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A Foretaste of Eternity: How Christianity Can Change Your Life
In the past chapter, we have learned about what makes Christianity so unique. Today we will be leaning about how “Christianity can change your life”. The reason why is to address the concerns that many people have before accepting Christianity into their lives. They always wonder “what are the benefits?”
Embracing Christianity is not just accepting its teaching, but also accepting “Christianity’s central figure, Jesus Christ”. Christ has been a popular figure even after two thousand years later. Surprisingly, D’ Souza notes that the “secular culture cannot get enough of Christ”. There have been many books, movies, screenplays that have been produced using Christ as the main character. I remember even shirts that said “Jesus is my homeboy” was popular during my high school years. However, many of these books and movies downplay Christ to be a mythical figure. For instance, famous director James Cameron “released a documentary denying Christ’s resurrection on the basis that the tomb containing his remains has now been located”. The Jesus Seminar, composed of members that dictate whether or not Christ’s divinity as true or false decided that “Christ’s divinity is a myth, the virgin birth is a myth, Christ’s resurrection is a myth”. Regardless of the credibility factor, we must ask “why are these issues such a big deal?” more simply “why do you care?”.
The first reason is that “Christ remains the most influential figure in history”. No other persons, Moses, Buddha and Muhammad has been able to keep up with Christ. The difference between Christ and his counterparts, is that “Christ is the only person in history who has defined a whole religion his person”. Even people who aren’t Christian are influenced by Christ, even unknowingly. For instance, our history is divided into BC and AD (before and after his birth). Sunday being celebrated as a worldwide holiday, which was also influenced by Sabbath.
The second reason is that while we know little about Christ’s early life, we do know that he existed. Historians argue whether or not other historical figures really existed, however “there is a general unanimity among historians that Christ was a real person”. The existence of Christ has not only been vouched for by Christians, but also by “Greek, Roman, and Jewish sources”. We can also consider the authenticity of Christ’s resurrection. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that “If Christ had not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. The resurrection is perhaps one of the most important teaching in Christianity. Many biblical scholars “refuse to accept the biblical account of the resurrection because it was produced by people obviously biased in Christ’s favor”. However, even Christ’s own followers didn’t believe his resurrection. In fact, “the apostles were deeply skeptical about reports of a resurrection, and the Bible tells us that Christ had to appear before them several times before these doubts were dispelled”. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:6 says that Christ “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep”. D’ Souza asks “in the history of hallucinations, is there a single instance in which five hundred people all saw the same person and were all equally mistaken?”.
The third reason why Christ is still influential “is that he makes claims on our lives that we can reject but not ignore”. D’ Souza says that “Christ is the most divisive figure who has ever lived. This is strange because he was a man who never hurt anyone, who lived a blameless life, and whose teachings about love and peace are universally praised”. Yet, whenever we talk about Christ, you get reactions that aren’t so warming. Instead, it gets uncomfortable or even hostile. The reason why Christ’s teachings are so daring is because “if we accept them they change our lives”.
Throughout history and in present day, people “have tried to twist and trim Christ’s words to suit their predispositions”. For instance, Thomas Jefferson, accepted many of Christ’s “moral precepts” but was “offended by Christ’s claim to be divine, to perform miracles, and to secure for men a path to heaven”. Christ says “Before Abraham was, I am” in John 8:58; Christ also says “I and the Father are one”. Christ is also someone who forgive sins; He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and “I am the resurrection and the life”. This was the basis in which “Sanhedrin issued their death sentence against Christ”.
It is impractical to be neutral about these claims. Anything that is objected about Christ can also be objected about Christianity. While many people can deny it, the claims made about Christ are “the very core and center of Western civilization”. It influences the way people think about Christianity, and its precisely what makes people question the acceptance of Christianity. D’ Souza asks “how will Christianity give me financial success and problem-free life?”
Firstly, Christianity gives us a sense of who we are in this world. “All of us need a framework in which to understand reality, and part of Christianity’s appeal is that it is worldview that makes things fit together”. For “limited, fallible” humans like us, Christianity gives us a “believable account” of our identity and why we are here. Christianity also “infuses life with a powerful and exhilarating sense of purpose”. Although, atheism believes in a universe without meaning, Christianity “gives us a world that is enchanted once again”. We are able see the world more meaningful and vivid. How can we do this? D’ Souza says that “Christians live sub specie aeternitatis” meaning “in the shadow of eternity”. What Christianity does is that it “produces an enlargement of perspective that prevents us from being jaded by this realization”. While in this life, the businessman that cheats people out of money is looked upon as successful, a Christian views him as a “true lamentable figure”. Whereas the poor widow that “crawls to the altar on his knees” is the one that is “preparing to receive his heavenly reward”. Christianity also fills the void of loneliness in this world. “Christianity removes this existential loneliness and links our destiny with God”. Christianity also changes our perspective on death. While to the secular people, this life is the end, Christianity views death as temporal. Lastly, Christianity helps us to become better people. It helps us to see who we are thus wanting to become better.
Christianity gives us “terrestrial happiness” and in Revelation 21:4 says “God will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away”. This is what we can look forward to, and is essentially the “foretaste of eternity”.
1) Make a list of 5 people you think have most influenced human history. Explain your choices. Purely from a human point of view, without considering Jesus as God, how would you rank him on the list?
2) What is the evidence, apart from the Bible, that Christ was a historical figure, that he actually existed? Can we trust the Bible to give reliable account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection? Support your answer.
3) What is meant by the statement that “Christ is the most divisive figure who has ever lived”? Is this a good thing? DO you agree with this description?
4) Consider the phrase sub specie aeternitatis. What does it mean? Has this idea had an influence in your life?
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