From Dave Mason’s post on being a Mormon and not a Christian.
Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don’t believe — in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century — that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether
The problem, of course, is that this is not what is taught by said Creeds, which do not affirm that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit but in fact insist that He is not those two persons.
In any case, I’m afraid Dave might not be the best person to being getting instruction from on the differences between Mormons and other Christians.
And this one from Ray commenting on BCC:
I choose to believe in a physical resurrection and an empty tomb – but it wouldn’t shatter my faith or eternal paradigm if we found out somehow that Jesus was the great figurative scapegoat and the empty tomb was mythological and nothing more than a sincere belief of those who weren’t there. I love grand mythologies (and I don’t mean “falsehoods” in using that word), but I choose to see it literally.
I confess, I would need a lot more information to even make sense of a statement like this.
I consider my own thoughts on this subject. I am the personality type that can’t help but ask “What if it isn’t true? What if Jesus was not really God and wasn’t really resurrected?”
The problem is that how I feel about it depends on what the truth actually turns out to be. If, for example, we all still end up resurrected living in something very much like the Celestial Kingdom — despite Jesus not having been the cause of it — my guess is that I’ll probably shrug my shoulders and not care much at that point. After all, it was all true even though it was all false.
If, on the other hand, there is some true religion out there that I would have been better off being a part of (say, Islam) then I’ll probably hate myself in @#!*% for having chosen to believe in Jesus.
On the other hand, if there is no God at all and the universe is really Lovecraftian, then the fact that I lived a lie will mean nothing and in fact living a lie is probably a good thing by comparison to reality. Besides, when I die, I’ll just be annihilated, so I won’t find out either way. So the real key thing is to make sure I don’t find out the truth before I die and die happy looking forward to a resurrection that isn’t going to happen.
But clearly my eternal paradigm and faith will be shattered (and with good reason) if I find out before I die that Jesus wasn’t resurrected. It’s just that having a false eternal paradigm (literally living a lie) just happens to be a very good thing compared to the truth in this scenario.
I’m sure I could come up with several other scenarios each with their own answer depending on what the truth actually turns out to be. So I am curious in what sense Ray intended this. Because frankly, I find it hard to believe that Jesus not being resurrected could mean anything but that the Christian religion is wrong on all counts.
But in any case, it all boils down to what the truth eternal paradigm is if the Christian one is incorrect.
I’m not sure if you can discount the power and importance of potentially non-literal beliefs. Even myths often contain universal truths which sometimes transcend the nitty-gritty doctrinal details, which often change. The resurrection is more than a doctrine revealed by prophets. It represents the deepest and most longed for dream of the mortal being: the fountain of eternal youth. As Gustaf Mahler wrote in the Resurrection Symphony:
O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
This is the transcendent truth behind the Resurrection. That a loving God promises that we will possess, in a fullness, “what we have desired, what we have loved, what we have fought for.” How that fulfillment ultimately manifests itself doesn’t matter. What matters is the universal truth “nothing to you is lost.”
No amount of information could make sense of that for me. If I ceased to believe in Christ, and him risen from the dead–I might still be greatly attracted to the story, and perhaps even embrace it, but I wouldn’t have faith in it anymore. By definition.
Seeing is believing! So we have a story with witnesses who claim to have seen Jesus’ body laid in a cave with a very convenient large rock door so he probably didn’t just come to and walk out, but the body disappeared then he reappeared in some living form but was unrecognizable until he spoke. The main point of the story is; there is life after death. If there is life after death, what difference does it make if the story is fact or fiction?
Forget arguing with Ray, try it with Dostoevsky:
“If someone proved to me that Christ
is outside the truth, and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Good one, John C!
I just want to say that quotation from Dostoevsky gave me chills.
Christ being outside the truth or the truth being outside Christ isn’t being considered here! It is the concept of Christ that makes Christ, Christ hot his mortal histroicy. The story of his mortal life helps us relate more to him but if the story were fiction and the concept of Christ lives within the Godhead it works as well for us today as if the story were fact.
Dostoyevsky’s dictum sounds great since it shows devotion to Christ. However, if Jesus is not a person of truth, following him is no virtue. Likewise, the apostle Paul noted that if Jesus is not risen, our faith is empty (see 1 Cor. 15). The resurrection is the act of God the Father to show that his love in Jesus is true, not a myth in the ordinary meaning of the word. Yes, myths in the grander scheme and in another meaning can be true but losing the resurrection as fact, reality, history is bad news.
I urge you to read John Updike’s Seven Stanzas at Easter for an incredible statement of what I am getting at.
Professor of Christian Thought & Ethics
Tyndale Seminary, Toronto
In some settings, the stradle is the thing, the wider the better, and showing off how wide you can stradle is a matter for friendly competition, sort of like limbo dancing. Even when someone stretches too wide and falls down, it’s all good fun. Other places prefer showing off cynicism.
Dr. Beverley, you make a very valid argument. I guess I read (perhaps admittedly out of context) the Dostoyevsky quote differently than you do. It comes down to the issue of how you can “prove” something. So, let’s say that somebody were to “prove” scientifically that Christ did not exist, I would still believe in Christ. I would believe in the reality of the resurrection and eternal life and the fact that our Savior created this world for us and that He died for us, regardless of what were “proven” outside of Him. I have developed a very personal relationship with Him and I would continue to believe in that regardless of what was “proven.” It is possible that this is not even what Dostoyevsky meant, but this is how I reacted emotionally to his quotation, and therefore I found it very moving.
I’m having trouble understanding the sentiment there as well Bruce. I have spent a lot of time studying Islam (it was my minor in college). They love Jesus – they really do – in their own way. If Jesus isn’t “literally” God, you wouldn’t have to abandon him to find a place in Islam, and a few other religions (there are Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. who highly appreciate Jesus’ message). So for me if it was shown that the Tomb Story wasn’t literally true why not try to find something else that is? To rephrase what J. Beverly said above, if worshiping Jesus as God/Savior/Messiah/scapegoat is contrary to God’s will then it’s not a virtue to hold on to the myth just because it makes you feel good.
Say the reverse were true – some Muslim says, “Well, say the Tomb Story could be proven scientifically, would I then abandon my belief in Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets? No – I would still believe in Muhammad. I have developed a personal relationship with him and I would continue to believe in that regardless of what was ‘proven.'” Many would say that this is simply irrational. Shouldn’t we assume that the myth that maps most closely to objective reality would be the most meaningful to us subjectively, if we are willing to abandon/refine what we have in order to get it?
I confess, I don’t really understand your point. Are you suggesting that so long as God gives us “what we have desired, what we have loved, what we have fought for” it doesn’t matter if there is a resurrection? Since I desire a resurrection, did my existence just cause the resurrection to happen? Or are you merely making the point that so long as there is a resurrection it doesn’t matter if Jesus caused it or not? (In which case, it’s hard to argue.)
Howard says: “If there is life after death, what difference does it make if the story is fact or fiction?”
I think I basically stated some version of this in the post. So I agree with you. And perhaps this is what Ray was getting at (though it is not clear to me.)
However, I guess I have to express a concern here. Is it really true that a Christian discovering that Jesus was not raised from the dead has (or should have) no impact on one’s belief in the resurrection? Is it really true that grounding one’s faith in a fiction (even though it’s really true that there is a resurrection) has no relevance to God’s nature? It doesn’t seem to me that this could be the case. But, as I said, if I wake up resurrected and find out Jesus didn’t cause it, I’ll shrug and hardly care, I’d imagine so long as I received what my hearts desire was. (To perhaps Nate’s point.)
John C, interesting quote. I confess, does this quote not (as James Beverli points out) of necessity admit upfront that one cares more about the impact of a belief on us rather than its truth content? Is this not a direct denial of the whole idea of caring about the truth and about rationality as a guide for us?
On the other hand… James Beverli: What is so wrong with believing and living a lie if it’s better than the truth? I’ve often said that religion is either true or it’s better than true. Either way, why not choose to believe? Perhaps living a lie is a virtue after all?
Stop getting to the real heart of the matter and ruining a perfectly useless discussion! 😛
I think this is why I find Ray’s statement confusing. Is he saying that even if he found Jesus to be fiction he’d still choose to believe in the very same doctrines, just minus Jesus? Or is he saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not so long as you get something out of it?
It seems to me that no matter what position you pick, you either end up having to make a fairly sizable leap of faith or you have to abandon reason all together. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground here. Even just making a leap of faith the the Truth is always better then falsehoods is a massive Theistic-ish leap of faith.