This is the sixth installment in a review of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The previous five installments can be found by clicking on the links below.
- PART 1: Chapters 1 and 2
- PART 2: Chapters 3 and 4
- PART 3: Chapters 5 and 6
- PART 4: Chapters 7 and 8
- PART 5: Chapter 9 and 10
Chapter 11 explains how Jesus popularized what we now think of as traditional marriage. Chapter 12 tells of Jesus’ extraordinary passion, how His passion inspired what has become a worldwide movement.
The Invention Of Traditional Marriage
When we speak of traditional marriage, we often speak as if the Christian ideal of marriage has been around forever. We forget Jesus initiated the Christian ideal of marriage. Using what Judaism taught about marriage as a starting point, Jesus, a man who never married, taught us how to behave as Christian men and women. He taught us to use the intense love we should bring to a marriage as a model for how we should return the love of God.
Consider this observation.
In the ancient world outside of Israel, sex was not regarded as an activity restricted to marriage for moral reasons. It had little to do with religion, although some fertility cults practiced temple prostitution because they believed human fertility made nature itself fertile. Lack of self-control was disdained by some philosophers. But for most part, the sexual motto in the ancient world was carpe diem.
At least if you were a man. (from Chapter 11, pg 137 of Who Is This Man?)
Jesus changed that. He taught men to love their wives.
Ephesians 5:25 English Standard Version (ESV)
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Did you marry for love? In ancient times, people married for what they thought more practical reasons.
He Offers Us The Most Inspiring Vision
John Ortberg wrote his book, Who Is This Man?, to show us Jesus is the most remarkable man who ever lived. In Chapters 1 -12 Ortberg shows us how what Jesus taught changed the course of history. Why is that important? Consider this question from a commenter who shall for the time being remain anonymous.
I do have a question though. Perhaps if you prefer not to address an answer to me you might consider wring a post?
While we will always likely disagree over issues pertaining to evidence and the veracity of scripture etc, these are details. However, if I might ask, exactly what do you consider is at stake for you personally if you do not accept Jesus as your savior?
How do I answer that question? What inspires me to accept Jesus as my savior? Chapter 12 focuses on that inspiration.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we cannot help but be astounded. Jesus was not just a good and wise man. He inspired a revolution in the ancient world. Hence in Chapter 12 Ortberg speaks of what Jesus inspired people to do: artwork, charity, social reform, martyrdom…. In fact, Ortberg ends Chapter 12 with a poem Dietrich Bonhoefer wrote just before the Nazis executed him.
Bonhoefer’s poem is excellent addition that makes Chapter 12 well worth reading. Nevertheless, even though some uncertainty exists about the authenticity of the quote (See here for a more complete version with an evaluation of the authenticity.), I will end this section with a quote not included in Ortberg’s book. Should you decide to read Ortberg’s book, I hope this quote will provide an added perspective.
There another aspect of inspiration that Napoleon Bonaparte observed. What amazed Napoleon was Jesus’ unrivaled capacity to inspire people. What astounded Napoleon was not the fact that Jesus inspired his followers but how much. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte gave this testimony to General Bertrand (one of his generals) during his exile at St. Helena, where he died (1821).
1889 319 Certainly the spirit of that child of revolution and scourge of Europe before our day was not with Christ in his bitterness against those whose duty it was to hold him fast, as well as the powers that authorised it. But such as it is, it may interest some, as said to the unbelieving companion of his exile, General Bertrand:
“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and every other religion the distance of infinity.
“We can say to the authors of every other religion, You are neither gods nor the agents of Deity. You are but missionaries of falsehood, moulded from the same clay with the rest of mortals. You are made with all the passions and vices inseparable from them. Your temples and your priests proclaim your origin. Such will be the judgment, the cry of conscience, of whoever examines the gods and the temples of paganism.
“Paganism was never accepted as truth by the wise men of Greece, neither by Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Anaxagoras nor Pericles. But on the other side the loftiest intellects since the advent of Christianity have had faith, a living faith, a practical faith, in the mysteries and the doctrines of the gospel; not only Bossuet and Fénelon who were preachers, but Descartes and Newton, Leibnitz and Pascal, Corneille and Racine, Charlemagne and Louis XIV. [But hear Christ in Matt. xi. 25, 26.]
“Paganism is the work of man. One can here read but our imbecility. What do these gods, so boastful, know more than other mortals? these legislators, Greek or Roman? this Numa, this Lycurgus? these priests of India or of Memphis? this Confucius, this Mahomet? Absolutely nothing. They have made a perfect chaos of morals. There is not one among them all who has said anything new in reference to our future destiny, to the soul, to the essence of God, to the creation. Enter the sanctuaries of paganism — you there find perfect chaos, a thousand contradictions, the immobility of sculpture, the division and the rending of unity, the parcelling out of the divine attributes, mutilated or denied in their essence, the sophisms of ignorance and presumption, polluted fêtes, impurity and abomination adored, all sorts of corruption festering in the thick shades, with the rotten wood, the idol and his priest. Does this honour God, or does it dishonour Him? Are these religions and these gods to be compared with Christianity?
“As for me, I say no. I summon entire Olympus to my tribunal. I judge the gods, but am far from prostrating myself before their vain images. The gods, the legislators of India and of China, of Rome and of Athens, have nothing which can overawe me. Not that I am unjust to them; no, I appreciate them, because I know their value. Undeniably princes whose existence is fixed in the memory as an image of order and beauty, — such princes were no ordinary men. I see in Lycurgus, Numa, and Mahomet, only legislators who having the first rank in the state have sought the best solution of the social problem; but I see nothing there which reveals divinity. They themselves never raised their pretensions so high. As for me, I recognise the gods and these great men as being like myself. They have performed a lofty part in their times, as I have done. Nothing announces them divine. On the contrary there are numerous resemblances between them and myself, foibles and errors which ally them to me and to humanity.
“It is not so with Christ. Every thing in Him astonishes me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and everyone else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and His sentiments, the truths which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things. His birth, and the history of His life; the profundity of His doctrines which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is, of those difficulties, the most admirable solution; His gospel, His apparition, His empire, His march across the ages and the realms, everything is to me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverie from which I cannot escape, a mystery which is there before my eyes, a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain. Here I see nothing human.
How do we explain Jesus’ capacity to inspire people to change their lives, to devote their lives to following His teachings? What inspired so many? In the next and last installment in this series, we will consider Ortberg’s presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection.