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January 9, 2011

5-1-11 Fair Play

5-1-11

This one’s quite a brief response – hurrah! – to:-

‘Myth # 2 – Jesus was just a good man.

Reply: One of your own great authors, C.S. Lewis made a statement that sheds some light on the answer to this one. He stated, ” anyone who said the things that Jesus said, such as, “I am the Son of God, I can forgive sins,” was surely a mad man or really who he said he was. He could not have been just a good man and made up such deceptive lies as this. I believe that He was who He said he was. Is it possible that this might be the truth? Where would you go to find out? Most of the books that are in the library are written by people who try and refute God’s existence, but have you ever wanted to hear both sides of the story? Please read on….’

I was invited to an Alpha Course my friend runs and had a look at some on-line vids in preparation. They were enough for me to decline the offer rather than sit in and ask the questions which are apparently encouraged. Even at first viewing there were, uh… a few.

This argument was conspicuous as a variety of : The Moon is made of green cheese> This is either (a)true or (b)untrue> obviously it is (a)untrue so we can eliminate it> …which leaves us with only one conclusion.This is a philosophical forced-card trick.

By the same token, the tutors either (a) know that they’ve sidestepped a difficult question or (b) don’t. In either case is their authority to interpret the text enhanced?

The choice isn’t ‘bad, mad or true’ – there’s also ‘fired by conviction’, which I deliberately don’t label ‘delusion’.

I’m beginning to get interested in the dialogue between Galileo and The Vatican, which demanded the suppression of calculations dislodging the Earth from the centre of the universe by divine ordination. You can test your faith in the (-bad + -mad) = +True equation.

Were the Vatican representatives bad? Did they just decide on a cruel whim to gang up on that geeky Galileo kid? Unlikely, because they were certainly the highest authority on the Word Of God, a ruling intellectual elite, a select group not least because they were literate and kept libraries of research findings: biblical exegesis at the highest level. Their authority derived from their direct descent from the Patriarch St. Peter, the rock on which the church was built (note re. translations; Peter wasn’t a common first century Galilean Jewish name but a solemn pun on ‘pierre”- rock). No one was better able to proclaim the authority of the Gospels to refute the man-made theory.

Therefore, they must have been right. The Earth is at the centre of the universe and God demonstrates His power by making the planets jig back and forward in the skies as only God could. Bingozingo! 400 years of scientific orthodoxy refuted at a stroke by the sheer power of reason.

The Copernican model emerged from a sustained reliance on the ‘scientific mind’, the cumulative unexpected force of a body of evidence, and revealed instead an elegance and pattern more satisfying in its simplicity, more aesthetically in accord with a God-like intelligence, than the ‘proof’ of militant teleology.

Another related Alpha point here: Would Jesus have pursued a pretence to the point of dying for His belief/ deception? Sadly we are all too familiar with those so fired by religious conviction that they’re prepared to die and kill, actively anticipating martyrdom and a fast-track to paradise.

Hundreds of thousands have died ‘for King and Country’, though it’s worth noting how the role of Kings and Lords no longer suggests Divine Right or the natural order of ‘the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate’. The worldwide interest in the British royalty is as a cast of übercelebrities and a living anachronism, with curious etiquettes and elaborate pageantry. The Queen’s role as titular head of the Anglican Church very rarely features.

Jesus was clearly charismatic and his democratic mission answered a need among the Jewish communities he inhabited to reclaim God from the Pharisees and their strict regard for the written Law.

The casting-out of the hawkers in the temple was a geurrilla raid on the commercial wing of an authoritarian corporate Judhaism – my bias here: the Jesus who appealed to me when I was confirmed was informed by that radical political current in the 60’s which presented him, as I think Malcolm Muggeridge wrote ‘as the socialist member for Galilee East’.

How much hangs on an article of grammar. When Jesus says he is the Son Of God, might it have carried the sense of ‘I am a Son Of God?’ He seems very keen to place God in us rather than in the books of the Law and their keepers. Maybe the declaration was meant to provoke the Spartacus effect – ‘I’m The Son Of God’  ‘I’m The Son Of God’  ‘I’m The Son Of God’.

Finally, does the phrase ’Most of the books that are in the library are written by people who try and refute God’s existence’ ring true? Most of the books I find in libraries, charity shops and booksellers aren’t remotely concerned with the topic. Many medium-sized shops spare a bookshelf for Religion, subdivided: Christianity, Other Religions and the catch-all Mind, Body & Spirit.

In Myth #3 we get to the deep suspicion directed at scientific enquiry by this strand of by-The-Book religion. Pitchforks and firebrands ready? We’re heading for the gates of  The Professor’s Laboratory…

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