Gretta Vosper in her new book With Or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe asks, “Why do we need a ‘revolutionary’ voice from two millennia ago to guide us? We have fabulous ideas of our own, that are constantly weakened by having to tie them back to Jesus and Scripture.” The book description is as follows: “God does not answer our prayers. Jesus is not the Saviour who saved the world by dying for our sins. Simply put, Christianity is “love one another.”
Gretta Vosper, founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and a minister in Toronto, believes that the church, as we have built it and known it, has outlived its viability. What she proposes in the provocative with or without God is a radical change that lies at the heart of faith. The new church she envisions will play a viable and transformative role in the shaping of a future society. What will save the church from certain demise, Vosper argues, is a new emphasis on just and compassionate living.” In her opinion, “Without this reform, the church as we know it faces extinction.”
In the March 31 ’08 edition of Maclean’s there is a picture of what is supposed to be Jesus and the caption says Jesus Has An Identity Crisis. “Scholars are casting new doubt on the divinity of Christ—and even wondering if the church would be better off without him.” It starts out with “Whom do men say that I am?” Jesus’ own query to his disciples.
So who does Jesus say He is and would we be better off without Him? He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied that some say John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Even then the majority of religious peoples refused to believe He was the Messiah though they knew it was prophesied in the books they diligently studied. (The Old Testament) Jesus backed up His claim by fulfilling more than 130 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, by healing the sick, by raising the dead, by forgiving sin. He did not claim to be yet another teacher or merely a good man. Jesus said He was God.
Then Jesus asked those who walked day and night with Him for three and a half years and witnessed His miracles and His divinity. “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17). Those who knew Him personally recognized He was no ordinary man but truly God in the flesh.
The Pharisees had been challenging Jesus on His identity and then the Jews joined in saying they were the descendents of Abraham, and accused Him of being demon possessed, “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and You have seen Abraham!” No matter how religious people are, they fight against the truth. Listen to the words of John “…Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20 NIV). See Psalm 27:1 where David says “The Lord(YHVH) is my light…”
The reaction of those whom John calls “the Jews”—that is, those Jews who did not believe in Jesus, and particularly the Jewish religious leaders—was clear and inescapable. They saw Him as claiming to be equal to God. They considered that claim as blasphemy. Often they picked up stones to stone Him. And eventually they demanded His crucifixion.
But Jesus said, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:58-59 NIV). Jesus was identifying Himself as the one the Jews knew as the God of the Old Testament, a fact they did not like.
Jesus announcing His identity as “I AM” is a direct application of the Old Testament name for God (Exodus 3:14). In the story of Moses and the burning bush, Moses asks God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent Me to you.’ “So we can see that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is really Jesus Christ before His human birth.
The Apostle Paul testifies of this truth, “He is the image of the invisible God…in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
John tells us that Jesus created the world. (John 1:1-3,14) Paul tells us about the mysteries “hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”(Ephesians3:9). “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth…”(Colossians1:16)
Peter said every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. But what did Jesus say about himself?
Did He ever identify himself as God? According to the Bible…absolutely! Below are some of his statements made while on earth, in their context. Is Jesus God? Without pulling any punches, He said He was God:
“I and the Father are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:30-33).
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:6-9).
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:21-27)
Philippians 2:6-8 says that Jesus was “in very nature God…but made Himself nothing,” and was “found in appearance as a man.” Colossians 1:19 says that “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Jesus].” John 1:1,14 says that “The Word [Jesus] was with God and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…” Jesus, who was and is God, became flesh and lived among us. It is hard to see how anything could be stated more clearly.
Jesus now sits at the right hand of God and lives forever to intercede for us (Roman 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 10:12). He will come again to judge all men (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus is God.
Religious affiliations can say or do what they want but Jesus says the church will always exist and He is head of that church. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 6:18) and that Christ is alive and well.
Let’s listen to Jesus own words to the high priest before his crucifixion “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 23:63).
These words of Paul could be directed at that woman who thinks in her vanity and arrogance she can change the church and do away with Jesus. “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 17,-20). And we too have the opportunity to be among the firstfruits. People may try to get rid of Jesus, but would life be worth living without that magnificent hope?
So when Gretta Vosper asks, “Why do we need a ‘revolutionary’ voice from two millennia ago to guide us?” Jesus’ answer is abundantly clear. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).