Is Jesus truly as real as the air we breathe? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
To begin with, this post is not about making an apologetics case. That does not mean that this post is useless with apologetics. On the contrary, I think it is of utmost importance for how we do apologetics today and also how we do evangelism. It is a concern that the methods we have that are so successful may not be as successful as we think.
I was thinking this today outside of a church responsible for a large local revival. If I met the pastor, I might ask how many conversions took place. I am sure I would get a sizable number. How many disciples then? Ah. That might be a more difficult question. How many times was Jesus really presented as a historical reality who walked among us? That could be a bit ambiguous.
Of course Jesus is presented that way! We open up our Bibles and there he is!
Indeed, there he is, but do we not pause to consider that the early church did not have a gospel save the Old Testament and the Old Testament does not include in it the life and death of Jesus. One can point to prophecies, but there is no explicit message as there is in the New Testament.
To say we open up our Bibles is excellent if you’re talking to people who already know the Bible is from God. It is not for those who do not. When asked by many why they should believe the Bible, it is quite likely that the answer that one will get is “faith.”
By what reason should one not believe the Book of Mormon? By what reason should one not believe the Koran? If these are not by faith, the great danger is that there will simply be an appeal to emotion. The sad problem is that the Mormon will quite easily also point to an emotion and say by what basis do you accept your emotion as being from God and not His?
This can also happen with miracle claims as well and we must admit that. It can often be assumed that the Christian rejects all virgin births and all resurrections, except for in the case of Jesus. There is absent any notion that Jesus’s are the ones that actually do have a historical case for them.
Let us be upfront about miracles then. There is no reason to reject miracles from other religions prima facie. Let us be open-minded with them as we want others to be with ours. We do not want to accept all claims blindly, but it is just as bad to reject all claims blindly.
So what are we to do?
In Season 3 of Smallville, Clark Kent finds out that his father Jor-El might actually have visited Earth at one time and even passed through Smallville. Clark tells his father Jonathan that up until now Jor-El had been a distant and powerful friend, but what if he really had come down here? Maybe he was more like Clark than Clark realized.
To be sure, Jesus did become fully human, but let us not think that God is like us. He is not. We are to be like Him instead. I am not like the image that I see in the mirror. The image that I see in the mirror is like me. That being said, what of the distant and powerful friend?
That is often how Jesus can be presented. Jesus is at a distance and He’s powerful, but what is it that He is doing in life? Too often, it is presented as if Jesus is there to fix a lot of your problems. Financial struggles? Jesus can help you. Struggle with alcoholism? Try Jesus. Problematic children at home? Jesus can help you be a good parent. Marriage problems? Jesus can help you be a good spouse.
I am not disagreeing with any of these in reality. I do think that if you truly follow Jesus, it should affect your lifestyle in various ways. My concern is that this reduces Jesus to simply the latest self-help cure. Do we have any evidence that this is what Jesus was like for the first century Christians?
Doubtful. To be a Christian then was to sign your own death warrant. How many would sign a death warrant just because the children were a problem when the cult just down the street could help me with that as well and as a special bonus, you get to participate in these great orgies rather than having to live the strict moral code the Christians followed. Oh yes. Let’s not forget that also the emperor didn’t care if you joined that group so your life could be safe.
So what does it mean if we present Jesus that way and instead get the answer back that “Medication does that for me” or “I happen to be seeing a really good therapist and he’s helped me immensely” or “Have you not read the latest self-help book?”
Now once again, I am not against any of the above mentioned, but I am against presenting Jesus as if He’s just the better product amongst competition. It’s not as if we want to make an infomercial saying “Try Jesus. We guarantee full satisfaction or your money back!”
When it comes to presenting Him, are we presenting Him as real? We can often ask people how they know the reality of Jesus and we are presented with an emotional response. The Mormons will also give the exact same answer for how they know that Joseph Smith is a prophet.
This puts us in a danger. What if your sole basis for knowing that Jesus is real is a feeling? You are a sitting duck then for the Mormon. When you have that contrary feeling from the Mormons, will you suddenly switch to Joseph Smith? Will he be a better product?
What also when you hear atheistic and liberal professors go against your most cherished beliefs that you hold on that basis? Will you go on believing but with a cognitive dissonance that thinks you have to jettison reality in order to be a Christian, or will you just abandon the faith? In either case, you will be useless for the Kingdom if not even a detriment.
The other danger is that basing it on a feeling will instead produce a chasing not after Jesus, not after holiness, but rather after a feeling. When you feel X, then the world is right, but there could be all manner of reasons for not feeling X at a point in time. Perhaps you have a cold or you had a bad night’s sleep or you ate the wrong thing or had an argument with your spouse.
This is how addictions are made and with an addiction, one does not seek the object of the addiction but rather one seeks the feeling that comes from the object. The person does not want drugs for drugs but drugs for a high. The person does not want sex out of love for the other, but rather out of seeking a strong experience and really good sensations.
Using the last example, how many people would like their marriage to be based on a feeling? Most would say that if they did that, they would have to get a new spouse every two to three years. What woman would like to know that her husband likes having her around for sexual joy, but other than that, oh well?
Now am I totally opposed to feelings in all of this? Absolutely not! Some of you out there are very emotionally oriented and praise God for it. I have no problem. Some of you like myself are more rationally oriented. Let us make sure that neither looks down on the other. We need both types. I am against a blind emotionalism. I am also against a cold intellectualism.
What I am saying is that the emotional person needs to have an emotion that is rooted in truth. A rational person needs to have an argument that produces a difference in the world. That gets us to the point then of presenting Jesus as real.
If we claim that Jesus is as real to us as the air that we breathe, we need to live that out. Jesus cannot be just the end of a syllogism or a study of historical research. He also cannot be the quick fix in our lives alone. Jesus can be the one who helps us with our problems and also the result of a historical study, but He is surely much more than that.
Jesus made the claim that He is the king of all creation. All of eternity depends on Him. If He is risen, then life has meaning. If He is not, then let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Jesus did not come down here to do miracles alone as if He was showing off His divinity. Each miracle He did had a greater purpose than just helping the person in need.
Jesus also did not come solely to forgive us of our sins. He came for that, but He did not come for just that. He came to bring life to a world that was dying. That would include the forgiveness of sins, but it would also include the transformation of lives and then that of society.
Yet for us, the transformation seems to be what we can get through self-help, therapy, or medication and the goods that He gives us are really happy feelings whenever we think about Him. Would the such have been said for another king at the time, such as Caesar? “Try Caesar as king! You’ll like him and you’ll be a better parent too!”
It is when we realize that Jesus is King, Lord, and Judge, that we come to realize how it is that we must live. History is not about us and our feelings and pitiful little desires. It is all about Him. He is really the central focus of the universe. All roads do truly end at Jesus. Some end with Him as friend. Others end with Him as foe. All end with Him as Judge giving the ultimate verdict.
Perhaps when we realize that, we will be partaking in a Kingdom agenda and with that will come again what came in the first century and onward, the transformation of society. Perhaps when we put Jesus on the throne again and take ourselves off we will come to see the good He can do. Perhaps when we realize that the way of Christ is better than our way will we start living our lives accordingly. We will realize Jesus is not distant. He is ever-present and at any time can take us out of the picture if He so desires. He does not need us for anything. We need Him for everything.
It is my sincere hope that when we do all of this, we will then get to the apologetic of backing our evangelism with the case for Jesus as the Risen King and why we believe such. When we do such, could it be that then we will have our revolution that we need to stop a world in moral decline?