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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Human Jesus: a response

This article does not attempt or profess to be a full response to every point in The Human Jesus video. (I see the video has undergone some editing and it has been broken up into multiple, smaller clips. Some of the specific references such as Rabbi Goldmark were omitted. I have renewed the video link on 12/25/15.) have been removed.) Undoubtedly, there will be misunderstandings and although great efforts were made to avoid direct quotations to eliminate misquoting and to prevent any semblance of personal attacks this will not prevent those intimately familiar with the video from recognizing indirect allusions. Despite the shortcomings every effort has been made to treat the documentary truthfully and accurately in hopeful, prayerful expectations. Readers are encouraged to view the documentary.

The Human Jesus video challenges believers to examine and reject beliefs concerning Jesus which are without Bible basis. That is a commendable biblical admonition. Certainly, both the challenge and the doctrinal belief behind the documentary have been around since the first century. The two-hour documentary references the familiar second century historic decision at the Nicaea council of 325 when (as it is said) Trinitarianism won out over Unitarianism. Although this article reflects a definite conviction concerning Jesus there is no preference for either of these labels which are as non-biblical as they are inaccurate. Believers flash these, as well as monotheist and polytheist, in lieu of teaching and understanding. Often believers are given to making sweeping assumptions about another’s teaching on the basis of a flash card approach instead of engaging in dialog.

The Ishango bone

It seems peculiar, if not telling, that the documentary should draw on the Ishango bone, an ancient mathematical system, to illustrate the introduction of the subject of discussion on the One-ness of God. It is amusing that the bone of a dead animal should serve to establish the antiquity of the concept of one, _ as in the One living God? Furthermore, it is ironic

Friday, May 7, 2010

God is (not) dead

It was Friedrich Nietzsche who declared, "God is dead.” Those words have been a rally cry for some, but anxiety and frustration for believers. However, Nietzsche may have unwittingly opened a window of discussion for atheist and theist alike. These theists, who are the focus of this article and for the sake of clarity, are referred to as fear-theists to distinguish, not disparage, them from other theists in this article.

Nietzsche’s declaration provides a vantage point for disciples of Jesus who believe and uphold Jesus’ deity claims to push back when pressed against. The statement spotlights not just God, but death for both; disciples who claim belief in Jesus but timidly wonder about his deity and fear-theists who deny his deity completely. A fundamental understanding of the scriptures by disciples on the death of Jesus is all that is required to appreciate Nietzsche’s statement as foul as that may seem for some. It is does not require a disciple delve into original languages or a philosophy discourse on Nietzsche or his writings.

A common belief between atheists and fear-theists

What atheists and fear-theists share in common is their belief in the finality of death. (Knowing the knee-jerk reaction by atheists to the term belief associated with them you may think of it as, understanding.) It is true fear-theists believe in heaven and eternity with God. However, to the extent fear-theists reject the resurrection of Jesus from the dead they live in fear.

Fear-theists have no more a response for the implications of his resurrection than the significance of his death to the claims concerning the deity of Jesus.

No wonder some fear-theists reject, not only the resurrection, but the death of Jesus. What fear-theists profess in faith does not agree with their view of death as being final.

Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood
he also himself in the same way partook of the same,
that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death,
that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14

Spirited cheers, jeers and chants, spiritual words, holy things and acts of faith are nothing if they are mere distractions. One cannot ignore for long the spectacle of one's own death or the death of Jesus. Does the humorously popular American bravado come to mind: Ain’t skeerd. How ever well-intentioned any teaching which leaves alone the seeker with nothing more than bravado to standoff the persistence of death is little comfort. The implication of Jesus' resurrection is that the One who is able to take up his life is also the giver of life. The significance of his death is the extent of the love of God like no other.
No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. John 10:18

Did God die?

A theist's theology, that is, how one knows and teaches God and his will, that does not account for death comes off as not much more than a hollow corpse emptied of its God-given life to the atheist and fear-theist’s mind. The blunt, anxiety-filled question, Did God die? has long been an effective tactic to bewilder and disarm some theists when they affirm, yes, Jesus, God in the flesh, died.

There are two common questions/assertions which often come up in the discussion. Questions are vital and necessary to discussion but the assumption too often is that the questioner not only understands the subject about which he inquires, but surely must be a scholar.

God is not a man

1 This is true. God is not a man. However, does this assertion fear-theists seem to attribute an aversion (or fear?) on the part of God to take on form to become a man? This reasoning by man seems understandable. Man is not given to stepping down to a lower state in life to accomplish something great. It is especially true if it's nothing more than an accomplishment out of pure love. God becoming a man for a specific time and specific purpose is not the same as to say he is a man. Surely, he is not a bush because he manifested himself in a burning bush (Exodus 3) to Moses.

After successfully deceiving Adam and Eve Satan likely added to his tactics of mockery and ridicule. He added this script to his resolve to deceive people into believing death is a final act.
God cannot deliver you from death. God himself cannot save you.
After all, God is not a man. He can’t understand.
Satan missed the garden prophecy of the woman’s seed God said would bruise the serpent’s (Satan) head. It is more than mere curiosity that this early prophecy regarding the woman’s offspring clashes with yet another fear-theist chant: God does not have sons. God sent prophets to his people to proclaim his will and call his people to repentance. However, when it came to delivering Satan a death blow God did not send a boy, or mere man, to do God’s job. He did it himself.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will bruise your head,
and you will bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15

God cannot die

2 It is true God cannot die. A feat men boast in the fullness of their arrogance to show their power (such as gang members, KKK, Taliban and others who live in fear) is to take a life. Most humans know they possess that power but wisely never even think to act on it. Other men may lay down their lives in pure love for another person or a noble cause, but none can take it up again. This common misconception that God cannot die raises some other disturbing points to be considered by fear-theists:

a.) While God cannot die it is not the same to say he would not die. This goes back to Satan’s lie in the garden. Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience was their unbelief. Through their sin of unbelief of what God had commanded death entered the world. This fact regarding death is known by fear-theists. Yet, since death remains today, but since the one (Satan) who had the power of death no longer has it is only those who reject the power of the resurrection over death that remain in its fear. Do the tactics of mockery and ridicule (and denial) of the death and resurrection of Jesus coming from atheists and fear-theists ring familiar like the dialog in the garden? Death is the ultimate litmus test for the claims of every prophet and holy man.

b.) Who better to willingly take on the litmus test of death and die than God himself? There is no greater act of love for God than to demonstrate to man created in his image of his will and power to overcome the death which separated God and man. The death and resurrection of Jesus goes far beyond religious, spiritual, pious talk about loving and serving God. The resurrection from the dead is the work of God. This work marked the confrontation and defeat of death by God and the exposure of Satan's lies. It was a work done for all who do not believe God to belief in God. I once saw a video of a man boasting about Americans being afraid of death. He said, "we," that is he and his followers, "love death". I thought to myself, Why are you alive still? It is far easier for him to send others to death and murder others than for him to lay down his own life as a demonstration of love, because despite his claims of loving God, a murderer lives in fear and knows not love.

Conclusion

God died. God did not remain dead. God is not dead. His willingness to submit to death was in order to bring to belief those who lived under the fear of death. Death remains a mere relic rendered powerless by the power of the resurrection until the final judgment day. Death is the ultimate litmus test for all who profess to proclaim the will of God. Make no mistake about it: This willful death is the renunciation of self by the individual. It does not involve the death of others by murder because they do not believe. This death is to live no longer for self but for Jesus as Lord and Savior as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians. Yes, it is a spiritual death, but no less real than a physical death. The claims Jesus fulfilled concerning his death and resurrection bear implications and significance on his deity and are the living, lasting reminder of the love of God.

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. Galatians 2:20