Christianity Makes No Sense

Christianity makes no sense. Just ask self-proclaimed intellectual giants like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. They will tell you that Christian claims are crazy, outrageous, and intellectually scandalous. The very idea that a man who lived in Palestine two millennia ago, who wrote not a single line that survives, who never travelled beyond the borders of his own little country, and who had to work with his hands to make a living—the notion that this man was God almighty makes no sense. To which the Church replies: you are correct. It does make no sense.

The idea that the eternal and almighty God—the power that set the stars and the sun alight, and that keeps the world turning on its axis, and that brought into being the vast expanse of interstellar space billions of years ago—the idea that this same deity became a little baby growing in the womb of a Jewish peasant girl does make no sense. The idea is crazy, outrageous, and intellectually scandalous. It also happens to be true. Christianity is the greatest example in the world of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. And in fact nobody did make it up. What happened historically is that one human being, Jesus of Nazareth, spoke and acted and claimed to be God in such a way that compelled belief. The apostles didn’t make up the Christian Faith. Like everyone else in their day and age, they knew that God was up there and we were down here, and that an infinite gap and distance separated us from the divine. They were part of a religion that tried to bridge that gap, with whatever success. But whether or not all was well with the world, they believed that God was in His heaven, and that everyone down here was simply a human being created by Him. The notion that a man could also be God struck them as nonsensical as it would later strike Dawkins or Hitchens. The only difference between the apostles and our own smug atheists is that our atheists never met and spent time with Jesus of Nazareth like the apostles did. The apostles’ experience of Jesus forced them to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about God. It compelled them to confess that God was up there and somehow also down here with us in the Person of Jesus.

This reveals something of the immensity of God’s love for us. That a deity might like sinful humanity enough to talk to us makes some sort of sense, (though the Deistic notion that He made the world and then more or less retired and sat back and left us on our own makes sense too). Many religions thought so, and posited a God who inspired sages and sent prophets and shared messages with humanity, the upshot of most messages being “Stop Messing Up”. But the Christian Faith alone claims that God not only inspired sages and sent prophets, but also bridged the infinite gap between divinity and humanity and came to live as one of us. And not only that, He came to live among the poor and mediocre—among shepherds and carpenters and fishermen. And more than that, He dared to die for us. And even more than that, He dared to die the most shameful and terrible of deaths, the death of the cross, betrayed and abandoned by all. This makes no sense. It is crazy and outrageous and scandalous. It is also true. Other religions can be justly accused of being the sort of thing a man might make up. No one could guess or make this up. That is perhaps what Tertullian meant when we wrote, “Credo quia absurdum”, “I believe because it is absurd”. The love that God has for us outrages common sense, and (in the words of the Akathist to the Theotokos) “shows the philosophers to be fools”. (Sadly it does not leave orators like Dawkins and Hitchens “as voiceless of fish”.) That is why we make such a liturgical fuss over Mary, and why we keep Christmas. God loves us so much He did something we can’t get over, and can scarcely comprehend. We sing song after song, and celebrate it in a thousand stichs, but still can hardly get our minds around it. Christianity makes no sense. But it saves us nonetheless.

 

 

 

4 comments:

  1. Thank you Fr. I was a bit behind in my reading and just caught up.
    I always so appreciate the clarity and directness of your writing.
    I am hoping one day to be able to purchase your bible commentaries.
    Thank you for this item.

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