Socrates still makes people uncomfortable. The Oracle of Delphi named him the wisest man in the world. Asked why, Socrates replied that the only way that made any sense was because he understood that he really knew nothing. Knowing how little we know is the first step towards wisdom because it is the first step to teachability, correctability, and taking responsibility for finding out what we don’t know but pretend or delude ourselves that we do.
this all-loving, all-merciful Creator comes to us in Person, even as a human Person, and says, “You can be fully forgiven. Just forgive one another as I forgive you, and accept that if you hold unto me, I’ll see you through into God’s eternal Kingdom.”
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!
Part of Rome’s genius was adoption and adaptation—the ability to absorb and assimilate all comers, repurposing them to serve Rome’s dominant vision as the great civilizer of the world, the great unifier giving everyone equal access to the same gods and guiding principles. The Emperor was the supreme symbol, the creator and maintainer of this unity—the “Saviour of mankind”, the “Son of God” (Jupiter, Zeus, Amon-Ra, Baal, whichever high deity was relevant to the people in question). Every subject and citizen of the Empire owed their final allegiance to the Emperor as the incarnation of Rome’s “genius”, or “Spirit-Guide”.