One of the discussion questions for my book is this:
Do you think Yeshua's resurrection could actually have happened? What might be the implications if it were true?
People give varying answers. Even some who call themselves *Christian* tell me (when I ask) that it wouldn't make a difference if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, because he taught such beautiful and timeless doctrines.
I always follow up with the question: have you read the book of John to understand what Jesus actually said?*
We all ponder the nature of God, I think -- it is something inborn. While this is obviously an oversimplification, I believe there are several broad categories of *who/what* God might be:
Atheism: there is no god. All things came about through blind natural forces. There is no meaning.
Pantheism: the god-force is in and around and through everything. All things are made up of the god-stuff, because there is nothing else. In other words, we are all god.
Deism: God exists and is separate from the rest of things. Deists sometimes believe that two equal forces (good/evil) are in perpetual opposition.
Monotheism: God is separate from His creation. He created all things, including Satan/Shaitan/the Devil, and is the ultimate power in the universe. Monotheism includes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Christians believe that God is Holy. His standards are so overwhelmingly perfect that no one is able to meet them (Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God). Jesus is fully God and fully man, and died as a sacrifice so that we may be with God in Heaven. There is deep theology in what I've said that I cannot go into here; people spend lifetimes exploring these mysteries. The essence of Christianity, however, can be wrapped up in one verse:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Some people who believe they follow Jesus actually have a pantheistic view of the world: everything is god, who flows out and around and through all things. They are therefore god as well. There is no need for a sacrifice and repentance, because there is nothing ultimately wrong or evil. For these people, Jesus' death and possible resurrection are inconsequential -- his teachings alone are what matter.
This is why I challenge people to read John. Jesus came out of a monotheistic culture, and clearly declared himself to be God -- the great I AM -- the Jehovah YHWH separate monotheistic God, -- and the rest of us humans are excluded. His teachings were permeated with this monotheistic understanding and clear declarations that he was different. He was ultimately executed because of these claims.
Every person is free to decide the theological principles on which he will base his life, whether pantheist, atheist, monotheist or nothing at all. However, it is NOT fair to change the basic understanding of a doctrine, whatever that doctrine may be. It is not fair to put words into anyone's mouth.
If the resurrection did not occur, it is perhaps the cruelest and most farflung hoax ever committed. But if it is true, it is THE central fact of human existence. It is certainly the central fact of Christianity. As Paul puts it:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead...And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins...If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
(1 Corinthians 15:14, 15, 17, 19, NIV)
*NOTE: the new testament documents were written within one generation of the life of Jesus, and there are an overwhelming number of copies of copies of copies stretching from that time to the present. It is the reader's perogative to determine for himself if the new testament documents including the book of John are *true*, but they convey exactly what the authors wanted to say. Statements were NOT added or subtracted later.
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