Jesus, Starting Point for Faith
I remember a conversation that happened on two different occasions in my seminary classes. Or maybe it was a deja vu situation, but I’m pretty it actually happened twice. The general statement was something like this: “I don’t have any problem believing that God exists, but believing that Jesus was anything special is a lot harder.” It stuck with me because, to put it as bluntly as possible, I’m the exact opposite: I could make the philosophical case against God’s existence, especially if we make certain assumptions about God as most descendants from Greek philosophy do, but one thing I can’t do is ignore Jesus.
I think my classmate is in the majority, though, especially in more pluralistic contexts like Canada. We have a natural impulse toward something more than just the material life. We see beauty and have a hard time agreeing that there is no higher purpose to it than an evolutionary prerogative. Most don’t draw any kind of conclusions about what this God is like – although we might assume certain things, again primarily that we inherited from Greek philosophy such as existing outside of time and being perfectly morally good – but most people inherently are drawn to the idea of some form of God or gods. It’s not that I don’t have this impulse. I definitely do.
But there is another side, a side which I think is more prominent for me. Why is that so many major magazines still cover stories about Jesus, even in countries where a small percent are practicing Christians? Why do we often hear non-Christians echo words similar to Gandhi’s: “I’m a fan of your Christ, just not your Christians”? In short, I think that it is a lot harder to deny that there is something special about Jesus than we like to pretend. That radical love in his teachings, even toward the enemy empire that was keeping down his people – God’s chosen people – under control through force. That radical love in his example upon the cross. The destruction of oppressive boundaries between the so-called saints and the so-called sinners.
This relates to another recent post about using Jesus’ teaching as the starting point for apologetics. That makes complete sense to me because to me Jesus’ teachings stand out as so remarkable, as I said in that post, but also because that’s the part of the Christian faith that is attractive to me. Yes, I am a theologian by training. Yes, I have wrestled with the challenges posed to the Christian worldview and I do believe that the Christian worldview provides the best explanations of the world in an intellectual sense, too. And I have that general spiritual impulse. But if you ask me why I am a Christian, the most honest answer all comes down to the person of Jesus: a life and teachings so remarkable that they changed human history and have changed the lives of millions of people.