Thursday, April 7, 2011

If not for Jesus I Wouldn't Believe in God

I read these provocative words today in a book which the author simply ascribes to 'a disciple of Ritschl' - a Protestant theologian of the 19th century.

In many ways I can identify with them. Those who have taken 'Apologetics' with me would know what I mean, at least in part. People come to the Faith through many different means, and I have to say that for me it was Christ first and foremost who did it for me.

This makes sense, doesn't it? After all, "He is the image of the invisible God." (Col 1:15)

But that only explains half of the statement. To say 'I believe because of Christ,' does not explain why I would not were He not.

I do not maintain - nor should any Christian - that it was per se necessary for God to become man (as Hegel apparently maintained?!). Thus, I am admitting that I would not believe in God were I born before the Incarnation or in a culture which did not expose me to knowledge of Christ in any way. But lots of people in the history of the world believed in God who fit into those categories. I am not saying it is not possible; I am simply saying that I do not think I would have been one of them.

Would I have gazed upon the created order and have concluded that their is a God, which Vatican I says is possible? I'm not sure, but if I had, what kind of God would I have seen? Hopefully, the actual one: the God of love, Who, had He decided to become man, would have become Jesus Christ. Or, perhaps I would have seen the loveless, detached God of Aristotle who did not care about me. Would I have cared about him? No.

My life changed when I looked onto the face of Christ and saw the image of the Invisible God. Seeing Him fulfilled all my innate ideas and sensibilities about who God would have to be were He to be. What I have gained since then has been grace after grace, leading me down into a mystery that has no terminus.

How is it that I can see the Face of God in the Man of Galilee? How do you get from reading the biography of some guy to knowledge of the infinite God? (Lessing calls this the problem of the "ugly ditch".) Sheer grace is the only definitive answer I can come up with. Nevertheless, it is not unnatural. Jesus is the only beauty that so speaks to the soul, the only personification of goodness and love and truth imaginable, if imaginable is the right word. Perhaps it is the right word, since He truly is the image. To say anything else about why it was Christ in the Gospel who led me specifically to belief in God would be to attempt a sort of depth-psychology of which I do not believe myself capable.

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