Book Plunge: Too Good To Be False

What do I think of Tom Gilson’s book published by DeWard Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes we hear some news and we think it would be wonderful, but then we conclude that it is too good to be true. Rarely do we ever consider the opposite. What if something was too good to be false? What if Jesus was just someone like that?

Tom Gilson has an interesting hypothesis that not much has been done with in history, but I think needs some serious looking at. In it, he points out that the character of Jesus is really one unlike anyone else in history either fictional or non-fictional. There are some people that could come close, but we realize many of their faults and failures and they themselves do.

Jesus is someone who shows up and never asks for advice, never claims to be learning something new from a dialogue, seems to know everything that is going on, never apologizes for anything, never relies on anyone else for any claim that He makes, etc. Now if you take anyone who is like that on paper you would consider them insufferable to be around and you would not want to be around them. However, Jesus is not like that. Many people who read the Gospels love the figure of Jesus. They think He’s incredible. Bart Ehrman in his latest book refers to Jesus as one of the three great figures He wants to meet.

Not only that, but Jesus is also claiming to be God incarnate in the Gospels and yet still, we don’t see Him acting in such a way that we might expect. We don’t see Him raining down judgment or acting aloof to the culture. We still see attributes that are remarkably human.

This is Gilson’s fascinating hypothesis. If Jesus did not exist as presented in the Gospels, we should be seeking to meet the people who created Him because they are the greatest geniuses of all time. How is it also that if the skeptics are right, all these stories changed drastically over time, but they came together to show this figure of remarkable insight and character that is unparalleled in all of fiction and history? Note the inclusion of fiction in there. No one has created a figure like Jesus. Possibly the closest is Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, but perhaps he is also given limited time for just that figure. If Lewis had to write a whole story where Aslan is acting on most every page, I suspect it would be impossible for even him.

If we could not create this figure, then there is only one conclusion. We did not create Him. Jesus is real. Not only is He real, we need to hold Him in the proper awe He deserves. We have become so familiar with the figure of Jesus that we haven’t considered just how shocking He is.

Gilson’s thesis is an amazing one and I hope to see more engagement with it. It would be incredible to see what someone like Bart Ehrman would say to it. I hope it gets out in the world of academia all the more.

One thing I would like to see added for future editions of the book if they come is that the idea is fascinating, but I would like to see something on how to present it in a debate. Perhaps it could even be a mock written debate that has been set up. How would Gilson use this in evangelism and how would he suggest that I use it? If we use it, how should we use other arguments alongside it, such as arguments about the resurrection and the dating and veracity of the Gospels?

This is a book to be taken seriously by Christian and skeptic alike. I look forward to seeing more that comes out concerning it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Our Concept of Perfection

Are some terms a bit too vague? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A question came to me recently from someone wanting to show a Muslim about how grace is essential to get to be in the presence of God and started with saying God is perfect and cannot allow imperfection in His midst. When I saw this, I got a slight bit of concern here. Is it because I dispute God is perfect? Properly understood, no. My problem is I want to know what it means to be perfect because usually the term is too vague.

Let’s suppose we say God can only allow perfection in His presence. Okay. What about angels? All Christians would agree that some angels are in the presence of God, but are they perfect? In a sense, but we do not mean that they are perfect as God is, so they do indeed lack some perfections. If that is true, does that mean that they are imperfect? In a sense, we would have to say yes.

We also know some angels are not in God’s presence and so for that, I want to be clear what I mean by presence. When I speak of the presence of God, I do not mean omnipresence in that God holds all together by His being and His being fills everything. I mean by presence the idea of favor. Only those who are holy can dwell in the favor of God.

When I say God is perfect then, I mean that God lacks nothing in accordance with the nature of His being. As a Thomist, I contend that God’s nature is in fact being. God lacks nothing in the area of being. Whatever it means to be, then that is what God is. No other being can be like God then.

When we say that, then we can discuss the aspect of being, and this is something difficult to do, but it has been done. Most notably, it’s done at the start of the Summa Theologica by Aquinas. This is a way we can fill our concept of God with substance instead of relying on an idea that is often more subjective.

What about angels and us then? That would mean that we also lack nothing that would be fitting for us to have and this is something that is a gift from God of course. Angels have kept their standing before God and continually do so. We will do so by submitting to the grace of God that has been revealed in Christ. (In fact, I would contend one of the great problems of our age is that we no longer take concepts like virtue and holiness seriously. We have replaced them with a modern view of happiness.)

Theological thinking is difficult for all of us and we all have a theology. (Even the atheist has a theology. They have a very distinct idea of any kind of deity they think doesn’t exist and often argue against a specific being that doesn’t exist.) Perhaps my approach might be more difficult in some ways, but that could just make it more worthwhile. The more substance we pack into our concept of God, the clearer we can see Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters