My third reason to believe that not only does God exist as a general being, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and completely loving; but that God is actually manifested himself in the person of Jesus Christ, what we believers call the incarnation, is this: The Person of Jesus, Himself. I have a friend who always talks about the ‘smell test.’ His idea is that no matter how nice a person is, they can’t escape their native personality, that is, their smell. He believes that no matter how much ‘behavioral perfume’ a person puts on that they will always carry the odor of their true self to be identified by those with a nose. I think he may be right. The first and last real question of faith for me is this: does Jesus pass the smell test?
On October 26, 1929, The Saturday Evening Post published an interview of Albert Einstein. It was a personality piece to bringing to light the great man of science and the interview was conducted, in German, by George Sylvester Viereck. On page 17, this portion of the interview was posted:
“To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?”
“As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
“Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?”
“Emil Ludwig’s Jesus,” replied Einstein, “is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.”
“You accept the historical existence of Jesus?”
“Unquestionably. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus.”
“Ludwig Lewisohn, in one of his recent books, claims that many of the sayings of Jesus paraphrase the sayings of other prophets.”
“No man,” Einstein replied, “can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he.”
Now, as far as I know, Einstein never became a follower of Christ, but he recognized a singular fact: Christ was not a myth. His sayings and personality were too well preserved in the gospel accounts. Jesus of Nazareth existed, let’s not get caught up in the conspiracies of historical vagary that claim he was a fabrication. The description of Him in scripture paints a much too realistic and unified picture of the man. And look how the sayings and teachings of this ‘unimportant teacher’ from a backwater little town in an occupied nation have stayed around for 20 centuries to be a part of our culture today. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “The good Samaritan,” “The salt of the earth,” “A City on a Hill,” all still resonate with us in modern ethics and culture. The concept of forgiveness made it’s way into philosophy and ethics by way of the Nazarene’s teaching; and I still haven’t mentioned “The Prodigal Son,” or “turning the other cheek.” Jesus left a a momentous mark on the world. If you imagine our moral history as a giant brick wall, Jesus Christ tagged it with a huge red cross.
Here was a man who changed everything. All of our liberal ethical ideals of equality and justice, love and peace, flow from the spring of His life and teaching. He is the source of everything good in our society, it’s right there in the historical record. I know that so-called christians have perpetuated atrocity on top of atrocity on the the altar of self-righteousness; but that’s not Jesus.
Something was afoot in Galilee, my friends. Something happened. This Man who claimed divinity made a splash into the waters of our collective soul the likes of which were never seen before or since.
And that’s before the Resurrection. Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.