On judging witnesses

If he does not mind, I would like to build on BK's excellent post from yesterday on Jesus' self identification as God. I agree entirely with him that Jesus' self identification as God is central the Christian assertion, but there is more: namely, the witnesses to Jesus' life here on earth. If Jesus did not say He was God, then we are left with an even greater puzzle. After all, what would motivate people to ascribe divinity to a man who m they knew had been crucified (the worst form of death in that society at that time)?

There is a wonderful exchange in the book/movie "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" where Susan and Peter are talking with the professor. They relate Lucy's "impossible" story of another world found through a wardrobe. The professor listens intently, thinks about it for a long time, and then the conversation went thus:

Professor: "How do you know that your sister's story is not true?"
Susan: "Oh but... But Edmund said that they had only been pretending."
Professor: "Does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"
Peter: "That's the funny thing about it, sir. Up until now I'd have said Lucy every time."
Professor: "And what do you think my dear?"
Susan: "Well, in general I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true-all this about the wood and the Faun."
Professor: "That is more than I know, and a charge of lying is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed."
Susan: "We were afraid it mightn't even be lying. We thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."
Professor: "Madness you mean? Oh you can make up your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."
"Logic... There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is lying, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth..."

And that is the crux of the matter. Do we believe the witnesses or not? Those witnesses tell us plainly not only about Jesus' miracles, teachings, death, and resurrection, they also tell us that He is God incarnate, the Word made flesh, the man who is in very nature God, the Lord of all whom all must, and will, worship forever. Behold, we hear John the Baptist say, the Lamb of God. Even if one doubts that the Baptist said this, someone did, and he did so within the lifetime of the first generation of believers. What are we to make of it? They are either lying, mad, or telling the truth. If they were lying, then they made up a story no one before them had ever made up about anyone whom they had actually known. If they were mad, then we must understand why their madness was so infectious and convincing to so many people who seem quite sane and rational. Or, alternatively, we must consider that they were telling the truth, regardless of how extraordinary and bizarre that story might seem.

This is the case for virtually everything we believe in life. It is a rare thing that we can test something that has been told to us no matter our resources, available time, and intelligence. At the end of the day we either believe those who talk to us, or we do not. And if we are to believe them, we must consider their character above all else, as it is there that we will know if a person is, at heart, an honest witness, or a false one.



BK said…
You are sooooo right on. I was going to follow up my last post with something similar, but you have said it better and more plainly that I. I find the witness testimony compelling -- but not just the witnesses of the four Gospels. More on that later . . . .

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