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FROM ROCK BOTTOM TO CELESTIAL LIGHT
A PRACTICAL CONVERSATION
What do you make of Jesus Christ ? ... the conversation turned suddenly to this topic of religion, as the submarine bored intensively, probing in the black waters of the deep.
The Son of God.
I wish you wouldn't be so definite: explore a bit, as we do with the submarine, came Bill's reply.
At that moment, Robert noticed that a looming mass of waving fronds and strange, ill-defined movements embraced the submarine in a velocity dampening hug from which it just escaped before thrusting witlessly into rock: it was so close!
Exploration, he said, as the monitor showed better sights, is all very well if it is disciplined and well-conceived. Otherwise it takes only one error to be lost ... as we nearly were just then.
Certainly, Bill deferred. But what discipline IS there in religion ? I have never met any. The World Council of Churches does not even bother to make the most rudimentary of checks on the credentials of members who can believe almost anything so long as they make a couple of verbal concessions; new Jesuses pop up in all sorts of countries, even the Jews sporting some new recently deceased 'messiah', while ideologies spread a trail of death, and have done so with increasing vigour in the last century, as if there REAL mission were to reduce population explosion.
You have the same in medicine, retorted Robert. Quacks enough are around to make ducks seem in vogue; they appear to arise with every sort of herbal cure and vitamin success story, new methods, age to be reduced or removed as a critical factor for death, you name it. Does that mean that medicine is a lout, a relaxed kind of nostrum, bogus ?
No, of course not, responded Bill. Well, let's hear it. I can see you're bursting to 'share' something. Full steam ahead, but to use your own warning, don't imagine there are no rocks in your listener as you rush on.
I would never be duped into believing such a thing! smiled Robert. Now listen.
WHAT DO I make of Jesus Christ ? That was YOUR question a little time ago.
Yes, chuckled Bill, but I didn't mean for you to TELL me, just to prattle on a bit in an inconsequential little verbal jaunt, you know, the way people do.
I know indeed. Imagine the death rate if doctors did that - although I must confess reading some almost unbelievable stats recently, to the effect that, in Australia, annual medical error accounts for deaths in the ten thousand category of magnitude.
Yes, it's true, we need a bit of discipline. I'll suffer some. Go ahead. Answer me then.
I have told you who I believe He is: the Son of God, unique as God is. My reason is simple. There is no other explanation.
You see one begins to wake up when one looks at the record which no one in two thousand years has ever come close to rationally dismissing, and which has stood in front of the maximal motivation of the Jewish nation, to name only one, to dismember it, for it does not reflect well on them, and OH HOW they have been made to suffer for it by misguided zealots! 'Scholars' by the dump-truck full have 'had a go' for thousands of years, and at times they rise to the surface with much bubbling and effervescence and turmoil of the waters of the sea of people, but in the end they just sink lifeless, like an exhausted swimmer.
He flicked to Ch. 6 of SMR which he happened to have been reading, and to Ch.3, showing some of the illustrations, sketched the options there provided concerning Christ, looked at the topics of scepticism and cynicism, explored them, and showed that there was simply no even slightly plausible explanation of the events and the record, and the historical facts of Christianity's birth which had any other approach than one, that Christ was telling the truth.
What if, asked Bill, someone stole the body in order to embarrass the Roman authorities by making it appear that Christ had really risen, and so cause some revenge for their rule over the subject nation of Israel ? Wouldn't that be possible on the resurrection scene ?
Not really. You see there are obstacles procedural, political and religious that are insuperable to that concoction. First, the guards. With the death penalty looming, what reward is sufficient to induce exposure of the neck! Second, with the MASSIVE social unrest and MAXIMAL political danger in view of Pilate's intervention, and its all too typical ruthless style, there was a tension which would scarcely help survival if one were caught in any such enterprise; while failure for ANY reason on ANY occasion was deadly and lethal enough for anyone wanting to fail in keeping such a cargo as this Christ, in view of the unrest associated.
But EVEN IF the guards were to a man reckless about life, debonair about merely lethal situations (like someone failing to have security of the most minimal sort working at the Olympic Games), what could they expect with the double and AWFUL wrath of the governor and the priests, either of whom would be mortified that their own escapade with injustice and murder was not only a nocturnal fraud, but an exposed sensation, drawing unwelcome attention. It would be suicide.
Yet EVEN IF the guards were, as it happened, a squad of suicide seekers, a sort of Jonesville group by some remarkable coincidence, people who did not cut their own throats by some oversight, we still have the problem that their story of being asleep did NOT lead to their execution. That in itself is more than odd. It betokens craft. For what ? A cover up. Of what ? A resurrection. What else ? That's what it was all about.
As to the sponsors of such an imaginary operation who would be paying the guards, they would need to be unbelievers, as shown in SMR Ch.6, and then they could not believe in the power of God being on their side in order for Rome to be embarrassed. For if there WERE a resurrection - and that is the only EMBARRASSING situation for Rome, according to the idea being pushed here with me, then well, it would be upsetting to the establishment. But THAT would require evidence, power, operations to indicate its reality, like appearances to the disciples, eating and being available for probes of the wounds and so on. That would not happen if there were not resurrection. The explosion could not happen if there no certainty that it happened. There COULD be no certainty therefore if it did not, and no result unless it did.
Of course, you also ASSUME that the people who paid, on this theory, were insane, and had no rational concepts about anything. We are getting in sci-fi of course, but suppose they were mad, and the guards suicidal to a man, loving the worst of all possible situations with irresistible lust for death. Even at that, you have the problem of the priests and Pilate, no redeeming THEIR situation by making scape-goats of the delinquent guards: not only because of the Roman discipline about such failures, in keeping with tradition, but because it was so obvious that IF they were REALLY asleep and THUS disciples happily moved the boulder away and they still did not HAPPEN to awake in its near vicinity, they COULD not have known.
It was obvious that this was an EXPLANATION based on delinquency and hope. How could it be accepted that they slept through a theft, and then had the power to state what had happened! People are not all dumb, and it seems such hypotheses as this one can proceed on no other basis than this, that the priests and Pilate WANTED to be mocked for folly, by seeming to believe such a thing. Of course, granted the worst had happened, that would be a small price to pay rather than face the resurrection! Indeed, what else to do…and many would feel much the same. But outside that devastating fact, such an action would not even measure up to the defective mentality of Pooh-bear in Christopher Robin.
If anything would ever smell of total cover-up, that would. An impossible story, literally impossible, being accepted concerning what happened after one of the most prodigious anti-humane and illegal activities of all time, done to the most startling person in history, and sealed up on one dark night, only to be followed by another, when an unobserved theft is the answer to the fulfilment of what both the Old Testament (SMR loc.cit.) and the Christ had been busy for years in declaring WOULD HAPPEN!
And are we then to assume that PILATE
and the PRIESTS alike had lost all survival instinct! If ANYTHING was true
of both, it would seem this would be among the first entrants. Survival
of the nation was a major ground of the removal of Christ - it was, said
the high priest, expedient that one man should die for the people. Obviously,
Rome could not be annoyed with would-be kings, as the chanting made clear
at the time just before the resurrection. It could prove costly for the
subject nation, the Jews.
(The Magnificence of the Messiah, Appendix IV, End-note *1, in Biblical Blessings, and Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Chs. 5- 6 with SMR pp. 931ff. are also useful here.)
Don't worry about truth, the self-preservation philosophy goes, be concerned about the precise number of years your protoplasm will stick around on this earth. THAT is very important. So kill Christ, and keep up appearances. To fail to do the latter was as absurd a postulate for anyone with Pilate's incredibly evil record, as that 2+2=0. It would be to make sure, when the roar of the engines lifted the plane in which you were a passenger off the ground, that you believed you were submerging at that instant in a submarine. It is not only ludicrous; it is irrational with the wings of a dove.
But even if all this wild dream happened to be at all true in any respect (and it has to be in all respects), you still have the little problem that the supposedly insane payers of the guards, with their supposedly uniform suicidal desire, so far thwarted but to be implemented on that particular night, and the supposedly face lifted Pilate and priests, suddenly changing character to that of witless artisans of their own disaster ... do not really fall as one but as two. BOTH parties are to suffer. But if ROME was to suffer, this is killing the enemy and the friend alike. But of course, if you want to assume total irrationality of plan, so that the very essence of your hypothesis about what really happened on that Saturday night and early Sunday morning when Christ rose, is that every plan and every procedure is wholly inane, you can.
It is just that the people being conceived of, the instigators, however insane, can scarcely hold that the whole point is to make it appear that someone has risen, who has not done so, so that the power of God, which is supposed NOT to be with Him in the first place, can operate to make people believe He has risen, even when it is PRECISELY that power which led to the whole eruption of hate and envy, pride and murder.
How can the power of God Almighty operate if He were not to be there; and how if the Christ were not true; and thus a double negative does NOT here make a positive. Two wholly negative features in succession merely reinforce each other. No God, then no power. No power then no way to show the resurrection. Or even if some god or other were believed to be operative, then no authenticity in Christ, no power from such a god; and if no power, no result, no flotation of embarrassment for Rome. Only the Creator has the power of life and death, reversals, and without Him, you fail.
Even the desperado notion of a lying creator does not work logically. He has no need of fabrication, in such a case, the physical fabrication, not the mental one, being to the point; and the resurrection being a mere work of power. Indeed, since to lie with the omnipotent God, would be to deny His own works, it would indicate mere sub-system not God, since He cannot be at war with Himself, words and actions in conflict, having nothing fixed with which to war, and being in charge of all things. A divided mind even, this too is impossible, as it would mean a given thing, and from whom ? but if He wanted a divided mind, then He would want to defy Himself, and hence would be in the grip of a double personality, the source of which doublet would need to be sought. In the end, there is God and His is truth. There is no other. You cannot HAVE it any other way.
What is more: In the presence of HUMAN LIES, and fraudulence, incestuous misuse of the truth as if it were a play-thing, verbal 'conquests' of reality in commerce, domestic life, philosophy, politics, there is merely the absolute certainty that He has spoken to the world that He suffers, and waits till the time is complete for His program, in terms of that speech. That is readily verified in the Bible.
Oh come on Robert, said Bill, you are holding forth as if the skies were falling and we had only talk left. Anyway, what if it is all ridiculous, and I must say it is, well it is there.
Not at all, said Robert. That is where it isn't. Assume as much madness as you like, and you still do not not in fact GET a raised body, for insanity does not include that sort of thing in its practices and arts! If no risen body, then no conviction, no conviction, no social result, no embarrassment for Caesar, and incidentally, no Christian religion.
What if they duped themselves ?
As I read in SMR, the grieving relatives do not normally imagine that the corpse of the dear departed is risen, and that hence grief is irrelevant, joy is normal, power of God is to be expected in their own lives, mourning is irreverent, red and not black is the dress material of choice, and radiant song is the rapturous result. Let alone a new religion.
What if all the disciples were mad too ?
It seems we are creating a total mad-house for all players; and that is a good way, really, come to think of it, of showing the rational invalidity of your hypothesis. It needs all players stark, raving insane.
Yes, I suppose you are right. Anyway, does it matter ?
Not if life does not matter. Are you too in a suicidal mood ?
Oh religion, it is not really life; it is just a sort of ethics, morals, way of filling in our own lack of self-sufficiency with some blank. No one really takes it seriously. It is more a sort of game. I admit my idea was silly, but who cares! It's fun when you're bored.
I am not bored, said Robert. The concept of religion as a game may be quite true of insane people, in certain cases, of cynics who having despised all things and despaired of life, play life as a game, the way some do with stocks and shares because they have given up on all ideas about life as having any value. That is a mood, and the only way to make it objectively true would be to KNOW the value of life, and the only way to do that would be to KNOW objective truth, and the only way you could do that would be for there to BE objective truth, and the only way for you to know what that was, would be for it to EXIST and be PERSONAL so that it could SHOW you beyond your limits and dispositions and warpings, what it REALLY was; and the only way for that is for God to be. And when that is admitted, the only way it could be a game would be if HE said it was. For that, there is the direct opposite of evidence. Madness is the way. Madness is however not knowledge.
You know, Robert, I wonder if you actually enjoy this sort of thing. All right, suppose religion is not all, always farce. What is it then ?
It is one thing or nothing of value. It is the word of God or it is such a combination of psychological, social and moral quiddities - you know, some thing or others - that it is unworthy of spittle.
Now with THAT, I agree.
All right then, we agree on something: this is PROGRESS.
Sure, like that of the shark we just missed. That's the biggest one I have ever seen.
That makes a good point. We need to progress in the right direction, otherwise it is regress.
Sure. Go on then.
We now try to EXPLAIN rationally, and not on the universal insanity proposition, what DID happen. There is positive side to investigate. The disciples DID make a complete turn around, they DID very shortly report the resurrection, after being thoroughly convinced (like fishermen, there is the content of the net to consider, not dreams), and made one of the most calamitous denunciations of the assassins you could ever wish, yet it was not vindictive, for they acknowledged their ignorance with a generosity of spirit almost inconceivable. Wilful ignorance may be ignorant, but it is not guiltless.
Yes, I know Robert: that speech of Peter's at Pentecost, and the stuff he handed to them about obeying God rather than man, and their having killed the Prince of Peace. It took courage. If that were the question, I would acknowledge it, give the nod without any caution at all!
The people of Jerusalem would be in an excellent position to know whether or not the actions of this Christ HAD IN FACT been full of the good deeds and miraculous results both claimed by the speakers in these various instances (Acts 2:22ff., 3:11ff., 4:10FF., 7:51-52), and to dismiss such thoughts (Acts 10:38) wherever they arose, by simple denial and mockery as peoples interspersed; as likewise to know whether the actual deeds matched the requirements of the Old Testament for the Messiah - if the Jesus Christ was to be He (SMR loc.cit., John 11:48-52*1, and pp. 755ff., 788). If so, then well, it fits, and the insanity is a misfit, and the reasoned result is bodily resurrection. If not, then the people knowing these lying frauds were merely ignorant fools, do NOT believe and the religion founded on manifest pretence about something someone DID NOT DO, as the basis for belief, a thing He was publicly KNOWN not to have done, does NOT happen.
But of course, it did... I get you Robert.
Did! It captured the whole Roman Empire after showing the pertinacity and the audacity and the kindness and the reliability of several hundred years of testing with torture and massive death, including the not so strikingly kind but flashily false accusations of Nero. No one had seen such things in the whole of religion, whether in the Master or in the disciples. And of course, then it comes in, the gospel is as Isaiah predicted it would be, the Gentiles believe it as Isaiah predicted they would, the Jews are whipped into destruction as Moses foretold and Isaiah in 65, and the whole of world history goes on till the present, when all the things Christ said come to their final culmination in this Age (SMR Chs. 8- 9).
But isn't this a bit much, to pin it all on one little human being, even if He is called Jesus Christ.
There is ONE GOD, but He is not so little. If He chooses to announce as He did in the Bible, for a thousand years and more, all the crucial events that He was going to do and to tell the Jews that THIS WAS what He was doing (that is, telling them what He was going to do - as in Amos 3:7, Isaiah 41,48), and then DOES it, that is not so little. It is as big as the creator of the universe, for ONE single error in foreknowledge by system, would throw ALL the rest, and make a mess of long range forecasts, like space ships off course at one point without intervention possible, in a program mapped out to the end from the first, before take-off.
Man is a strange creation. He IS so little, but can think and love so much. One little man can do the background for the atomic bomb, in basic respects! Sure he had help, but without him ? You cannot predict inventions, let alone on this scale. Just one little one. One little man can have 6 millions Jews killed in astounding exhibitions of cruelty and inhumanity, and have millions serve him in the process. Man has been made by one who is not little, indeed who made space as a creation, so that all of its glory is only a thought of His put into practice (look at that in - That Magnificent Rock Ch.7 esp. section F). But you see those other little things called words, even smaller than man, but capable of REPRESENTING things of the most MAGNITUDE as they are symbols to point to any sphere, however great and powerful, they are in view too. Power, symbols and sentences … we do it ourselves at our own level, creation. Of course we have the creative equipment, but God infinitely more so.
When you survey as SMR 1-3 does, the whole of creation you can logically come to only one conclusion: GOD. When you survey the Bible, you can come to only one conclusion, it fits the facts as nothing else does, and does not change in so doing, over millenia. It fits and only fits God. When you examine the history of the thing, you find it always wins. When you come to the history of Christ, you find it given in enormous testable detail for a thousand years ahead, and in all cases hundreds, and this includes the death date (SMR pp. 886ff.). Thus you get from Christ to the resurrection, from Christ to world history, from Christ to God, from God to the Bible, and from the Bible to the only logical way in which thoughts of any kind about truth can stand up. It not only points to absolute truth as available, but then gives evidence to confirm it to be actual. If there were not any, not one of our words would be rational or valid. But neither of us believe that. At least we are not mad.
And God, He does not suffer all this contradiction of the facts He made, including the facts of Himself, by liars who breach His principles. He has a remedy, and the world attests two things: it does not in general like it, and it looks like that being the case. This too, it fits. The world is a misfit and acts like it. It will not fit in with God. It will have to face what it does fit.
You know Robert, said Bill. It is time we surfaced.
Yes, we have been long enough probing in the dark. The light is clear, and I should rather live in it, wouldn't you ?
But my dear Bill, I DO live in the light, said Robert.
Then since this is a fictitious conversation about absolute reality, why don't we surface just to fulfil the spirit of the thing...
Fictitious conversation ?
You know, the sort that doesn't really happen.
But this IS happening.
But it did.
Oh yes, I see: we have to get used to realising that we are so blind that it is precisely what our tired little minds, captured by culture, try to IMAGINE cannot be real, which is.
Precisely. This is no fictitious
conversation, but let's surface anyway. It would be symbolically satisfying.
And so saying, they did. At that time, the return of Christ was happening, as things moved from Him as alpha towards the omega station, for they had been moving in that direction for a long and sufficient time and the time had come; so they were abstracted from their sea stations and went to the 'marriage feast of the Lamb' which is in heaven, and precedes the return of Christ with His saints. It is also a great place to be when the earth departs (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:34) as it will. They were timely in their conversation.
Are you with yours ?
The High Priest's dictum about it being expedient for one man to die for the people, as the way to 'solve' the 'problem' that all the people might begin to flock more and more to Christ, to the One who could raise the dead, following Lazarus' resurrection, is perhaps one of the greatest ironies in all history.
It WAS in a sense true, but NOT the sense the priest held in mind. It WOULD liberate the Jews (those of them who should believe in the victim-sacrifice Christ, and so were delivered from endless animal sacrifices and all the paraphernalia of preparatory symbols); and it WAS expedient indeed that the sacrifice should be enabled to pay the price of sin, for all who would avail themselves of it, His blood being by His OWN statement, to be shed "for many".
The expedients of HELL became the expedient, yes more, the determination and resolve of heaven, the one to PREVENT truth and the other to OFFER it, since the offering of Him who was and IS the truth, become and ONLY way in which ever for any sinner whatsoever (Colossians 1:19ff.), to receive it!
Fancy hell contriving by its blind follies to execute not only Christ, the Messiah, but the sacrificial victim through whom alone salvation would ever be found, and in whose victory would be its own ultimate and incredibly awful defeat (cf. I Corinthians 2:8)!