Why I am a Christian

Reporter: Why are you a Christian, Schütz?

Schütz: Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

Reporter: And?

Schütz: What do you mean “and”?

Reporter: Isn’t there some other reason? Like Spirituality or Religion, or Community or Being kind to the Poor?

Schütz: No. All those things are important, but none of them are reasons for being a Christian.

Reporter: Well, what about the Mass and Prayer and a personal relationship with God and forgiveness of sins and all that?

Schütz: As a Christian, I do and receive all those things too, but only because Jesus is risen from the dead.

Reporter:
But hey, I’ve asked some other people why they became Christian, and they told me “Because it is true”. Doesn’t that describe your position too?

Schütz: Well yes, I am a Christian because it is “true”. But what is “true” is that Jesus is risen from the dead. If he isn’t, then Christianity wouldn’t be “true”, and there wouldn’t be any point in being one (1 Cor 15:14). But since Christ is risen from the dead, then he is Lord of heaven and earth. (Phil 2:11). He is my Lord. And he is your Lord too. That’s what evangelisation is all about. Proclaiming that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and that Christ is Lord. So the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead is not only the reason why I am a Christian. It is why you should be a Christian too.

Reporter: Um… Thanks for that. We should talk more about it sometime… (Acts 17:32)

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Why I am a Christian

  1. Daniel

    🙂 Great Post: what was the reporter working for?

    • There was no reporter, Dan – it was just a literary construct to help me deal with a bit of frustration I am currently experiencing over the confusion that seems to exist within the Catholic community concerning what this Church business is all about. Until we get our fundamental message sorted out, we are not going to be very effective evangelisers.

  2. Yes, this is the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls.

    (I believe, David, that you were not always in agreement with Prof. Ratzinger and the Apostle on this, but took the view of another prominent German exegete…)

    • Chuckle, chuckle… 🙂

      • matthias

        Luther believed these things as well .

        • Yeah, which is why it always puzzles me that they chose “justification by faith alone” as THE doctrine “on which the Church stands or falls”. Seems to me that there could be any number of doctrines that fit that bill. Maybe it was not meant in an absolute sense, but was really just a polemical turn of phrase for that point in time: as in, “At this point in time, the big issue in the Church which we need to sort out is Justification”.

          • matthias

            Luther’s doctrine on justification by faith alone,has been criticised by
            Catholics and AnaBaptists alike,because it fails to on the position of works. yes ,we are justified by faith in Christ WHo died and Rose again ,and the evidence of that is personal holiness as evidenced how we live and as St JAMES pointed out ‘pure religion is to look after the widows and the fatherless”
            This has also been the issue that the Pietists of the late 20th Century,have been accused of in that they concerned themselves around faith alone,and forgot to get involved in fighting abortion,euthanasia and infanticide for example.

  3. By the same token, though I have a scientific background, I have absolutely no trouble accepting miracles, because if – as must be true, else all is in vain – Christ be risen from the dead never to die again, then after so stupendous a miracle (comparable only with His incarnation), why quibble about about any other supernatural irruption?

    • It was recently in a conversation with my brother-in-law that he asked me if I believe in miracles (he was pretty keen on the Mike Willisee stuff, although he is not a Christian). I said that there was just one miracle that I really believed in, and because of that, I accept that miracles in a more general sense happen. Otherwise I would be a complete skeptic.

      Interestingly enough, he thought I was talking about the Virgin birth.

  4. BTW, thanks for taking our hint to start posting more often – we’ve all been so very bored with no one to respond to…

  5. An Liaig

    As a person with a scientific background I also have no problem with miracles, largely because I know from Chaos Theory and Quantum Mechanics that we do not live in a deterministic, clockwork universe. God does not break his own laws (as some ahve claimed) in performing miracles. Rather, the randomness built into the structure of the universe allows all sorts of creative possibilities. As Rahner proposed, if the Word became incarnate it means the world has a nature that allows for the incarnation.

    • And yet, doesn’t that rather go against the grain of these things as “signs”? I mean, can we really say that the “world has a nature” that allows for “resurrection”? I don’t think so. The world’s nature has death built into it. Something from outside the nature of the world has to act in order for resurrection to take place. In the same way, as our Muslim friends will tell you, God and his Creation are two very separate things. There is no “allowance” for incarnation in Creation. Nevertheless, God did both the Incarnation and the Resurrection – that is the great mystery.

      My problem with Rahner’s idea (and interesting that you should bring him into it, as he was not uninvolved in the issue that got me going on this point in the first place), is that you can end up with “incarnations” and “resurrections” happening everywhere. You end up seeing God in trees, and resurrection in the sunrise. In other words, you get led away from the uniqueness of the Christ event, the absolute “in-breaking” of the Word of God into Creation, and caught up in some notion that the “Word of God” was just waiting in Creation for Jesus to raise our consciousness of it.

  6. Tom

    I don’t think a miracle is an interruption of nature; I think the best way to explain this is (as usual) Aquinas’ (hooray!) metaphysics!

    The concept of nature, as the form that is the principle of motion and rest in all things lets us understand what it means for something to be ‘perfected’. Something fulfilling its ultimate end is perfected.

    If we look at a miracle then (healing of a terminal illness, etc. etc.) what we see is not an interruption of nature, or a disruption of nature, but a perfection of nature. That is to say, Grace does not co-opt nature, it co-operates with nature.

    A body is not meant to be ill. That we get an illness we can identify AS an illness is because bodies qua bodies are not ill. We don’t assume that a ‘body’ in the most general sense has an illness in it, it is in what we would consider as a ‘state of health’.

    If then, we look at illness as a kind of corruption of the body, then a miracle is not ‘changing’ nature, or ‘interrupting’ nature – it is restoring, or perfecting nature. Removing the corruption that was never intended in the first place.

    An interesting comment Schutz, that the world has ‘death in it’ as a natural thing is something i wonder about. Is death ‘natural’ as such? What is natural is living – death seems completely un-natural.

    Of course, we can use the word ‘natural’ in several senses, so we should be quite clear. In the sense that death exists it is ‘natural’, but if we take the anthropology of Genesis seriously, then death was never a part of the original plan of the world.

    Death is actually profoundly un-natural; life does not strive towards death, life strives towards holiness and perfection – the corruption of our bodies and the world leads inevitably to death.

    However, as you say, Christ is risen from the dead, and he has defeated death. Death is no longer the end (the root of the word cemetery is a place to sleep; the original word for cemetery of the Greeks was ‘necropolis’ which means ‘city of the dead’ or ‘dead city’). Death has been transformed into a sleep, in expectation of the resurrection when we will receive our bodies back to be raised perfect and imperishable.

    However it is true as you say; reality needs an external source for Grace and the perfection of nature; a sunrise is not miraculous in the same way that someone recovering from cancer is miraculous. A sunrise is expected; if the recovery from cancer was expected, it would hardly be miraculous.

  7. Hear, hear! For both Tom and Schutz.

    To speak of miracles as interruptions is in a way to buy into the whole idea of God as somehow ‘intervening’ in nature, whereas he sustains it intimately.

    • I meant that death is a “natural” event in the sense that it occurs universally in nature. Not all of scripture sees death in terms of Genesis 2-3. For instance, Psalm 104 describes it as quite a natural part of God’s creation:

      “29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
      when you take away their breath, they die
      and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. ”

      Resurrection was a “new idea” on the Hebrew landscape, and they arrived at it slowly over much theological reflection. Even then, it was seen as something that belonged to the “end of the age”. But the claim that Jesus Christ is risen means that the “end of the age” resurrection has begun right now – ie. a different order of things has been established quite apart from “nature” as we have come to know it.

      I can also understand the uneasiness with the idea of a miracle as an “intervention” into nature, but we do need to be careful about what we are talking about. There are natural “miracles” like a flower, and a baby, and bodily healing, etc. All these things are “miraculous”. Then there are things like the crossing of parted seas and floating axeheads – not the norm by any means – but still in a sense a “miracle of nature”. But the Incarnation and the Resurrection are in a completely different category – they both actually CHANGED the established natural order.

      • Tom

        Your division of miracles into three categories (if you would permit me to name them) as the everyday (baby, flower, healing), the uncommon (crossing of the sea), and the cataclysmic (resurrection/incarnation) is an interesting idea.

        I would move them around a little.

        The everyday miracles like a baby being born, or a flower are miracles, but only in the most extended sense of the word; since generally for a miracle to be miraculous it is something we do not expect to happen. This category of miracles I would suggest are the miracles of God sustaining nature (reality). Which is why I would put bodily healing in the next category.

        Bodily healing, the biblical miracles and the other miracles that get The Saints their sainthood’s are what I think most people refer to when they talk about miracles; uncommon miracles – and this is where I would argue that these miracles are God co-operating with and perfecting nature (albeit on a small and particular scale).

        The final category is interesting, and not one I had turned my thoughts too; for what does this mean for God to change the established order of reality? One can reasonably assume it will only happen three times in all the history of reality (The Creation, The Incarnation, The Last Day).

        It seems that even in the cataclysmic miracles God was not acting counter to nature – even Creation was not counter to anything. Prior to Creation there was not a thing for Creation to be counter to (Creation ex-nihilo, so to speak). It seems these miracles are perfecting nature in their own way too; I grant you though that these miracles are different to the 2nd order of miracles in so far as they affect not just a small part of creation, but the whole of creation. Creation itself came to be in The Creation; it was restored in the Incarnation & Resurrection, and the Last Day will see the full perfection of all nature for eternity. These miracles are exceptional; I still think however that God is not co-opting nature by these miracles; he is still co-operating with the original plan. Perhaps cataclysmic is not the correct name for these miracles; it keeps bringing to mind the image of the Company of the Ring crossing the bridge at Bazzad-Dum.

        Anyway, thoughts? (Also, i’m sorry if I keep shifting the discussion; this idea just came to me while reading your post and was too interesting to pass up)

        • Okay, I’m running with this. I think you are right to speak of the “miracles” of flowers/babies etc. in the same category as crossing the red sea/floating axeheads etc., distinguished only by “common” or “uncommon”. “Unexplainable” bodily healing is thus to be regarded as something entirely natural, just uncommon and inexplicable by means of what we know (scientifically) of nature.

          But the original Creation, the Incarnation, the Resurrection of Christ, the Sacraments (eg. the Mass), the “Last Day” (as you call it), these are all, it seems to me, “creative acts” per se, which required such and “intervention” of God’s creative Word as to be reality changing “miracles” at a fundamental level. Nothing in nature per se would even lead us to expect any of these things, or to suspect that they might happen.

  8. Oh and Tom, you should start a blog if you don’t have one already.

    • Tom

      well, thanks; but i’d be a terrible blogger. I wouldn’t write anything for months at a time, and then i’d see something that really gets a rise out of me, write like a mad-man for 2 weeks and stop writing for a few months again. I think I make a better commentator than I would a blogger 😉

  9. Louise

    If Christ did not rise from the dead, we are the greatest of fools, said St Paul.

    Louise

  10. An Liaig

    Hi Guys,

    Sorry to be away from the discussion. Unfortunately, I had to get busy making a living. I would like to say that we tend to seperate ourselves from nature in an unhealthy way. We are creatures of this universe and our salvation is the salvation of the universe. Did Christ do violence to human nature by becoming incarnate? No, He brought our nature to perfection. The extension is then inevitable. Did the i9ncarnation do violence to the nature of the universe? No, it brought it to perfection. This perfection will only be fully realised on the last day but it already a reality. This is why the sacraments can use the elements of this world as a vehicle of grace. There is then no absolute difference in the nature of these miracles. It is just a question of at what level is the nature of the world being healed and brought to its proper perfection. This does not mean that incredible, once only events are not incredible and once only. It just means that they are part of a consistent pattern of love.

    • That’s a good perspective – betrays some degree of “eastern” thinking, eh? But thoroughly Catholic, along the lines of “grace perfects nature”. There is, nevertheless, a great difference between saying the Incarnation “heals” and “perfects” nature and Rahner’s assertion that nature is “capable” of the incarnation.

      BTW, I found this quotation in the Catechism (1006):

      “In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact “the wages of sin”566 [Rom 6:23; cf. Gen 2:17]. “

  11. An Liaig

    I would like to rephrase the Rahner bit to say – is capable of being brought to perfection: is still graced by its creation and its original, intended form is not wholly lost.

  12. I think there is another aspect to the miraculous, properly speaking: faith. A spoon dancing a jig on the table is not miraculous, as Newman once said. It is just a bizarre happening. A miracle is something that responds to faith, in some sense, and builds upon it. Faith in this sense constitutes the context within which miracles are meaningful.

    Part of the reason why I say this is that, I think, in some sense Hume is right on miracles, when he say that there is a sense in which we should disbelieve miracles, unless there is some antecedent credibility to them. This antecedent credibility is provided by the word of the Church. This seems to tie in with Augustine’s response to the Donatist miracles. We don’t believe that the Church is the Church because miracles occur in her. Or in other words, miracles don’t prove the true Church in the kind of straightforward manner that some people concieve of “proof” (although, there is also a problem with saying that things “prove” any scientific theory like that, as well). Rather, we believe that miracles are miraculous, because the Church tells us they are.

  13. An Liaig

    I think Kiran is right here. There is another factor also. I think all miracles have an element of puasible deniability: if you really don’t want to believe this then there is a way out. This is necessary to preserve the freedom rerquired for faith. Faith is trust in God, not merely the assent that something is true. Until the end we are free to choose and our faith will not be forced by the undeniably miraculos. On the other hand, if we have faith we will find life full of the undeniably miraculos.

  14. Thank you. An Liang, actually, rereading that, and some of the comments above, I think I want to take one thing further, and see what you (plural) think of this proposition. Miracles are not, or not entirely unexpected. Indeed, in some sense, miracles only make sense because they are expected.

    I am not sure that nothing in nature would lead us to expect that miracles happen, but faith certainly does. Indeed, in some sense, bodily resurrection is envisaged and promised well before it actually takes place. Even the resurrection on the last day is envisaged in 2:Maccabees 7.

    Then there is the question: What is nature any way? (I am thinking here of Newman’s statement that the Catholic Church in defining transubstantiation “deals with what no one on earth knows any thing about, the material substances themselves.”) I am not doubting that the world is knowable, only saying that there is a limit to this knowability. So, very often when we say nature couldn’t have taught us to expect a or b, we just mean ‘a’ or ‘b’ is outside our ‘normal’ expectations. But I think the completely unexpected would simply be incomprehensible. Cf. Wittgenstein: “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him” Human beings understand by analogy, and the analogy would fail.

  15. An Liaig

    Every Sunday I physicaly receive and eat the incarnate Word of God. A faith that does not expect and experience miracles is an impoverished faith.