Friday 17 July 2020

Why is Jesus necessary (and for what)?

Monotheists, who believe in a God who is the creator - often see no necessity for Jesus.

They assume that God is capable of anything that is possible; so Jesus cannot be necessary; because there is nothing for Jesus to do that God could not do.

This argument is based on the idea of God as defined by attributes, specifically abstract attributes (such as unity, omnipotence and omniscience). Such a conceptualised God is not a Being primarily.

But if we escape the paradoxes of abstract infinites, and instead examine what strict-unitary-monotheists promise to their believers; we will perceive that strict monotheists do not 'offer' what Christians offer.

Christians offer everlasting resurrected life in Heaven - that is, after biological death we remain our-selves, have eternal bodies, inhabit a world of love (and, I would argue, creativity - as 'Sons of God, thus collaborators with God) - and we live with other such persons.

To say that Jesus is necessary should - I think - be understood in terms of what Christians specifically offer - resurrection.

Thus, Jesus is not necessary for creation, but Jesus is necessary if we want to live everlastingly as resurrected selves in Heaven.

If - on the other hand - we do not want what Jesus offered, then Jesus does not have a necessary role!

Monotheists who do not aspire to take-up Jesus's offer of Heavenly resurrection, can therefore rationally assert that Jesus is not necessary (that Jesus was 'just' a prophet, a teacher, an exemplar or whatever).

By this line of reasoning, we can see that Christians are those people who assert that Jesus is necessary, because (in addition) Christians personally desire resurrected eternal life in Heaven - for which Jesus was, and is, required. 


David Earle said...

Do we lack free will in the afterlife? Or at least, in Hell? It appears that way, given that unbelievers go to Hell because they have chosen to be separated from God and from what I understand there is no getting out of that situation. Unbelievers continue to sin and reject Jesus in Hell. Which makes me think that whatever stage the consciousness was at during death is the stage it will remain for eternity in Hell. We all enjoy God's common grace on Earth, which includes our free will, so am I correct in assuming that we lose our free will in Hell but keep it in Heaven?

So for somebody like, say my brother, it is of utter most importance that he makes his choice now, because there will be no changing his mind after death once he discovers the Truth and will be unable to do anything about it nor want to. Does this also mean that those in Hell feel that they are justly there?

You'd think something of such importance would be on people's minds daily. I think I originally came to Christ because I imagined the kind of things I'd be thinking about when I'm very old, and death and what happens afterwards was the obvious thing that I should focus most of my attention on.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Isl. My understanding is that we should consider this from God's perspective as a loving father. I have concluded that the key thing is that we are able to make a permanent decision in favour of Heaven (of love). But the opposite need not be the case, I don't think that God would ever exclude a repentant person who had initially rejected Heaven. However, an unresurrected post-mortal spirit probably lacks the autonomy that those with bodies possess, so in practice it may be rare for such to 'change their minds'. Indeed, it seems likely that such spirits are the wiless, demented ghosts that are described as inhabiting Sheol or Hades.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I like the idea that there are many religions that are truly able to deliver the afterlife they promise. Dante pioneered this idea when he put the virtuous Greek and Roman pagans in the Elysium they expected -- a paradise known from a Christian standpoint as the First Circle of Hell. I think this idea can be extended to other forms of paganism, to the Monotheism That Must Not Be Named, to Buddhism, and perhaps to other religions as well.

In a sense, then, there are many "true religions" -- meaning that they are not frauds, that they can make good on their offers. But from an individual standpoint, fewer religions -- perhaps only one -- can deliver what that particular individual truly wants.

I don't think people sufficiently appreciate this. There is a widespread misconception that every religion pretty much promises "heaven" to those who follow it and "hell" to those who don't, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to know which religion is "true," the best answer is the Cheshire Cat's: "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."

Moonsphere said...

Do we lack free will in the afterlife?

My understanding is that the afterlife is a world of fixed consequences. The Harvest metaphor is often used in scriptures. During planting season, we have free will - we have choices.

At harvest we have no freedom - no choice but to reap what we have sowed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm. Yes. And the typical modern atheist wants to be annihilated at death, and probably will be given what he wants - at least in terms of experiencing nothing at all.

Whether such a state is fixed and permanent, or whether God will check back from time to time, may again be a matter of choice.

But Heaven must be an irrevocable choice, or else it could not work. Ie we must be free to make permanent commitments.

Epimetheus said...

Possibly our consciousness is shorn of everything except what is eternally compatible with Heaven. A final baptism, as it were. Whatever is left is where we begin eternal life, and we participate, learn, and grow freely from there.

Matthew T said...


You'd think something of such importance would be on people's minds daily.

Yes. I have been baffled by the question, for a long time now - I've pondered it over and again and not come to a really satisfactory answer, which is the question of why high-IQ people, who should be the most future-oriented, are also the least religious. The most future-oriented people should be the most religious, as far as I can see.

(Of course I know that many people would snark a response about religion being "fairy tales" and so forth. Needless to say I do not consider this very compelling.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@MT - For whatever reason; my sense is that most high IQ people in The West do not want to live eternally in Heaven but want instead to be completely annihilated at biological death, or else to experience some kind of blissful but non-conscious and impersonal state of reabsorption into 'oneness'.

Adil said...

Matthew T

"I have been baffled by the question, for a long time now - I've pondered it over and again and not come to a really satisfactory answer, which is the question of why high-IQ people, who should be the most future-oriented, are also the least religious."

For me it makes sense. High IQ people tend to be organized and often simply don't need religion as individuals. They are capable to lead a happy existence without it. And God might be fine with that. I think atheism is the modus operandi of many smart people as they are more independent souls. But the problem starts when the masses adopt scientism as their go-to worldview. Then there is the problem of smart people often being unable to exercise intuitive thought, which makes them paradoxically unable to grasp religion. From an atheistic standpoint, longing for annihilation makes complete sense (as you won't be able to make sense of suffering). We have been trained to think we are a bunch of naked apes, and perhaps the smarter you are the clearer you will see that side of human evolution.

Gary said...

Rest assured that most atheistic smart people are not in such a great place as you are portraying. That they may be rich or comfortable should not be a counterargument convincing to a Christian.
They are extremely open to being manipulated, cheated and exploited. They are deeply irrational in very foolish ways.
That they were born in a time where obedience to an evil system rewards them with material prosperity (which will not last by the way, and was merely a bribe to buy them off) is no proof that they don't need religion.
It is simply a result of demonic temptation taking on a particular form, according to the possibilities of the time.
It is important not to "go easy on" high IQ atheists, neither to assume it's natural or rational.
They deserve our charity, as much as the next man, but not proof that they are justified.
I cannot fathom that they would be justified in any way, inasmuch as they insist on their choices.

Adil said...


Yes, well, I pretty much agree with that. I was more talking about high IQ agnostics really, than explicit anti-religious atheists. As someone who leans towards classical theism and the Catholic faith, the mere 'belief' part of Christianity is not my approach. I think the main thing is to say yes to Jesus in your heart (rather than making an intellectual decision), and be willing to follow him through death. And that should not be a question of adopting a set of beliefs on a merely intellectual level. But saying 'yes' to Jesus is important indeed. I am not baptized myself (as of yet) and I am noticing how hard it is to say Yes to Jesus and become a Christian, because I have been brought up in a secular secular in which people struggle to say Yes or No to anything. And this 'neutral' vacuum is a dangerous place to be, as Bruce Charlton have pointed out! But what is worse is saying Yes to Jesus and then working against him, and that is why I have sympathy for some atheists.

Reader said...

In case you're referring to the "competing" monotheism, it actually insists on the fact of resurrection. For truth. Otherwise discard this comment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@R I did not mean resurrection just as a bodily thing, but the full Christian promise of resurrection to everlasting life in Heaven as Sons of God. That is the specifically Christian promise.