The Person of Jesus Part 1: Jesus’s Shadow over History

In my recent article introducing the person of Jesus, I made this claim:

“You don’t even have to think that the actual man Jesus existed, to see that the mere idea of him has dominated all other ideas, that his mere name has swallowed the names of all Caesars and Alexanders, that his mere shadow has conquered the world, covering the planet in light.”

In this first post in my series on the historicity and identity of Jesus, I’d like to flesh out this idea of his “historical shadow,” so to speak, for it is surely a shadow which has had more significance in human history than any other name, creed, movement, or empire. Again, this says nothing about his actual existence, or the historicity of the gospel narratives, or the truthfulness of Christianity; these things we shall be examining later in the series. Here I want simply to listen to the testimony of human history, to get an idea just of Jesus’s significance. Continue reading

Aquinas’s First Cause Argument for the Existence of God: Preliminary Issues

Several weeks ago, I finished a lengthy trilogy of posts on an ancient argument for the existence of God known as the Prime Mover Argument (the first can be found here, the second here, and the third here). In that series, I mentioned in passing that the argument, though originating with Aristotle, was also built upon by the great St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas actually used five main arguments to establish the existence of God, which are called the “Five Ways.” The Prime Mover Argument, which I explained and defended in that trilogy, is the First Way. This article is the beginning of a new series, looking at the Second Way, which is known as the First Cause Argument.

Before looking at the argument itself, there are a number of preliminary issues that it is important to understand or at least note. The first is that there are many different “first cause” arguments, and Aquinas’s Second Way is just one example of such. First cause arguments, also known as cosmological arguments (not because they necessarily have anything to do with the scientific field of cosmology, but rather because they start from facts about the world or kosmos in Greek) generally seek to establish the existence of Continue reading

The Utterly Bizarre Story of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife

In case anyone hasn’t heard/read about this yet, last week a lengthy but highly interesting article was published in the Atlantic about the controversial so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” a papyri fragment in which Jesus addresses someone as “my wife.” Although dating and other tests have yet to show any evidence of forgery or tampering, most critical biblical scholars remain unconvinced at its legitimacy. The one word I took away from the story which the article recounts, of the journalist’s journey to track down the ownership of the fragment, is bizarre. I mean, honestly, the story could probably be written into a book  better, more exciting, and more mysterious than The Da Vinci Code. I don’t want to write a full post about this now, but here are some things I took away:

  1. Far and away the most important thing I took away from the article was how impressed I am with its author, journalist Ariel Sabar. His commitment to seeking truth, tracking down answers, and just sticking with the story is extremely rare in today’s climate of fast paced news snippets which are more concerned with entertainment value than accuracy or depth. Most journalists today seem to be more like Dr. King, whom Sabar discusses in his article, who was completely uninterested in digging deeper in the story in order to discover the truth. Sabar, you have my utmost respect. What a wild, crazy ride.
  2. The whole story comes down to a Mr. Walter Fritz, who is probably one of the most strange and shady persons I’ve ever heard of. You could not pay me a million dollars to trust a single word out of this man’s mouth, even over something so trivial as his favorite flavor of ice cream
  3. Dr. King, the Harvard scholar in possession of the fragment, and who first brought it to the attention of the scholarly world, in response to the article admitted that it was most likely a forgery. I suspect this had much more to do with protecting her own reputation than anything else. You can read this response here.
  4. Finally, to add a little humor to what is already a perplexingly, comically ridiculous story, Fred Sanders, a theologian who works with an honors program I will be a part of next year, wrote this little satirical commentary on the whole thing. I highly recommend checking it out, as it is sure to give you a laugh.

I thought this topic would be interesting to you all, and it is related to a subject I am currently researching/writing about. As I mentioned in a recent article, I am writing an in depth series of posts about the issue of the historicity and identity of Jesus. The first of these articles should be finished within the next few weeks. In the meantime, I will also be beginning a new series on Aquinas’s First Cause argument for the existence of God. Thanks for reading!

My First Mass and the Worst Mass Shooting in American History

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I attended a Catholic Mass. Yesterday also marked the worst mass shooting in United States history. How can I, as a human being, reconcile these events?

For those who don’t know me personally, I was raised in the Church of Christ, a Protestant fundamentalist denomination. As is pretty well known, there can often be, and historically has often been, a certain division and even hostility between Protestants in general, but especially fundamentalists, and Catholicism. It will be the purpose of a future article to describe and explain what led me to take up an interest in Catholicism; in short, I discovered the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical system. For those who don’t know, Aristotelian-Thomism is a comprehensive school of philosophy that has its roots in the metaphysics of Aristotle, and which was revived, interpreted, and expanded by Thomas Aquinas and other Scholastic philosophers. It is somewhat of a long story how I came about finding this system, and the profound, significant impact it had on me, but I must make clear that never in my life have I been more impressed, and more convinced, by anything as I am by the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Its unity and coherence is staggeringly beautiful. And it just so happened that this system, with which I became so enthralled and convinced, is preserved and kept alive in a single institution: the Catholic Church. And so it was that Continue reading

G. K. Chesterton’s Heretics and the Importance of Creeds: An in Depth Review

 

IMG_1598I first encountered G. K. Chesterton midway through my sophomore year of high school, through his classic book Orthodoxy, which instantly became, and remains to this day, one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, on any subject. With Chesterton, the adage really is true for me that I would be willing to “read his grocery lists,” as it were. If he knows nothing else, Chesterton knows words. He knows their strength and influence. He knows poetry, imagery, language. Chesterton has a way with words that is so striking, and at times so overwhelmingly beautiful in their profundity and image creating power, that they make you wonder how a mere man could possibly have written them. But at the same time, his words are neither over exaggerated nor flippant, neither melodramatic nor superficial, but, in their verbal dexterity, reveal such plain truths and simple facts, that one wonders how any man could possibly not have written them in his own thoughts, how any man could possibly have missed it. Chesterton, above all, reveals common sense like a rising sun through a cloud of misty darkness. Chesterton delighted in paradoxes, because he knew that paradoxes are the signature of truth. Chesterton showed fairy tales to be as obviously true as truisms, because most often, fairy tales are truisms. Chesterton made banalities seem as bright and exciting as a newborn star, because Chesterton knew that the facts easiest to overlook and forget are the facts that are so common that no conscious thought is given to them at all. And that was the whole intellectual power of Chesterton: he gave thought to those ideas and assumptions which are very often left untouched by the mind; he gave words, and stunningly magnificent words at that, to the unspeakable truths which we all know, which we all hold in our hearts but which seem to us so delicate and indefinable that we never thought them possible to express, until Chesterton does so.  When I read Chesterton, Continue reading