DOES JESUS DRAFT CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS?

Last Crusader by Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880)
Last Crusader by
Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880) (from here)

I am in a sorrowful condition. I am in an endless argument about politics. I don’t seem to be able to win, to change hearts and mind. WOE is me.

So here my last crusade to win a war of words with a couple of commenters. The picture above is how I expect to look when I come back from this contest. Even the horse I rode on will be exhausted.

What is the subject? Should our government redistribute our wealth?

In my last post, 2016 POST ELECTION STRATEGY AND TACTICS – PART 5, I included a picture of George Washington with this caption.

It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency. — George Washington, in “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289. (from here)

What Washington described were his requirements for a draft army levied by each of the states.  Is a draft a good idea? What’s that got to do with this post, you ask? Well, let’s see. When someone decides to take part of your earnings and give them away to the poor and needy, are they not drafting you to “fight” in the “war” against poverty?

Without a doubt we each have an obligation to help defend and strengthen our society, but is it a good idea to draft people to defend and strengthen our society.  Isn’t a volunteer army a better idea?

Let’s look at how the Bible told the leaders of ancient Israel to manage its “draft” when they were on the verge of battle.

Deuteronomy 20:3-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it. And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.’

“The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint[a] like his heart.’ And so it shall be, when the officers have finished speaking to the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.

What the classic example of how this “draft” worked?  There was a man named Gideon. After some motivational talks (which included miracles), our Lord persuaded Gideon to fight the Midianites. Our Lord did not want a big army. He wanted an army who believed in the cause.

Judges 7:2-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.” So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands. And he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

So it was Gideon went to battle with only three hundred men (plus God) against an army of thousands. Because Gideon had obeyed God and his soldiers wanted to fight and believed God would bring them victory, the Midianites had already lost.

Take the time to study Judges 6-8.  Gideon himself serves as an object lesson. Imagine trying to lead an army of Gideon’s. Look at the effort God expended bucking up Gideon’s courage. What man could have given Gideon the courage to fight boldly?

So why do our health, education, and welfare systems work so poorly and cost so much?

  • Even when they care, the draftees, the people paying the costs of the war on poverty don’t have any significant control on how their money is spent. Once the politicians get their hands on our money, those politicians largely control how that money will be spent.
  • Politicians manage the war on poverty, and the mechanics of getting reelected rewards those politicians who use health, education, and welfare spending to buy votes.  Effectively, for the sake of votes politicians steal some people’s money and give it to other people, and often they just give that money to bureaucrats, not the people who need it.
  • There are some good people working on health, education, and welfare programs, but many of the workers are just there to make a living. They are not devoted to the cause. Instead of winning the war on poverty, they are devoted to getting a secure job and receiving a healthy government pension. Effectively, most are just government employees who give money to unions which give money to politicians who hire more government employees who give more money to unions which give more money to politicians………

Some Relevant Posts

  • #1 The Worst One Of All (kingdompastor.wordpress.com): This is the last post in a series that starts here, Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! What is Pastor Randy‘s number 1 thing killing the Christian church in America? Instead of going out into the country seeking souls to save, Christians are sitting in their pews waiting for the unsaved to come to church.  What does think we should be doing?

    How we do THE MISSION is by getting into the streets, communities, neighborhoods and getting to know them.  It is US reaching out and going TO them.  Now excuse me, but I have to leave.  I’m volunteering in a low-income neighborhood to help elementary students become better readers.

    is spot on, but consider his example. Don’t most of us believe government is suppose to do those health, education, and welfare things? Well, government does not love people enough to save their souls. That is something Christians do. If we don’t have enough charity to save someone’s soul, what is the chance we will care about their health, education, or welfare?

  • Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux (sharethecoffee.wordpress.com): This is post about love and wisdom. Why link to this post? Successful health, education, and welfare programs require charity in the old sense of the word, agape love. Government-run health, education, and welfare programs don’t inspire agape love.  Christian-run health, education, and welfare programs primarily exist, however, because most Christians feel at least some degree of love for God.

    John 14:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

    15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.

    H/T to The Life Project: Finding Clear and Simple Faith for the link to Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux.

  • THE ADVANTAGE OF A REPUBLIC OVER A DEMOCRACY: This is an old post of mind that references The Federalist, Paper # 10, written by James Madison. The subject is how the Constitution was designed to mitigate the effects of factional politics. What should we learn from reading The Federalist, Paper # 10? It is definitely not a good idea for half the population to use the Federal Government to feed off the other half.

Anyway, it is bedtime.  This crusade is over. Time to feed a tired old horse and brush it down, get some rest, and prepare for the battles to come.

2016 POST ELECTION STRATEGY AND TACTICS – PART 5

It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency. -- George Washington, in "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289. (from here)
It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency. — George Washington, in “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289. (from here)

What posts have gone before?

  • PART 1: We spoke of my personal goal for good government. Is it the same goal you might have? Perhaps.
  • PART 2: We considered the primary obstacle to good government.
  • PART 3: We reviewed the defensive components of a strategy for good government.
  • PART 4: We reviewed the offensive components of a strategy for government.

PART 5 begins a discussion of tactics. This post is the first in a series about how ordinary men and women can affect the operation of our government for the better. This posts explains why we must participate in politics. How do we get motivated?

Why We Must Participate In Politics

What’s our obligation? Consider the words of George Washington (under his picture at the beginning of this post).  Because our government protects our freedom and the freedom of our family, friends and neighbors, we have an obligation to protect it. Whereas Washington spoke of protecting the government of a free society with arms, here we speak of the peaceful duties of citizenship.

citizenship noun

  1. the state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen.
  2. the character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen: an award for good citizenship.

Most of us have the odd idea that joining and participating in a political party is something only a political junkie would do.

Political Junkie
One who is obsessed with all things political, watches C-SPAN, and votes in every election. Rachel Maddow is often credited with coining this term.

Example usage: I am such a political junkie, I need to stop writing emails to Senator Feinstein and get out more.

The political junkie, however, for the most part merely seeks entertainment. Many regard politics as a blood sport and fun to watch. These vote for the one they think the winner of the contest.

Voting is important. Writing our elected representatives is also important, but more is required. Consider.

to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know. ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (from here)

To know and understand in politics, we must participate in politics. Why would we do that? If politics fascinates us — if we crave to learn about politics — then God has given us a call to participate in some way, however large or small.

The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him. — John Milton, quote reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 364. (from here)

Whatever calling we have, we must apply what we learn in the way we think our Lord Jesus would have us. Do we care about the freedom of our family, friends and neighbors? Don’t we innately understand the importance of being a good citizen?

We all know what the Bible says about justification by faith. In fact, the first reference goes back to the Old Testament.

Habakkuk 2:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.

We demonstrate our faith with works. We know Jesus expected us to help the poor and needy. Thus, the Apostle James spoke of the relationship between faith and works.

James 2:14-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

What we often forget is that God made us all poor; He made us all needy. We come into this world with nothing. If we are fortunate, we have good and capable parents. Yet even the best of parents must depend upon others, including that institution we call government.

In the United States, we don’t have a king. We live in a constitutional republic.  We elect officials we constrain with laws, laws we enforce as good citizens. As good citizens, we insist that the people who rule in our name obey the law. So it is that as citizens we must be spiritual warriors, protecting our families friends, neighbors, and ourselves from Satan’s mechaniations.

Spiritual warriors? Does that sound weird? Then remember how Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world.

Matthew 4:8-10 New King James Version (NKJV)

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

Could Satan tempt Jesus with that which he does not control? Of course not! Then Satan rules this world. To follow Jesus we must resist Satan and force him to flee (James 4:7). So let’s open our Bible and consider the meaning of Matthew 22:15-22, Romans 13:1-7, Ephesians 6:10-201 Timothy 2:1-7, and Titus 3:1-8. Let us also consider that we call the first five books of the Bible the Mosaic Code. Let us remember that in 1 Samuel 8 the Bible warns us against allowing ourselves to be governed by a king instead of God. Let us remember the alternative to good citizenship; it is slavery. If we are unwilling to take responsibility for our government, then those who govern us will enslave us.

What do warriors do? They organize, train, and equip for war.  Then, when they must, they battle their enemies.

In posts to come, we will consider how Christians can fight on that complicated field of battle we call politics. Hopefully, when we participate in politics we will mostly find our find ourselves merely in disagreement with people we call family, friends, and neighbors. Sometimes, however, our disagreements will be more serious. Then we must call upon our Lord for greater wisdom and greater strength. Then we must remember who it is we love most.

Matthew 10:34-39 New King James Version (NKJV)

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’[a] 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

 

 

WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT?

Christ among the doctors by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)
Christ among the doctors (Luke 2:41-50) by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)

I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) (from here)

Should we be able to select the one true religion? I think so, but I don’t think it is just a matter of faith. I do, however, think making the choice requires reasoning we find difficult.

  • We must admit we need God, not an idol of our own making, but our Creator. That requires humility.
  • We must believe our reasoning is sufficient to know God and that God wants us to know Him. We need that belief to give us hope.
  • We must have the courage live by our choice. That’s why faith is required. To exercise the courage to live by the choice our reasoning dictates, we must have faith in God.
  • Most of all we must believe God loves us, and we can love Him.

Still, we make such a large variety of religious choices that that quote above from Heinlein seems to prove something, but what? I expect it shows how much we need God. Without our Creator’s help, we do not make good choices. We do not make good choices about much of anything.

That’s what makes America so remarkable. Ours has for the most part been a happy, productive, and prosperous land because for the most part Americans have made good choices, far from perfect, but generally good.

Why good choices? Consider that the Bible contains wisdom revealed by our Creator. Until we choose to read the Bible and strive to understand it, we cannot know how much our Maker loves us.

Americans once cherished the Bible. They actually read it.

Why did Americans care about the Bible. America is a product of the Protestant Reformation, the lessons from bloody wars in Europe, and the English Enlightenment.  Our notions about classical liberalism and freedom of religion in particular come from those experiences.

  • The Protestant Reformation cracked the intercessory control of the Roman Catholic Church between man and God.  Prior to the Reformation, most of Europe accepted the Catholic clergy’s claim to speak for God. Subsequent to the Reformation, many Protestants believed they need no intercessor except Jesus.
  • The Protestant Reformation resulted in the multiplication of Christian sects and violent disputes over articles of faith. Therefore, in addition to the usual excesses that set off European wars, men fought and persecuted each other over their religious differences
  • The Protestant Reformation also resulted in the opportunity for people to study the Bible in their own languages. In fact, we can attribute both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment in particular to the invention of the printing press. When people studied the Bible, the Word of God, for themselves, they could not find a command from Christ Jesus to spread the Gospel by force. Instead, many agreed that Jesus commanded His disciples to forgo violence and love their enemies.

Who settled America? Some came to America for riches and glory, but more came just for the hope they could live as they chose. Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others came so they could practice their religious beliefs in peace. Others came to just avoid debtors prisons.  Still, those who came were generally Christians, just different kinds of Christians. In the vast land of America, these different kinds Christians separated themselves into different communities, focused on their local governments, and experimented in new ways of governing.

Eventually, the American colonists tired of the rule of a faraway tyrannical king. Eventually, the American colonists decided that self-defense and the regulation of commerce required a federal government, but what kind of government? What would be the proper goals of an American government? To answer those questions, the American colonials considered the fruit of their experiments and turned to a political ideology we now call Classical Liberalism.

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. (continued here)

Why a limited government that values individual freedom? Because they had diverse societies, the American colonials did not share exactly the same beliefs or  worldview. That is, they had limited set of shared values. Therefore, particularly with respect to the Federal Government, the colonials thought it best to limited the scope of government powers. Even then, because they feared Federal powers would be abused, the colonials insisted upon a Bill of Rights.

Consider the first words of the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Because we are are Christian nation, we have some shared values, but we also have huge differences. What is Christianity? Some people — not all — say Christianity is what the Bible says it is.  However, the Bible is a large work. So even Christians who uphold the Bible as the inerrant Word of God emphasize different parts. Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide  for everyone else what God would have us do?  Hence, the First Amendment says religion is a matter the Federal Government should leave to the states and the people.

Because of the First Amendment, we now have something that prior to the rise of the United States as a world power was almost unheard of, a secular state. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans did not want the government to establish a religion or to interfere in the free exercise of religion (see Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise of Religion at heritage.org).

Unfortunately, the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution no longer works quite the way the framers of the Constitution intended. That’s because:

  • We no longer have a limited government. When the government has so much power, power mad politicians and the religious sects they represent find it tempting to impose their own beliefs.  Currently, various manifestations of Human Secularism have combined to pose the greatest threat to religious freedom. Thus, the budget for health, education, and welfare programs has exploded, and Christians, even though the Bible says no such thing, are suppose to support health, education, and welfare programs because its what Jesus would do.
  • The 14th Amendment requires the application of the Bill of Rights to state governments. As originally envisioned, all the Bill of Rights did was keep the Federal Government from sticking its nose where it did not belong. The 14th Amendment, however, allows the Federal Government to impose “religious freedom” upon the states. That added complexity has made it possible for Human Secularists to twist the law. So now many insist we equate the free exercise of religion with freedom of worship. That is, to keep the freedom from religion people happy, we are supposed keep our religion to ourselves and let the state indoctrinate our children in various “isms” including Human Secularism. Then we are supposed to loudly proclaim we still live in the land of the free.

There is an old bit of wisdom any good doctor knows.

Do no harm. — (contracted form of the Hippocratic oath, from here)

When we try to engineer our society to “fix” it, we are effectively trying to heal other people (if our motives are good). The problem is that the operation of a society is quite complex, and we are not qualified to play God. Hence, we must respect the right of our fellow citizens to make decisions that more appropriately belong to them. That’s why for any people who want to remain free limited government is not optional.

Other Views

WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 6

The Marriage at Cana by Maerten de Vos, c. 1596 (from here)
The Marriage at Cana by Maerten de Vos, c. 1596 (from here)

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.

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).

Napoleon’s Testimony to Christ at St. Helena

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.

(continued here)

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.