Is Jesus the only way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In this chapter, Jelbert takes on Mike Licona’s essay on Jesus being the only way. I do agree that this is not evidence for God, per se, but there are still matters to deal with here. So let’s get started and see what we have to say about what Jelbert said.
Jelbert again says that since Licona says the resurrection is the prize puzzle in an earlier chapter, that means that the resurrection is not yet established. If he means established to the satisfaction of everyone, sure, but on those grounds evolution is not yet established and even Intelligent Design is somewhat established. What I take Licona to mean is that this is the topic that is the hardest to tackle in historical Jesus scholarship.
Next, Jelbert says Jesus is saving us from Himself, though considering the horrid understanding he has of the Trinity, I suspect Jelbert really means the Father. Jelbert tells us that if an earthly father locked his daughter up unless she said she wasn’t better than Hitler, we would not regard that as generous salvation. If he went on to say that she needed to pay for her sins, but he was going to smash his hand with a hammer instead, the result would be horrification.
None of this is an accurate picture. For one thing, not all of us are children of God in the sense of part of the family yet. We all come from Him, but some of us are rebels. There’s also the idea on Jelbert’s part that the children are presumed innocent and the only problem is they don’t stroke God’s ego.
Also, forgiveness is really the paying of debts to some extent. In that case, it is entirely fair for someone else to pay the debt for someone else. This happens regularly today still.
Jelbert also says that he found a problem going through Evidence for God in that he would be told he has a conscience which is evidence of God, but when it comes to doctrines like Hell and Christian exclusivism, then we don’t listen to that conscience. Fortunately, I don’t use that argument. I realize we all have a sense of right and wrong, but that has been seared as it were and is not infallible. Our ideas are more impacted by culture than we realize.
Jelbert moves on to saying that if you do believe in hell, you are obliged to try to convert people. Licona says that anyone is free to say “No thanks.” Jelbert says this ignores plenty of times of forced conversion and such in church history. It also ignores Christianity trying to force its way into the public school system. Jelbert is making too much out of one statement. It is ridiculous to think that Licona is supposed to speak on behalf of all of Christian history. As for science education, I do not support ID, but I have no problem with them wanting to get their ideas into the public marketplace. Why not bring them in and discuss them? Are atheists afraid they cannot expose them?
Jelbert also brings up Deuteronomy 13:6-15 where people who try to convert Israelites are to be killed. That’s also because Israel was under a Suzerainty covenant where loyalty to the sovereign was to be expected and anything contrary would be rebellion and in a society where communal thinking was the norm, a little leaven would work through the whole dough. We are the weirdos in this regard. Our individualism is the outlier. To some extent, we still have this. When we have people who promote disorder in the society, we lock them up in prisons away from the general population.
Licona also says those who complain about exclusivism being intolerant are themselves being intolerant. Jelbert says that a person can be tolerated while their beliefs are not. This is true, but I suspect Licona is talking about a much more modern view of ideas where holding a disagreeing opinion is considered intolerant. Jelbert is right on a classical definition of tolerance. Licona is right if he is going with the modern notion, which I think he is.
Jelbert also says the Christian beliefs aren’t much comfort in general in times of pain. Perhaps sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are awful. So what? Sometimes, they are a help. I could just as well ask what help is an atheist belief in time of pain? This is just the way reality is? Get used to it? Life is a pain and then you die and it never mattered anyway? The hope of the resurrection for me, as a Christian, is a very real hope.
Jelbert also tells us a lot about himself in that when he realized he didn’t believe in God, he first thought of hell and what if he was wrong. Then he says that if God wants him to believe, God will convince him. Yes. After all, it’s God’s job to do the work. I have written about this before in God being treated like a trivia question.
In closing, I would like to explain why Jesus is the only way. Jesus is the only way because He is the only one who did anything about the problem, which is sin. He is the only one who comes from the only true God and can represent us. No other religious figure did anything about the problem. Hence, Jesus is the only way.
Some might be wondering about those who never heard. That will be dealt with later on. When it comes up, we will deal with it.