Advent and the Silence of God

*Note: this post contains spoilers for the book/movie “Silence”.

Last week, I finished Shusaku Endo’s  highly acclaimed 1966 novel “Silence”, the long expected movie of which is being released next month (see the trailer here). The book was fantastic–beautifully written, hauntingly profound, and deeply thought provoking. I’m not going to discuss too much of the actual plot here, since I highly recommend reading/seeing it for yourself. Rather I want to consider perhaps the central thematic point of the story: the silence of God (thus the book’s title).

Throughout the novel, as the characters experience extreme hardships, difficulties, and suffering, often times as a direct result of their Christian faith, they are left to wonder: where is God? Where is the God in whom they have placed their trust and hope? Where is the God for whom they are currently offering their lives, having given up everything for the sake of the Gospel? Where is the God who all their lives they have been told is loving, who is supposed to care for His people, who has commanded prayer and promised to answer? Where is this God?

But they are met only with silence. Continue reading

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The Person of Jesus Part 7: The Life of Jesus

So far in this series, we have examined Jesus’s impact on the world, introduced the academic field of historical Jesus work, shown that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is so firmly established in history that virtually all scholars accept it, examined the various criteria and methods which historians use in determining historicity, and looked briefly at the nature of the gospels as sources. To remind, the purpose of this series since its beginning was the look at the identity of Jesus, not necessarily the historicity of all the events in his life or the reliability of the gospels, etc. We have very briefly touched on these things (having to leave out much) in order to set up and provide a foundation for our ultimate turn to questions of identity. In this post, we will look at several events from the life of Jesus and try to determine their historicity. Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 5: Sources and Historical Method

In the previous post in this series, we examined the historical evidence pertaining to the existence of the person Jesus of Nazareth, concluding that the hypothesis that Jesus existed is most definitely the best explanation of all the relevant data and coming to understand why the overwhelmingly vast majority of scholars all agree that Jesus existed. But just knowing that some person Jesus of Nazareth existed doesn’t tell us very much about him, who he was, what he did, why he’s important, etc. To discover these things requires further inquiry, which we will now begin to undertake. Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 3: The Historical Jesus

It’s been almost a month since my last post in this series on the person of Jesus. In the Introduction, we looked at the importance of history in general and argued that Jesus is the most significant human who has ever lived. In Part 1, we looked specifically at what impact the mere idea of Jesus has had on history. In Part 2, we looked at Lewis’ and Tolkien’s conception of the Gospel as a “true myth,” and then we laid out a list of questions to act as a framework/guide for our examination of this history altering man. In this post, we will take a look at the academic scholarship that has been done in the area.

In academic circles, this field of inquiry into the life of Jesus is known as “historical Jesus studies,” and it is Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 2: Questions for Inquiry

In my introduction and first post on the person of Jesus, I discussed what effect and influence the mere idea of Jesus has had on human history over the past two thousand years. That is, the idea of a man who is fully human, and yet also, in some mysterious way, is also fully divine, God in the flesh; not just a god, but the God, the God of the Jews, Lord of all creation and all life; this God, who did not simply leave his throne to become human, which by itself is an unprecedented, overwhelming, simply staggering idea, but a God who became a man lowly and weak, without honor or wealth; and a God who allowed himself to be tortured, humiliated, and ultimately killed, in the most shameful and horrendous execution fit only for the most vile of criminals, before eventually conquering even death itself and coming back to life. The idea of this God-man who died for the sake of, and out of utter love for, all people, for the ultimate redemption, restoration, and recreation of the entire world; the idea of the God-man who in life was completely perfect in all his ways, and showed his followers how to truly live with the highest ethic ever preached on earth; who cared for the sick and marginalized; who above all loved with a love never before or since seen amongst mankind; this is the idea which was born from the story of Jesus of Nazareth; this is the idea which shook the planet and has covered all of human history in its glorious and profound shadow.

But the question arises: this idea, this beautiful and awesome idea, is it true? And how can we know? Continue reading

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

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!