- Hebrews 2:5-12
- Mark 1:21-28
All were full of astonishment; What can this be? they asked one another. What is this new teaching? See how he has authority to lay his commands even on the unclean spirits, and they obey him!
Mark 1:27 (Knox)
Yesterday morning at Mass, Father brought up the “Liar, Lord, or Lunatic” argument. It’s C.L. Lewis’ classing trilema: reading the Bible, one cannot say, simply, that Jesus is a good teacher. The things he is reported to have said mean that he is either a liar making up stuff, a lunatic who believes crazy stuff about himself, or else he is who says he is, the Lord God Almighty. The humorous way to posit this is “Mad, Bad, or God. Leaving Mass, I realized that most modern interaction with Christianity is only vain attempts to resolve this situation. For both sorts of Atheists – the sort who say there is no god and the sort who say there can’t be an orthodox Christian god – the issue is resolved exactly thus: the Bible is a bunch of codswallop so we don’t have to pay any attention to it. They go off looking for the “Historical Jesus” which (for it’s not a who), luckily for them, confirms their doctrines and means they don’t have to decide “mad, bad, or God” at all. He’s dead, but he said some cool stuff.
The ones who claim to be Christians whilst rejecting Christianity are the worst, really. They affirm that there is a way around all this. They vote on verses of the Bible that can’t really be Jesus. They insist that if you just ignore a few verse here and there (cutting out half of the Gospels, really) then it all makes sense. They do the same to St Paul: insisting the could not have written his texts. St John didn’t write his his texts… sure, that’s what the Church says, but she’s biased: you have to trust us, we’re *not* biased.
For others, though, who are not Christians, but are more faithful, this really is an issue. They know that to “taste and see” is the right answer: but they have to figure out what to taste. Unfortunately the Atheists offer a seeming reply. By removing bits and pieces of the story, here and there, they make it easy for one to miss the point. “See, how he has authority!”
Faith is needed here: and I don’t mean doctrines, nor do I mean the Apostles’ Creed, nor even the Bible itself. Answer this: If Christians are right about two things, only: that God is really real and he loves us… what would happen? What should happen?
We have a bridge here in San Francisco. It’s orange and kinda famous. Sometimes it’s hidden in the fog. Sometimes it’s right out there in the open. Boats – big, huge boats – go under it ladden with the riches of the world. People jump off of it, too, truth be told, and so the sides have nets to catch them. It is of a certain height and length. It was built at a certain time of specific materials. It was raised at the cost of a certain pile of money and and a solid number of lives. It sparked a labor revolution, and a cultural one. It is painted, end to end, in a specific Pantone color and then the painting has to start all over again – because the salt air and corrosion eat the color daily.
The wind blows there and you may have heard of it.
You can know all the specifics I’ve just hinted at without once ever having set foot (or wheel) on that bridge. Google ’em. Or you can be a 5 year old who is brave enough to walk across it with her daddy, or a 20 year old who cycles it daily to and from work. You can even be a 52 year old who loves to walk out there and back on sunny days. You can be a tourist who gets out there and gasps in awe and moves here six months later and never leaves again. Or you can sit at home and say there is nothing special about such place; or petulantly insist that the Golden Gate was better without the bridge.
Jesus is just like that. I believe that once you try, you will find he is amazing. You don’t need doctrine – but I believe you will want to know everything you can about him, eventually. And no, you don’t need to go to a specific church, but the bridge runs between San Francisco and Sausalito. It’s highway 101. You have to get there sooner or later.
Only a San Franciscan would compare that bridge to Jesus, so I hope you’ll forgive me. But there it is. You can walk without knowing. And even in the fog, and wind, and rain it will hold you up. It has authority like that. That’s faith.
Jesus, being God, can be amazingly patient and loving. Doctrine doesn’t save us – if salvation means “being made whole” – but it does describe how and why it happens. Jesus, however, is salvation. And to get there, it is perfectly fine you have to walk in the fog a bit – even if you want to stay in the fog, I think.
Doctrine can come later. Really.