We are pleased to introduce the first installment of “The Dispatch,” a new feature in which students from schools all across New England will tackle a single topic together. This issue’s question is: Why Christ?
Samir Paul, Harvard
The temptation in approaching the question, “Why Jesus?” is to step into the Nietzschean contest of wills that ensues when we allow power to decide truth. We might arrive at our understanding of reality by throwing our beliefs into an ideological coliseum where the search for Veritas is bloodsport and only the strong survive. But Jesus delivers us into a new model of what and who truth is, one grounded in a God willing to take on fl esh and human vulnerability that testify to the vigor of His truth. God in Jesus is the weak, the poor, and the marginalized, and thus he sidesteps humanity’s proclivity for stamping out the defenseless.
The answer to our question — “Why Christ?” — is at once beautiful and confounding, much the same as the God who created us: Jesus is the answer because unlike any other god or un-god, He responds to our cries with a shocking and perplexing hope, empathy, and call to action unmarred by our shortsightedness and sin.
The heart of God’s answer to our pain — Jesus — lies in His penchant for subverting our preconceptions of what the Divine should be. Jesus is the simultaneous fulfillment and obliteration of all human expectation. We want a king; we get a carpenter. We want a revolution; we get, “Love those who persecute you.” We want showy strength; we get a messiah nailed to a tree.
This is surprising. But Jesus sees the corruption of human desire and answers with what we really want instead of what we ask for — a God whose justice and sacrificial love transcend the violence of existence and welcome us into something bigger, righter, more beautiful: the hope of a radical peace for which God longs. This vision comes to its fullest expression yet in the resurrection, where we peer into a future promised us by God. Jesus Christ and His new breath are our most compelling such glimpses, guarantees of God’s pledge and appetizers for the feast to come.
What is perhaps most important to remember, though, is that the answer to the question, “Why Jesus?” is not just about assenting to abstract ideas or doctrines or propositional truths. It is entire lives transformed and reoriented by the majestic and unequivocal defeat of death. It is communities made whole and creation restored by the wounded healer. And it is, perhaps most of all, the surprising hope for a radical shalom sent by a God who cuts through our expectations of Him and delivers us, both confirming and confounding everything we thought we knew of Him.
Samir Paul, Editor-in-Chief of The Harvard Ichthus, is a junior computer science major in Mather House.
Nicole Fegeas, Princeton
For “The Dispatch,” I have been asked to address the question of why mankind even needs a Christ, a savior. A simplistic answer to this could be: to save mankind from its sin. Yet, what does it really mean to be saved from sin? Here lies at least one answer to the question of the utility of Christ.
A surface interpretation would assume that being saved from sin means we are utterly free from it. Christ vanquished sin, thus it must be completely gone from our lives. The implication of this statement is that we are free from the act of sinning itself. Clearly this is not correct. Look at the world around you. Look at the crimes, the oppression, the wars. More importantly, look at within yourselves. We are plainly still sinners.
If we are not saved from sin itself, then what has Christ freed us from? While we are not free from the act of sinning (God has given us free will to choose right or wrong and even Christ’s coming would not cause Him to take this away), what we are free from is sin’s power. Sin’s power can come in all sorts of forms, but the most visible power of sin is common guilt. This may seem to be a trivial oppressor and not worth the death of the Son of God, but in reality it is deadly, both physically and spiritually.
Under the power of guilt, we feel frustrated and worthless. Trying so hard to be righteous and good, we are disheartened with every sin we commit and the feeling sinks that we should be able to do better–why did I give into temptation? Why am I so bad–I clearly must be a horrible person because look at all of the ugly things I am doing! This is unforgivable. And the depression sinks in and then comes the feeling of unworthiness. I am too sinful for God; I am not good enough for His presence. And then the prayer ceases and in shame we distance ourselves from God until we shut Him out.
But Christ is the embodiment of the ultimate forgiveness. He died so that we would be forgiven. Forgiven of our sins, there is no use for guilt. No sin is too depraved for God’s mercy for Christ gave himself to be the ultimate Sacrifice to atone for every last modicum of man’s evil. Yet it is only through Christ that we are granted this forgiveness, thus only through Christ can we be saved from guilt.
Nicole Fegeas, Editor-In-Chief of Revisions at Princeton, is a junior classics major also pursuing a certificate in women’s and gender studies as well as one in creative writing.
Hans D. Anderson, Yale
Many claim to follow Jesus the moralist, teacher, or prophet, while others confess Him to be the Christ, the unique instrument of salvation and the sole mediator between God and humanity (I Timothy 2:5). Can we choose one of the former interpretations of the person of Jesus, or must we like Peter confess the latter, saying, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29)? If we are honest with ourselves, there can be no reasonable role for Jesus in our lives if not Christ–Jesus is Christ, or He should be dismissed altogether.
As a moralist, Jesus is but an inconvenience. He exhorts us, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but we surely cannot attain to the perfection of God! Nor will we ever succeed in emulating Christ, the very image of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus commands us to forsake the sins we enjoy (Matthew 18:8-9), denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him (Luke 9:23). Endeavoring to follow Jesus the moralist will only depress us.
Nor is Jesus more useful as a simple teacher, for not once does He appeal to our reason; instead, He calls us to forsake even the most enticing worldly wisdom and to listen to Him as if with a child’s ears (Matthew 11:25). The message of Jesus does not indulge our intellectual appetite but exposes us as fools (I Corinthians 1:18-20, citing Isaiah 29:14), imparting not a single insight which may render us wise in the eyes of the world. If we listen to Jesus solely as a pupil to a guru, we can only await the well-deserved scorn of a halfwit.
Again, if Christ were merely a prophet, He would be a laughable failure and an embarrassment: His message was utterly rejected by us humans to whom He was sent, the political leaders of the day condemned Him to suffer the death of a common criminal, and His followers are ever the object of persecution.
No, Jesus is not one of these; He claims the office Christ, the Messiahship: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If the accounts of the early Christians to the miracles they experienced (cf. John 20:30-31), corroborated by the enduring witness of the Church to the truth of Jesus’ message, persuade us that He was neither liar nor lunatic when He spoke these words, then there is only one place for Him in our lives: Lord and Christ. Neither He nor we would have it any other way.
Hans D. Anderson, Executive Director of The Logos, is a junior ethics, politics, and economics major in Saybrook College.