Tuesday, April 28, 2009

debunking an attempted debunking

MYTH #6: You Must Believe Jesus Is the Son of God To Follow Him.

Now, in debunking this myth I want to direct your attention again to the early disciples. When they first answered the call to follow Jesus, did they believe that Jesus was the Son of God? No!

There are things of interest here. For example, what do we know of what the disciples believed about Jesus when they first started following Him?

I'm not sure how many conclusions we can come to in that, but there are a few. For example, some of John's disciples first started following Jesus when John pointed Him out to them as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world". We also have the account of Peter, the one when he's fishing and they make the huge catch, and Peter's response to Jesus was to ask Him to leave because "I am a sinful man". There is also the fact that John's ministry came first, and it was about one coming after him, and any influence he would have had on those who heard his message, either in person or second-hand.

On the whole, though, I'm not very inclined to take this writer's claim that the disciples had not idea of who Jesus was for a time. There seemed to be more to it than this. In fact, if I remember right, there are places in the Gospel where even the people around are asking about if Jesus would be the Messiah or Christ (though their own expectations of the Messiah were different than what Jesus did).

So, it seems there is reason to think that all around Him at the time thought of Jesus as being somewhat more than "the latest and greatest Rabbi on the religious scene" and "an amazing teacher and example" (from the blog, in another paragraph).

Perhaps more telling are these words from I John

I John 2
21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

I John 4
1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

I John 5
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

There seem to be three stages of following Jesus. FIRST—Jesus is followed because He is so flawless and attractive—unimpeachable. He is the one person who has truly walked the walk and the talk perfectly. No one argues with this. And the disciples believed in Him enough to follow Him. There is nothing wrong with this type of following Jesus at all.

SECOND—Then as you follow this attractive Jesus, you will begin to embrace His lifestyle, teachings and principles and find them to be very practical and meaningful for your life. Following this Jesus just makes sense.

THIRD—Finally, as you continue to follow this Jesus and find His teachings meaningful, you will at some point discover your Creator-God. You will experience transformation of your heart and your mind and see Jesus as the Son of God.

I'm not sure where he can say "no one argues with this". Plenty of people argue with it. They may do so in 'nice' ways--Jesus was a good teacher, a wise guy making pithy sayings, an early socialist stirring up the pot, it's not his fault the early disciples made him a religious figure, very little in the Bible is really what Jesus said and did.

Second, where is anything said in the Bible of "stages of following Jesus"? Rather, by Jesus' own words "those who are not against me are for me". We don't see stages of following Jesus (if by "following Jesus" we mean conversion, which seems to be what the author is saying) at Pentacost, at Cornelius' house, or in the conversion of Saul.

So, wherever you are in this continuum of the stages in following Jesus, ultimately you are seeking and hoping to receive this gift of transformation from God Himself. When you understand this, you then can embrace the fact of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims and even Christians who are followers of Jesus.

I think this is the kicker right here, the a priori end goal of the author's reasoning, the goal towards which he wanted to wend the path of his reasoning--finding some way to say that people in other religions can be "followers of Jesus", even if they don't think of Jesus as being the Messiah.

And I think he is wrong. Even in regards to a Cornelius, who was by the biblical account a good man, he needed to hear the message of Peter and believe in Christ before he was truly right with God.

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