How to Amaze Jesus
From Dr. Bob Murphy at ConsultingByRPM.com
I read a familiar gospel passage the other day, but took something away from it that had previously escaped my notice (in bold below):
New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
6 Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Normally gospel accounts talk about people marveling at Jesus, not the other way around. And unfortunately, this isn’t a good type of marvel. (You do see the opposite in the famous story of the centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant, where Jesus marvels at his faith.)
Now the reason this resonated so much for me is that when I argue with some of you on these Sunday posts, Imarvel at your unwillingness to even consider what it would mean if you were wrong. The problem here is that we are dealing with the most important, foundational issues of someone’s worldview. It’s one thing if, say, you and I are both Austro-libertarians, and you say you think fractional reserve banking doesn’t cause business cycles but I say maybe it does. We agree on 99% of how to approach the problem, and we just diverge right at the moment when we’re putting the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence.
In contrast, if I think a loving God created all of the universe, and every bad thing happens because it fits into God’s beautiful plan of mercy and redemption, and furthermore that we can see God’s fingerprints screaming out from every area of intellectual inquiry…whereas you think that we are statistical quirks in one of an uncountably infinite number of possible universes, that “the real world” consists of atoms in motion and nothing else, that there is no purpose to existence at all, and that things like love, mercy, and the aching for knowledge of the divine are at best useful behaviors that cannot be justified rationally, but at worst vestigial emotional wiring that at one point conferred an evolutionary advantage… Well holy cow, it’s going to be hard for us to have a conversation.
Anyway, back to the passage quoted above: I hope this underscores one of the main points I have made time and again on these Sunday posts. Despite the claims of the “rational, empirical” atheists, when a religious person speaks of “faith,” he does not mean “a willingness to throw one’s reason out the window.”
No, not at all. In the context of the story (which is the only way to judge this, because we’re talking about how religious people use words right now), Jesus had been going around performing all kinds of miracles. So in light of that empirical evidence, it is the height of absurdity for someone to say, “Wait a minute, this guy couldn’t possibly be a big deal. So what if we’ve heard that he healed a bunch of people, or that we’ve seen him give astonishing sermons with our own eyes. I mean, we knew him when he was 5 years old!” What kind of argument is that? It causes one to marvel. Jesus is amazed because He can see that no matter what He does or says, these peopleabsolutely refuse to consider that He might be telling the truth.
Last thing: I know a bunch of you are going to say things like, “This is silly. Jesus never healed anybody. Those are claims in a story. Do you believe in Hercules too Bob?” That’s not the point I’m making here. I’m saying that religious people use “faith” the same way Vader does in that famous scene. The point is, it’s actually quite anti-empirical and “superstitious” for that guy to doubt Vader, in the context of the story that George Lucas is telling. We shouldn’t applaud that “skeptic” for his devotion to the scientific method; instead we should tell him that his pigheadedness and refusal to consider the wealth of evidence staring him in the face, almost got him strangled to death.