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Day 11: Living Daily in Reality: Some Difficulties

by Ernest O'Neill

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I try to think of the difficulty you might face as you think about this challenge to live daily in reality. I myself had little trouble with the question of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. In my early university days I spent time in Latin and Greek and Hebrew and the world of manuscripts and documenting of ancient history. It was just very obvious to anyone with even a little knowledge of higher criticism that the manuscript evidence for the historicity of Jesus was far better than that for any of the other famous historical figures of that time. The writings of Julius Caesar and Plato and Homer are accepted by all scholars of repute on the basis of 10 to 20 ancient manuscripts most of which were written a thousand years after they died. The manuscripts for Jesus' life can be traced to not only thousands of Greek and Latin manuscripts of various ages which confirm the text we have today, but also thousands of Syriac and Egyptian versions together with numberless quotations in non-Biblical literature and letters. But all of this evidence can be found in books by authors like Bruce and Kenyon - even the most liberal critics reinforce the opinion of Westcott and Hort - "the words still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament".

What might be new to you is the wide difference that exists between the other great and respected leaders of the world's religions and this person, Jesus. He not only rose from the dead and came alive again as a real, human-being who could eat fish and talk with his followers about what happened, but he spoke naturally about his life with his father, the Creator, BEFORE the world was made. In other words he was not bound by time and space like all other human-beings, but seemed equally at home in time-space or outside time-space - and lived that way by passing easily from one world to the other. Again, the historicity of his resurrection is dealt with by many sceptics like the lawyer Morrison or the philosopher, C.E.M. Joad.

Moreover, Jesus himself emphasizes his supra-temporal existence by saying plainly "I am in my Father, and you are in me". His disciple, John, writes "he was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made". Another of his apostles affirms that "he was the express image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

The implication is that we all were first given life in him: indeed the Greek phrase used by John is literally "all that is was life in him". Paul also writes to the Ephesians "for we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus" while our own poets and intuitions attest to some sense of our being part of eternity. But certainly this is a claim that goes far beyond that of being just a prophet - this is a claim that we are part of him and have been made and sustained by him. This is far different from its human imitation - reincarnation; for there is no indication that we come back in some other form in some future life; the clear indication is that Jesus "goes to prepare a place for us that where he is there we may be also".

The other difficulty I thought you might have is one that I had for years - how can God foreknow what we will do or be ? Indeed, how can he foreordain what we will do or be without making us automatons who cannot exercise our free wills ? My only answer was that God cannot know what I'm going to do so everything depends on what I will. I thought that he must be like me and that he would undoubtedly work to subvert my will if he saw me heading in the wrong direction. So he must not know and certainly does not foreordain or predestine me since he gives me the right to choose life or death.

But then I began to see that God makes everything so he makes us capable of rejecting him and choosing nothingness or death. He can bear that or let it destroy us; if he lets it destroy us, his will is defeated; if he bears the rejection, we may be won by his love. Thus he puts himself at risk and bears the unbearable as God even though he knows each move we will make. Yet his steadfast love continues forever to work all things according to the counsel of his will.

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