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When the ideal became real

Jesus and Mary
Detail of Passion of Jesus Christ at Sacred Heart Church. |

It’s amazing what ridiculous things supposedly smart people say.

Speaking about the person of Jesus, philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell said the following in a lecture, which was captured in his book entitled Why I am not a Christian: “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we know nothing about him.” 

Physicist Lawrence Krauss asserted the same thing years ago during a series of three debates held in Australia with William Lane Craig. Krauss started by arguing in the first debate that Jesus never lived and was only a manufactured copy of pagan god myths such as Osiris. However, after Craig pummeled Krauss with the historical data on Jesus’ life, he cried uncle in the third debate and conceded that Jesus was a historical figure.

Krauss learned through Craig’s tutelage what Dr. Bruce Metzger wrote years ago: “Today no competent scholar denies the historicity of Jesus.”

So why do some educated people want to deny Jesus’ existence? More than a few will say it’s because of all the miracles and lofty claims about His person that are woven into the Gospel narratives.  

A human-only Jesus that was born out of wedlock in a no-name town, rose to some fame as a moral teacher, got into trouble with the authorities, and was put to death during the governorship of Pontius Pilate? No problem, because that’s proven history.

But an eternal Jesus that was divinely conceived here on earth, fulfilled about 100 historical prophecies written hundreds of years earlier about His life, took away the sin of His people while dying on a cross, rose from the dead, and is God incarnate? Problem, because that’s the Gospel.

It shouldn’t be a problem, though, if God exists.  As C. S. Lewis wrote: “But if we admit God, must we admit miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain.”

Lewis also did away with the idea that Jesus was a myth conceived by fanciful thinkers who dreamt up false deities like the Greek and Roman gods. In his essay, “When Myth Became Fact,” he said: “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences … By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.”

The question of miracles aside, I think many skeptics have trouble with Jesus because of one thing: He seems too good to be true.

When God came down

But Jesus isn’t too good to be true. Instead, He’s exactly what we were hoping for.

All the myths of mankind's primitive religions were expressions of a soulish yearning that climaxed in Christ. Namely, that the mysterious transcendent Creator we know is there would come into intimate contact with us.

And more than just appear, He would show us His perfection in many ways, going even so far as to repair the damages we’ve made to His creation and ourselves. In doing so, He would grant humanity a kind of safety and security that would last forever.

So, Christ, rather than being one myth alongside many others, is thus the fulfillment of all past and current mythological religions. Tim Keller says that “In the incarnation, the ideal became real, the absolute became particular, and the invisible became visible.”

But the story gets better. History’s Perfect Man promises that we will eventually be like Him where soulish and moral perfection is concerned.

Such assurance isn’t pie-in-the-sky and devoid of convincing evidence. Christ’s resurrection occurred in our own space-time history and is the definitive proof that what He says will happen. Listen to what His Word tells us on this point:

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5).

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body … Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:41-44, 49).

“When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col 3:4).

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Why does all this matter?

Maybe you’re hurting right now, tired from the pain caused by your own mistakes, which somehow keep repeating themselves and you want more than ever to be free of them. I hear you.

If you’re a glass-half-full person, you can look to Christ’s first coming and accomplishments and realize that, being born again, you can “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If you’re a glass-half-empty individual struggling with your sanctification, you look forward to Christ’s second coming where He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5) including you, with a resurrected body that’s free of sin.

Either way, one day, you and I both will be able to permanently “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb 12:1) when His ideal becomes real in our lives. Now that’s something to look forward to! 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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