Friday, December 23, 2005

Christian Belief IV

The question remaining from our previous post in the series on Christian belief is why the words of a 1st century Jewish rabbi should carry such enormous metaphysical weight with Christians today. The answer, we said, is that for two thousand years Christians have believed that Jesus was not just a rabbi, not just some specially chosen messenger from God, not just a prophet, but that he was God Himself.

Certainly this is what the Bible teaches about Him and what He said about Himself. Consider a couple of examples from Paul writing about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth...all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col.1:15-17)

...our great God and savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)

And here's John describing Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (Jn 1:1-3)

And the Jews were seeking to kill Him, because He...was...making Himself equal with God. (Jn 5:18)

And Thomas:

Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28)

And here is Jesus speaking of Himself:

The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM." Therefore they picked up stones (to stone Him for blasphemy since I AM was a name God assigns to Himself in the Old Testament to indicate His timelessness) (Jn 8:57-59)

"I and the Father are one" (and the same). The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them..."for which [of my works] are you stoning me?" The Jews answered Him..."for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." (Jn 10:30-33)

"He who has seen Me has seen the Father." (Jn.14:9)

It is the belief in the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus that separates Christians from other monotheists. It is a belief unique to Christianity among modern world religions. It is also what makes Christmas so significant and special to believers. As the world turns toward Christmas eve we've resolved to keep well in mind why it is that Christians have always thought this birth, this child, to be full of mystery, wonder, awe and love. The Creator of the world, despite our rejection and betrayal of him, is born into the world as a human, to human parents, in the meanest surroundings, so that ultimately He may one day coax us back to Himself. Christmas reminds us all of the depth of His devotion to us. It reminds us that God chose to identify Himself with us in our humanity by sharing in our suffering and enduring an awful physical death, all of which He did as an expression of purest love. It was completely gratuitous. He needn't have done it, but for reasons we can't really understand on this side of eternity, it was apparently the only way He could win us back.

Christmas reminds us that God became man and dwelt among us, but couldn't Jesus have been mistaken about who He was? Couldn't He have been lying? Couldn't He have been deranged? Yes, He could have been any of these which is why we are not just left with a record of what He said about Himself but also a record of what happened at the end of His life. It was these events which authenticated the claims that He and others made about who He was.

More on that after Christmas. In the meantime, we wish all of our readers a wonderful Christmas filled with the love of family and friends.

Plugging Leaks

A guy writes to a blog at National Review Online with a clever idea for how to investigate the leaks from the NSA and CIA concerning domestic surveillance and other matters:

Forget about prosecuting anyone for now. Justice should set up a special full time grand jury, meeting five days a week, to questions everyone connected in any way with the leak, including congressional staffers and elected officials. Everyone gets a grant of immunity for any underlying crimes before testifying. The only thing they can be prosecuted for is perjury.

It would take about an hour to put each person on record against future perjury charges. Do you know reporter x? Did you talk with reporter x, what was the nature of your conversation etc. etc.

Witnesses are required, as a condition of employment by the CIA, to reveal their testimory to CIA counsel. Those who leaked have three options. They can refuse to testify and be held in contempt, since immunity has been granted and fifth amendment protections are irrelevant, at which point the CIA has grounds for dismissing them. They can tell the truth, admit to leaking, and be fired. Or they can lie and hope that Riesen and company won't give them up after sitting in jail for six months. Most will probably tell the truth and resign their positions.

The point here is that instead of dragging this thru the legal system for years, the whole issue could most likely be resolved in a matter of weeks. The removal of these employees would have a powerful deterrent effect as well.

Interesting idea, but we still think the leakers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The Real Setback in the Dover Trial

There is much to criticize in the 139 page decision handed down by Judge John Jones after the Dover ID trial, and we'll take a look at some of that in the days ahead. The undoing of this case for the defense, however, was the perceived, or actual, dishonesty on the part of a couple of the Dover school board members. The saddest legacy of this whole affair is not that the board sought to inform students that there are legitimate alternatives to the materialist narrative on origins but rather the discredit that some of them brought upon the word "Christian" by publicly denying having said what they evidently did say and, worse, by denying it while under oath.

Secularist and Darwinian blogs are touting their conduct as typical of Christians in general, and ID advocates in particular, and surely the message will be repeated and amplified by the media, in ways both subtle and not so subtle, that anyone who advocates ID is a liar and that Christians can not be trusted in positions of civic responsibility.

Christianity Today concludes a fine report on the court's decision with these words:

When it comes down to it, though, which do you think God cares more about? That those who act in his name got a school district to call Darwinian evolution a theory, or that the entire world now considers them perjurers?

The impression left by the conduct of a few people, no matter how well-meaning their original intention, has probably done far more to set back the cause of ID than all the expert testimony offered by the plaintiffs and all the negative media commentary spawned throughout the trial. People will accept or reject ideas they don't feel particularly competent to evaluate themselves on the basis of whether or not they feel they can trust those who do have expertise to be telling them the truth. To the extent that one or two of the board members have been called liars by the trial judge and to the extent that those individuals are identified with Intelligent Design, ID will have been wounded and discredited in the eyes of a public that is largely confused about the philosophic and scientific questions ID addresses.

The lesson for all of us, whichever side of this debate we're on, is that no matter how right we think we are, our opinions on matters like these are not so important that we should ever sacrifice our integrity to promote them.