Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

17 May 2010

"Those" nutty Christians / Liar, Lunatic or Lord

Marci McDonald's "The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada" is getting a TON of attention right now. People ranging from schmoes on street to major international media are talking about it. Some agree with her alarmist hypothesis. Some call it preposterous horse-pucky.

What I personally find the most amusing is the one thing that both sides agree on, (media-wise) is that the Christians at the center of the argument... are nuts. It's either, "Those nutty Christians REALLY ARE having an influence on our nation's policy. Let's stop them." Or it's, "There is no way those nutty Christians are actually being taken seriously. No need to stop them".

So the one thing people can agree is the lunacy of those people who are being vocal about Jesus. Or so says the media. The sanity of Jesus-people... and Jesus Himself have been questioned for centuries. It's not new. The difference that is catching people by surprise now is that the Canadian versions are starting to speak up. And that is making people uncomfortable... partially because it brings JESUS into the public forum, and many are uncomfortable doing that (or having others do it for them). It's understandable really. Jesus is an extremely controversial fella. You see... He claimed to be GOD. Few (OK none) who have claimed that have stood the test of time.

I often think of the "trilemma" argument of Jesus Christ's divinity. In short... "Mad, Bad, or God". Mark Hopkins in 1844 was the earliest recorded to articulate it, followed by John Duncan around 1860 who wrote:

"Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable."

More recently, CS Lewis translated it this way in Mere Christianity:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."

I understand that the division of church and state concept was intended to "protect" both from each other... but the idea that life can be compartmentalized is this manner is a fairy tale. A very unhealthy fairy tale at that. Like Hansel and Gretel. Weird.

If Jesus was indeed the actual, literal, physical and spiritual Son of God... and if His parting words to the world before He took His seat at the right hand of His Father were as they were recorded in Mark16 were...

"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well... Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."

... then we should darn well do that. Even it's some weird, wild stuff.

Those disciples weren't afraid of much after that. In Acts, the promised Holy Spirit made them pretty bold actually since they then had the same power that raised Jesus from the dead living in them. They did what Jesus said, and miracles happened. Aaaaaaand most of them were murdered because of it. Think about this for a second. If it's all real... then this is literal... not figurative. It's a pretty all or nothing deal.

They were considered politically unsafe too, but The Message that Jesus specially requested they make THE priority in life took precedence to political correctness or safety.

According to an April 2009 survey, much to the media's chagrin, Canada DOES still have a belief in the Christian God.

The survey, conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National, found roughly six in 10 Canadians (58 per cent) identified the country as Christian. Among those who believe in God, 61 per cent think Canada is a Christian nation, while fully 48 per cent of non-believers feel that way.

Although the poll found just 58 per cent of Canadians ``definitely believe in God'' - down from 64 per cent in 2003 - Hexham believes we're nonetheless a country with ``very strong Christian ties.''

It's quite possible that the average Canadian is NOT as alarmed about there being a Christian voice in Ottawa as the media says. I mean good-heavens. People committed to loving their neighbor as themselves. Shudder.

Again... the difference is... that there is a new wave of young, passionate Christians who are becoming bolder. It doesn't mean they are nuts or scary, although it SHOULD make those who like the status quo nervous. They are actually acting more like the Christians Jesus taught than we've seen in the great white north for some time.

If Jesus really was Lord as opposed to a Liar or a Lunatic... then doncha think He has an opinion about how He'd like our country to be? The Biblical God has always allowed Kings and Kingdoms to come and go as He saw fit. Nations, Kingdoms and their leaders that honored God prospered. Those that didn't... didn't.

The Bible says that in our era of life and time... CHRIST IN ME IS THE HOPE OF GLORY. This is a charge that shouldn't be taken lightly. It should motivate us to work for change.

Jesus has been a public issue for 2000 years. It's not new. And we are STILL forced to decide how we're going to deal with him.

or Lord?


Jeff said...

Well, I commented on your previous post, so I might as well comment on this one as well :)

I might first point out that scholars disagree on whether Jesus actually claimed to be God or not. Obviously Christianity has eventually come to the idea that he is, but most of the claims to divinity are found in John's gospel, which was written fairly late. In addition, there were definitely major branches of early Christianity that specifically did not believe that Jesus was God - something that would not be nearly as likely to happen had Jesus explicitly stated that he was God. Moreover, many of the references to things like "son of God" are Jewish expressions that didn't necessarily mean that the person was divine - they usually just referred to a righteous person. So unfortunately, it's not good enough to just take a plain reading of the gospels and come to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be divine. Like I said, scholars who spend their life's work looking at these issues are divided on it.

It's also funny that you quote Mark 16, seeing as that is one of the most well-known examples of non-original material in the New Testament. In most of the earliest manuscripts, verses 9-20 are absent from the ending of Mark. Again, there's significant debate over this by scholars, but you'll find that the majority accept that the longer ending of Mark is not original to the document, but was added later. That's why in most Bibles you will find that section bracketed off or a note saying that it doesn't appear in the earliest and best manuscripts (go ahead, go check your Bible now). It's typically put in there because otherwise people would wonder where it was...

Anyway, I agree to a certain extent that trying to compartmentalize church and state is perhaps idealistic. But as a country with a strong focus on pluralism and multiculturalism, it's clearly important. Think about it - what if, instead of Christianity being in the majority, it was Islam? Would you still be okay with religious influences in the government? Maybe some Sharia law, or an edict declaring that all pork products are off-limits? Or tax breaks given to mosques but not churches? The separation of church and state is important because of the religious diversity that exists. And yes, politicians that are religious might find some conflict of interest involved. But keeping the government secular (not endorsing any specific religion) keeps the discussion focused on arguments based on reason, rather than "My holy book says so, therefore you have to follow it." That only works if everyone agrees that the book is holy.

It also depends on how you define "Christian nation." If you think of it as a nation that is populated by Christians, then fine. But if you think of it as a nation that explicitly endorses Christianity, or supports a certain denomination (like the Anglican church in England, for example), or has Christianity mentioned in the Constitution of the country, then NO, Canada is absolutely not a Christian nation by any means. That's regardless of what public opinion polls say people think Canada is.

Anyway, sorry for such a long response. I suppose I just completely disagree with you :) If you, or other Christians, want to work for change, that's completely up to you. It's your right as citizens. But the government is required to be run according to Constitutional principles, and the Supreme Court is there to ensure that happens. So anything that is non-secular is apt to be challenged and struck down. However, anything that you can appeal to on a rational, reasonable basis that makes the country better is absolutely fine by me. That's where the strength of a pluralistic democracy lies.

Have a good one!

Patrick Ross said...

Certainly, you couldn't think that "liar, lunatic or lord" can be the only three options in deciding how to judge Jesus Christ.

How about "liar, lunatic, lord, or visionary"?

Speaking as a religious person, I don't believe that humanity was granted free will so that we could surrender it in a wholesale fashion to any lord, divine or otherwise.

Dave Carrol said...

I guess part of point is Jeff... that politicians are listening because people in a democratic nation are speaking it to them right now... because they do believe it whether you've deduced that it's not real.

Yes I did know that about that scripture in Mark... but those ideas that Jesus said there are not uncommon with the rest of scripture. It's quite safe to say that it's not out of line with the rest of the Bible.

My buddy at "Jesus needs new PR" posted a video today of angry atheist/comedian Bill Maher called "Bill Maher hates even nice atheists"


It's funny because he makes the liar, lunatic or lord argument (more or less) to a liberal christian talking about a pluralist method to God. He says, "No... Jesus says I am the way". And I think it's an important thing to remember.

I'm also quite aware of our multicultural society... and I think it SHOULD equal free speech for all parties and beliefs. Really do.

But the "scary" label is absolutely ridiculous that is being attached to Christians who dare to speak aggressively. It's not uncommon for anyone who represents an issue or POV to speak loudly to influence policy/public opinion in any area of society let alone politically.

I'm not saying I like the way every Christian chooses to communicate this passion. But I'm saying that spirituality and what people believe about God effects EVERYTHING. To deny it, is to be untruthful to ourselves. It also cuts out an very important part of societal life.

And like it or not... IF it's real... why wouldn't Christians speak up even if it's not political correct? IF it was true and you didn't... how could you live with yourself when it's all said and done. And the reality is that there are MANY more who do believe it than is reported or commonly thought-of.

Patrick Ross said...

Jesus says "I am the way and the light".

But he's been dead for such a long time that the path has been obscured.

Jesus is now a light in the historical distance. That light is an example for Christians to strive to follow.

Free will leaves choosing the path up to us. And while Jesus has effectively left us sign posts along the way (speaking metaphorically, of course), we are meant to seek our path.

(I'm sure by now you can tell that I'm more of a CS Lewis Christian.)

Jeff said...

Lol, well I hardly think Bill Maher is a great example of someone who knows the intricacies of either biblical scholarship or theology. I found his movie Religulous pretty entertaining, but it certainly wasn't close to an in-depth discussion of biblical hermeneutics. But I wouldn't expect that from a comedian. However, there are certainly others (religious and non-religious) who point out flaws in C.S. Lewis and his trilemma. The one I find most forceful is the idea that Jesus might not have in fact claimed to be God at all. You gotta admit that if that were true, it's got some pretty big implications...

But anyway, so it sounds as though we agree that free speech is important. Phew! And I do agree that the only way to live a consistent Christian life is to allow Christian beliefs to affect all areas of life. However, that takes us into tricky territory, distinguishing between living one's life consistently and not forcing others to live their lives according to your own beliefs, opinions, etc. Keeping the government secular, at least in theory, resolves that. Putting theory into practice is a challenge for the politicians.

Anyway, I'll just mention that Canada tends to be fairly secular - even though we have a large percentage of religious people. We're somewhere in between the US and most of Europe. So when quoting statistics about such-and-such percent being Christian or believing in God, it's important to keep in mind that likely the majority of those think of religion as being a private affair - something that shouldn't affect public policy at all. You may agree or disagree with that, but the point is that the statistics don't really help make your point. Some of the believers you try to draw on for support may disagree with you as well about the influence that Christians should have on government.

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