Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jesus is Not 'Real'

While driving on Interstate 70 outside of Columbus, Ohio I saw a number of Christian billboards lining the highway. One read, “Consider where you want to spend eternity! Repent!” Another read, “Avoid hell, repent. Jesus saves!” Wile I admonish both of these signs for using Christianity as an eternal hedge-bet (read Paschal) they did not disturb me as much as one black and white sign that said simply, “Jesus is Real.”

However, Jesus is not ‘real’.

Do not misunderstand me; this is not a sophomoric attack at the historical foundations of Christianity. Nor is it a rejection of the incarnational presence of Christ.

No, what makes the sloganized and simplified claim of ‘Jesus is Real’ so insipid is that it perpetuates the Enlightenment project that demands Cartesian certainty that begins with doubt and moves to belief only through reason. This leaves a Church that is merely empirical rather than confessional. Here, faith and reason are not only rent from one another but made antipodean – each placed against the other.

The God who gave his name as ‘I AM WHO I AM’ is not adequately – nor could be – properly understood by pure rationalism. All of this is part of the tired trek to fit God into an ontological equation. However, such rationalistic algebra will always fall short, unless we turn to the phrase from Ecclesiastes that states, “Only God is God.”

There is desire to make Jesus a magnificent historical quest, and at times there is a place for that. Certainly the particular and historical nature of the incarnation is a testament to the worldliness of the Christian message. However, the historical quest should also be held in tension with the spiritual quest. This quest shares the road with reason alongside faith.

Instead of the sign reading, ‘Jesus is Real’ it ought to read, “Christ is Lord.”

4 comments:

-Matt- said...

You said: Instead of the sign reading, ‘Jesus is Real’ it ought to read, “Christ is Lord.”

I say: AMEN brother!

Those billboards annoy me too. If you want to know if Jesus is real, go to a church to receive holy communion. Then again, if it was a SBC church, they don't believe in the 'real presence' of Jesus at communion, but they sure like putting up those billboards!

Anonymous said...

“Sloganized” isn’t a word so don’t try to look it up.
I found “Cartisian” but who is “antipodean”? It seems to me that you must first have a “podean” which sounds to me like some kind of slam against us southern folks. “Those people are so podean.” That makes me glad that there are some high handed Yankee’s that are “antipodean”.
That’s my analysis.

The Catholic Atheist said...

Anonymous,

I think "sloganized" came from my reading of Paulo Freire's book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." His first language is Portuguese so maybe that was the only way to translate that the foreign word...

Hmmm. You might be onto something with 'antipodean.' The history of the United States has made the North and South antipodes of each other (of course I am joking).

Thanks for reading, nonetheless.

Jimmy Cooper said...

Wittgenstein wrote that, "Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy that is the hardest thing."