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The Cross is a supreme challenge to unbelievers

The Crucifixion is a historical certainty. So how do atheists explain it?

By on Friday, 6 April 2012

A scene from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (CNS)

Some years ago now, I remember watching a studio discussion on television in which the great and the good discussed Mel Gibson’s controversial film The Passion of the Christ. It was a very interesting discussion (I cannot provide a link, I am afraid, but am recalling this from memory.)

The subject was whether the film was anti-Semitic. Was Mel blaming the Jews for the death of Christ? The panel seemed to think that he was, and that this was anti-Semitic, because the Jews clearly had nothing to do with sentencing Christ to death. I remember thinking: well, in that case, are they saying the film is anti-Roman, and doesn’t that bother them?

Then the token Catholic spoke up: it was clear that as Jesus died to redeem us from our sins. Everyone was responsible for his death, because we are all sinners. But it seemed that this was even worse than the perceived anti-Semitism, as far as the rest of the panel was concerned. For once, the idea that we are all guilty (which is supposed to be a central tenet of bleeding-heart liberalism) was indignantly rejected.

After all, sin is such an offensive concept to modern people. It suggests that all is not well with us, that we do things wrongly. Moreover, when the Catholic explained about Original Sin the atmosphere became more or less indignant. How could anyone dare suggest that the human race was anything less than perfect? The fact that the Catholic Church had been teaching this for 2,000 years had escaped their notice.

But all this left me thinking. The Jews did not put Jesus to death, and I am OK with that. I think that, historically speaking, the case for Pilate’s guilt is overwhelming. But the idea that came from that studio panel was that Jesus did not die to save us from our sins because we have no sins to be saved from.

Polly Toynbee once wrote: “Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?”

So why did Jesus die? Moreover, was his death the result of some sort of administrative error, some terrible misunderstanding, as opposed to the result of sin, either particular or general? It seemed to me that this studio panel when confronted with the death of Jesus on the Cross saw the whole thing as terribly embarrassing, something they would much rather not think about, something they would love to deny ever happened, if that were possible, and something for which they themselves were emphatically not responsible.

But who was?

And why did Jesus let himself be killed when it is very clear that he could have avoided his death?

And why did they kill him?

Incidentally, I am taking the crucifixion of Jesus as a historically certain fact. And so it is, with tons of evidence to back it up, but space forbids me going into that right now. Rather, I want to ask this: it happened, so how do you explain it?

Recently I have been engaging with non-believers, talking about Aquinas, which is not really my cup of tea. Now, writing this on Good Friday, I’d like to invite the unbelievers to make sense of the Cross of Jesus.

It seems to me that such a request puts them in a bind. Either they acknowledge the divine goodness of Jesus who willingly went to his Cross, or they acknowledge a human depravity that knows no limit – the depravity that deliberately tortures an innocent human being to death. Both of these, the goodness and the depravity, point to the same overwhelming conclusion: man without God is lost in the world. The existence of God is the only possible resolution to the paradox of the Cross, a paradox with which it would be impossible to live.

There was great evil on the first Good Friday, but great love too. And that is why we call this Friday good.

  • Benedict Carter

    “The essence of the demonic is hatred of the Cross”.

    Archbishop Fulton Sheen. 

  • Recusant

    It doesn’t take the Cross for atheists to know that they are wrong. Surely being on the same side as Polly Toynbee should tell them they are mistaken.

  • Oconnord

    There is no “bind”. Some atheists, in common with jews and muslims believe that Jesus existed. Jews and atheists simply don’t believe in his divinity. Muslims believe he was a prophet but that allah pulled a “bait and switch”. Allah replaced Jesus with a criminal and then blinded the roman soldiers to the swop. 

    Is easy to see Jesus as a historical preacher brutally killed for political and religious reasons. Without the divine aspect Jesus was not too different from a heretic burnt at the stake by the christian church. So there is no “paradox of the cross.”

    As to the “nature of man” or “good without god”, as implied by “man without God is lost in the world.” Well that debate was been done often.


  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Is easy to see Jesus as a historical preacher brutally killed for political and religious reasons.

    “Easy”? How can one feel easy at the thought of the death of Jesus?

  • paulsays

    ‘Oconnord’ is not referring to the death of Jesus as easy to stomach. He uses the word ‘brutally killed’ which means he is hardly belittling Jesus’s death as you suggest.

    What he is referring to when he uses ‘easy’ is his judgment of the likelihood of Jesus being killed for ‘political and religious reasons’ rather than as part of God’s plan.

    I do think his words were quite clear to understand, so either you commented before thinking – or you are dishonestly point scoring.

  • Oconnord

    If I changed “see” for “consider” I’d be clearer. The easy referred to his existence rather than his death. And of course the first word should have “it’s”. Apologies, I just forgot to proof-read.

  • Oconnord

    Thanks, but I admit I could have phrased it better. Simple lesson, don’t try to do two things as once if you can’t multi-task. That also explains why your clarification appeared before mine. I was too distracted to post quickly.

  • badjumbly

    Not if they have no respect for arguments ad hominem.

  • Oconnord

    Perhaps a better way to explain would be to use a religious comparison:

    Every year shia muslims gather in the town of Najaf (I think), to commemorate the mathrydom of Ali. For shias Ali was the second “perfect” man, rightful heir to Muhammed and the first true martyr. They cry, moan, curse his killers and the women ululate. At times the men all violently slap their chests in rhythm. It’s strangely compelling to watch.

    A christian watching would understand on an intellectual, historic and cultural level the importance of Ali’s murder. They may even feel empathy to the genuine grief of the shias. But would they feel any real feelings towards a man who died 1500 yrs ago.  

  • badjumbly

    The penultimate paragraph does not bear logical inspection. Even if I did accept as true the story that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself to redeem mankind, I would not have to accept that the sacrifice had the desired effect, since it is possible to sacrifice your life for a delusion. I can also recognise goodness without believing it to be literally divine, and limitless depravity in individuals without believing that mankind as a whole is depraved. Many people manage to do good without claiming divinity, and far fewer people have deliberately tortured innocents to death. Being an atheist does not, therefore, prevent me from feeling a qualified hope for mankind.

  • PollyToynbee’sLovelyHat

    I have to agree with badjumbly.  The argument contained in the penultimate paragraph is logically flawed as it presents a false dichotomy. It is of an stunningly poor standard; an embarrassment for a priest. What of all those who go willing to their deaths? Are they divine? Of course not. They are brave, none more braver than those who choose to die for others and do not expect a reward. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Nevertheless, Mr Hair-Splitter-Without-Saying-Anything-Important, the fact is that everything Man begins without God, trusting to his own powers, corrupts and declines into evil. Everything. 

    All men are prone to evil: we do the evil we wish not, and do not do the good we do wish.

    None of you “rationalist” atheists (for that is what you are, no?) can explain evil. Only Christ has the answer to it.   

  • Buffyoleary

    This is a poorly written article, I would expect more from a priest. Belief and non belief are a complex topic and statements like “there is tons of evidence to back it up but space forbids me going into that right now” then stating the concerned subject as fact could only be adequate for those of the same mind. Would it be difficult to reference an article which considers some of this evidence? Not if there is one!

    The use of the “bleeding heart liberalism” dismissal of a political philosophy which aims to help those less well off than themselves also seems incongrous with christianity which purports to do the same.

    I see little point challenging the assertions made here as I am hopeful that the central tenets have been expressed coherently someone as if not, I am really unsure what learning actually takes place in the seminary.

  • John Byrne

    Fr Lucie-Smith writes, in response to, and quoting Oconnord: “It’s easy to see Jesus as a historical preacher brutally killed for political and religious reasons.” 
    ” ‘Easy’? How can one feel easy at the thought of the death of Jesus?”

    I do not wish to be rude, but I think you should seriously consider doing something else, rather than continuing to post on this website.

  • Oconnord

    So when is that answer going to start work. We haven’t had a shortage of “evil” in the last 2000 years. Anytime now would be good. Many of the religious comments on this site insist evil is on the rise as never before…. nasty secularists, disrespectful atheists, abortion, divorce, pre-marital sex, contraception and calls for gay marriage… all on the rise.

    If the answer was given 2000 years ago it doesn’t seem to be a good answer! 

  • Parasum

    “The Jews did not put Jesus to death, and I am OK with that.”

    The NT says otherwise – Acts is full of passages that say the Jews put Jesus to death. It is essential to the theology of the Gospel that they should be as guilty as the Romans. To ignore the texts that accuse them is to mutilate the NT & its message, & to falsify the work of Christ.  *Of course* they are responsible for the death of Christ – all mankind is. To deny they are responsible, is to deny them access to the grace of Christ. Only sinners can be forgiven. Unless they share in that sin, the sin of sins, they cannot be forgiven. It’s perfectly correct to call them Deicides & Christ-killers – the error lies in forgetting that all of us are Deicides & Christ-killers.

    Some of those passages:

    Act 2:22     “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–
    Act 2:23     this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    Act 2:36     Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
    Act 4:10     be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.

    Act 4:23 When they [= Peter and John] were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
    Act 4:24     And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
    Act 4:25     who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things?
    Act 4:26     The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’–
    Act 4:27     for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
    Act 4:28     to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place.
    Act 4:29     And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness,
    Act 4:30  while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.”

    Act 5:24     Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.
    Act 5:25     And some one came and told them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”
    Act 5:26     Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
    Act 5:27     And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,
    Act 5:28     saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
    Act 5:29     But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
    Act 5:30     The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.
    Act 5:31     God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
    Act 5:32     And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
    Act 5:33     When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

    Act 7:51     “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
    Act 7:52     Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,
    Act 7:53     you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

    1 Thess 2:14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,
    1Th 2:15     who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men
    1Th 2:16     by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved–so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

    Scripture answers several of the questions being asked. The most ultimate, supra-historical reason that “Jesus let Himself be killed”,  is in Acts 2.23. That He should die, was part of the Divine “good pleasure” mentioned earlier by Luke, in Luke 2.14. But predestination by God does not take away human responsibility.

  • aearon43

    Nor a sense of humour it would seem…

  • aearon43

    I think what Fr. Lucie-Smith is implying is that if 
    Oconnord is going to be willfully obtuse about the paradoxical nature of victory through crucifixion, then he’s going to, as well. But hey just keep up the snide remarks because, as we all know, religious people are ignorant bumpkins to a man, and atheists are highly evolved Übermenschen. Right? 

  • aearon43

    Without the divine aspect Jesus was not too different from a heretic burnt at the stake by the christian church. So there is no “paradox of the cross.””

    Oh, ok, thanks for clearing that up for everyone. Because I thought Jesus was divine. But you said, no, he wasn’t. So I guess that settles that and CH can just close up shop then. 

  • aearon43

    Yes, of course Catholics understand the similarities between Christ’s crucifixion and the many similar scapegoat type situations that play out all the time. One striking difference though is that none of these except Christ produced a worldwide religion that has lasted 2,000 years. So maybe… just maybe, there is something more to the story of Christ than those of the other martyrs? I’m not saying you need to believe the story to be true (although you should), I’m just wondering if you are willing to even try to understand it, and not simply explain it in terms of things you already understand.

  • aearon43

    Have you tried going to church?

  • aearon43

    Yes, well it is the CATHOLIC Herald. I don’t think a blog post really allows enough space to explain the entire religion of Catholicism from first principles. I think the author was assuming that readers would at least make some good faith attempt to meet him halfway, but I guess he was wrong.

    If you’re interested in learning about Catholicism, and not merely in picking holes in a blog entry, then have a look at this site: http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php/Main_Page

  • Oconnord

    Did you read the article? Because you seemed to have missed this:

    “Rather, I want to ask this: it happened, so how do you explain it?”

    Or maybe your comprehension skills are lacking because you also missed: 

    “Now, writing this on Good Friday, I’d like to invite the unbelievers to make sense of the Cross of Jesus.It seems to me that such a request puts them in a bind.”I must be one of those “Militant Atheists” I’ve read so much about. The audacity to accept an invitation to answer a question in the CH’s open forum. I’ll say some Hail Marys  in penance. 

  • Oconnord

    Sorry I didn’t realise the 2000 year continuance of evil and the failure of “Christ’s answer” was because I stopped going to mass as a child.

    So, if I go tomorrow, will I just pretend that all things I thought were silly as a child now make sense? Please help me out, the answer to all evil is at stake.

  • Oconnord

    You’ve pretty much proven my point, you dismiss the importance of other martyrs unless it’s the one of your choice. You give no consideration that these are the genuine heart-felt beliefs of others. You just call them “scapegoat type situations. 
    Amusingly you then accuse me of being not “willing to even try to understand”

    Let me assure you, because I attended an Irish Christian Brother from 1975 to 1990, I fully understand the Crucifixion. That of course means Adam and Eve, the Fall, original and so on. I understand it and dismiss it as false.  I don’t think even you can miss my point there. 

  • Adela

     We haven’t had a shortage of “evil” in the last 2000 years, granted.

    But without Christ’s cross, we wouldn’t have had the abundance of “good” we’ve had (just think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Damian of Molokai; think of the origin of universities, hospitals and orphanages, to mention but a few examples).

  • Adela

    It’s not about “people’s beliefs”, it’s about truths, and the only martyr who was both human and divine, and therefore was God himself that died offering his life as the price for our salvation, was Christ.

    The problem here, I’d say, is that if you’re an atheist, concepts such as “divine”, “God” and “salvation” have no real place in your arguments, is that right? Why would they have a place if you’re denying its very foundation: that a (loving) God created everything.

    I’d say anyone who does not believe we are created cannot explain the meaning of the Cross, if they could, they wouldn’t be atheists, right?

  • Oconnord

    Who’s “Truth’s”? Yours perhaps? I have no way of knowing if your truth is more real than any other “Truth” that is told with faith and a sense of conviction. That’s why I ask for evidence in religion, in the same way that you would ask for evidence in someone’s non-religious claim to truth.

    Concepts like divine, god and salvation have a place in my arguments, just as they did for a short time in my life. I’ve simply found them to be false assertions. I had 15 years of catholic indocrination, no other religions allowed, but I never believed it. I could always see the things that didn’t make sense. When I was old enough to ask questions, they were never answered properly, it was simply “shut up and believe”.

    Are you aware that all the studies show that atheists know more about religion than the religious? There’s an adage amongst atheists that the best way to convince someone become an atheist is to get them to read the bible.  

  • Oconnord

    That was just a silly reply to a silly comment, I didn’t mean it to be taken seriously. But as you replied….

    I agree that much good work was done in the name of Jesus, although I don’t think Mother Teresa was one of them. Just to name drop I did meet her once. 

    I could point out that much evil has also been done in the same name. Essentially you don’t need religion to do bad or good things. There’s little that religion does that cannot be done by secular means and often in a fairer fashion. 

  • JabbaPapa

     I do not wish to be rude

    … but you will be extremely rude anyway.

  • JabbaPapa

     I understand it and dismiss it as false.

    This is an oxymoron. If you have dismissed it as false, ipso facto you have not understood the Cross.

  • badjumbly

    What you might regard as hair-splitting I might regard as making careful distinctions, e.g. between recognising depravity in individuals and believing that mankind as a whole is depraved. This might not seem important to you, but it is to me, since it allows hope.

    Since there are always depraved individuals around, eyeing up opportunities, it follows that ANY project begun by Man is vulnerable to corruption, whether or not religious belief was involved. (Shall I get started on abusive priests, or have you read enough about that?) The answer to corruption is for good people to be vigilant and organised.

    Different acts of evil require different explanations and some are more explainable than others. I certainly can’t explain all types of evil, but when I can’t explain something I don’t reach for a myth to fill the gap in my knowledge. Atheism is not a fount of knowledge any more than a disbelief in reincarnation is. It is merely a refusal to drink what comes from the fount of supernatural speculation.

  • Oconnord

    The article refers to non-believers, I’m surprised that no other comments include other religions, but just concentrate on atheists. The jewish and atheist views are easy to understand, Jesus was not divine. Simple to deal with. But I’m disappointed no-one else realised the import of the islamic view. 

    “Muslims believe he was a prophet but that allah pulled a “bait and switch”. Allah replaced Jesus with a criminal and then blinded the roman soldiers to the swop.”

    That is a fairly important denial of Jesus. The islamic belief is that Jesus was not a martyr, divine or not. An atheist can accept that Jesus chose to die to defend his beliefs, but in islam he got a get out of jail card. In essence he did not sacrifice anything. Of course a cynical person could say that the legend of Jesus was belittled  to remove the idea of self-sacrifice. But that would only happen if the next leader wanted to grow old, wealthy and powerful. 

    Which is more insulting to your faith?

  • Recusant

    You make a good point (it had to happen eventually :-). The gospels go to great pains to make clear that the identity of the man who died at Calvary was Jesus (I think, for example, that his mother at the foot of the Cross might have noticed if it wasn’t him). However, in broader terms, I find the whole of Islam an insult towards Jesus. Most fundamentally Jesus ended the age of prophecy, so anyone coming after could not by definition be a prophet. If we hold that nobody can come to the Father except through the Son, the whole of Islam is a way to distract the virtuous away from Jesus.

    I know we are all supposed to hold hands and make nice, and on an individual level I can do that, but at a theological level I have very, very grave problems with Islam.

  • Recusant

    That paragraph deserves to be tied into the beginning of the article, and to the very real rejection of the notion of sin amongst today’s secularists that Fr Lucie-Smith notices. Non-believers flip the lid at the notion of sin, taking it as a cross between a personal insult and a denial of the perfectibility of man. So, noting that the crucifixion was not limitless depravity in individuals (it involved two legal systems, an imperial army and a large crowd to kill an innocent man) the point he makes here is valid. The crucifixion affirms two things secularists deny : the existence and power of sin, and the supreme goodness of Jesus. And tomorrow we will see how the second has defeated the first.

  • Recusant

    Your hope is false. Man is good, and depraved, all at the same time. The first will never expunge the second, and man is not perfectible, at least by its own actions. The distinction of your first paragraph falls apart in your second : if there were good people, surely it would be possible to gather only the good people into a venture and improve the world? As you notice, ANY project started by man is vulnerable to corruption, indeed HAS been corrupted. There is no monastery, political party, sports team or artistic commune that has not been corrupted. Is it more plausible that there always happens to be a depraved individual infiltrating them, or because in each of us there is a worm that eats at our goodness?

    You should notice too that your answer – “for good people to be vigilant and organised” – is not the obvious one (and one that is preposterously ineffective, as organisation will always give way to chaos). Since you split humanity into “good” and “depraved” people the obvious answer is to exterminate the “depraved” ones for the sake of humanity. As indeed happened in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and Felipe II’s Spain and Counter-Reformation France. Your belief is not only wrong, but has a dark and unattractive history. Original sin is the only doctrine you can prove by reading the newspaper, secular denial of it is deeply irrational and doing great harm.

  • badjumbly

    You are arguing against a position I have not taken. By “hope” I do not mean hope that humanity can be perfected and evil eliminated, but merely hope that good will continue to combat evil. In referring to good people and depraved people I merely recognised that both exist, and did not at any point suggest that the whole of humanity can be neatly divided into two camps. (Similarly, if I say that the world contains dogs and cats, I’m not implying that all animals are either dogs or cats). Pure goodness and pure evil are ends of a continuum, and most people are somewhere in-between. By “good people” I don’t mean the morally perfect; I mean people generally inclined towards goodness. By “depraved people” I do not mean people who are all permanently beyond redemption; I mean people who commit depraved acts.
    This clarification should refute your claim that my moral world-view justifies genocide, especially since the historic examples you cite are not examples of depraved people being eliminated, but, rather, examples of depraved people having power. It is to avoid such atrocities that (relatively) good people must be vigilant and organised. I do not agree that this is an ineffective answer since I do not agree that “organisation will always give way to chaos”. If it always did, the society in which we are having this civilised debate would not exist.

  • badjumbly

    From what material have you spun the fantasy that “today’s secularists” reject the notion of sin? Some might, since most ideological camps have their quota of naive members, but none of the secularists I know do. I am a secularist and an atheist but I have always believed some acts are wicked. Talk of sin doesn’t flip my lid in the least, except when harmless behaviour is described as sinful.

    If you commit evil alone or in a crowd, you are still committing it as an individual. Moreover, most of the crowd witnessing a crucifixion are not necessarily taking part in it, and might have no power to stop it. According to biblical accounts, Jesus’s friends and mother were also in that crowd, but that doesn’t mean they were implicated. The kind of hasty generalising thought that projects guilt beyond the guilty individuals and onto crowds is also behind the long-lived defamation of the Jews as “Christ-killers”. Those those who believed it imagined the Jews as one big baying crowd stretching across the centuries long after the event.

    I do not stereotype Catholics as thinking alike, and would be grateful to see the end of the baseless stereotyping of secularists and atheists as rosy-spectacled devotees of social perfectionism. I doubt if I will, but when I encounter it, I will challenge it.

  • Oconnord

    Oxymoron:  something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.

    The concept of the Cross is an oxymoron, not my understanding of it. 

    A “loving and just” god tortures his son/self for his own perceived slights against his own ego, to placate his own sense of retribution. All in the name of salvation for the imperfect creatures that he deliberately  created imperfect. A salvation which he grants for the abandonment of  the free will he asserts is a gift.

  • theroadmaster

    One must confront the profound question of why would God the Father sacrifice His only begotten Son to die a terrible death on the cross, to redeem a sometimes ungrateful mankind?   Some looking at it in a superficial light, might call it callous, but once you go deeper into the ramifications of it, you realize that it was the ultimate expression of love by Our Creator, who chose to expiate the sins of humankind, through the missionary life and death of His beloved Son.  He assumed the mortal condition of a man and emptied himself to be the servant of those around Him.  The blows, insults and final death inflicted on Him by mocking crowds or Roman soldiers, was a microcosm of the collective guilt of all human societies through the centuries.  The redemptive power of Christ’s Resurrection has radiated across the globe from 1st century Palestine, and in that sense, the consequences of the evil acts of individuals, societies or nations, can be overcome and transformed  by the saving grace inherent in His sacrifice.

  • Oconnord

    I simply think this way…
    You can hold hands with a muslim but not with islam.
    Same said with catholic/ catholicism .. etc.

    It’s best to hate the idea but not the person believing it, no matter how repugnant the idea.

  • theroadmaster

    This “historical” preacher, as you call Him, has over 2 billion followers on this planet today out of a population of 7 billion.  That is not bad going for a man who was killed supposedly for “political” or “religious” reasons.  One must stop classifying Him as just one “guru” or “religious leader” among many, as His legacy has been unrivaled, in terms of it”s religious, cultural and social influence in the world, across the span of 2000 years.  The historical first-hand witness accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Gospels and the writings of historians of the early centuries, such as Josephus attest to the reality of this person called Jesus Christ.

  • theroadmaster

    There are historical proofs for this person called Jesus Christ.  The remarkably consistent first hand accounts in the gospels (e.g. those authored by John and Matthew),written by some of His closest followers concerning His life story and the contemporary writings of the period demonstrate this. .Tacticus
    (c. 56–c. 117) , the Roman historian wrote-
    “..Nero fastened the guilt of starting the blaze and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [Chrestians] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular…” 
    Most reputable historians do not doubt the existence of this historical personage called Jesus Christ  Although people may have conflicting views over the significance of His ministry, death and resurrection, there can be side-stepping the legacy left behind over the centuries.

  • JabbaPapa

     As I said — you do not understand it.

    You dismiss it as false not because you understand it, but because you don’t.

  • shieldsheafson

    It is incredible that Jesus of Nazareth, on the third day after his certain death, should
    have risen in the flesh and 40-days later ascended with flesh into heaven.It is incredible
    that the world should have believed so incredible a thing for twenty centuriesIt is incredible
    that a very few men, of mean birth and the lowest rank, and no education,
    should have been able so effectually to persuade the world, and even its
    learned men, of so incredible a thing. Of
    these three incredible things;i)  The parties with whom we are debating refuse to believe
    the first; ii)  They cannot refuse to see the second,iii) which they are unable to
    account for if they do not believe the third. City of God XXII. 5 

  • John Byrne

    I don’t think Fr. Lucie-Smith is implying any such thing.

    It seems to me that he has problems with fairly plain English.

    I’m a Catholic, by the way.

  • John Byrne

    Your last 2 remarks would leave me breathless – were it not for the fact that I’m familiar with “thinking” of this kind.
    However the thought always comes to my mind that perhaps I’m reading or listening to an under-cover agent, whose aim is to discredit or/and destroy Catholicism.  
    Some of the Clergy fall into this suspect category too.

    Can you put my mind at rest about yourself?

    PS: If you feel inclined to dismiss this, it can only be because you have not understood it.

  • John Byrne

    Personally I find your so-called “incredibles” very credible.
    But it’s not really of any importance whether others do or not. 

    PS: How can anyone either “agree” or “refuse” to believe something (literally anything)? Belief is never a question of choice.

  • Oconnord

    You sound like a gin-soaked mother, sitting on the stairs at a party, tearfully wailing “you just don’t understand”. 

    There simply is no way through such an attitude.

  • srdc

    God becomes man and enters into the depth of humanity’s life, suffering, death, and resurrection.

    Kenosis is the self-emptying of one-self to lift the other up.

    He becomes Us to Make us Like Him, to restore what we lost by being separated from him.

    St. Anastasius said, “The son of God became Man, so the sons of men might become god.

    Jesus did not come to make bad people good, since this is what many did, but to make dead people alive again.

    We live in a physical world, if you start to take it seriously, as Catholicism does. You will not be afraid of reality.

    You will notice that the human story is one of sin and redemption.  It is the story of Christ.

    May I recommend the book “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton.