I keep losing my personal heroes.
Richard Dawkins is one of the century’s great evolutionary theorists and someone whose work I really admire. His work revolutionized the way scientists thought about evolutionary theory. I think I can safely say that I have read everything that the man has written in every major forum. So, as an atheist myself, I looked forward to Dawkins weighing in on the subject of religion, from the perspective of an evolutionary theorist, in his new book, “The God Delusion”.
This weekend I made it to my local bookstore, grabbed a copy of the “The God Delusion” and sat down with a cup of coffee to read it immediately — even before buying it. Imagine my shock and even horror to discover that Dawkins’ book is trite, facile and just plain, well, dumb.
I read about half of the book, skipping to the parts I thought would hold the most interest and pursuing the index (something I always do with new books). In the end I put it back on the shelf. I couldn’t bring myself to plunk down $30 for such low-quality work. It has the distinction of being the first Dawkins book I will probably never own. Granted, I had heard podcasts about the book and seen some supposed excerpts that raised my eyebrows, but I assumed that, in the manner of such things, those snippets represented the “village atheist” view that did not capture the nuance and sophistication of Dawkins’ work. Unfortunately, those previews did capture the essence of the work. If anything it’s even worse than they suggest.
The entire scope of the facileness of the book will take several posts to address, but the most immediate flaw in the book is Dawkins’ uncritical acceptance of the idea that religion causes people to systematically make worse, i.e., less-humane or -accurate, decisions than does an atheistic worldview. I’ll tackle this argument first because it has long annoyed me, because empirically it isn’t true, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of history can discern the real pattern.
Atheists reflexively repeat the mantra that religion causes oppression, war and general cruelty of all kinds, while asserting or implying that atheism does not. Dawkins falls right into this mindless argument in the opening paragraphs of the book and never lets up. (Reading someone like Dawkins making such a pompous, counterfactual argument is like chewing glass.)
This particular fallacy arises from three sources: (1) attributing every bad decision in the distant past to religion, (2) ignoring all of the bad decisions made by atheists in the recent past and (3) ignoring all of the good decisions that religious people made in the recent past.
Laying all bad decisions of the distant past at the feet of religion comes from projecting a wholly modern western cosmology onto pre-modern cultures everywhere. Until the Elizabethan Sir Roger Bacon (not the monk, the other one), nobody, anywhere, divided the cosmos into our contemporary conception of natural and supernatural. Up until that point, everyone, everywhere, thought the cosmos was governed by supernatural personalities or forces whose actions depended in whole or in part on the moral choices of human beings. Bacon’s key insight, (itself based in theology) that the material world functioned automatically, without continuous supernatural intervention, made a scientific study of the cosmos conceptually possible. Even so, it would be nearly 200 years later, during the time of the American and French revolutions, before such a world view developed real political import.
Until that time, everyone thought about all decisions in what we would today call supernatural terms. In truth, it is better to say that people then lacked our modern conception of the natural. They saw a chaotic and random world that appeared to follow no rules or inherent order. In one of his books, Carl Sagan (another fallen idol of mine) showed how an East Indian oral poem, that told how to create a poultice for an infected tooth, began and ended with a description of the poultice recipe’s relationship to the Hindu gods and the cosmos in general. In such a cultural milieu, everybody, everywhere, justified their actions, good or bad, in terms we would call religious.
This leads to a form of confirmation bias on the part of atheists. They look into the distant past, see some actions we disapprove of in the modern world, notice that the people who chose the actions had a religious world view, and conclude that the religious world view caused the problem. However, since everybody in the distant past had a religious world view, and no significant decision makers until the very recent past had an atheistic world view, the fact that decision makers in the past were religious tells us about as much about them as the fact that they all breathed oxygen.
Atheists like to single out both the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as examples of inhumanity that occurred because of religion. (The very fact that we atheists feel compelled to reach back 400-800 years for our kneejerk examples of bad religious behavior should set off warning bells.) Yet both events had significant materialistic or practical drivers that would have created much the same events without any religion being involved. The Crusades arose as a counterattack against the Muslim military expansion that had consumed half of the Christian world. Had the United Atheist League conquered half the lands of the League of United Atheists the same dynamic would have applied. Contrary to many people’s view, no atrocities occurred during the Crusades that hadn’t occurred when Christians fought Christians or Muslims fought Muslims. The massacres of the inhabitants of cities that so occupy the modern mind did not arise out of religious bigotry but from the established rules of medieval siege warfare. Cities taken by storm were put to the sack. The Crusaders established Christian kingdoms in the Middle East that lasted nearly two centuries. Those kingdoms were 98% Muslim with a Christian nobility. The Christians didn’t try to exterminate those populations based on religion.
Likewise, the Spanish Inquisition sprang from the very secular needs for political control and money. The purpose of the Inquisition was to create legal and cultural justifications for the seizures of vast amounts of wealth from those accused. The religious aspects of the persecution were just a gloss, as in every other action taken during that time. In modern times, atheistic communists carried out nearly identical actions for nearly identical reasons. (The most strange thing about our view of the Spanish Inquisition is that we regard it with special horror even though the use of torture for both investigation and punishment was a universal standard at the time. What so shocked the contemporaries of the Inquisition was not the fact that it tortured people. Every police power of the time tortured people. What shocked the contemporaries was the class of people who got tortured. Mutilating peasants didn’t raise anyone’s eyebrows, mutilating the rich and noble did.)
Dawkins simply repeats the shallow and ahistorical version of history that any hip 19-year-old college freshman can regurgitate on cue. If Dawkins had approached the question from an empirical point of view, he would have readily determined that evidence for the degree to which religion does or does not promote inhumane decisions can only be found in the history of the last 300 years or so. Only during that time frame have atheistic ideologies gained any significant power to actually make good or bad decisions. Unfortunately for atheists, recent history shows that the more atheistic a political ideology, the more destruction it wreaks when it acquires power. The first true atheistic regime in history arose during the 1792 French revolution, which promptly consumed itself in the Great Terror. Atheistic communism next assumed power, and it killed 120 million people over 80 years, and brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation more than once. Mussolini was an atheist and the Nazis, who held a diverse mixture of atheistic, deistic and pagan beliefs, were united only by their antipathy towards traditional religion. National Socialism as an ideology was rigorously secular and justified its killings with appeals to a materialistic pseudo-science. Dawkins spends about 4 pages (what about Hitler and Stalin? weren’t they atheists? — p. 291) before concluding that atheism played no part in their crimes. (He comes so close to understanding why atheists go so wrong by observing that atheism didn’t cause them to commit their crimes. More on that later.)
Dawkins tries to lay claim to the American Constitution as an example of a successful atheistic experiment but again he falls into ahistorical stereotypes. The cosmology behind the American Constitution is quite definitely a theistic cosmology in the Baconian model. The founders believed that men could govern themselves because God had created an orderly and lawful natural world. Their government of the people logically precluded divinely-selected political leaders. If political power alone arose from the bottom up, by the conscious selection of men by other men, how could politicians claim to act from divine authority? The extensive writings of the founders show that they envisioned a society of theistic individuals cooperating to create a secular government. The idea that the founders were all a bunch of closet atheists is just silly, and they would have been horrified at the idea. More important, the Founders did not deliver the Constitution complete from on high. It was widely and publicly debated in all of the states and amended before adoption. Even if many of the founders had themselves been covert atheists, the people who actually voted for the Constitution, and turned it from a collection of suggestions into functioning law, certainly were not.
Moreover, Dawkins doesn’t appear to spend any time considering the positive role that religion has played in the last two-hundred years. I checked the index under “slavery” and found only three references, all of them complaining that religious people had not, throughout the history of mankind, always opposed slavery. Well, duh! Strangely, missing from Dawkins’ analysis is any mention of the role that Christian fervor played in virtually wiping out slavery worldwide. Indeed, slavery went from being a human universal to virtual extinction due to the efforts of individuals whom many people today regard as the trifecta of evil: Christian, capitalistic, white males.
Dawkins spends a great deal of time damning religion, but spends very little time highlighting the real-world positive effects of an atheistic world view. That is because, beyond the sciences, atheists really don’t have anything to crow about. The modern welfare-states that many atheistic democratic socialists are so proud of were actually voted into place by people who we can safely group under the description, Christian socialist. Appeals to the ideals of Christian charity, not secular socialism, sold those programs. How about the sexual revolution? The social and political debates over the sexual revolution pitted secular and often atheistic ideas against traditional religiously based morality. Yet only a historical fluke — the HIV virus attaches to T-cells using the same protein hook as the Black Death bacillus — prevented AIDS from killing not “just” hundreds of thousands in the developed world but millions. If so many in the developed world did not descend from survivors of the Black Death, the sexual revolution would have been the greatest cultural disaster of all times. We still don’t know whether the long term effects on family structure and child rearing will be a net positive or negative. The early indications do not look good.
Like Dawkins, I am troubled by the resurgence of the supernatural in the modern world. I worry not only about the resurgence of traditional religions but also the rapid spread of creepy new supernatural fads, like various “new age” practices, psychic powers, Feng Shui, Wicca, Kabbalah and Gaia worship. I am terrified that people who believe in magic water of various kinds have as much say on matters such as nuclear weapons as I do. After nearly three centuries of nearly unbroken progress towards a secular world mediated by reason and experimentation, we seem to have slowed or even reversed the progression.
Unlike Dawkins, however, I don’t shrug my shoulders in bewilderment and conclude that the reason for the decline of the atheistic world view lies in the inherent stupidity of non-atheists. I understand bitterly that atheist over promised, under delivered and spawned horrific monsters that nearly destroyed humanity. I know that the history of the Twentieth Century is dominated by smug atheists causing trainwreck after trainwreck without ever accepting any responsibility.
“The God Delusion” is a trite, shallow unimaginative book. It is not intended to evangelize to non-atheists, but instead preaches to the choir by vomiting out all of the conceits and prejudices that atheists hold in common. As a defense of the atheistic world view it is a pathetic failure. Coming from one of the century’s great scientific minds, it’s just sad.
23 thoughts on “The Atheist Delusion Part 1”
For those of us who saw the face of the Soviet system, it was nothing but a replacement of an older order based on “king as shadow of God.” It was like an old thief sactioned by God left and another came to rob people all over again. The “atheistic” Soviet system came with its own god(s), prophets, clergy, and terror. Its failure in delivering the material kingdom of god on earth, at least in Islamic 3rd world, has opened the door not to an agnostic capitalistic system that only allows you to pursue material wealth through sweat but to the old time religious ignorance (i.e. the earth is 6000 years old and a bunch of other fairy tales) which touched the U.S. on 9/11.
Calling Nazi Germany atheistic is just simply wrong. Anti-semitism was (still is) deeply rooted in Christian belief and many churches gave their full support to Hitler. And the Catholic church uttered not a single word when Nazis were killing Jews and other undesirables who did not subscribe to the Western Christian dogma.
As for American Founding Fathers, most would classify them as Deists who were not too fond of old time religion but do not deny the existence of God.
In terms of cost-benefit analysis, the horrors of monotheistic institutionalized religions far outweigh its good deeds, if any. Religion continues to be the opium of masses through which a bunch of political opportunists wearing funny hats manipulate uneducated minds.
I think the non-monk Sir Bacon you’re thinking of might be Francis, not Roger.
It’s untrue that anti-semitism was “deeply rooted in Christian belief and many churches gave their full support to Hitler. And the Catholic church uttered not a single word when Nazis were killing Jews and other undesirables who did not subscribe to the Western Christian dogma.” Hitler knew how to use the power of Christianity’s namesake to bring Germany in unison with his ideas, but it stopped there. He was born a Catholic, yes, but he became vehemently anti-Catholic and anti-Christian, as is obvious in his perseuction and murder of them during the Holocaust. Many Catholic priests were executed during his reign. He loathed Christianity just as much as Judaism. In 1941, he said that “Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless… When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let’s be the only people who are immunised against the disease.”
Pope Pius sheltered and protected thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. I do not believe that the Catholic Church did all it was capable of doing, no. But it did not do “nothing”. It did something, just not enough. And this we must live with now.
Hitler was as atheist as they come, which is not to say that all atheists are evil people, nor that it was his atheism that made him commit the evils he did.
If you’re interested in reading what Hitler had to say about Christianity, a good book is “Hitler’s Secret Conversations” by H.R. Trevor Roper
Does it matter whether theists, or atheists have committed crimes in the past? Rationality should be respected, and appreciated by all. Because a theist commits a crime, does it automatically mean the cause of that crime was theism? No. The same goes for an atheist and atheism.
You mentioned that the “entire scope of the facileness of the book will take several posts to address”. When will we get to read Part 2, and whatever you have next? I greatly appreciated this post and have been anticipating more.
I haven’t read all of your post. Instead I skipped to the parts that I thought would be interesting and perused the index (something I always do with long posts). Imagine my shock and even horror on discovering that you’d missed out most of the parts of your source which would answer your accusations.
In the end, I couldn’t be bothered to read the whole post and decided instead to rip it apart with poorly-thought-out rhetoric. Because, as a rationalist/atheist/intellectual, I feel qualified to hold forth on whatever subject I like, having only “read about half of the book”.
I would reference the specific chapters, sections and pages which contradict your points, but in the end, I feel it would be a much more beneficial experience for you to do your own research – which should be a basic requirement before you start typing.
Dawkins’ work has its faults – mostly stemming from his stance as an atheist apologist and polemicist where a work like The God Delusion would be most valid from a third viewpoint which sides with neither party – but you manage to put your finger on none of them…
The God Delusion actually does not fall under your criticism because your criticism is based on not reading the book itself. You read parts of it, you didn’t read the whole things, therefore you can’t grasp the whole idea.
Nowhere does Dawkins state that all atheists are good and Theists are bad. You are simply assuming that he says this, when he doesn’t. No reasonable person would make that claim. The only delusion we are talking about here is the delusion that you can criticize something that you have not read.
Wow was Auraeus really there with you while you read it? Sounds to me like he is proving the ALL knowing and ALL powerful qualities of a god. Not sure which one. So now then, because one does not believe or seethe same point of view (truth) are we Atheist going to start creating a Baptist Atheist group who see things (believe) in a certain way that just because others do not see it our way?
Although I agree with many of the writers points, I fail to take it seriously purely because she/he didn’t read the full book. Sure the points are valid but thats not the point.
I’m sure if I went through the Bible only reading bits here are there I may actually find it a respectable way to live your life.
I’m not saying reading the whole book will change the writers views, (It won’t)it’s just the principle.
On this whole debate I feel extreme sympathy for people who have decided to take their atheism without critically engaging with this belief system – yes it is as much a belief system as any religion is. This book has been on the bestseller list for months now, Mr Dawkins must be a happy man. But who is he making money off .. people who are disturbed by their non-belief, and clutch desperately to the new edition of their “holy book”, constantly in search of reaffirmation, which Mr Dawkins tries to give them – it is OK we have come a long way .. we are good .. I am OK you are OK!! let’s just build this discource around assumptions which are as open to question as the belief in God, and follow them blindly, with superficial attempts at questioning them.All the people who have read this book, I urge you to reflect on the ‘purpose’ behind the consumption of this book. Are they ready to face the incongruities in their belief system? or are they committing the same mistake they indict theists for.
Abdullah: Do you have another system you recommend ?
Some humility on the part of the atheists, I suppose. You may point out that theists dont seem to show such humility – but that is besides the point. We inhabit this world together and engaging in a civil manner is the only option – with tolerance for differences in world views, and a genuine respect for the alternate view – an honest attempt at understanding the others view point as opposed to demonsing it and bashing it down creating barriers that hamper possible benefits from open dialogue and discussion.
I’m a Christian. So your preconception is wrong.
In response to…
January 24th, 2007 at 11:49 am
“In the end, I couldn’t be bothered to read the whole post and decided instead to rip it apart with poorly-thought-out rhetoric. Because, as a rationalist/atheist/intellectual, I feel qualified to hold forth on whatever subject I like, having only “read about half of the book”.”
If you looked at other reviews of the same book, you’d find that they all basically contain the same criticisms as this one. I couldn’t be bothered to read The God Delusion, despite several occasions of browsing it in the shop, for essentially the same reasons. Now doesn’t that indicate *something*, or is everybody just unqualified?
since you read the book why don’t you offer us a rebuttal? that’s the scientific way isn’t it?! show us how wrong this post is, debate it. I personally agree with the post, even though i haven’t read the book. ops!
Prefer other pastures like: “A history of God” or “Guns Germs and Steel…” i’m interested in the cultural and antropological aspects of god and faith, i debate religion with believers because it’s entertaining, but still respect them, because most of them are net contributors to society.
What Hitler believed is largely irrelevant, as he lied often. However, PRIOR to seizing power, he NEVER spoke against Christians, but VERY OFTEN against Jews. He always covered his own beliefs which were, in fact, occultism. He was successful because he claimed to protect people from Jews and communists. That he hated Christians was covered until too late to change a thing.
Also note that non-religious ideologies fall easier. USSR fell, but Iran remains.
Ah yes, the old Dawkins answered all in the parts that you didn’t read and I’m not even going to bother pointing them out to you.
But let’s put it this way, if he wasn’t impressed with what he did read, was he supposed to hold out, absent empiric evidence that it was worth his time, in faith that Dawkins would explain all?
You “skeptics” are remarkably curt where you want to be and generous with other people’s time.
@Tim: I’ve read the God Delusion twice, and I would say this was pretty on the ball. Only thing I would query is the point on the Crusades being motivated by profit etc: I don’t think we can fully explain them without the religious motivation.
@Ss13: I would very much disagree. The USSR stood for maybe 70 years. Iran has managed like that: it’s a new state.
I think the point about people disagreeing with the past, and the past being religious, is vital. It’s very common to come across people who seem admirable in Classical or Mediaeval times, and discovering they supported torture or brutal capital punishment. The anecdotal arguments against religion seem to me to be as effective as the claims that Germanic blood is superior because Germans and Germanic Brits and Americans win so many Nobel prizes, or claims that black people are inferior as the great artists and so on we recognise are mostly white.
CAN ATHEIST DEAL WITH THEIR MENTAL DISORDER
We will look at the theories of evolution in their two main foundations: the expansion of the universe, and the quantum or microorganism. To understand it with reason, thee first subject we are confronted with is God. Let us read a few verses from the Bible. Psalm 14:1 of the Old Testament says, “The fool has said in his heart, /there is no God.” This sentence may also be translated as “The fool does not want God in his heart.” The result of saying this can be found in the second sentence of the same verse: “They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds.”Let us also take a passage from the New Testament.
[. . .]
[Long manifesto deleted by Jonathan.]
THE ATHEIST MENTAL DISORDER
[Long article deleted by Jonathan. Please do not spam us with your manifestos. You have already left a link to your blog. Anyone who is interested in your thoughts can read them there.]
I do really feel sorry to have bother and upset you for the long post, it was never my intention to offend you , not you guys. A small explanation , thanks. My intention was that in some maner it will reach to the author of the God of Delusion. I know my apology to you maybe late becouse i took your space already nevertheless I do feel I offended you, maybe beside saying that Im sorry I can give a donation. You can email me.
I will never do a long post again anywhere. It was hard for me to realize that I have hurt you whom I consider my neighbor and may have hurt other as well. I learn a lesson.
I hope you forgive me.
Rafael, please do not take my deletion of your comments personally. I did not mean it that way. If you leave very long comments they tend to disrupt the discussion, and it looked like you were ignoring my hints that your comments were too long. Please note also that I left intact the link to your blog, because that is really the place where you should post your long essays. Don’t stop writing them because I deleted a couple of them — instead, post them on your own blog and everything will be fine. You are welcome to leave links here to your writings. All I ask is that you don’t post extremely long comments here.
I shall begin by assuming that the issue of God’s existence is settled. We all believe that there is a God. As those who desire to know the truth, we must go one step further to find out what kind of God He is. God is the greatest Unknown. We must spend some time to find out about this unknown One. The next step now is to know what kind of a God He is. In the past few thousand years man has been inquiring about the nature of God. Is He kind or is He righteous? Is He indifferent towards us, or is He extremely interested in human affairs? These types of questions are the direct cause of all human religions. What is religion? Religion is man’s inquiry about God and his explanation of Him. Through these explanations, different men have arrived at different concepts about God. What kind of God is He? This is a big question. It is also a very serious question. We have all given our thought to this subject at one time or another. The question might even have occurred to our little mind when we were five years old. All men, educated or ignorant, have been intrigued by this question. It comes naturally after some contemplation and observation. But a person trying to speculate about God is like an ant attempting to understand a human being. It is extremely difficult for the little creature to try to realize our life, nature, and mind. In the same way it is impossible for us to try to comprehend God. For this reason, in the past few thousand years, all kinds of people, theologians and philosophers alike, have done much thinking about Him. What has God been doing all this time? Has He been indifferent to us or has He tried to reveal Himself to us? What is God’s attitude? Do you think He would say, “I am God and have nothing to do with human beings. I do not care what you think about me. I shall stay in heaven as God. Let the mortals be ignorant!” Or do you think He has a desire to reveal Himself to man and visit him? When I was in India, I saw some people lying naked on beds studded with nails. Some walked with bare feet on burning coals. These people devoted a great deal of energy to seeking after God. What has God done to them? Did He hide Himself and take no notice of them at all? Has He not kept Himself as a perpetual mystery? This is a great question. We have to consider it scientifically and objectively in order to find out what God is like. A few years ago I spoke on a similar subject to some medical students in an auditorium in Cheloo University. I said that man is an organism with a life. God also is a life. Man’s life is higher than that of the lower animals, and God’s life is even higher than that of man. I asked the students, “Since we realize that all living organisms have some common laws and express some common traits, can you name them?” Different ones then started to bring up different points. At the end we summed up the discussion in this way: all living organisms contain two common characteristics. You can call these characteristics their common expressions or their common laws. First, every life wants to preserve itself. It tends to reproduce itself. There is the ability to produce posterity, to continue its own life. Second, every life wants to have fellowship with other lives. It cannot stand being by itself. When a man cannot find fellowship with another human being, he goes to dogs, cats, fish, or birds and makes friends with animals. All living creatures desire fellowship. Based on these two characteristics of life, namely, the preservation of itself and fellowship with others, laws of human government are instituted. For example, the death penalty reflects a convict’s desire to preserve his own life; punishment comes in the form of taking away and terminating such a life. This is the way to inflict suffering on a life. Imprisonment, as a less serious punishment, cuts him off from having fellowship with others. This reversal of the life principle becomes then a suffering for him. From this we see that punishment is applied according to the principles of life. With these two chief characteristics in mind, let us turn to the life of God. God is an organism of a higher order than human beings. He is naturally governed by this law of life. We can know God by the characteristics and distinctive features of His life. From this we can deduce whether or not God wants to have fellowship with man. There are two kinds of religion: religion based on natural concepts and religion based on revelation. Natural religion starts with man as the center. He is the one that is seeking after God and studying about Him. What then is revelational religion? Revelational religion comes directly from God. He is the One who comes to reveal things to us. Man’s thoughts are often useless fancies. God’s revelation alone is trustworthy. Christianity is different from all other natural religions in that it is a religion that comes from revelation. Christianity begins from God. It is God who comes to seek out man, rather than man who seeks after God. I will not try to persuade you to believe in Christianity or to read the Bible. I will only make a few suppositions. We will treat the subject in the same way as if we were solving a problem in geometry. We will start from the suppositions and then deduce our arguments step by step. We will examine our reasoning’s to see if they are sound and if our conclusions are logical. As in mathematics, with some problems we work forwards, while with others we work backwards. At any rate, in the end we should be able to tell whether or not a supposition is justified. We have to make a few suppositions. The first one is that God exists. This in fact has been covered by us already. We have agreed that there is a God. He is a Being who has a purpose. Second, we assume that God has a desire to reveal Himself to man. If God wants to reveal Himself to man and if He wants us to know Him, how does He do it? In what manner can He be made known to us? If He speaks to us through thunder or writes to us through lightning, we will not be able to comprehend His message. How then does God make Himself known to us? If He is to reveal Himself and if He wants us to know Him, He necessarily must do it through human means. What then are the common ways that men communicate with one another? First, they do it through speaking and second through writing. All means of communication, whether telegraph, telephone, sign, or symbols, are all included in these two categories. If God is to manifest Himself, these are the only two means for Him to do so. For the present we set aside the aspect of speaking; we will see how God communicates with us through writing. If God reveals Himself through writing, of all the volumes written by different people throughout the centuries, there must be one book which is divinely inspired. This is a very crucial test. If such a book exists, it proves not only the existence of God, but it contains His written revelation to us as well. Is there then such a divinely written book? In the search for such a book, let us first mention a few basic principles. Suppose I want to order a book from a publisher. If I can tell him the name and author of the book, there will be no trouble getting it. If, however, I forget the name and author of the book, I can describe the characteristics of it to the publisher, such as the contents, size, color, binding, etc. The publisher will then search through all his books and locates the volume I want. God has one book in this universe. How do we find it? We have to know its characteristics first. If there is any book that has been written by God, it must meet certain conditions or have certain qualifications before one can say that it is from God. Let me put forth a few propositions. If there is a book written by God, it must first of all mention God. It must tell you that it is from God and that its author is God. This is the first qualification. Second, it must carry a moral tone that is higher than what we commonly know. If it is a fabrication, it can at the most be on the same level as man. Third, if there is such a divine book, it must tell us about the past and the future of this world. Only God knows clearly what occurred in the past and what will happen in the future. Only by telling us these matters will we know Him as God. Fourth, this book must be simple and available so that all may be able to secure and understand it. If there were only one such book in the world, then only a very few people would be able to see it. It would not pass the test unless it is a book accessible to everyone. In the United States there is a group of people who claim to have a book from God. It is engraved in gold and contains only twelve pages. Such a book then would not be accessible to the Chinese. God would never write to us a book at which we could not look. Now the matter is simplified. Let us repeat these four conditions once more.
(1) If such a book exists, it must tell us explicitly that its author is God.
(2) It must carry a high tone of morality.
(3) It must give a detailed description of the past and the future of the universe.
(4) It must be available.
Let us pick out some of the more important writings throughout human civilization and check them against these qualifications to see if any meets our requirements. We will start from books that are generally considered to be good. Let us take the Chinese classics of Confucius. They are immediately disqualified under the first requirement, for none of them claims to be written by God. They do have a high tone of morality, but they fail to give the origin and destiny of the world, the universe, and man. This does not mean that they are worthless books; it means that they do not contain the qualifications we want. They are not what we are looking for. Let us go to the classics of other cultures. There are numerous volumes of famous writings, but none of them passes the first test. They are all clearly written by man. They may be masterpieces in philosophy or morality, but they are not written by God, nor are they divinely inspired. We have to set them aside. There is a book in India called the Rig-Veda. It once dominated Hinduism. However, it does not claim to be written by God. Another book called the Avesta, written by a Persian named Zoroaster, is also extremely influential in the Middle East. It does not claim to be from God either. Moreover, its moral tone is not especially commendable. Let us come to the Koran of Mohammedanism. This is the closest one we can find. It tells us that it comes from God; it meets the first requirement. However, it does not fulfill the second requirement, for its moral tone is too low. The heaven it describes is full of lusts and flesh. God could never write a book with such licentiousness and immorality. Hence, this book does not pass the test of morality. After searching through all the books, you have to come finally to the Bible. If God desires to communicate with man, and if He does so through writing, then this is the only book that can pass the four tests. Hence, this must be the book God has for man. What does this book say? In the books of the law in the Old Testament, it says, “Thus saith the Lord,” at least five hundred times. Other books in the Old Testament repeat the phrase about seven hundred times. In addition to the references in the New Testament to the speaking of God, the Bible has more than two thousand claims of divine origin. If God has no intention of communicating with man, we can forget about this book. But if He does communicate with man through writing, then this book has to be of immense value. Can you find another book where God is claimed as its author that many times? We have to see if the Bible meets the second qualification. Let us take a look at its moral tone. Everyone who has studied this book confesses that it carries the highest moral standard. Even the sins of the noblest persons are recorded and condemned without mercy. Once a strong opposer of the Bible was asked by his son, “Why are you so strong against the Bible?” He answered, “If I do not condemn it, it will condemn me.” This book does not let us get by easily. The human concept is that all sexual acts outside marriage are considered as fornication. The Bible, however, says that even an evil thought is fornication. Human morality condemns an act of killing as murder, but the Bible condemns a slight hatred in the heart as murder. We consider a man who lets his enemy get by without paying vengeance as forgiving. But the Bible charges man to love his enemy. How high is its moral tone and how low we are before its standards! You cannot help but admit that it presents the best ethical code for humanity. Furthermore, this book describes in detail the past and future of the universe. Once a friend told me that he could believe in everything the Bible says except the parts in Genesis and Revelation where it talks about the origin and destiny of the heavens and earth. I told him that if this is indeed a book from God, it must, of necessity, contain these matters. If the Bible did not contain Genesis and Revelation, it would be the same as any other book, and we would have to look for another book; it would not be the one we want. But the past condition of the world and its future destiny are recorded here. Hence, the third qualification is also met. What is the circulation of such a book? Last year (1935), more than two hundred million copies were sold. Can you name another book that has such a high circulation rate? This statistic, moreover, is not limited to just last year; every year the number has remained approximately the same. In one sense this book is very popular. In another sense it is like a thorn in your hand; it pierces you. This book gives you a headache. It creates an unspeakable uneasiness within man. It even causes man to oppose it. In spite of this, its annual sales are still over two hundred million. Furthermore, this book is translated into more than seven hundred twenty languages. In every country and among every race, there is a translation of this unique book. It is extremely easy for anyone to obtain a Bible anywhere in the world. If the Rig-Veda were God’s book, then more than half of the world would perish due to a failure in obtaining it. Even if you put the Rig-Veda in my hand, I would still be unable to understand it. If only the educated ones can contact God, then I am destined to go to hell. If only the Indians have the opportunity, we Chinese, as well as other races, are out of hope. If God speaks through the Rig-Veda, then where can we find that book? Maybe we can only find the original copy in the London Museum. And even that may not contain the original meaning of God’s revelation to man. This is not all. The Bible contains sixty-six books and it is divided into the Old and New Testaments. It was written by no less than thirty people. The span from the time the first book was written to the time when the last book was finished is more than sixteen hundred years. The places where they were written are also different. Some were written in Babylon, some in Italy, some at one end of Asia Minor, others at the other end of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the writers themselves differed in their backgrounds. Some were lawyers; some were fishermen. There were princes, and there were shepherds. All these writings by men of different backgrounds, languages, environments, and periods are put together. The amazing thing is that it is still a complete book. All those who have had some experience of editing know that in order to put together a few articles written by different authors, it is necessary for the authors to be of comparable level of academic achievements and viewpoints. Even when the academic standard and viewpoints are similar, there will still be conflicts and contradictions when you put five or six articles together. But the Bible, though complex in contents, contains history, poetry, laws, prophecies, biographies, and doctrines and was written by so many different ones at different times and under different circumstances, yet when you put them together, they surprisingly run as one continuous volume. There is no conflict or contradiction. They are written in one breath. If you read this book carefully, you have to admit that God’s hand is behind all the writings. More than thirty people of varied backgrounds and ideas in different times and places wrote these sixty-six books. When you group them up, they link together as if they were written by one individual. Genesis was written about fifteen hundred years before Christ, and Revelation was written ninety-five years after Christ. There is a time span of sixteen hundred years. One talks about the beginning while the other projects the end of the world. Yet whatever begins in Genesis is concluded in Revelation. This amazing feature cannot be explained in human terms. Every word of it has to be written by God through man. God is the motivating One behind the whole composition. There is another remarkable thing about this book. In itself it is a book that gives life. Yet countless numbers of people have lost their lives for its sake. There was a time when anyone who held this book in his hand would immediately be put to death. The most powerful empire in history was the Roman Empire. There was a time when this empire summoned all its forces to destroy this book. Everyone who possessed it would be inhumanly persecuted and later killed or burned. They wiped out thousands of people and burned countless copies of the Bible. They even set up a monument at a place where they killed Christians. On it was the inscription: “Christianity is buried here.” They thought that when they had burned all the Bibles and removed all the Christians, they would see Christianity lying there beneath their feet. But it was not long after that when the Bible came back again. Even in a country like England, which has already accepted Christianity as its state religion, you can still find tombs of martyrs for Christ if you visit different places there. Here and there you can find places where the Bible was once burned. Or you may come across a tombstone that tells you that such and such a person tried so hard and wrote so many books in his life to oppose the Bible. One place may tell you that the Bible was once burned there, and another place may tell you that Christians were once killed there. One signpost may point you to a statue of martyrdom, and another may point to a site of Bible burning. Why is it that so many people have tried so hard to oppose this book? Why is it that men would pass by other books, but would either oppose this book with every fiber of their being or would put their whole life to the stake for it? There must be something extraordinary here. Even if you do not believe that this is God’s word, you have to admit that there is something unusual about this book. This book seems to be very simple and easy. If you consider it from the historical point of view, it tells the origin of the universe, the earth, the plants, human beings, how they established their kingdoms, and how they will eventually end. This is all. There is nothing special about it. Yet it has been handed from generation to generation for centuries. Today it is still with us. Moreover, if you do not confess that it is truth, you have to conclude that it is false. You can disregard many books, but you cannot ignore this book. Nor will it ignore you. It will not let you go. It demands a verdict from you. It will not pass you by. Another remarkable thing about this book is that almost half of it is prophecy. Among the prophecies, almost half of them are fulfilled. The other half is for the future and await fulfillment. For example, it predicted the fate of the nations of Moab and Ammon and of the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Today when people talk about big cities, they mention London and Shanghai. Then it was Tyre and Sidon. They were two chief cities of the ancient world. The prophecies concerning these two cities were all fulfilled. Once I was in the Middle East. For some reason I did not visit those two places. However, I bought two pictures of those cities. It amazed me when I looked at those pictures. I could not help but believe in the Bible. It was prophesied that if these two metropolitan cities did not repent, they would be destroyed and devastated. Their land would become hills of rocks and pebbles where fishermen would come to dry their nets. In the pictures that I bought, there was nothing but fishing boats and open nets on the shore. This is only one small fact that proves the reliability of biblical prophecy. If you compare past events with the prophecies in the Bible, you will find that they all correspond one with another. For another example, take the birth of Christ. Isaiah prophesied concerning a virgin with child a few hundred years before Christ actually came. Later, He was born indeed of the Virgin Mary. The prophecy was accurately fulfilled. As the prophecies concerning the past have been fulfilled, so the prophecies concerning the future must also be fulfilled. If God desires to communicate with man, He must do so through common human channels of communication. He must use the human language or human writings. In other words, there must be a book in the world that is a direct revelation from God. If such a book does exist, it must contain the four criteria we mentioned. Now we can say that such a book is found. This book tells us that God desires to have fellowship with us. He speaks to us through this book. Through it God is no longer an unknown Being. We can now know Him. This book is the Bible. I hope all of you will read it.
THIS IS SERIOUS: WAS JESUS CRAZY? WAS HE A LUNATIC? OR THE BIGGEST LIAR?
God desires to reveal Himself to us. He does so through means that are comprehensible to man. These are namely written and spoken language. We have seen how God reveals Himself through writing. Now we want to take a look at His revelation through speaking. Suppose that you have had correspondence with a person for many years; however, you have never seen him. Naturally, you would want to know him more by having some direct acquaintance with him. Full understanding of someone cannot be achieved merely through writing. Direct contact gives a better chance. It seems as if communication through speech is of a more intimate and thorough nature than writing. When spoken language is added to written language, communication becomes enhanced. If you take away either of the two, you have a gap. Of course, if you take away both, communication is completely voided. Effective communication is always carried out by these two means. If God’s intention is to reveal Himself to us, He must of necessity do so through speaking. But how does God speak? Does He trumpet from the heavens? If so, we would all be frightened to death. We would all run away. No one would dare to listen. There is a chasm between Him and us. He, being so high and great, would drive us away from His holiness. How then does He speak?
THE WINTER ON THE MOUNTAIN
Let me relate to you a story. One winter I was staying on the mountain Lu-shan, recovering from an illness. It was immediately after the war, and there was practically no one living on the mountain. In the vicinity of my dwelling, one could hardly see anyone all day long. I am a quiet person by nature. This kind of environment was very appealing to me. Not only was it quiet there, but the weather was cold as well. From morning till dusk, all I saw was a boy who came three times to deliver my meals. At the beginning I was quite at ease. But after a while, even a person like me began to feel lonely. One day after lunch I went to take a nap. There was a balcony outside my bedroom window. When I woke up I saw some little creatures gathering around the balcony. Bits of my meal had been dropped there, and the birds were busily chirping around them. As they hopped around, they chirped and made many cheerful noises. I said to myself, “All right. Since I cannot find any human beings, I will try to make friends with these little birds.”I rose up and went out to greet them. But in an instant they all flew away. An idea came to me. I took some of the leftover rice and began to arrange it in rows, with only a few grains in the first row and gradually increased them towards the entrance of the doorway. I hid behind the door and watched them coming. Soon they gathered around again. I said to me, “This is my chance.” I walked out and began to make friends with them. But the minute they saw me, they all scattered. Some perched on the branches of the tree across the balcony and stared at me, as if trying to determine what my intention was. Every time I approached them, they flew away, and every time I walked away, they came back. This went on a number of times. I wanted to preach to the birds. I wanted to tell them, “Little birds, I have no special intention in doing this. This is winter on the mountain, and food is scarce. I have enough food with me, and I just want to share it with you. Please be at peace and come down. I only ask that as you eat, I can sit among you. I want to listen to your songs and watch you playing. Come. Let us be friends…” But the birds would not come. They did not understand me. I had to give up. Later I had a certain realization within. I began to preach to myself. I said, “This body of mine is too big. If I could shrink from five feet eleven inches to the size of a bird, and even change myself into a bird, they would not be alarmed by my presence. I could then tell them my heart’s intention, and we could spend the winter on the mountain Lu-shan together.”We have a similar problem today. If God remained God, we could never understand Him. If He talked to us in His language, we would be altogether lost. If God wants to reveal Himself through speaking and have fellowship with man, He must shrink Himself to such a degree that He and we are the same. Only then would He be able to speak to us and tell us of Himself and of the mysteries of the universe. Only then would we be able to understand Him. Has God become a man to reveal Himself through His speaking? Let us again use the method of supposition. What if God revealed Himself through the human language? What if He became a man and fellowshipped with man? The implication is tremendous here! It would mean that in this world, among all the human beings throughout history, one person was not merely a man, but God as well! If it is granted that God became a man, there must be a mortal who was also divine. We need to find out about this One. This is a thorny task. But we will employ the effective method we have adopted—namely, setting down a few principles. Then we will search according to these qualifications and directions. We want to base our evaluation on what manner of life a person should possess and what qualifications he must have if he is God.
The first condition that this person must fulfill is that he must claim to be God while he is on earth. He cannot be apologetic about it. He must declare boldly that he is God. Only then can we know who he is. Without this declaration, we have no way to guess his identity. Hence, a declaration is our first qualification.
Second, the way this person came into the world must be different from ours. If I said that I am God and yet was born in the same manner as every other mortal, my words would carry no force. If on the other hand, I dropped down from heaven; my assertion would be taken seriously. The way this person comes into being must be extraordinary. He must come in an absolutely different fashion; otherwise, his words will not carry the necessary weight. Third, this man must bear a moral standard that is far above that of all other human beings. He must have God’s holiness, and his life must bear the mark of God’s righteousness. For example, if I became a bird and lived in exactly the same way as other birds, without showing them anything extraordinary, I could not convince them that I was actually a man. If God is to become a man, His moral behavior must be of the highest quality. This is the only way that we could identify Him as God. Furthermore, if a person is God, he must necessarily be able to perform things which no mortal can do. If he can achieve what we cannot achieve and know what we do not know, we can say that he is truly God. Lastly, this person must be able to tell us the divine purpose concerning man. What was God’s purpose in creating the universe and man? How does He take care of human pains and sorrows? What is the origin and ultimate solution of everything in the universe? What should our attitude towards God be? All these he must reveal to us. Unless this one shows us what we do not see, we cannot say that he has shown us any revelation. We will set down these five conditions and put the whole of humanity to the test. Let us find out if someone meets the five requirements. Such a person would surely be qualified to be God. The first person to put to the test should be yourself. Of course, you are not God, because you have never claimed to be God. Nor have I ever claimed to be. So that rules out you and me. Very well, now we will introduce Confucius. If you read his books, you will find that he did conduct a very moral and proper life. But he never claimed to be God either. Hence, he fails in the first step. What about Sakya Muni, the founder of Buddhism? Not only was there an absence of the claim of divinity, but his philosophy itself is void of deity. He did not believe in the existence of God. Since he had no God, he cannot be God either. Next, go to Mohammed. He believed in God. But he never claimed to be God. He called God Allah and himself the prophet of Allah. If you go through every person in history, you will discover that no one ever claimed to be God except One. That One was Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the living God. No other person put forward such a claim. How can Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God? Before going on, we have to pause for a moment to seriously consider the matter. It is not a light thing to claim to be God. A person who makes such a claim falls into one of three categories. He must belong to one of these three categories; he cannot belong to all three. First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. You can only choose one of the three possibilities. If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman. If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar. There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God. These are our three choices. There is no fourth. What did Jesus of Nazareth say about Himself? In John 10:30 He said, “I and the Father are one.” We need some explanation here. In the Bible the invisible God is called the Father. The Son manifests and expresses the Father. What is hidden is the Father, and what is expressed is the Son. The Son is the One who can be seen and touched. Behind, you have the Father. In front, you have the Son. The two are actually one. They are the two sides of the same reality. When we talk about two, we refer to the fact that one is hidden while the other is revealed. When we talk about one, we say that the revealed One is just the hidden One in manifestation. This is the biblical interpretation of the Father and the Son. Therefore, when Jesus of Nazareth one day said, “I and the Father are one,” it was a statement that no one else could make. This man was saying in reality that He and the invisible God are one entity. He is God and God is He. God is the invisible Father, and He is the manifested Son. The Father and the Son are one! Who can this One be that made such a claim? Is He a madman? Is He out to deceive us? After Jesus spoke such a word, what reaction do we see? “The Jews again took up stones that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these works are you stoning me? The Jews answered Him, We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, are making Yourself God” (vv. 31-33). The Jews understood very well that Jesus’ words meant that He claimed to be God. After hearing these words they wanted to stone Him to death. A claim was made by Jesus, and an accusation was charged by the Jews, both of which concerned His divinity. Was Jesus insane? Did He speak pure nonsense just to cause people to kill Him? Or was He a swindler setting up some kind of a scheme? If so, what was He trying to gain? Was He trying to gain death? Perhaps we will go back a little bit to the earlier parts in the Gospel of John and see what it says there. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Why has no one seen God? It is because God is invisible. Jesus said that He was the only Begotten of the Father; He expressed the invisible Father. When you see the only Begotten, you see the Father. Again He spoke concerning Himself, “And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven” (3:13). Have you ever heard anyone say such words? I cannot say, “No one has been to Shanghai, but he who comes from Shanghai to Tientsin, even I, Watchman Nee, who is in Shanghai.” If I say so, I would be gibbering nonsense. But Jesus was speaking a heavenly language. He said that He came out of heaven and is still in heaven. What can a person be if he can be in two places simultaneously? Either he is God or he is a lunatic or he is a liar. If you have not yet believed in Christ, please give a verdict to this issue. Who is this man? Let us read John 3:31-32: “He who comes from above is above all; he who is from the earth is of the earth and speaks out of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony.” He said that He came out of heaven and was above all. After a while He said the same thing again. Let us see what the purpose behind these words is. He came to preach the things of heaven, but no one received His words. He mentioned words like “heaven,” “above all,” “out of heaven,” etc. What kind of man was He? Confucius never said this. Neither did Sakya Muni or Mohammed. Was Jesus of Nazareth a madman, a liar, or the Son of God? John 5:17 says, “But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I also am working.” He always put Himself in the same place as the Father. Verse 18 says, “Because of this therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” When we read His words now, we may consider them to be ordinary remarks. But the Jews knew what He was saying. They knew that He was making Himself equal with God. The words in fact meant that God is His Father and He came to express God. The invisible One is God, and the visible One is He. Therefore, the Jews sought to kill Him. What should we do about such an unusual person? John 6:46 says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except Him who is from God, He has seen the Father.” Here the word is clearer. He said that no one other than Himself has ever seen God. Only He knew what the Father is like. I can only say with soberness and reverence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Read John 8:18. What did He say? “I am one who testifies concerning me, and the Father who sent me testifies concerning me.” The question in verse 19 is most interesting: “They said then to Him, Where is Your Father? Jesus answered, You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” Have you seen what He was saying? They had seen Him, yet did not know Him. Of course they would not know the Father either, whom they had not seen. If men knew Him, they knew God. Who is He then? If knowing Him equals knowing God, is that not the same as saying that He is God and God is He? Read John 8:23: “And He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” The preposition “from” in this verse is ek in Greek. It means “out of.” That is how it should be translated. He said, “You are out of this world, but I am not out of this world.” This man claimed to be from above; He did not come out of this world. Who can He be? The Jews were confused. They were totally bewildered. Who was this man? The ancestor of the Jews is Abraham. They boasted of being the descendants of Abraham in the same way the Chinese boast of being the offspring of Hwang-ti. The name Abraham was highly venerated among the Jews. Now they brought out Abraham. Please read John 8:53: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too. Who are you making yourself? How did Jesus answer them? Was He greater or smaller than Abraham? In verse 56 Jesus said, “Your father Abraham exulted that he would see my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” What is this? Even Abraham had to look forward to Jesus! Hence, verse 57: “The Jews then said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Now please pay your attention to Jesus’ answer in verse 58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am.” Tell me who this man is. If I told you that before Hwang-ti was, I, Watchman Nee am there, you would immediately write me off as a lunatic. Some of you would say that I am a liar. The words Jesus spoke made Him a madman, a liar, or God. There can be no fourth alternative. We have to read on. In John 10:37-38 Jesus said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may come to know and continue to know…” Know what? The clause following is very crucial. It is a big statement: “…that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” Who then is this man? He said that He was in God and God was in Him. Passages like the above are numerous in the Bible. I shall mention one more. Read carefully John 14:6-7: “Jesus said to him, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and henceforth you know Him and have seen Him.” It says clearly that if you know Jesus of Nazareth, you have known the invisible God. Why is this so? It is because He is God. One of the disciples was confused. John 14:8 says, “Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.” Philip was asking to be shown the Father who had been mentioned again and again by Jesus. Verse 9 says, “Jesus said to him, have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father?” Here Jesus made it very plain that to see Him is to see God. He made no apology about it. He is God. There is no need to see the Father anymore. If you see Him, you see God! Who is Jesus of Nazareth? What would you say? Is He merely the founder of the Christian religion? Is He merely an example of self-sacrifice and humanitarianism? Is He a social reformer? Is He an advocate for universal love, peace, and freedom? Listen to what He said about Himself. He said that He is God. What is your conclusion? Is He a lunatic or a liar? Is He a hoax, or is He God? This is a vital question. Can He be a madman? If you read His biographies in the Gospels and observe His life and manner, you will realize that not only was He sane and sound, He was very sober and firm. If there is a perfectly sound person in this world, He has to be the One. His mind was clear, and His mentality was alert. If you study His deeds and words carefully, you have to confess that His thoughts are very logical and consistent, and His manners are most comely and appropriate. To opposing ones He only needed to reply a few sentences, and their arguments against Him were defeated. He did not have a trace of madness in Him. A madman could never have done what He did. Then is He a liar? A liar always lies for a profit. If there is no profit to be gained, what is the purpose of lying? Why was Jesus crucified? For no other reason than that He claimed to be God. At the last judgment, the hour when His release or crucifixion was to be deliberated, He was examined as to who He was. What was His answer? He said that the Son of Man would be seen sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high, descending on the clouds in glory (Matt. 26:64). Even then He claimed to be God. As a result, He was crucified on the cross. Is there a liar who would sacrifice his life for his lie? Once I met a person who wanted to talk with me about our faith. He read some books about Jesus and admitted that Jesus had a high standard of morality. He could consider Jesus as a perfect man, a model for humanity. But he could not believe that Jesus is God. I said, “If you admit that He has a high standard of morality, then He at least is not a liar. If you agree that He is not a liar, then you have to accept His claim of divinity as truth. He repeatedly asserted that He is God. If you admire His morality, you have to recognize His divinity as well. Jesus of Nazareth is God!”Please read John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality.” What is the “Word” mentioned in verses 1 and 14? Verse 1 speaks of the relationship the Word has with God.
In reference to when, the Word was there from the beginning.
In reference to where, the Word was with God. In reference to what, the Word was God. Today the Word has become flesh; He has taken on a human body and dwelt among men. As to how He dwells, it says that He is “full of grace and reality,” and “we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father.” Who is this One? He is Jesus of Nazareth. Here we have only seen one of the five qualifications mentioned earlier. Only Jesus of Nazareth meets this first condition. This proves that He is God. We shall go on to see the four other conditions or qualifications. Jesus of Nazareth must meet all the other four qualifications before we can conclude that He is God.
EXAMINE THE CLAIMS
If God is to be a man, He must come into the world in a way that is very different from all other mortals. We come into the world through our parents and are conceived by our mothers. To ascertain whether Jesus of Nazareth is an ordinary person or the incarnated God, we need to examine His birth. If His birth was no different from ours, we have to conclude that He is nothing but a man. Not only does He have to pass the first qualification, but He needs to pass the second one. Do not hastily believe in a person simply because he claims to be God; we have to test him by our second criterion. If he is indeed God, he must be born in an extraordinary manner. If we study the birth of Jesus, we will find that it was very different from ours. He was born of a virgin. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament tell us this fact. Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. Before we go on, we have to realize that there are two ways to know God: by natural speculation or by revelation. According to natural speculation, one meditates and conjectures about God. In revelation, God speaks to man. We want to look at the revelation of God. We want to know what God says. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke show us that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. This important fact enables us to conclude that He is no ordinary person, and it justifies our being a Christian. The natural mentality cannot readily accept this fact. Some years ago, a big debate was conducted in England. On one side were prominent leaders of modernistic schools of theology. On the other side was a famous Presbyterian pastor-theologian. Four major topics were raised. Twice a day, for four consecutive days, each side took turns delivering a long speech for a total of eight messages. One of the topics was related to our subject—the virgin birth. The modernistic theologians asserted that one reason alone was enough to disprove the virgin birth—the event was biologically impossible. According to the law of biology, it is impossible to have the virgin birth. On the same day, their opponent gave the rebuttal. Let me briefly mention a few of his arguments. He said, “Our friends have denied the possibility of such an event on the ground of biological law. I am here to ask whether such an event happened. They asked, ‘Can this happen?’ They referred you to academic principles. I am asking, ‘Has this happened?’ I point to a historical occurrence. It is one thing to be academically justified. It is another thing to be historically recorded.”As he was speaking, he drew out a newspaper from his pocket. In the paper was an article about an accident that had happened a few days earlier. A man was driving on a winding mountain road. Due to carelessness, the car slid and tumbled down a deep gorge. The car was totally wrecked. Not even a square foot of the vehicle was left untouched. It was thoroughly damaged. But the man on the ground was absolutely unhurt. Later, he rose up and walked away. The theologian read the passage aloud and said, “This car tumbled down a thousand feet into ruin. You cannot even find a square foot of whole metal, and yet the man was unharmed. My friends would ask, ‘Could this man live?’ But my question is, ‘Is this man alive?’ He is alive! If you consider the possibility, there is none. But if you consider the fact, there it is!”What we have is a historical fact. If we try to study the virgin birth from a scientific point of view, we may conclude that this is an impossible event. But my question is whether or not such an event occurred. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus was born of a virgin. So does the Gospel of Luke. At least you have to say that these records have said such a thing and that such an event was recorded in history. At least you have to believe that there is a historical event. I am not asserting that Matthew and Luke were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote their books. Whether these books were divinely inspired or not, we will set aside for a moment. We are saying that there were a few people who followed Jesus. They wrote His biography. Both Matthew and Luke were contemporaries of Jesus. Matthew followed Him for more than three years. Luke was not as close, but he “carefully investigated all things” (Luke 1:3). I believe that when he wrote his gospel, the mother of Jesus was still alive. What did they say about the birth of Jesus? They all testified that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. His birth was absolutely different from ours. Today, after almost two thousand years, some who never saw Jesus, never talked to Mary His mother, and never met Joseph His father; conclude that He was not born of a virgin. How can you say that He was not born in this manner? Are you ruling out the possibility of such an event and concluding that it did not happen because of some arguments you proposed in your study room or some theories you fashioned in the laboratory? Perhaps we should read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. There are forty-two generations in the genealogy. Beginning from the first generation, it repeatedly says, “So-and-so begot So-and-so.” This phrase is used through verse 15, which says, “And Eliud begot Eleazar, and Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob.” Verse 16 continues, “And Jacob begot Joseph.” The surprising thing is that the next part of the sentence does not continue with “Joseph begot Jesus.” Rather, it says, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” When the line reaches Joseph, the pattern is dropped. This is because Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. His way of birth was very different from ours. We have seen that His method of coming into the world was an unusual one. Now we want to look at His way of departing from the world. As we shall see, this was also contrary to our ordinary deaths. No one can ever predict the place, time, and manner he or she is going to die. A hundred years from now, all of us here will be dead. But no one knows how we are going to die. Jesus of Nazareth, however, foresaw His own death. He knew exactly when, where, and how it was to happen. Once when someone told Him that He was going to be killed, He answered that it was not acceptable for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). He knew that He was going to die in Jerusalem. One day, He told His disciples that the hour had come. Not only did He sense the imminence of His death; He told others that His death hour had come. He knew also how He would die. A number of times He mentioned that He would be crucified. This was recorded at least three times in Matthew. Not only was this man different in His way of entering into the world, but His manner of departure was no less extraordinary. Both His birth and His death were very unusual. Is this the Son of God? Let us consider the third qualification. What kind of morality did Jesus of Nazareth have? Was He the same as we are? Did He ever sin? I like the sentence Jesus spoke in John 8. Many were opposing Him at that time. They surrounded and cross-examined Him. In return He asked, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (v. 46). This was a tremendous challenge! Which one of us would dare to stand before everyone and challenge to be convicted of sin? Whoever dared do such a thing would be put to shame the minute his wife stood up to testify against him. Perhaps, in less than five minutes, seven or eight people would immediately rise up to expose his lies and unfaithfulness. But when Jesus made such a statement, no one was able to convict Him of sin. There has been a countless number of saints and sages throughout the ages, but none was bold enough to claim to be perfect and sinless. Why is it that Jesus alone dared to make such a claim? All I can say is that this man is either arrogant to the extreme or holy to the uttermost. A proud person may talk in an outlandish manner because he does not know himself; he has no realization of what kind of person he is. But when Jesus challenged, “Which of you convicts Me,” there was no way He could be humble or polite about it. He is without sin, and He is holy to the uttermost. Jesus of Nazareth is not like Confucius, who said that given some more time, he would be rid of big, moral flaws. Jesus is sinless. When He made such a statement, He made it before His enemies. If there had been a slight misconduct on His part, the Jews would have caught it right away. The Jews are not prolific writers; they have not produced many books other than the Holy Scripture. But after Jesus, many books were written by the Jews to contradict Him. All these books deny His divinity, but none touch His morality. Of all the opposing writings, none can prove that Jesus ever sinned. Every philosopher or founder of religion, at one time or another, has said, “I repent,” or “I regret such and such a matter. I will do better from now on.” But Jesus of Nazareth never repented. A sinner must of necessity repent. But what does a sinless man have to repent of? Jesus never apologized to anyone; He never did anyone any wrong. When I was in England, some British friends asked for my opinion concerning their people. I said, “Among you, once ever so often, I hear, ‘Excuse me’ and ‘I beg your pardon.'” To the English, anyone who does not know how to make these two remarks has to be an extremely base person, for he knows not his own mistakes. Anyone can make a mistake, but when one refuses to admit his mistakes, he makes himself vulgar. For this reason we have to say, “Excuse me” and “I beg your pardon” all the time. The amazing thing is that Jesus of Nazareth never said “sorry” to anyone. He never apologized. Could He be so evil as to ignore His conscience completely? Was He oblivious to His own errors? Or is He really sinless? If so, He cannot say, “sorry.” It is not a matter of humility or politeness to Him, but a matter of maintaining His standing. I love the story about Jesus once walking down a road. Many people were gathered around Him, hoping to see the resurrection of a dead person. It was so crowded that the people pressed upon each other. One woman, who suffered from an issue of blood for years, thought that Jesus would surely be able to heal her since He had performed all kinds of miracles. She did not come to the Lord directly. All that she did was touch the fringe of His garment, and the sickness was immediately healed (Mark 5:25-29).Jesus felt something, turned around, and asked, “Who touched Me?” How did the disciples respond? They said, “You see the crowd pressing upon You and You say, Who touched Me?” (v. 31). He should have asked, “Who pressed Me?” instead of “Who touched Me?” If I were Jesus, I would have said in a gentlemanly fashion, “Excuse me.” But Jesus did not need to say that. When He said that it was a touch, He meant that it was a touch and not a pressing against. The disciples only knew that many thronged around Him. But He knew that someone “touched” Him. He knew what He was doing. There was no need for apology. He knows no sin because He is without sin. Let me mention another story about Jesus. One day He came to the synagogue in His hometown. Someone handed Him the Scripture, and He started to read from a passage about Himself. The people there, however, despised Him. He remarked that a prophet is always despised in His own place. For this reason, God would not choose them but would rather go to someone else. After they heard this, they were very indignant. They carried Him outside and tried to throw Him down a cliff. I like very much what Jesus did then. He passed through their midst (Luke 4:16-30). If someone tried to push us over a cliff, we would struggle to escape. But He was no ordinary person. He simply passed through the persecutors’ midst. They could do nothing except let Him pass by! He is without sin. Again, you see the same Jesus preaching to a ruler at midnight in a house (John 3:2), while choosing to converse with a woman beside a well at midday (4:5-7). Everything He did was very proper. No one can say anything against Him. You cannot find fault in Him. Another time some opposers came to tempt Him. They asked whether or not it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar. The Jewish nation, as you know, no longer existed then, and Caesar of Rome was their king. If Jesus said “no” to the question, He would have been involved in a political issue, and the opposers would have had an excuse to condemn Him. If He said “yes,” all the Jews would have counted Him as siding with the Romans and hated Him. The result, of course, would have favored the opposers. This was a question that could not be answered “yes” or “no.”How did Jesus reply? He said, “Show Me the coin for the tribute” (Matt. 22:19). He was wise. He even had the opposing ones draw out the money from their own pockets. Then He asked, “Whose is this image and inscription?” (v. 20). They had to admit that it was Caesar’s. Jesus gave an excellent reply: “Render then the things that are Caesar’s to Caesar and the things that are God’s to God” (v. 21). With that He dismissed the whole case. This is where His majesty lies. He never made a mistake. You cannot get a case out of Him. I cannot enumerate all His deeds. Everything He did bears such a mark of nobility that there is absolutely no flaw in His behavior. I will briefly mention His betrayal as a final example. It was very late in the night, and men armed with torches, spears, and swords came to arrest this empty-handed Jesus. He asked them, “Whom do you seek?” They said, “Jesus the Nazarene” (John 18:7). He replied, “I told you that I am” (v. 8). At that very word, the band of rogues whose minds were set on capturing Him fell back to the ground. If Jesus had not voluntarily given Himself over to them, they would never have been able to seize Him. Such calmness and majesty can only be seen in Him! As to the traitor, Jesus knew from the first day of his intention. Yet He allowed the same to follow Him and even let him be the keeper of the money. All the time Jesus knew that money was being stolen by him. Who can demonstrate such forbearance and uprightness? Here is a man who is absolutely different from all others. In every respect, He has been proven to be the Son of God. The fourth qualification we mentioned is that one who claims to be God incarnated must be able to perform what an ordinary person cannot. Has Jesus of Nazareth performed any supernatural acts? We are not His contemporaries; it was almost two thousand years ago that He walked on earth. Naturally, we cannot be His witnesses. But one thing is sure: the apostles who followed Jesus recorded, preached, and testified the things concerning Him. The four Gospels were all completed within thirty years after His departure. Most of the Jews who were then alive had seen Jesus. If the apostles’ records were false, they would have been repudiated long ago. However, the Jews only argued that Jesus is not the Son of God. They never denied His deeds, for the deeds were all facts. Today, when we read the four Gospels, we have no apprehension about their authenticity. If there had been a slight error when they were written, there would have been grave problems because many of the contemporaries had actually seen and heard Jesus. There was no chance for any fabrication. Hence, these books cannot be a hoax. If the Jews could not attack these books, there is even less of a basis for an attack today. Let us examine some of the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 11:2 and 3 say, “Now when John heard in the prison of the works of the Christ, he sent word through his disciples and said to Him, Are You the Coming One, or should we expect another?” John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Christ sent from God. If He was not, John would wait for another. Verses 4 and 5 say, “And Jesus answered and said to them, Go, report to John the things that you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; and the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel announced to them.” Jesus answered neither “yes” nor “no.” He only asked the messenger to tell John of the things heard and seen. He wanted John to think about them and decide for himself if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus proved His divinity by the miracles He performed. Here is a man who accomplished things that are impossible for human beings. You cannot help but confess that He is God. John 7:31 says, “But many out of the crowd believed into Him and said, Will the Christ, when He comes, do more signs than this man has done?” Many people testified that He performed all kinds of miracles which no man could do. John 10:24 says, “The Jews therefore surrounded Him and said to Him, How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” On the one hand, the Jews hardened their hearts and refused to acknowledge His divinity, and on the other hand, they were puzzled by the many supernatural miracles that He performed. They gathered around Him and pressed for an answer. There is one thing in which Jesus never gave in: His claim to divinity. He performed what mortals could not. These acts testify to His divinity. He told the people clearly, “The works which I do in My Father’s name, these testify concerning Me” (v. 25). On the one hand, He made His claim, and on the other hand, He performed miracles to justify His claim. In John 14:11 He said to His disciples, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” This is the same as saying that He is the invisible Father. “But if not, believe because of the works themselves.” If He had not done anything impossible, this word would have had no value at all. If He had not performed any extraordinary acts, they would have asked back, “What works have you done? We do not know what you are talking about.” But the disciples knew of the acts He did. All these acts prove that He is the Son of God. We have to check Jesus of Nazareth against a fifth qualification. If He is God, He has to show us what He is. Is He kind, or is He severe? Is He gentle, or is He fierce? What kind of a God do we have? As a matter of fact, Jesus did show us what God is. This is a most wonderful thing. The eternal, invisible God is now seen by us. There is no need to conjure up an untouchable and far transcendent God or imagine what He is like; He has revealed Himself to us. He has dwelt in our midst and walked among us. Jesus of Nazareth is the very God dwelling among and with man. He has manifested God’s nature and attributes to us. There is no need to search for God anymore because He has revealed Himself. Our mentality is too limited. Our hands are too short, and our viewpoint too narrow. If we were left to ourselves to study and search for God, we could only conclude that He is the unknown One. Now we know that God desires to reveal Himself. In fact, He has revealed Himself to us already. We have said that the two means whereby God communicates with us are the written and spoken language. For this reason, the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth are the two indispensable factors in our faith. When you take away either one, God becomes the gravest problem in the world. Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets.” These speaking constitute the Bible. “Has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son” (v. 2). This is Jesus of Nazareth. Whoever is in Christ now may know Him. To have heard the words of Jesus of Nazareth is to have heard the words of God. Dear reader, what is your attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth? Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Peter proclaimed, “You are…the Son of the living God!” (Matt. 16:16). Martha said, “I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27). Even a Roman centurion exclaimed at the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54b). I hope you will make the same confession
WHO IS HE?
Our Christian faith is based upon the revelation
of God. It is different from all other religions which are attained through meditation, conjecture, and searching. We believe that the Bible is God’s revelation to us. In other words, it is His spoken word to us. We also believe that God has become a man, who is the very Jesus of Nazareth. God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ constitute the basis of our faith. Let us begin by looking at the position that Christ occupies in our faith, or we may say, in Christianity. However, Christianity has been altered and is not what it ought to be. At the present we will not mention what Christianity ought to be. Rather, we will only draw a comparison between Christianity and other religions in order to see the distinctiveness of our faith. We will not try purposely to exalt Christianity and debase other religions. We will only draw an objective comparison between them. First, let us consider Confucianism. Actually, followers of Confucius never formally assert that theirs is a religion. Confucianism merely exercises great influence on Chinese culture, education, ethics, and philosophy. One thing, however, is certain: the teachings and doctrines of Confucius are of foremost importance, while the person Confucius is not as crucial. I do not mean that Confucianism has no concern for Confucius. The man indeed was an extraordinary person. However, in order to be a part of Confucianism, one only need to understand the doctrines of Confucius, abide by his teachings, and be thoroughly acquainted with his books. It does not matter whether one understands the man Confucius or not. The principles, doctrines, and teachings of Confucius are the essence of the religion. Next let us consider Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism was Sakya Muni. Once he preached to his disciples about evil persons being reincarnated through the Wheel of Rebirth after death. This is something that attracts man’s attention. But in all of Buddhism, the point of emphasis is doctrines and theories. Concerning the man Sakya Muni, although he has a history and biography, they are something parenthetical. They do not form the crux of Buddhism. The center of the religion is not the man Sakya Muni. Whether there was such a person is unimportant to today’s Buddhism. All that is needed are the doctrines and teachings. Other religions such as Taoism and Mohammedanism are all of the same principle. After each founder set up a relig
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