The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.

This is the second in a series of posts that proposes to answer the following question.

Can you name a single thing Jesus said which was genuinely new, original, or useful?

We had The Presentation Of The Question in part 1. If you wish to understand why we are considering this question and how we intend to answer it, please visit part 1.

With respect to the question above, here we will examine the following.

What Did Jesus Do?

Why That Question?

Again, let’s consider the question.

Can you name a single thing Jesus said which was genuinely new, original, or useful?

Supposedly, those who ask this question want proof that Jesus was of prime importance in the history of man.  What is actually the primary issue, however, is whether Jesus is God. If Jesus is not God, then as C. S. Lewis pointed out the man Jesus was either a lunatic or a demonic liar (see here). If the man Jesus was merely a lunatic or a liar, why would we bother worrying about this question?

What matters then is whether Jesus is God. When Jesus walked among us as a man, what would His disciples have seen and heard that led them to believe He is God? What did Jesus do to show them and us that He is God?

What did Jesus do? That question presents us with two concerns.

  • The answer to the question itself.
  • Proof that Jesus did what the Bible says He did.

What Did Jesus Do?

It is not uncommon for men to try summarize the Bible into a fundamental statement of faith.  Official creeds and confessions of faith go back at least to the Nicene Creed (also here) and the Apostle’s Creed (also here). This web site, Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms, provides a long list of Christian statements of faith.

When providing a statement of faith, some churches prefer, however, just to cite passages from the Bible. My favorite, perhaps, is Philippians 2:6-11, but this one seems more relevant to the question we are considering.

1 Corinthians 15:3-7 Good News Translation (GNT)

I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterward to all the apostles.

There is nothing in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 about the newness or originally of an idea. To prove he is God, Jesus just exercised the power of God. He rose from the dead.

In The Book of Fools, Dr. Joe Temple gives this example of how Jesus answered fools asking for miracles and signs. Here is the passage he uses.

Matthew 16:1-4 Good News Translation (GNT)

16 Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times! How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.” 

So he left them and went away.

What was the miracle of Jonah? Jonah 1-2 records how God had Jonah swallowed by a large fish. Jonah spent three days and three nights entombed in that fish, probably dead. Then our Lord had the fish spit Jonah up on the beach, and Jonah finally went to Nineveh as God had commanded him.

Temple observes.

The only sign that God ever gave that His Son was real was when He raised Him from the dead, and you don’t need to give any other sign to anybody other than that. You don’t need to go around speaking their language and you don’t need to go around singing their songs and you don’t need to go around dressing their way. You dress the way you want to. I dress the way I want to. Dress the way you want to, but don’t be deluded into answering a fool according to his folly and think that the only way that you can get the Word of God out to somebody is to dress like they dress. You are answering a fool according to his folly when you do. (from here)

Proof That Jesus Did What The Bible Says He Did

Better scholars than I have tackled the issue of proving Jesus is God. Therefore, I will just reference them.

Here are the three I most recommend reading.

  • Historical Evidence for the Resurrection @ – Here we have a discussion of the empty tomb, what Jesus’ followers saw, and the remarkable growth of the early Christian church.
  • Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ @ – Here with respect to the resurrection of Jesus we consider the five logical possibilities: Christianity is true, Jesus disciples hallucinated, it’s a myth, its a conspiracy, and Jesus only swooned.
  • Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection? @ – This article focuses on the witnesses, both Jesus’ disciples and opponents who converted after His death. In addition, this article focuses the implications of the Christian faith starting in Jerusalem, where Jesus died.

Other references.


  1. Of course I’m not saying that personal beliefs do not “make a difference”, Tom. You’re just making that up. Personal beliefs are defining. They are much of what we talk about here. Obviously, my Christianity (or yours or anyone else’s, or their Judaism, Hinduism, or Muslim faith, etc. ) will influence judgements and decisions about secular issues. In your case, given the comment that sparked my inquiry, I was trying to figure out where you draw the line. I intuited from that comment (and many other things you have said) that you don’t believe Christians can be Democrats (or vice-versa) in modern American political parlance. You haven’t done much to disabuse me of that perception of you view, although, with Keith’s prompting, I think you may be sliding back to the idea that Christians (or Jews, given your Old Testament references), “should not” be Democrats. Thus, in this world-view, the religious edifice on which many in this country rest their faith becomes kind of an adjunct of the RNC, and politics is indelibly defining of religious authenticity, and vice-versa.

    Needless to say, I do not see religion as so defining, and I think it trivializes Christianity (and no doubt other religions) to think that there is so strong a marker in the relatively (compared to the deeper meanings of our Faith) petty disputes that mar our modern political discourse in America.

  2. I saw that one. What I was looking for were your views on whether a liberal Democrat could be a Christian or vice-versa. I asked because in a previous comment you had flipped very abruptly from talking a trusting in Scripture to a negative comment about people who voted for Obama. It led me to wonder whether you thought that any Christians voted for Obama (I happen to know many who did, by the way, or at least said they voted for Obama, but I thought I might solicit your view, given the celerity with which you changed gears in the comment about Scripture.

    If you think that the comment you just linked is responsive, I continue my worries about both your reading comprehension abilities and your ability to formulate coherent responses. I suppose, if I really penetrated through the murk of that response and did some gratuitous extrapolation, I might attribute to you the view that Christians cannot be liberal Democrats because Christians cannot be socialists and, in your world view, liberal Democrats are Socialists. That would be rather unfair, I think, for me to lay that kind of irrational thinking on you from so turbid a comment, so please correct me if I have misstated whatever it is you are trying to say.

    1. @ scout

      Look up the phrase “smart aleck.” =>

      Somebody who has actually read the Bible, has a decent understanding of it, and believes it should not be a Socialist or a Democrat. Unfortunately, too many people either have not given the Bible much thought or they have not given what government is supposed to much thought.

      Instead of making foolish wisecracks, if you agree, why don’t you explain why? Put up or shut up. What we believe makes a difference. Are you trying to tell me it does not? If you believe being a Christian should not affect your politics, then what is wrong with a Christian being a Nazi or a Communist?

  3. RE answering questions, Tom: You indicate in your 1018 comment of yesterday that you have answered my question as to whether you believe a liberal Democrat could be a Christian (or a Christian could be a liberal Democrat). The answer is not in this thread. Perhaps you posted it somewhere else? I’m keen to have your views on this. Maybe a link to wherever you put your response? Thanks in advance.

    1. Scout, you are articulate, but struggle with communication despite this. Look at what you did in your original question:
      • You open with a complaint about the answer to a previous question
      • You ask more questions
      • You mix in some additional discussion
      • You end with a rather vague question: “How does that work?”

      To this last question, Citizen Tom wrote at some length, trying to address what he felt was involved in the collision between politics and Christianity.

      But now you pick one of your questions out of that morass and complain about the lack of answer. You now seem to think that the only question you asked was “whether you believe a liberal Democrat could be a Christian (or a Christian could be a liberal Democrat).” But even in re-asking, you confuse the issue as to whether you seek a better answer, or a link to any previous answer.

      Let’s say that Citizen Tom had answered the question you are focused on in the obvious way, with a simple “yes.” How satisfied would you really have been?

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    2. I don’t think Citizen Tom thinks of you as a socialist, Scout, just with tendencies in that direction.

      But it seems to me that if you replaced “cannot” with “should not” in your assumed interpretation of Citizen Tom’s response, you’d be pretty close. In other words, the issue of a Christian voting for Obama is not a logical impossibility, just the result of flawed thinking and insufficient information and wisdom.

      Others have used the phrase “low-information voter” to capture this phenomenon reasonably enough, though Citizen Tom’s ideological discussion covers more ground than this. And, to my mind, it’s not just “low” information, it’s bad and hidden information; the media and on-line distortions of events are often quite dramatic, as are the omission of newsworthy items to be replaced by the latest celebrity nonsense.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    3. Answering straightforward questions with straightforward answers is not a strength on display here. What is on display are various tactics, excuses, blaming, and diversions to avoid giving answers and being accountable for them.

      Isn’t the ‘method’ of apologetcs on display here enlightening? Oh yes… but not in a flattering way!

  4. CT,

    This: “Supposedly, those who ask this question want proof that Jesus was of prime importance in the history of man. What is actually the primary issue, however, is whether Jesus is God.”

    Does not come from this: “Can you name a single thing Jesus said which was genuinely new, original, or useful?” (emphasis omitted)

    Mr. Zande was not asking you to prove Jesus has any divine qualities. All you did was change the issue from talking about something Jesus said to whether or not Jesus is a deity. Wally has given a response to Mr. Zande’s question. It’s at the top of this post. It talks about how Jesus came to cure sin. Unless I’m mistaken and somehow Christianity has changed within the last couple of years, I think that salvation is a pretty big deal to those who believe in Christ.

    1. 1. What is the point of the question?
      2. Why should I have any interest in answering it?

      Wally is a grown man. He answered the question his way. So have some others. I am free to answer the question my way, just as you did.

      1. 1. The point of the question, as I have taken it, is to talk about profound, original things that Jesus is alleged to have said. Regardless of what one’s ultimate views are, it’s an invitation by an atheist to talk about Jesus.

        2. The interest, at least on my end, is to actually talk about what people feel are the important things that can be learned from Jesus’ ministry. I’m not getting at the divine aspects of it; rather, I’m focusing on the other parts of it, like communication and grassroots movements.

        These two things are very important in other articles that you write, especially on politics.

        1. 1. Jesus is God, and I believe that. With respect to other men, even a man can say something that sounds new, original, or useful. So if I answer the question as it was presented, other than trivializing what Jesus did, what is the point?
          2. I find the notion that a carpenter banded together with an odd assortment of other ordinary men to spread a message of brotherly love (with a story they just fabricated) via a propaganda campaign based up martyrdom exceedingly unlikely. I think it more likely the apostles really did think Jesus is God. So that is the view I espouse.

          Anyway, I think I will continue to answer the question my way. Hopefully, you find what I write interesting. If so, I expect that will be because I present a perspective different from the one you have suggested that I present. If we all sounded like each other, wouldn’t this world be a much more boring place?

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