Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Opposing Reality with a Make-believe Arsenal:

I was sitting at work and pondering what to post about today. Interestingly enough, as a co-worker was leaving he handed me a book to assist me in passing the time as the phone continued to ring awaiting the individual on the other side to pick up and discuss their current mortgage situation with me. The volume he handed me, which the Chicago Tribune calls “Tantalizing!”, was titled “What if? – Vol. 2” edited by Robert Cowley. A small discussion ensued as he expressed his interest with counter-factual history.  As he spoke, there was a voice in my head yelling so loudly I don’t know why on earth he couldn’t hear it. (Don’t look at me that way, we both know you have them to, just like 16 year old Doogie as he would make his journal entry after a grueling day as a brain surgeon – talk about a plot for a TV series… only in the 90’s right?! )

Anyway, the example he gave in attempts to peak my interest in this theory of “hypothetical history” was that of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (the event that sparked WWI).He spoke of events that surrounded the assasination and how it’s occurence was a vital part in the spawning of WWI. So what was bouncing around in my head while he was talking? God is sovereign! In Isaiah 45:7, The LORD states “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

But there’s something else that caught my attention – chapter 3 of the book – “Pontius Pilate Spares Jesus – Christianity without a crucifixion”. The chapter, written by Carlos M.N. Eire, hypothesizes how history would have been different had Jesus not been crucified. I wish to use this man’s hypothesizing to address the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection to Christianity.

Mr. Eire makes two wrong assumption in thinking that Christianity still would have propagated (although in a slightly different form) had Pilate made a different decision. 1. Is that he fundamentally misunderstands the foundations of Christianity as evidenced by his thinking it would still spread had Jesus not been crucified, and 2. His view of the importance of events leading up to the crucifixion is too narrow; as if it all hinged upon Pilate. Judas did betrayed Jesus, the Pharisees demanded his death as opposed to stoning Him themselves, the 12 disciples didn’t revolt and come to Jesus’ rescue, nor did God The Father send angels to consume Jesus’ accusers with fire. Or what if the man who invented the method of crucifixion to begin with had died in infancy? There’s also Jesus’ claim to be The God of all creation, which is what infuriated the Jews to no end. So there’s more than just Pilate’s decision that affected the cross. There are a multiplicity of factors that played into the act of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Even if Pilate was, in reality, the sole determining factor, there is another wrong assumption made by Mr. Eire. On page 55, he writes “Pontius Pilate did not have to condemn Jesus to death by crucifixion. This is what all the gospel accounts tell us.” The gospels actually paint a drastically different picture as there are multiple instances where Jesus foretold of His own death and resurrection. If we look outside the gospels, back to the Old Testament, we are given a bloody picture of atonement for sin as a pointer to Jesus and His violent death. Lamb after lamb was slaughtered, the blood was spilled out, gathered, sprinkled on the mercy seat, etc. Yet Mr. Eire even hypothesizes of Jesus possibly dying of a brain aneurism (so He still ends up dying in the long run)– which goes against a fundamental belief of Christianity “without the shedding of blood is no forgiveness of sins.” (cf. Hebrews 9:22 as the writer references the Jewish Old Testament law) as well as overlooking the fact that his death was a public display of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:25), not a passing in solitude to be discovered later. If we search beyond the 4 gospel accounts to the epistles, we are also told by Peter, a disciple of Jesus, in Acts 4:27-28 that the events happening to Jesus were predestined by God the Father to occur. This is another fundamental of Christianity – that the crucifixion of Jesus happened precisely as it was foretold in the Old Testament as well as by the very mouth of Jesus. Even the apostle John records in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world.

My point, as I hope is evident,is not to argue with Mr. Eire, but rather state that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not an afterthought, or happenstance. It was planned by God before creation. Per all that had occurred up to that point, and everything recorded in the Jewish Old Testament, if Jesus had not died precisely as He did {as well as resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day as promised – both must be true}, then Christianity would have never spread. You cannot separate Christianity from Jesus Christ and you cannot separate Jesus Christ from His life, death, and resurrection. The very name “Christianity” states this as it was given by those who were not believers to believers who were like Jesus Christ in their way of life. We get our word “Christ” from the Greek “Christos” which is the equivalent to the Hebrew “Messiah” meaning promised One [see Genesis 3 for the first mention of that promise]. Jesus is the promised One. The entire Old Testament is about Him and what He would do, and the New Testament is about Him and what He has done (and the future ramifications of His work). It’s all about Him – the Judge of all the earth, and the only Savior.

“Christianity differs from all other major world religions and philosophies in that the salvation it proclaims is a salvation grounded in history. God does not propose an ahistorical process of redemption whereby all we need to do is grasp some truth that is not really dependent on the persons who taught it or the events that produced it. Instead, the LORD enters into history itself, working through real people, institutions, and events to save His people. The biblical message is indeed timeless, but it is inseparable from the persons, institutions, and events through which God has revealed it.” (TableTalk – March 2010 pg. 29 from Ligonier Ministries)

This post was spurred from a book concerning counter-factual history, which proves the point well. In a book devoted to hypothesizing on the “what if’s”, one that speculates on the outcome if the facts were not the facts, there is a chapter devoted to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – which is a positive proclamation that His crucifixion is, in fact, fact.

May God be pleased to use this feeble attempt at reasoning with men to further His kingdom.

One response

  1. 4calledbyhisgrace

    Good article Daniel. I liked how you took something your read and related it back to the Gospel. You were able to see God’s Sovereignty thru it all and was a chance to take something that some man had written and you used it in a way that bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. It reminds me that in everything we think, say and do, we need to have the Kingdom in heart and mind and basically do Kingdom work in all we do.

    March 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

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