The Problem Is… Jesus

Post #2 in direct response to Avant Garde’s comments on All Roads Lead to Heaven? (Newcomers, please join the conversation.)

Avant Garde: “…in the guise of questioning the denominations/churches of christianity, and saying “no religion but God leads to heaven”, you really meant “your” God the Son alone leads to heaven!”

You are correct. I really meant that only Jesus – God the Son – leads to heaven. Can Jesus reach people through religions that aren’t Christianity? I address this specific issue under C* below. Faith comes from God but “religion” and religiosity are human constructs.

Meanwhile, I should tell you why I believe what I believe. Maybe you will write me off. Maybe you will continue reading. I respect your decision and point of view regardless. I do not expect you to change your mind. That would take a miracle. But I do hope that you will understand me.

A. Someone is “wrong” from everyone’s perspective

Everyone assumes that someone is wrong when it comes to religion. There are the obvious examples of Christians saying that Muslims are essentially wrong and vice-versa. But what about “All religions are true”?

Even the claim that “no one is wrong” assumes a group of people who are wrong: those who deny that claim and typically implies “everyone is wrong” about the ultimate realities of eternity.

To claim “I don’t/can’t/shouldn’t make claims” is a non-committal cop-out… and is often, in fact, not true of the one who says it.

Christians make ridiculous claims, but that does not mean that these claims are either untrue or more ridiculous than the claims that everyone else is making.

B. The Bible tells us what Jesus claimed

Not all those who profess to be Christians accept the teachings of the Bible in the same way. There are many issues, such as a six-day creation, which seem to be open to a greater deal of interpretation. But on the issue of Jesus, there is much clarity. The Bible deserves fuller treatment, but I can summarize my basic belief: if God exists and he is good, then he would have used just such a means as the Bible to reveal himself to humanity. (Re: Bible’s self-testimony, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless…” Psalm 18:30).

C. This is what Jesus himself claimed

Jesus was crucified for claiming to be God in ways that were true of himself and of himself alone. He spoke with authority over the written scriptures. He healed, loved, served and led others as if he were the ruler of creation.  For example, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).  ‘Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7).  His sacrificial death on behalf of humanity could only be done by him, for he alone is fully God and fully human. If humanity needs saving, then we have never had a clearer savior.

D. Jesus saves in mysterious ways

Some churches give the impression that all you have to do is say his name in a prayer. The truth is more personal. We are saved by faith. But this isn’t any sort of will-power that we muster up. It’s a relationship… which God himself initiates. Jesus himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Paul, one of the first generation of followers, wrote, “”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8).

*Some have suggested that there are “invisible Christians,” who have a personal relationship with God through Jesus either without publicly professing such faith or without even consciously knowing this. For example, a Buddhist or a Muslim could be a Christian without knowing it by loving God and loving others. Many Buddhists and Muslims find such ideas highly offensive. The idea is convenient those of us who struggle with outreach to members of other religions and with the idea of hell.  The idea has strength in the precedent of Jews before Christ clearly having access to God the Father and being “saved.”

E. Either Jesus saves and he alone, or Jesus does not save at all.

If Jesus died for the sins of the world, then we need him, because we all fall short of deserving to be with God forever. If Jesus did not die for the sins of the world, then no one needs him except as an example of how to die for a fictitious cause. Either Christianity is the truest truth or it is the biggest lie. There is no middle ground. Maybe other religions have the possibility of being partially true, but because of the claims of Jesus, Christianity does not have that option.

F. These issues are a matter of faith.

I can testify but I cannot prove. (See previous post.)

Caution

There are people who profess to be Christians who disagree with virtually everything I have just said (including a particularly nasty group of radical Dispensationalists who do not believe that there has ever been spiritual salvation for the Jewish people).

Conclusion

I don’t know if I have convinced anyone, but I hope that answers the question.  If I have not, or if anyone has further questions, I am, as always, open to your input.

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I especially like D. “Jesus saves in mysterious ways.” SO TRUE! At one time a devoted follower does all he can to enter the kingdom – but when instructed to sell his possessions, he ends up walking away. Another convicted criminal cries out to Jesus at the point of death and he is saved.

  2. Even from the perspective of faith, God and life often do not make sense. Thank you for your feedback. It’s good to find voices of agreement.

  3. Friend, I have to read your posting again at leisure! At first glance, I see a lot of hand-waving. Good for you, you have a lot of faith in Jesus. You assert that Jesus alone leads to God, but I am not really seeing a convincing argument.

    Also as a non-christian, I do not believe any person even God can or should take responsibility for another’s sin. You do a sin, you MUST bear the consequences. If you repent, (God-willing) you will be better prepared for the consequences, thats it, but there is no escape… Otherwise it is NOT AT ALL a fair system, because you keep sinning and then repent and lo, you get away from the punishment.

    So although the concept of somebody else taking away my sins is quite appealing, on the contrary, it is not right, IMHO.

  4. That you are not convinced does not render the argument implausible. I look forward to your specific points of contention.

    Repentance frees us from eternal punishment, but it does not free us from the consequences of our actions in this life or from feeling the wrath of God in the next.

    I have every reason to believe that I will experience, in an instant, all of the pain, remorse, and fire which some Catholics expect in “purgatory.” In an instant, all of me that is not His will be burned away.

    My sins are a burden that I alone cannot bear.

    No one ever said it was a fair system. Judaism had a fair system. The system worked. The problem was and has always been us, we human folk. For God to draw humanity to Himself, the system had to be more than “fair.”

    Can we at least agree that if God is infinite, any agreement between us and Him would leave Him holding the short end of the stick? In my humble opinion, all religion is “unfair” for God… but He draws us to Himself anyway.

  5. P.S. Thank you for reading/listening. I find myself talking more than I’d like.

  6. “If Jesus did not die for the sins of the world, then no one needs him except as an example of how to die for a fictitious cause. Either Christianity is the truest truth or it is the biggest lie.”
    I find this line or argument to be a false dichotomy. There are more than two truths — that Jesus was either the son of god or a liar. The third is simply that he was a saintly man who truly believed himself to be the son of god; perhaps he meant it in a metaphorical or universal sense. Either way, regardless of whether he was or was not, his subjective truth remains intact.

  7. My line of argument assumes that the biblical account accurately expresses Jesus’ self-understanding. That account leaves little room for metaphor or universality.

    The possibility that Jesus was a saintly man with delusions of grandeur of infinite proportions strikes me as specious (just learned that word from Avant Garde). Do saintly men make false claims to deity? If so, why? What do you mean by “saintly”?

    (While we’re at it: what exactly do you mean by the terms “metaphorically” and “universally”? How would one metaphorically understand oneself to be the Son of God? How would one do so universally? I think I know what you mean, but I want to be sure.)

    What do you mean by subjective truth? (As in “it’s true for me (but maybe not for you)”?)

    Yours are good objections and reveal my basic assumption that the Bible is a reliable expression of Jesus’ words. However, here is the dilemma. The New Testament accounts represent our only sources dating back to the first century or so after the life of Christ. If you reject those accounts as unreliable, then your only option is to create a picture of Jesus based on what you already believe. What assumptions are you making?

  8. “The possibility that Jesus was a saintly man with delusions of grandeur of infinite proportions strikes me as specious (just learned that word from Avant Garde). Do saintly men make false claims to deity? If so, why? What do you mean by “saintly”?”
    I believe it’s possible that one saintly man made false claims to deity, though he did not likely view his claims to be false. By saintly I mean a man who devoted himself to the charity of the poverty stricken and the social outcasts — though taking apart an idea word by word to semantically defuse it doesn’t really address the underlying issues.

    “The New Testament accounts represent our only sources dating back to the first century or so after the life of Christ. If you reject those accounts as unreliable, then your only option is to create a picture of Jesus based on what you already believe.”
    I can also view those accounts as pictures of Jesus based on what the Gospels believed, as opposed to directly observed witnesses. I believe the earliest documents describing his life were written 50 years or so after his death; there is much subjectively inherent in the New Testament. Of course, these are the thoughts of an outsider, someone who’s not been through seminary, and someone who’s not a believer. But I have had many discussions with other people of faith along these lines.

  9. In the end, we’ll probably have to agree to disagree.

    Meanwhile, you’ve given me much food for thought.

    At some point soon, I’d like to make some more personal reflections on well-meaning/saintly men with delusions of grandeur rooted in my well-meaning/religious-themed delusions during my one bout of serious mental illness back in ’01.

    I ask what you mean by [fill in the blank] not to play semantic judo, but to make sure that, even if we disagree, we both know what we’re talking about.

    For instance, your answer emphasizes social justice, which is a different emphasis than I might have assumed. In the minds of some, “saintly” is largely about prayerful, quiet morality. While these are important things, you see rightly that Jesus was a man of action. Whatever he got killed for, it wasn’t for behaving himself in the eyes of the powers that be.

    I really appreciate that you came for L.A. and stayed for Jesus. Who knows what’s next? (Other than the mental illness vignettes I owe you….)

  10. Haha, yeah, I came for the LA stuff and stayed for theological discussions. As someone who spends most of his day reading/writing blogs for “the man”, I’m always on the hunt for blogs I dig. Consider your blog dug!

  11. There are few questions that you raise that are very important. 1 Can we trust Bible, and if we look at the Bible from both historical and archeological view points we find that many things it brings to the table for discussion are in did very accurate. Teaching itself is assessed by many to be logical and non contradictory. 2 What is the role of Jesus and what is it that he claimed? He most certainly has told us that he is the son of God therefore equated himself to God. therefore your assessment that he is either telling truth, laying or is deluded stands very well (this is also how CS Lewis puts it) once you look at the teaching of Jesus you very quickly come to conclusion is that he is neither loony or is he maliciously lying, as we see that he puts himself in the path of danger for the sake of truth and justice he is therefore both sane and kindly, more over he is radical and thought provoking but that is not all, for if he is not crazy, layer than one things stands that he was telling us who he was. What is remarkable is to look at the Old testament prophesies about Jesus and then you can be very impressed by the number of them being fulfilled in Jesus. It’s as someone else said it like a fingerprint that is given to us saying when you find this man fitting this criteria you will know that he is my son. Read Isaiah 50 to 53 and there are many others one simply stands in owe of Gods plan and revelation. Message of Jesus is also radically different to other religions, nowhere else do we find God sending his son to die for our sins. On the point that we can’t continue sinning and asking God to forgive us, one should remember that we are humans and are still growing. One would hope as you mature in your faith you will stop making same old mistake (I include myself here). Main message that we have from Jesus is that he is God, that God is love, that we are sinners, that he wants us to be reconciled and justified (legal term here) and only way this can be done is for price to be paid. For anyone saying but he is God he could simply forgive can’t he. We should remember that God is justice, we all want to see justice, this is why we want to see evildoers who rape and kill children punished. You can see where I’m taking us with this, evil has to be punished otherwise he is not Just God. (God is bot righteous and Love this is why we had Jesus) Last point to say that all religions lead to God is sacrilege to many other religions and is therefore not only offensive but only confirms that people making that statement either don’t understand religions or are just not very good listeners. You can not have to opposing statements being correct. By the way can I say I did like your post. Thanks very much and I wish you Gods blessings.

    Defend the Word

  12. Thanks.


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