try to stay away from the confusing ones, and stick with the ones which couldn't clearly be about anyone else.  How the Jews have maintained any faith at all, when such an overwhelming number of their prophecies have been blatantly unfulfilled for thousands of years -- particularly if we're to believe that the prophecies have nothing to do with Jesus --, just goes to show that people will hang on to faith no matter what happens.  They have to believe in something.  To lose faith is to lose your life: it must either be exchanged for another faith, which is possible, but difficult, or it must be exchanged for nothing, which is to reduce yourself to blood and dust.  Their own Solomon says that without prophecy a people perish: the Jews are proof that obstinacy just as frequently keeps us going -- although with what life, has yet to be proved.

It's convenient that Jews in the English language are called Jewish; they're really only somewhat like the original Jews.  Most of them have a kind of heritage and a shadow of a culture, few of them have a Promised Land, and there are just as many Jews in America as there are in Israel.  The ones who hold their orthodox religion have no prophets, and are thus abandoned; the ones who embrace leftism (that's to say, the overwhelming majority in America) have opposed the Law which made them Jews in the first place.  I suppose concerning the prophets, people could say the same thing about Christians: we've spent the last 2,000 years examining the same unfulfilled prophetic texts, supposedly about the Second Coming which hasn't happened despite ample amounts of time and Biblical passages which suggest it should have happened a long time ago.  A reasonable person would expect that someone who's in love with another person would speak to his beloved more than once a millenium, and occasionally give them an update on his whereabouts, especially when He's going to be late for dinner.  This is why I'm growing skeptical about a church without prophets -- but enough on the Jews and prophecy: the divinity of Christ is the subject of this essay.

If anyone was to ask me what proves to me -- really -- that Jesus is the Son of God, I don't believe I could give them any convincing answer: I simply believe Him, however little faith I have, because I know His voice.  But there's something which speaks louder than Christianity's city of origin and all the prophecies -- real and imagined -- about our Messiah, and that is His behavior itself.  Everybody who's ever claimed to be a God-man or God Himself or was even just a false prophet, as Jesus said, are thieves and robbers: they're all in it for themselves.  Mohammed died rich and powerful and covered in women, which is the same thing every other false deity does, because, on some level, it's the same thing every man wants.  By the time a non-claimant to deity like L. Ron Hubbard had died, he'd spent vast amounts of time cruising the world on his large boat filled with young ladies.  Jim Jones spent his congregation's money on drugs.  Joseph Smith may not have died rich, but he died with a large harem, which is essentially the same thing; and the popes drank from golden chalices while the people paying them indulgences rotted to death on the streets -- just like faithful tithing Catholics rot today in South America and the Philippines. 

My point is simple: we may occasionally encounter a wild man who really believes whatever nonsense he preaches (probably because he's imbalanced himself); but an anomaly never negates a general truth: worldly people are in it for their own worldly selves, because this is all that worldly people know.  None of them are interested in being purposely homeless, purposely hungry, purposely cold and despised -- eventually purposely mauled and murdered.  Nobody wants to stay awake all night tending to the sick; and no cult leader really wants to court the scum of the earth when he can go after celebrities.  They don't care about us, the little people, the poor people, the nobodies.  They want to get far quickly so they can live in luxury.  The original Buddha may be an exception to this rule, but I don't believe he ever claimed to be a prophet or a deity, which makes him a philosopher -- and we all know that philosophers are usually poor.

But supposing someone knew He had everything, so He didn't need anything; supposing a man didn't court the rich and powerful, because he owned them from the beginning; supposing He was the source from which everything flowed, so He didn't have to take -- what would He look like?  Would He wander the deserts in search of the broken, to heal them?  Would He spend His nights sleepless, to bring relief to the suffering?  Would He bring hope to the hopeless, and bring Good News to the poor?  Would He go to the cross willingly, if He didn't think there was something to gain and prove by it?  I'll tell you what He wanted to prove: not that fun is bad and comfort is evil or that nobody should ever wear a crown, but that He was something infinitely beyond anything we'd ever called humane.  And this is because He wasn't simply a human.

Your father,

No comments:

Post a Comment