…everything was up for questioning and the sense of crisis and radical change in values and old patterns pervaded every domain of life, at least in the West. Music, drug shortcuts to temporary nirvana, fashion, moral values, ethics, the sexual revolution accompanied by easily accessible and usable birth control, government turmoil, the threat of nuclear annihilation, brutal war (Vietnam) waged in full Technicolor on TV, and civic disorder and violence seemed to confirm the diagnosis of the end of the old world and the desperate need for a new way of doing things at every level.
He said that his followers needed to be different from all this—to be like him! Everything he brought to the table as a new way, a Third Way, was bound up in knowing him and following him. It was not about a new set of rules or a new philosophical insight, or even a different way of performing religious rituals and routines—or not performing them, for that matter. He elucidated and illuminated what they already knew, declaring that the scriptures spoke about him. As we have said before, it will not do to confine him to being a sort of nice, peacenik guru saying “All you need us love, so stop being selfish and nasty.”
If Christ were not truly risen, his followers would long ago have abandoned his teaching, for it was centred on his own mission and identity as God’s final answer to humanity’s estrangement from the Creator, from one another, from our own true selves, and from the Creation we were made to care for and watch over as its intended caretakers. And if those followers had not been doing his works and were to cease now from doing them, however inadequately they have been done and are being done now, the human condition would be immeasurably worse and more hopeless.
The records as we have them certainly point to Jesus claiming divine status. As to “proof”, we must acknowledge that the Gospels in themselves do not satisfy everyone, especially in a culture now immured in scepticism. Those who accept the Gospel accounts are a dwindling minority of people. Now, when actual historical and archeological research is affirming their substance more and more, after hundreds of years of systematic (and often spurious) deconstruction and relegation to the “religious” sphere, they are seldom admitted into the rank of truly reliable historical source-documents.
Citing eye-witnesses who had nothing to gain by lying, and in fact risked their lives to testify that Jesus resurrected,Christians and the Christian Church have declared since the very first that Jesus really and absolutely died on that cross, but did not stay dead! Thirty-Six hours later, he was alive again, and he is still alive, with a real physical body, to this day. No human agency participated in his resurrection in any way. And, Christians say, he will remain alive forever.
… it very much appears that after all this enormous expenditure of scholarly energy and resources, those very sources have stood up against all of this scrutiny and profound scepticism. They have come through substantially verified and validated in great detail. How are we then to maintain with integrity this posture of automatic dismissal and ridicule of Jesus and his claims about himself as outlined in those very sources? How are we to, with integrity, summarily to discard the Jesus Movement now called Christianity which is founded on faith in those claims?
To be able to give the Gospel accounts a fair hearing, we have to do two things: (1) recognize our own operative worldview-paradigm for what it is, along with its limitations, and (2) understand, at least to some extent, the context in which the Biblical stories happened, including the operative worldview-paradigms of that time and culture.
For Christians and Christianity, it all boils down to Jesus. And as to this faith’s founder, it all boils down to a series of “True or False” and “Yes or No” questions. Theoretically, this should make Christianity a basically simple faith to discredit, if that is the agenda a questioner is adopting, as so many have since the 18th Century. And what should make it even easier to discredit this particular candidate for “most probable true story” is that its most basic elements are historically based, or at least purport to be. Just prove its history is false, and voila!
The eruption of this Jesus-character into time-space is a most unwelcome distraction which must be contained within the operant “laws” of proven science and reason. He is tremendously inconvenient. It is actually impossible to overstate how inconvenient he is. He was even then, two thousand years ago. After all, that is why the powers-that-be of that day took so much trouble to remove him.
Without creating a tiresome list, let it be said that the historical facts are ample to verify that this person, Jesus of Nazareth, really lived and died in the early first century CE in the Roman province of Palestine. Contrary to the egregious and facile declarations of too many even quite well-educated people (I’ve even encountered a Ph.D. or two who have said this kind of thing), there are sufficient sources outside the New Testament, the primary Christian documents about Jesus, to verify his life and death in historical time and place. And it must be pointed out that these “extra-Biblical” sources are, almost without exception, hostile to both Jesus and Christians.