Writing Allowed

Making your MIND Up about Jesus Christ

jesus_016

Douglass Groothuis said that for two thousand years, the controversy over Christ has continued to rage without letup, and that, today, everyone has an opinion about Jesus. Groothuis states: “These opinions range from the traditional to the novel to the heretical. For many, Jesus is merely the expression of one’s desires and imagination..[1]”(D Groothuis) A Life magazine article on differing views of Jesus stated that. ‘We see Jesus as many different people—dutiful son, ascetic, sage, martyr –depending on our own needs we see Jesus in our own image. There are, without doubt, many opinions about the person of Christ but is it really true that ‘everyone’ has an ‘opinion’? Do the ‘uninitiated’ and uneducated’[2] have any real notion of the person, nature and work of Christ?

Is it not the case that most of the debate about Jesus Christ is in the ivory tower of academia[3], from which there occasionally appears a quasi-popular work for the interested few to digest. And, is it not the case that from such ‘ivory towers’ the minds of educators and students alike are turned away from the authentic Jesus to other beliefs—even to a ‘man-made’ substitute made in the image of Christ.It is the object of this article to offer a brief apologetic[4] for those I have influence over, in the church and outside of it so that they may be able to give a reasonable answer for the hope they have within (1 Peter 3:15).

Many ‘Christs’, Much Confusion

Confusion abounds—so much so that possibilities as to the real identity of Jesus of Nazareth are indeed numerous. McFarlane[5] names a few: Baby Jesus; Bloodied Jesus; Divine Jesus; Best-friend Jesus; Loser Jesus; Crusading Jesus; Meet-all-my-needs Jesus; Historical Jesus; Gay Jesus; Anti-Gay Jesus; De-constructed Jesus; Fully God/Fully Human Jesus. There are, no doubt, other possibilities for the 21st Century shopper but only one ‘true’ answer to the above question.

There is neither time or space to seriously address the above notions save to say that some of them do not reflect reality but rather the ignorance and the idolatry of mankind, who’s ‘bent’ it is to create and even worship idols.Some of the above definitions of Jesus Christ are true yet false, False because they either present a caricature of the real Jesus  or, worst still, ‘an instead of’ Jesus – an ‘anti Christ-Christ’[6] . There are, however, other ‘kinds’ of ‘Christs that McFarlane does not include in his list – the ‘Cosmic Christ’ being among them. It is, this ‘possible’ Christ ’ that we will  be addressing. If we can imagine Jesus Christ asking the same question [Who do you ‘think’ I am?] in our twenty-first century fog of opinions, the answer[7] might have be something like the following:

  • You are a kind of ‘christ’ [an enlightened one – akin to Buddha].
  • You are higher than the normal ‘sons of Adam’ ,[ human beings]achieving this state [because you’re obviously different] through self achievement – the achieving of cosmic consciousness.
  • You are ‘a son’’—like all enlightened beings—certainly not unique because there are many such sons—even more now in our ‘New Age’.
  • You are definitely not the ‘way truth and life’ but an example of one who has found the ‘path’ to enlightenment. In this sense you are further along the evolutionary scale. You may even be some sort of angelic being.
  • You’re ‘god like’ but you cannot possibly be the son of God because ‘God’ is an unknowable and distant deity, an ignoramus and impotent shadow of the Biblical alternative of even a metaphysical hypothesis.

The above, brief and limited answers [there are many more] would, sadly, be the answers given by many—very few without presuppositional baggage .If any of the above possibilities were the truth, we would need to acknowledge that the New Testament is unreliable and that the writers were either deceivers, badly misinformed or deluded. This, I suggest, is far from the truth.

The ‘Big Issue’

All the synoptic gospels report the account of Jesus’ challenge to his disciples (Matthew16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20); all report the vital question: Who do you say, I am?  McFarlane[8] says that the question of Jesus’ identity—‘of who Jesus is’—is itself determined by what he actually did [does]. What Jesus ‘does’ is rooted in ‘space time’ history; the events actually occurred. It is because of this that we are able to come to an informed decision. So, what did Jesus do and say? And how do we know that he did it or said it?  Obviously ,what Jesus initially did is not within the living memory of anyone because it occurred nearly two thousand years ago. Unfortunately it is not simply a question of looking at the available historical documents and other relevant sources because history—at least according to some—cannot and should not be taken at face value. Of course, you may not be aware that some of the people who speak/write like this ‘pick and choose’ historical data according to their prejudices. For example they choose to ignore ‘gaping holes’ in evidences for some of the ‘history’ of the Roman Empire. We, however, are ‘allowed’ the privilege of reassessing ‘history’.

 ‘History’ Revisited

McFarlane says that now, with the kind permission of Postmodern thinkers ,  history may well (as if somehow it never did before) have something to tell us:

Storytelling is acceptable—after all every recollection every report and event is told from the perspective of the one telling, reporting, writing. There is, it would appear, no such thing as ‘timeless’ truth within time and history. Consequently, it is no longer acceptable to dismiss the past simply because it is the past.[9] It appears that in ‘Postmodernity’ [we’re in it now] we can at least present the story of Jesus Christ with the knowledge that scientism or epistemological reason ‘may’ not destroy the main part of our story—before we begin to communicate it. And, we can be assured that, even though ‘Postmodernity’ does not allow for absolutes it does, apparently, allow for possibilities.[10]

According to Gary Habermas [11]Science is no longer able to postulate absolutes [apart from when it comes to the ‘theory’ of evolution and such ‘dignitaries’ as Professor Richard Dawkins] to such an extent as to rule out possibilities in an ‘a priori’ manner. He suggests that we can only speak in terms of probabilities for any given occurrence. Moreover, Habermas suggests that now, in the twenty-first century, there is a proper use of inductive research methodology so that conclusions are drawn in the light of evidence and not in ‘the light of’ preconceived ideas [this would, should it be true, make a refreshing change].Believe it or not, there are some who remain committed to presuppositions about the identity of Jesus Christ so much so that they change simple narrative, as given in the New Testament, to something quite imaginative—something entitled History Metaphorised. Yes, you’ve got it: history that may be nothing more than ‘something like!’

‘History Metaphorised’

 Proponents of the ‘History Metaphorised’ view would say that, in the main,[12] we can only interpret the recorded stories in the New Testament as metaphors [‘history metaphorised’]. The late Marcus Borg sites as an example the story of the Wedding at Cana; Borg suggests that the author [who presumably made the story up] is simply inviting the reader to see the story of Jesus as a ‘whole’—as the story of a wedding banquet at which the wine never runs out and at which the best is saved to last.

Metaphorical language is intrinsically non-literal; its central meaning is ‘to see as’—to see something as something else. To say that Jesus is the light of the world is not to say that he is literally a light, but a means to see him as the light of the world. [13] Thus, Borg argues, that even though metaphorical language is not literally true, it can be powerfully true in a non literal sense [if you know what he means]. It may be powerful therefore—but not true. This may be helpful to some but I personally fail to see how. The example of the wedding ‘story’ is insightful but it can hardly be taken as the normal or the only way of interpreting ‘historical’ data—If it were, we would not know how to interpret most of the events we believe to have happened in space and time including important ‘historical’ events. Clearly, the above example is a convenient way of denying the truth and disposing of the miraculous. But the question is, does it bare any resemblance to reality? Do we have to believe ‘what they say’? No, of course we do not! Borg seems to want to have his cake and eat it as well. He, however,at least wants to believe that there is something special about Jesus of Nazareth. He wants to assure his readers that both the ‘pre-Easter’ and ‘post-Easter’ Jesus is a ‘remarkable and compelling figure’ even though we cannot take anything written about him literally but, rather, as some kind of ‘literary’  device employed by the writers of the New Testament. Borg needs to be taken seriously however because he makes the claim that the experience of early Christian communities were not related to facts but were simply related to what we could describe as a psychologically induced ‘wish fulfilment’’—my words not his. This what he says:

The canonical Jesus discloses what Jesus had become in the experience of early Christian communities near the end of the first century. Independently of their historical factuality, the stories of the canonical Jesus can function in our lives as powerfully true metaphorical narratives, shaping Christian vision and identity.[14]

According to Borg’s reasoning it is not an ‘either-or’ choice—both the pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus matter[15]. They may matter to Borg and other members of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ [i]but do they, according to this kind of ‘reasoning’ have any bearing on whether or not the accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, as given in the New Testament documents, are related to real events in real space/time? I fear not. There is surely a contradiction here. Borg, along with the majority of those of like minds, seems to want to have his cake and eat it as well.  How does ‘metaphorising’ New Testament accounts and events possibly encourage faith? Answers on a postcard.

Biblical faith—faith—dare I say—in the truth is not, I suggest, based on wishful thinking. This kind of philosophical duplicity may be acceptable for the likes of Marcus Borg but it will hardly positively’ influence the uniformed man or woman, who may be genuinely seeking the true Jesus. How can the above ideas possibly give the narrative (story) a chance in the market place of ‘ideas’?

James Carleton Paget makes the following [interesting] comment:

Despite the proliferation of historical Jesus studies, theological reflection on the matter is non-existent or perfunctory in tone. Certainly it is true that the Jesus Seminar has a theological agenda of sorts, but it smacks of a historicist fundamentalism that leaves too many questions unanswered.[16] Of course historical interpretation may depend, at least initially, on presuppositions and Paget seems to have an aversion to anything ‘fundamental’’. There are, presumably, some who approach the subject with no hidden agendas but rather with the desire to simply investigate the past. However, if you start with a jaundiced [and not an ‘open’] view of the New Testament accounts, it is not likely that you will conclude that it gives an accurate account of the real identity of Jesus of Nazareth because the presuppositions are too entrenched. Surely, I [we all] are addressing the subject with bias but are we ‘open’ to the truth—if I can use this rather controversial and emotive  word.

“For  what I received I passed on to you  as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to Scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers….” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-6)

If the above account is not so, then to continue believing it would be to believe a lie—and for what purpose? Tom Wright [17]  states that the dogma that all dogmas are wrong, the monolithic insistence that all monolithic systems are to be rejected, has taken hold of the popular imagination at a level far beyond rational or logical discourse.  He says that the ‘remote god’ view encourages it for if god, or gods, is/are far away and largely unknowable, all human religions must be at best vague approximations, different paths up the mountain. Pantheism too, Wright suggests, leads ultimately in the same direction.

C.K Chesterton said that when a man ceases to believe in Christianity he does not cease believing ‘anything’, he simply believes something else. And as there may be no vacuum it is therefore likely that the process of ‘disbelief’ is one of transition—from the one to the other. So when we have men denying the Christ of the New Testament it is because they have already began the process of replacing him; and this ‘replacing’ does not happen without some outside influence. No, the majority of people who believe something else do not believe something original, as if they have conceived of something by themselves without help from other ‘minds’ or philosophies. Is there indeed anything new under the sun [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. Moreover, is there anything new from the ‘computers’ of philosophers? I say this with tongue in cheek as I have a love of the subject myself and appreciate some, but not all, of it’s benefits.Christianity is an inseparable mixture of timeless truths and temporal events. Without the Jesus of the New Testament, historic Christianity shatters into a thousand pieces. We should remember however that if the New Testament account of Jesus passes important historical tests, any rival view of Jesus based on other extrabiblical materials will inherit the burden of proof. For example, The Original Jesus (1995) by Elmar. G Gruber and Holger Kersten advances the notion that Jesus was originally a Buddhist whose teachings were later distorted. In order to defend this view, of course, they must first discredit the New Testament.[18] [Douglas Groothuis]

It is, I suggest, no coincidence that there is a correlation between the philosophy of Buddhism, the reconstructed Christ of the Jesus Seminar and other New Age bodies of philosophical opinions. So we have another contender—we can call him ‘the Cosmic Christ’. Elaine Pagels, in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, puts it this way: “Now for the first time, we have the opportunity to find out about the earliest Christian heresy; for the first time, the heretics[19] can speak for themselves.” [20] And, of course, the heretics are ‘speaking for themselves’, with the subtlety of fifth-columnists – inoculating minds against belief in the Jesus of the New Testament and encouraging belief in an ‘instead of Jesus’.[ii]

 The ‘Cosmic’ alternative

The term ‘Cosmic Christ’ may sound rather amusing somewhat like the sixties idea that ‘God’ was actually an alien astronaut.  The Cosmic Christ idea however is not to be laughed at for it fits easy with so much that passes for Christianity today[21]. Moreover, it fits nicely with New Age Gnosticism[22] and the syncretistic ideas of the ‘New Millennium’. Douglas Groothuis [23]describes the ‘Cosmic Christ’ as:

… predominantly a dispenser of cosmic wisdom who discourses on abstruse themes like the spirit’s fall into matter. The Christ comes from the higher levels of intermediary beings (called aeons) not as a sacrifice for sin but as a Revealer, an emissary from error-free environs. He is not the personal agent of the creator-god revealed in the Old Testament. (That metaphysically dishevelled deity is what got the universe into such a royal mess in the first place.) Rather, Jesus has descended from a more exalted level to be a catalyst for igniting the gnosis latent within the ignorant. He gives a metaphysical assist to underachieving deities (i.e., humans) rather than granting ethical restoration to God’s erring creatures through the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

There are actually a few varieties that assume the title of ‘Cosmic Christ’ although none so pernicious as the one above, briefly yet so eloquently, described by Prof. Groothuis.

How cosmic was/is the Christ of the New Testament? 

There is, in my opinion, no need to ‘shrink back’ in fear when we hear the word ‘cosmic’ attached to Christ. For Jesus of Nazareth—as depicted in the New Testament documents is indeed ‘Cosmic’ in the true sense. It was this Christ who came from the father full of grace and truth (John1:14). Moreover in Romans 1:4 we read that, Christ who through the power [dynamos] of holiness was declared with power [same word] to be the Son of God [no indefinite article] by the power of his resurrection from the dead[24]: Jesus Christ our Lord! Cosmic, I would say.

The writer to the Hebrews describes the New Testament Cosmic Christ as ‘sitting at the right hand of the Majesty of heaven:“So he, (New Testament variety) became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1:3-4) This sort of accolade provokes praise and worship. In his letter to the church in Colosse  Paul waxes eloquent [25] He describes Jesus as:

  • The image of the invisible God [maker of heaven and earth] (Verse 15)
  • The first born over creation[26] (verse 15)
  • The creator of all things[27] – in heaven and earth [this is cosmic] (verse 16) as being ‘before all things’ [28] (verse 17)
  • The sustainer of universal order (verse 17)
  • The head of the church (verse 18) [29]

Whilst those of us who realise the authenticity of the Christ of the New Testament havgood reason for having confidence in this version of Jesus [30], those who espouse another version are short on historical accuracy  or, it would seem, empirical evidence. It interesting to note that whilst the writers [espousers] of other ‘stories’ of Jesus are quick to deny any kind of authentic or authoritative  meta-narrative they themselves rely on exactly that. The ‘meta-narrative’ they rely on though is that of ‘nature’ or ‘evolution’—of course these other stories are also related to wishful thinking, humanistic philosophy or else a new version of an old heresy—the ‘Christ’ consciousness  of the ‘Old New Age’ version[31]perhaps. Groothuis[32] said that the real challenge of Gnosticism [the insider information of the initiated and enlightened]  was not so much organizational as intellectual. He says that Gnosticism in its various forms has often appealed to the alienated intellectuals who yearn for spiritual experience outside the bounds of the ordinary. The evidence is clear when we look at the number of [intelligent/professional people we meet who have some kind of ‘notion’ of inner knowledge/enlightenment.There are many today, intellectuals or otherwise, who would sincerely like to meet with the authentic Jesus if only they had the opportunity

An Appeal for the Authentic Christ

Jesus was a Jew, wasn’t he?

Tom Wright[33] says that we actually know more securely that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish prophet announcing the kingdom of God than we know almost anything about the history of traditions that led up to the production of the gospels as we have them. Moreover, Wright is convinced that we can fill in this picture of Jesus,step-by-step, in such a way as to draw more of the evidence within a growing hypothesis about both Jesus himself and Christian origins, including the writing of the gospels.

An ‘incarnation?

But how could God become man—not a hybrid ‘God-man’, but rather ‘God-in-manhood’ (giving a full meaning to both words)? Frankly I am not impressed by the argument of those who say that God becoming man is as ‘meaningless’ as to talk about a ‘square circle’, or who insist that the ontology of ‘the eternal God and historical man’ are so utterly different that ‘it is simply unintelligible to declare them identical’. The fact is that we do know what both a square and a circle are, and that the one is contradictory to the other. But it would be exceedingly bold to claim that we really know the nature of man—or still more, of man as God designed him to be; and it would be lunacy to say that we really know the nature of God.[34] [Sir Norman Anderson, Christianity  & World Religions] Anderson’s argument is that the ‘myth of God incarnate’ is not so unbelievable—in other words the story is credible; this incarnated deity is none other than the Son of God—the God of the Hebrews, who had acted in space and time. Moreover, it is in the authentic Christ that we have the ‘New Adam’ represented.

A Reliable Narrative [iii]

Blaze Pascal said, ‘The heart has a reason that reason cannot know.’[35] Belief in the authentic Son of God is reasonable. It’s interesting to note that many ‘ancient’ documents [stories], besides the New Testament, have fewer manuscripts to support the validity of their historicity. For example Caesar’s ‘The Gallic Wars’ dates from 100-44 BC; the earliest extant copy is from AD 900—a time gap of 1000 years[36]. There are apparently only ten copies available. Not many ‘historians’ doubt the authenticity of the accounts though! One can only presume that Caesar’s story is preferable to that of the story of Christ as reported in the New Testament.

Neill Wright:

Anyone who reads the New Testament in any one of the half a dozen recent Greek editions, or in any modern translation, can feel confident that, though there may be uncertainties in detail, in almost everything of importance he (or she) is close indeed to the text of the New Testament books as they were originally written.” [37] It IS reasonable to suppose that we can take their word for it as not many ‘experts’ apparently disagree—the important thing being that the story is more believable than many other stories that have been accepted as de-facto history. I suggest therefore that we can rely on the reports [stories] in the Gospels about the life, character and teaching of Jesus? The New Testament writers based their conclusion that Jesus was Messiah, Son of God and Lord on their account of what he said and did (this is history remembered as opposed to history metaphorised). If this is untrue, then of course their interpretation is meaningless and their faith futile—ours too—presuming you have faith in Christ.

Living and dying for a false deity.

 In RC Sproul’s book ‘Might Christ’ Sproul gives a very cogent overview of the cost of following Jesus Christ [in the early church]. Sproul writes  that one of the crises (there were others) that faced the early Christian community involved its relationship with civil authorities, particularly the Roman government. We can read in church history the story of the martyrdom of the saints under the persecutions of Nero and the later emperors of Rome.

That horrible slaughter of believers lasted for several centuries. The Christians, by order of Nero, were coated in pitch and then set on fire, to become human torches to illumine the gardens of Nero at night. Other Christians had to deal with lions in the arena in the Circus Maximus. What precipitated all that was the rise of the emperor worship cult in Rome. As an oath of loyalty, every citizen in the Roman Empire had to recite a brief formula: Caesar kurios.[38] Could it be that [Western] Christians in the twenty-first century will face persecution for not ‘bowing the knee’ to political correctness and to ‘tolerance’? These first century [and many Christians in subsequent centuries—even now in some countries] followers were presumably convinced that Jesus was LORD and not any pretender to the throne.  Sure they could have been mistaken, but this sort of persecution and Christian witness to the Lordship of Christ went on for some time—several centuries in fact. Now you would have thought that ‘by now’ they would have discovered that Jesus was not Lord but some mere man who had some how tapped into the power of the cosmos. Jesus, by the way, is not only Kurios, he is Kurios Kurion (Lord of Lords).

Hopefully, within these few short pages, I have been able to encourage some in the church and some outside of it  to consider that the New Testament Jesus is perfectly acceptable—moreover that, this Jesus is not the invention of man’s philosophy or religious ideology but that [His] story is the story of stories—a Meta-Narrative even.

We will conclude this paper with the story of the thief on the cross as told in Luke’s Gospel.

Along with the authentic Jesus there were two other men who were to be crucified along with him—one on his left and one on his right. While one of the men ridiculed Jesus [it’s possible that he had heard some of the stories and concluded that they were not ‘believable]—he ‘hurled insults at Jesus’, the other man seemed more open to the possibility that there was more than met the eye with this man dying next to him. Strangely enough he actually asked Jesus to remember him when he [Jesus of Nazareth that is] got to his kingdom. Jesus, according to the story, wasted no time with his answer. He said a very strange thing, he said that this man, presumably because he’d believed the reports, would be—on the same day—with Jesus in paradise.The reason I mention the above story is that, in my opinion, this man on the cross next to Jesus had also heard the same stories we may hear in the twenty-first century, although I doubt that he understood the theology or that he possibly knew anything about the context.

To put it simply: this man, who had no hope of life, who you could say had nothing to lose— although he had more to lose than he could ever had imagined if he’d not been somewhat convinced  as to Jesus’ authenticity—this man accepted the story and received eternal life—in paradise. The point is that, as Christians [as apologists], we have to give a reason for the hope in us. We don’t need, necessarily, to convince everyone that we are ‘absolutely’ right [although we are] and that they may be ‘absolutely’ mistaken—as they may be. What we do have to do is to present our story in such a manner that it ‘rings’ true even though it is; that our Jesus—the Jesus of the New Testament is the authentic Jesus, and HE is exactly that.

footnotes:

[i] The Jesus Seminar was organized under the auspices of the Westar Institute to renew the quest of the ‘historical’ Jesus and to report the results of its research to more than a handful of gospel specialists. At its inception in 1985, thirty scholars took up the challenge. Eventually more than two hundred professionally trained specialists, called Fellows, joined the group. The Seminar meets twice a year to debate technical papers that have been prepared and circulated in advance. At the close of debate on each agenda item, Fellows of the Seminar vote, using coloured beads to indicate the degree of authenticity of Jesus’ words or deeds. Dropping coloured beads into a box has become a trademark of the Seminar.

[ii] As we’re thinking of ‘alternative Christs we don’t have to look very far to find another contender—the case in point being: ‘Jesus—husband of Mary Magdalene and father to…?’ [Dan Brown—best seller!]

[iii] See ‘God Can Write a Book, Can’t He’ by Derek White

[1]  D.Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy, P.7 (Kingsway) 1996

[2] That is uneducated according to theological awareness.

[3] The Jesus Seminar: a ‘gathering’ of some seventy-four plus scholars, mostly with liberal and/or Gnostic convictions as to the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth – theirs being a ‘contemporary’ example.

[4] An ‘introduction’ is perhaps a more appropriate word as this is paper is in no way comprehensive.

[5] [5] Dr. G McFarlane. Why do you believe what you believe about Jesus (Paternoster) P.5

[6] In 1 John 4:18-20 John refers to many ‘instead of Christs’ – antichrists

[7] Matthew16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20

[8] Dr. G McFarlane. Why do you believe what you believe about Jesus (Paternoster) P.8

[9] Ibid P.20

[10] Neither Graham McFarlane or myself are suggesting that there is only ‘relative’ truth rather  that – what is known as postmodernity does exactly that. This philosophy, of course, makes no difference to the exclusive claims of the gospel.

[11]  G. Habermas; The Historical Jesus [College Press] 1996 P.59

[12] As I read it, the metaphoric interpretations only refer to the unacceptable: miracles, claims to absolutes etc. One could say ‘a carry over from liberalism’

[13]  Wright & Borg ,  The Meaning of Jesus; [SPCK] 1999 P.5

[14] Ibid P.14

[15]Ibid P 239:  Borg holds the view that ‘Scripture’ is a ‘lens’ through we may view God. For Borg the important thing is the lens and not the Word of God. So, whether it is a look at the ‘pre’ or ‘post’ Jesus it matters little as what is ‘seen’ is interpreted by the one looking through the lens.

[16] James Carleton Paget, The Cambridge Companion To Jesus (CUP) 2001, P152

[17] N.T Wright, The Challenge of Jesus [SPCK] 2000 P.73

[18]Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in An Age of Controversy. [Kingsway 1998] . Pages 11ff

[19] Without wishing to read too much into Elaine Pagel’s comments, I suggest that the term ‘heretics’ is not being used in the literal sense but rather in a ‘tongue in cheek’ manner.

[20] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979),

[21] I am here referring to the doctrine espoused by cults such as the Mormons, and by  some professing evangelicals who espouse the doctrine of the ‘power of God’  – receiving a special revelation that allows the enlightened one to tap into the ‘force’ of God.

[22] Gnostics are basically those who have, according to them, received ‘knowledge’. Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge – knowledge (according to Gnostics) gained not through intellectual discovery but through personal experience or acquaintance which initiates one into esoteric mysteries. The experience of this gnosis reveals to the initiated the divine spark within. New Testament  ‘gnosis’ on the other hand excludes esotericism and self-deification. It means, rather, to have knowledge of something tangible and not ethereal – knowledge of events rooted in history.

[23] D. Groothuis, The Christian Research Journal. 1990 issue

[24] Obviously this must mean physical resurrection otherwise it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. The reason I say this is that a ‘spiritual/ghostly apparition would hardly have ‘conjured up’ such animated language.

[25] One could presume that the reason was that he had encountered this incredible Christ personally: once on the road to Damascus (Acts 1:9ff) and another time through revelation (2 Corinthians 1:ff).

[26] Not the first born of creation but the first born – son of God who is ‘over creation.’

[27] No contradiction here but a ‘peak’ into the mystery of the triune God.

[28] John 8:58

[29] Wow, the church must be important.

[30] N. T Wright, The Challenge of Jesus (SPCK) 2000;Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus [College Press] 1996 – pages 108,113-114,116,118,119-120

[31] See Groothuis’ quote on page seven and the following nonsensical option:

“Only a few people are aware that Jesus of Nazareth gathered around Himself an inner circle from the large number of His apostles and disciples. They were men and women whom He initiated into the highest laws of life, the Great Cosmic  Teachings. Nothing comparable can be found either in the five great world religions or in Christianity. Jesus  of Nazareth did not pass on this teaching publicly – as He did with the Sermon on the Mount, for instance – and not to all His apostles and disciples either, but only to those who had already earnestly grown in their search for God and in His Spirit. The Great Cosmic Teachings are a jewel of incomparable value for us, revealed through Christ, who comes ever closer to mankind during this time. It is a practical help for life, which touches the reader in the innermost recesses of his soul.” Cosmic Awareness Communications. http://www.transactual.com/cac/cachome.html

[32] D. Groothuis, The Christian Research Journal. 1990 issue

[33] Wright & Borg ,  The Meaning of Jesus; [SPCK] 1999 P.23

[34] Sir Norman Anderson, Christianity And World Religions (IVP) P.134

[35] Pascal – Pensees

[36]  Josh McDowell, Evidence that demands a verdict [CCCI] 1972 P48

[37] Stephen Neill & Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament; (OUP) 1988

[38] R.C Sproul, Mighty Christ Touching Glory,  (Christian Focus Publications) 1995 P.52

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