R.D. Coste writes a blog called Teologye. Recently, I interacted with him [Ed. note April 6, 2014: This link is no longer working; apparently that site is no longer maintained or, if it is, I can no longer find it.] a bit on a post he wrote as part of a series called Religion and Science.
In the exchange, a person named Gorn spoke up and asked me some questions. I’ve decided to answer his questions here, where there’s a little more elbow room.
Gorn: Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he performed miracles, or are you just a follower of his philosophy/teachings?
Mike Gantt: I believe the New Testament account of His life. That is, I believe His philosophy and teaching, and also that He did the miracles described. I don’t pick and choose which parts of the accounts of His life to accept as reliable and which to reject. This is primarily because I don’t see a rational basis for making such distinctions. That is, the writers write of His life seamlessly – there’s no easy way to separate the supernatural from the natural aspects.
Gorn: If the latter is the case, I would agree then that is not necessarily a religion. If the former is true, then that of course is a form of Christian religion.
Mike Gantt: I suppose that depends on how you define “religion.” But, as I’ve said, religion has never been an interest of mine. I’m interested in truth. If truth has supernatural dimensions as well as natural dimensions, it’s still truth – no matter what else it might be.
Gorn: But we do agree that if one is going to follow a religion, one is predisposed to follow one that was introduced when young, or at least a deviation of it.
Mike Gantt: I’m not sure we agree about that. As I said, I went from Roman Catholicism to agnosticism (which is obviously neither a form or, nor a derivative of, Roman Catholicism). Since accepting the truth claims of Jesus in the Bible I have continued to reject Roman Catholicism. I suppose you could say that Catholicism is more closely related to my faith than, say, Islam, but, as with our interaction about religion above, the semantics can be confusing. I don’t even call myself a Christian. I am far more concerned about who and what Jesus is than I am my own identity.
Gorn: What facts are you referring to which convinced you that Jesus wasn’t a liar or lunatic?
Mike Gantt: The whole account of His life as described in the New Testament. He didn’t talk and act like a liar or a lunatic. I’ve experienced, to varying degrees, liars and lunatics in my life; Jesus’ life is dramatically different from anything I’ve seen in them. There is literally no comparison. I could be more specific if you like, but maybe it would help me if you told me where in the New Testament He sounds to you like a liar or lunatic.
Gorn: If someone walked up to you in the street tomorrow and told you he was the son of God, would you believe this person as well?
Mike Gantt: If someone walked up to me and said, “I’m the Son of God,” I’d probably run away. And before I read the New Testament, that would have included Jesus Himself. But the New Testament reveals that He didn’t just walk up to people and say, “I’m the Son of God.” He taught about God and performed acts of kindness for people. As they got to know Him, they came to realize His uniqueness. He did not want the fact that He was Israel’s Messiah to be broadcast until after He was raised from the dead.
Gorn: What facts are there for Jesus but not for anyone else claiming to be the son of God, Jesus, or even God himself?
Mike Gantt: The many Old Testament prophecies of His life, death, and resurrection. No one else’s life experience could match those prophecies. Consider this post from Dr. William Varner’s DrIBEX Ideas blog about the probabilities of any other person fulfilling all those prophecies. Of course, the fact that He was raised from the dead and it was witnessed by so many people makes Him pretty unique, too.