Sunday, May 08, 2011

Jesus Incognito

Today's Gospel reading from Luke 24:13-35 (Cleopas' walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus) is one of those resurrection appearances of Jesus that once again brings up the question of the authority of witness. Most Christians accept the stories of these encounters with an incognito Jesus,  a vanishing Jesus, or  a Jesus who can get into a closed room as accurate reports of real events. Sadly, many have let doubt and disbelief cause these stories to be classified as delusions, or hallucinations.

During the course of today's sermon, our preacher related stories of her personal encounters with God. Nice, but where was the link to testing things against scripture?

As I related last week in a post entitled "Things Not Seen",
"Personal experiences and feelings become problems because all too often they can be shown to be contrary to scripture.

This is also how we discern the Holy Spirit; we have to go back and study scripture, and discuss things amongst others who have studied the scriptures.

The study of the Bible and Christian history therefore become vitally important, because ignorance of scripture and the errors that others have made in the past will lead us into the way of error ourselves with the inevitable consequence of a weakening or even the loss of personal and corporate faith."

In the present age when the reliability of witnesses, and the trustworthiness of leaders and governments are usually doubted, and when truth itself is a nebulous thing, can I believe these stories from 2000 years ago? For that matter, can I believe that Osama Bin Laden is really dead?

In a world full of conspiracy theories and mistrust, is it any wonder that people have a hard time accepting the truth that has been passed down to us in the form of Biblical witness?

In a world where authority figures are constantly being exposed as liars, self serving, or otherwise untrustworthy, can people put their faith and trust in a God of authority and power?

Or are people searching for a god more like themselves?

Addendum: 1 John 4:1-6 was in Monday's readings.

Testing the Spirits

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus* is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."


  1. I seem to recall an N.T. Wright essay regarding the historical validity of Biblical stories, and him arguing that, from an historians perspective, it is the nature of the witnesses themselves, when compared to the society in which they lived and contemporary texts of secular origins, which argue for the validity of the witnesses' observations. I'll try to dig it up and point you in it's direction, because it speaks to this precise issue.


  2. ToilNotSpin2:23 PM

    I like Randall's summary of the Wright essay about "the nature of the witnesses themselves when compared to the society in which they lived and contemporary texts of secular origins" arguing for or against the validity of their visions. And Randall, I would like to be pointed in the direction of that essay too, if you would be so kind:)

    UP, I can't quite tell what you are asking in this very interesting blog entry. Do you doubt the visions of the disciples as reported in the New Testament? I can't think that you do. But like you, I am wary of modern visions, especially when those visions seem to support a particular political or even church agenda. It has never been given to me to have any direct visions; the closest I come to is what I call moments of grace, sudden feelings that Christ is very near to me. Those I tend to trust because they have not come at moments of high emotions or deep crisis, and they are simply an affirmation of His Presence.

    In our church, too, we have a priest who claims many intimate moments with Christ. Like you, I do not find those particularly helpful in dealing with the scriptural witnesses. In fact I often want to tell our priest that less information about his seminary days, his family, and his pets, and a little more information on the scriptures would be more interesting and informative.

    By the way, I've seen Brian Boitano perform his Olympic skating routine...and although I believe he is gay, he looks somewhat more masculine than Jesus with the sunglasses . UP, where DO you find these pictures??


  3. Gentlemen:

    The essay was in an Afterword to this, if I recall correctly. It me awhile to remember the book where I read it. I don't know if it's in recent printings, because I got it in hardback shortly after it came out.
    (The book is worth a read, too, btw.)


  4. TNS, re: your question directed to UP. Forgive me for jumping in.

    The Disciples'/Apostles' testimony has been countenanced by tradition and continued teaching. Hence it is Canon. For anybody else, God may speak to him/her about His will for there lives, but God will never change a directive contained in Holy Scripture. As He says, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the essence of His name "I AM:" Pure, continues present tense.

    Thus, we are called to judge prophets and preachers and teachers and pastors by the words and their works. We will know them because they will demonstrate whether they are of God or not by reference to His Word and most definitely not our transitory, misleading feeling or emotions.

    (Sorry for diving in UP.)


  5. Thanks Randall,


    The fact is, I accept the authority of the Gospel witness, and that acceptance is a bit of a miracle in itself. I was a skeptic for many years, and unfortunately, that skepticism was fed by my denomination. I have spent so much time with other doubters that I feel that I have a certain insight into their thought processes and how they got to where they are.

    One of my questions is whether our post-modern mistrust and skepticism of all witnesses and of anyone who dares to point and say, "This really happened, this is true!" makes it hard for non-christians to accept what we claim to be true.

    If so, then people are left with following their own gods, and that might help to explain some of the things we see going on in the world.