Jesus and Theism

Maybe we need a different category: belief vs. confident belief.

I’m not sure grounded and confident belief in God is possible without the Resurrection of this man Jesus. Belief in God obviously exists independent of Jesus, but I am not sure confident belief is grounded without Him.

I’m not sure I understand you here, Joshua. The teaching of Scripture makes clear that Jesus of Nazareth already had a prior belief in God, and that all the Jews he preached to had the same prior belief. His claims of Messiah-hood, his statements about dietary laws and the Sabbath, etc., all were assessed in the light of what they believed they knew about God from the Scriptures. This was true of those who followed him as well as of those who opposed him. I see no Biblical example of any agnostic who saw Jesus, heard Jesus, and then decided, “God must exist”. But I don’t claim to have memorized every single word of Scripture, so if I missed a passage or two, I’m willing to be informed.


Are you arguing that Jews, Muslims, and others do not have confident belief in God? Or that they have no good grounds for believing in God?

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@eddie this has been among my most productive exchanges with you. Thank you. Let me think about the best way to explain my point. If we can find some common language here, it might really help me. Thank you for taking the time to engage this one.

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I’m glad to contribute any points that are useful to you or others here, Joshua. And let me say that the atmosphere here is very good for such exchanges. On BioLogos, it always seemed that no matter what I said, I was descended upon by a pack of wolves howling for my blood. Here, people raise objections and questions politely, without sarcasm or invective or disdain. I find the discussion partners here gracious and constructive. This enables me to put my best foot forward. I don’t feel the need to respond to aggression with counter-aggression. If you can maintain this atmosphere, you will have a good forum for discussing these issues.

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Nietschze is an interesting, and tragic, example of someone who loved Jesus, but due to naturalism could not believe in Jesus’ divinity, and ended up claiming God is dead and that Jesus was a Jewish trick to subdue the ubermensch.

So, although Biola apologetics may not always be the best approach, there is something very important about well done apologetics and philosophy. Nancy Pearcey writes a great deal about how many Christians unknowingly adopt the ways of the world due to not understanding the impact of worldview. Dallas Willard the same. Jesus claims to be the Truth, after all, and that knowing truth will set us free.


I agree that the utterance “Jesus” can become a man-made concept as malleable as God. Just look at all the depictions of a European Jesus in art to be convinced of this. More broadly, there is a secularized version of Jesus that is nothing like what we find in Scripture. There is actually a history of this here in the enlightenment, and it is clearly a man-made version of Jesus.

I’m making a different point here about the person of Jesus, the historical and present reality of him, not our conceptions of Him, which might also bear the label “Jesus.” I make a strong distinction between our concept of Jesus and Jesus Himself.

I agree. There is an important place for philosophical apologetics. It seems, however, this has a privileged place over more commonly important forms.

In particular, look at this point of yours, that I read as a non-sequitor…

Jesus does not say that apologetics is truth. He does not say that philosophy is truth. He does not say our conceptions of Him are truth. RatherJesus says that He Himself is Truth incarnate. I cannot see how this could possibly be used as in support of apologetics as you use it here.

How are those positions mutually exclusive? Jesus is the Truth incarnate, and thus all sources of truth lead people to Jesus. Blocking off truth blocks off paths to Jesus.

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That is the place I disagree. Why should we think that all sources of truth lead to Jesus?

Rather I read that the truth we rightly find in Jesus is greater that truth we find by other means. There is a question man’s wisdom versus God’s Revelation here. Even the best phisolphical arguments for God are merely human effort. God’s work through Jesus is not reduscible to human arguments, and I find greater confidence in God’s work of self-revelation that the effort of man.

Seems like a good operating assumption and simplest reading of the Bible until evidence to the contrary emerges. Otherwise, we then have to solve the meta problem of the truth about which truths lead to Jesus. Then we have to worry about whether that truth leads to Jesus. And so on, ad infinitum.

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I suppose I am challenging that assumption and putting forward a different view.

Certainly it is true that divine revelation trumps man’s reason, and we can never reason out all divine revelation. But, man’s reason is also in touch with the divine, due to the image of God in all of us. If it was not, then we’d be in great trouble, since just about all of divine revelation comes to us through human reason and effort.

This is why Nietzsche said there would be no Christianity without intellectuals, and probably his loss of faith in Christ is tied to loss of faith in reason, which could well trace back to nominalism during the middle ages and Luther’s rejection of human reason.

On the other hand, Aquinas said reason and conscience are God’s most direct methods of communicating with us. Plato seemed to have had a similar thought.

At any rate, getting skeptical about reason seems to introduce more problems than it solves.

I’ll let @Philosurfer respond to this first. Tell them about the God of the Philosophers and the God of the Cross maybe?

As for me, I do trust God’s revelation more than human reason, even though I still do trust human reason. Paradox anyone?

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Which interpretation of God’s revelation do you trust: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, humanist, atheist, other?

You’ll probably say none, but I’m sure your view is mostly in line with Protestant theology, even though it is not the understanding of most Christians throughout history.

Let’s start by saying I strongly dispute this. It is more likely that the Cosmological Argument of WLC and your arguments from information theory are not understandable to them. Instead, when I have some time, I show you how my position is visible in Scripture.

Nope. I trust the true parts of all of them, and engage in figuring out the hard work of what is true and what is not.

I am probably not as well read as you, but people like Justin Martyr, Augustine and Aquinas make these sorts of arguments.

I think you are saying the Bible does not argue for the existence of God, it is just a given. That’s true in the sense we don’t have Book of Craig 1:1-12 formally laying out the cosmological argument, but the Bible also states creation clearly demonstrates the existence of God. Thus, science and math, insofar as they study creation, would also demonstrate God’s existence.

That is great. Is God directly revealing to you which are true, or are you using human reason to do that?

I trust human reason too. I just trust Jesus more. What is so hard about that to grasp?

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How does one explain that to someone who is not a Christian? For example, how would you respond to a Muslim saying he trusts the Qur’an more than human reason?

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. And maybe I shouldn’t get into this :slight_smile: Don’t misunderstand me. Devil’s advocate is helpful sometimes.

However, human reason is a necessary common denominator that helps us critique our (sometimes fallible) interpretations of God. Thanks.

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I think you are saying we put too much emphasis on apologetics, believing they are the silver bullet. I can agree with that. At the same time, learning about the congruence between Christianity and all truth has been of great help to me personally. And truth itself is a beautiful thing, and there is beauty in the notion we are perceiving something of Jesus through this truth. But, everyone is on their own journey in this matter.

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Yes. I think what has just happened is what I sometimes refer to as the “Two Types of Minds” problem. When speaking about the concept truth, one must keep in mind that metaphysical and epistemological concerns will drive the conversation. The problem is that certain people are always more concerned with metaphysics, while others are more concerned with epistemology. @Eddie has just declared, for at least this thread, that he is more discussing a metaphysical point. He is also suggesting that @swamidass is more concerned with epistemological ordering. Am I correct in this assessment?

I think this is correct as well, but then we are living in a time where we cannot rely upon a general theism as background belief. So, @swamidass and @dga471 are working in environments where the epistemological question is much more acute than say @Eddie or @Philosurfer who work with religious institutions where the theistic metaphysics is standard background to all conversations.

If I may step into a question directed at somebody else… It isn’t that anybody is denying that Jews, Muslims, and others do not have confident beliefs in god(s), but that once the question of metaphysical pluralism gets raised, then the epistemic question becomes important. So, the Jews are trusting in their prophets, the Muslim is trusting in Mohammad, and the Christians are trusting in Jesus. The metaphysical question becomes secondary to the epistemological question of why trust prophet Judaism versus prophet Muslim versus prophet Jesus. I’m not sure that you @Eddie would disagree with this as I’m getting to know you on the forum, however, it seems that you and Josh have bumped up into the epistemic/metaphysical ordering tension…

Umm… yes.

I’m with you on this Eddie. I’ve never “joined” a forum, because when I’d wade into the comments it never seemed worth it. I’m sure gems exist, but the work to extract them didn’t seem worth my time. Things ARE different here and the question will be whether it is maintained. I’m optimistic and that is pretty good for a pessimist!

I don’t know Nietschze that well, but do you have any citations for this precise view? It does seem to concur with a bit of tension Wittgenstein held with being drawn to Jesus, but not quite able to “accept” him due to his philosophical mind.

I’m not familiar with this line of reasoning. Do you have any citations or articles that connect the dots a bit more carefully?

Again, this is like saying Darwin led to Hitler… what are the connecting pieces? On the Luther point, he only rejecting reason in terms of making a judgment about salvation. In a different thread, I posted key excerpts from Luther’s “Disputation Concerning Man” that defends reason as man’s highest gift from God!

From another thread…

This may be what they said, but the most direct is the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. Of course, we need “reason” to be able to read; but, that would be a ministerial use of reason. My denomination also baptizes babies, because we don’t think that forgiveness is understandable to reason like Aquinas and Plato suggest under your interpretation. However, this doesn’t mean that we reject reason as we think we have good arguments for baptizing babies. It is just that reason is not part of the salvation equation.