In the first part on The Miracles I hope I showed to you how I worked out for my own self’s benefit that a Christian must, has to, accept the supernaturalness of The Miracles so as to be able to believe in Jesus without him using what might be called ‘doublethink’; a holding of obviously contradictory beliefs and in doing so deceiving oneself.
Now the question must arise for some people who read my first part on The Miracles, and who now read this part, a question which asks: why does he not just drop Jesus altogether instead of accepting the validity of the supernatural operations in The Miracles? And some even more critical readers of part one will be following through with another question: if he decides still to stick with Jesus even after this, is this not merely another instance of that aspect of his character he told us of; of him, once he has taken a shine to a thing or person, not willingly letting go of items and persons, even when they are become ‘soiled goods’?
Now for the first query: why don’t I just cut my losses and bail out? Bailing out from Jesus is not an option for me. There is nothing known about him, and I firmly believe there is neither anything that can or will be known about Jesus which might induce my response to be to sever myself from him. It is not, as a sceptic might suspect, that I have too much to lose, I have staked too much on him – both of which statements do bear truth in that yes I have staked a lot and have a lot to lose. But yet there exists before above beyond this human truth that I stand to lose a lot, other, and more solid and sure facts which have kept me with Jesus, even against the grain of that which all of us have learned about and which tells us that when trains are coming you are not to be on the tracks, that no miracle will happen to save you.
These more solid and sure facts about Jesus are what this series of articles is leading into and thereafter is to be laying out, as best I can. It is true that like St Peter I must say were I asked why I don’t leave Jesus: “Where are we to go? You have the words of eternal life”. Jesus in my estimation is not one of a selection of beliefs and allegiances I might adopt – Buddhism this year – Zoroastrianism the next – and so on – like pairs of shoes or spring collections. Truly for me there is no second choice or substitute.
But again it is the presence and assurance of the solid and sure facts about Jesus which I hope to explain to you, which make it so; make it that there is no other choice, and there is no turning back ‘after having taken up the plough’ with Jesus. Not me being constrained, coerced to go on and so disallowed to turn back; I want to go on and I mean to go on with all my heart. Nor is it simply done for me to ‘save face’ by me staying the course with him and not bailing now. I have no such face to save any longer I hope – and if I indeed have no such face to save I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for this.
Of course I have had, and expect to have, come into my mind from time to time, especially at times when I am being more levitous and am more engaged in the things of life and society, thoughts which might demand my attention and concern about how they are pitched to undermine the Person and status of Jesus as Son of God. This occurs at times when I am in conversations with others who may not believe in Jesus themselves and whose attempts or assertions to counter or to persuade me ‘out of’ Jesus, cause some of their points and remarks to make real ripples for me to have to resolve for my own peace of mind. Even alone and self-initiated sometimes a doubtful concern might simply – emerge.
This is in the nature of life for us all, believers or not, that doubt and insecurities enter-in unasked-for to our minds and we have to cope, to manage them, or else have them manage us, for better or for worse.
Likewise dreadful events are able to crush for a time our faith in humanity; and to shake our faith in Jesus; but not in the way that some of us ‘blame’ Jesus with ‘how can he let this happen’; as though he was responsible somewhere and so a disgraced Saviour since ‘he let it happen’. But in fact a really shaken faith; that our beliefs about Jesus are wrong – by some dreadful mistake we have elevated Jesus to a status he does not hold. “Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try…’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar… Who in the world do you think you are.?….’ And so on.
Once again comes that pincer movement of hard persuasion upon our minds which from one angle presents the train coming and the victims strolling on the tracks, and no way can they escape – and from the other angle comes that final defeat of spirit which tries to say to us that we are suckers, easy-pickings, ready to believe in fairy tales. A powerful combination. I hope I have in presenting my thoughts on Jesus something better to offer to you?
It is in the nature of how the world turns on its axis and how the sun shines in it orbits; that ever there is present in sublunary things the ‘invisible worm that flies in the night/[which] has found out thy bed of crimson joy’. Life is bittersweet – ever we live in fear of sustaining pain – physical – or more corrosively, spiritual and heartfelt pain. We know no life escapes it.
And so to be driven to ‘give-in’ and so to ‘give-up’ Jesus on a basis of this fear, or its experience; is perhaps the worst kind of despair a person can suffer? – although I have to say that a person finding deep personal experience of such pain entering their lives means that it is many times very very hard for her or him to stick true to the Jesus they had held to, and not to cry out like King Lear in the storm drawing down imprecations upon the heavens. I dare not criticise such a state of anguish as being infelicitous.
This portrays to us again the flint-hard immovable, intractable, non-negotiableness of life hitting us full in the face like a mallet stunning us and turning our days from sun and wine into sadness and sorrow. Our outlook can be changed utterly and people thought once a joy to be with becoming burdensome for us to meet and sought from to be alone.
Let us not dwell on such things – there are too many of them and they speak enough of themselves.
What might be the substance of these sure and solid facts about Jesus which I feel are so assured and so certain, that I am attempting to opposing them to the levels of depth of disillusion and dismay life can fling at us heedlessly and without regard? What on earth might overcome such things?
Before I close this part 2 on The Miracles I want to give to you a short and general scope of what I am aiming at here. Simply put; our common experience of Jesus’s Incarnate life as a man is held in and contained by the scope of the four gospels. Only in the gospels have we words spoken by him; deeds done by him; things suffered by him; his teachings, his character; his journeys; in the gospels we have these; but importantly, we have them all in the exact same way as if any other person was being written about and recorded.
What I mean is that the gospels are (let’s not argue for now) empirical documents; any claim Christianity has to being basically an empirical religion is founded on the information which the gospels offer about the living-as-a-man-on-earth-person Jesus. Even if you don’t believe he was also God’s Son; you might still concede that a man called Jesus is portrayed empirically in the four gospels?
My strong and sure certainties about Jesus; ones which are strong enough to allow me to bring into the fold of my belief The Miracles and their supernatural power, and which at the same time are strong enough to disallow me from ditching him instead; these are empirically-based; based on the four gospels. In these four gospels I believe there is sufficient evidence for a person of ordinary goodwill, whether Christian or not, who takes care enough to weigh it justly, to concede that, in the words of the guards sent out to subdue him; ‘Never spoke a man like this man’ – and to add my own extrapolation of their words – nor acted, thought, taught, in all he was, in all he did, was there a man like this man.