The Everlasting Man – Part 2, Chapter 3: The Strangest Story in the World

Everlasting Man

The summary of the life of Christ comes to an end.  That end though was the whole purpose of his coming.  In Man’s point of view Jesus was killed by claiming something that he was  – the “I am’.  The argument that Jesus’ life was a mere fabrication misses the point that if it was fabricated then it really is an original fabrication.  Falsities need something to base themselves off of – yet here is something so frightening so original that we try to water it down.

Overview of Chapter:

The new can only rise after the old has passed away. Just  as a butterfly can take flight only after the caterpillar is done crawling in the dirt, so our myths, and philosophies were destroyed, annihilated, and even proved false during the life but most assuredly in the death of Christ.

Outline of Chapter:

Do all religions point the same way? They may all point, but not in the same direction – some may point at works, some point at hell, and even some point at nothing.  Christianity is the only one whom the main figure claimed to be God.  As an heir claiming to be king Jesus from the start took the crown that no one else has claimed as it was only his.  Yet this claim is only made by another class – the lunatics, yet they are not deemed great men.  Jesus was the only great man who claimed to be God.

“The purpose of these pages is to fix the falsity of certain vague and vulgar assumptions; and we have here one of the most false. There is a sort of notion in the air everywhere that all the religions are equal because all the religious founders were rivals, that they are all fighting for the same starry crown. It is quite false. The claim to that crown, or anything like that crown, is really so rare as to be unique. Mahomet did not make it any more than Micah or Malachi. Confucius did not make it any more that Plato or Marcus Aurelius. Buddha never said he was Brahma. Zoroaster no more claimed to be Ormuz than to be Ahriman. The truth is that, in the common run of cases, it is just as we should expect it to be, in common sense and certainly in Christian philosophy. It is exactly the other way. Normally speaking, the greater a man is, the less likely he is to make the very greatest claim. Outside the unique case we are considering, the only kind of man who ever does make that kind of claim is a very small man; a secretive or self-centered monomaniac. Nobody can imagine Aristotle claiming to be the father of gods and men, come down from the sky; though we might imagine some insane Roman Emperor like Caligula claiming it for him, or more probably for himself. Nobody can imagine Shakespeare talking as if he were literally divine; though we might imagine some crazy American crank finding it as a cryptogram in Shakespeare’s works, or preferably in his own works.”

A common saying is that the more someone knows, the more he realizes he does no know.  He knows that he does not know. This applies to all studies; the sciences, relationships, mathematics, and others.  This was the whole point of Socrates who was deemed by the oracle to be the wisest man who had ever lived – this prophecy was proved true because Socrates knew that he did not know anything, and even tried to expose those who claimed that they knew what justice was, or who the Gods were.  Yet it can be said that Jesus knew – he knew that he knew.

“Divinity is great enough to be divine; it is great enough to call itself divine. But as humanity grows greater, it grows less and less likely to do so. God is God, as the Moslems say; but a great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it. That is the paradox; everything that is merely approaching to that point is merely receding from it. Socrates, the wisest man, knows that he knows nothing. A lunatic may think he is omniscience, and a fool may talk as if he were omniscient. But Christ is in another sense omniscient if he not only knows, but knows that he knows.”

Of all the great searchers there is another difference, that is the end.  The great finality.  Shakespeare wrote in his most famous soliloquy ” The undiscovered country whose born no traveler returns, puzzles the will and make us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?”.  Death is the final movement, final note, final unknown.  Even Socrates did not know what was better death or life: “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.” But one thing in common with all the great searchers is that death was an end, something that signaled the end of a being (in one form or another), something that led to nothing. Yet in contrast Christ came to die.

“The great conversations which give us our glimpses of the great minds of Socrates or Buddha or even Confucius often seem to be parts of a never-ending picnic; and especially, which is the important point, to have neither beginning nor end. Socrates did indeed find the conversation interrupted by the incident of his execution. But it is the whole point and the whole particular merit, of the position of Socrates that death was only an interruption and an incident. We miss the real moral importance of the great philosopher if we miss that point; that he stares at the executioner with an innocent surprise, and almost an innocent annoyance, at finding anyone so unreasonable as to cut short a little conversation for the elucidation of truth. He is looking for truth and not looking for death. Death is but a stone in the road which can trip him up. His work in life is to wander on the roads of the world and talk about truth for ever. Buddha, on the other hand, did arrest attention by one gesture; it was the gesture of renunciation, and therefore in a sense of denial. But by one dramatic negation he passed into a world of negation that was not dramatic; which he would have been the first to insist was not dramatic. Here again we miss the particular moral importance of the great mystic if we do not see the distinction; that it was his whole point that he had done with drama, which consists of desire and struggle and generally of defeat and disappointment. He passes into peace and lives to instruct others how to pass into it. Henceforth his life is that of the ideal philosopher; certainly a far more really ideal philosopher than Apollonius of Tyana; but still a philosopher in the sense that it is not his business to do anything but rather to explain everything; in his case, we might almost say, mildly and softly to explore everything. For the messages are basically different. Christ said ‘Seek first the kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Buddha said ‘Seek first the kingdom, and then you will need none of these things.’ Now compared to these wanderers the life of Jesus went as swift and straight as a thunderbolt. It was above all things dramatic; it did above all things consist in doing something that had to be done. It emphatically would not have been done, if Jesus had walked about the world for ever doing nothing except tell the truth. And even the external movement of it must not be described as a wandering in the sense of forgetting that it was a journey. This is where it was a fulfilment of the myths rather than of the philosophies; it is a journey with a goal and an object, like Jason going to find the Golden Fleece, or Hercules the golden apples of the Hesperides. The gold that he was seeking was death. The primary thing that he was going to do was to die. He was going to do other things equally definite and objective; we might almost say equally external and material. But from first to last the most definite fact is that he is going to die.”

This is what makes this the strangest story ever told.  It is too strange to be a lie.

Thoughts:

In Peter Kreeft’s dialog ‘Between Heaven and Hell’  C.S Lewis (based on the true Lewis) gives the argument: ‘aut deus aut homo malus, et non homo malus, ergo deus’ – ‘Either Jesus is God or a bad man’.  A bad man would not be trusted, yet multitudes trusted Him; a bad man would not have lasting positive influence, yet He still does.  In all of the gospels there is the bright shining issue of Christ claiming divinity – it could not be a mere manufacture, a myth propagated by the church.  (1) A foundation can not be laid after the frame of the house is set.  As a house with a post-hoc foundation will fall when a storm hits without a strong foundation, the church would have surly fallen when it was persecuted. (2)  If the Gospel was a myth then it should have adopted the popular beliefs at the time like Gnosticism, Arianism, and other heresies.  Yet it fights against anything that would steal her words.  The life of the Church rests on the death of Christ.

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