In this second week of our message series CSI: Christ Scene Investigation, we are looking at credible evidence for the proof of Jesus of History and Christ of Faith. The term Jesus of history refers to the divine Son of God as He walked the earth in the person of Jesus. And the term Christ of faith refers to Jesus’s eternal identity as the Son of God, especially as that reality has been experienced by believers since his death and resurrection. The distinction between the “Christ of Faith” and the “Jesus of History” is often traced to Martin Kahler (1835-1912).
The question about the historical Jesus has always been on the lips of secular historians. They ask, did a man called Jesus walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the ‘Historical Jesus’ actually existed primarily reflects disagreements among atheists. Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed. The reconstruction of the historical Jesus are based on the Pauline epistles and on the gospels and several non-biblical sources that bear witness to the historical Jesus. Scholars agree on these two things: That Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate. Josephus, an ancient historian, wrote that Jesus was a wise man, a doer of wonderful works and a teacher who was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
During His life time, his disciples began to think of Jesus as the “Messiah,” Christ the anointed one. After his death and resurrection, his followers regularly referred to him as the Messiah (Act 2:36). At some point, his adherents also began to refer to him as the “Son of God.” Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans (6:4), shows knowledge that “The Christ” was a title and not a name. He more referred to Jesus as “Jesus Christ,” “Christ Jesus” or even just “Christ.”
In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul states that Christ Jesus preexisted creation and came to earth; He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” This sounds as if Jesus was a heavenly being who only appeared in human form. But in Romans 1:1-6, Paul writes that God declared Jesus to be “Son of God” by raising him from the dead. So, according to Saint Paul, Jesus is a man of history to have died on the cross and Christ of faith to have risen from the dead.
That is why in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, Saint Paul states that, “If Christ has not risen from the dead, our preaching is useless and so is our faith . . . .” Our case for Christ is simple. He is our Jesus of History and Christ of Faith.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
It was the last month of my final year of seminary. The scene was the imposing office of my formation director, who sat across from me. Next to her was the vocations director for the Archdiocese. They both glared at me, waiting for a response. After almost five years of classes, prayer, field education, annual evaluations, and much ink spilled reflecting on my own personal and spiritual development, this was the final test. My future as a priest came down to one question.
As he closed the cover of my thick file at the end of our meeting, the vocations director had turned a pointed look in my direction and asked rather casually, “By the way, Roger, who is Jesus Christ?” I swallowed hard, stalling for time while searching my memory banks for the textbook answer. Realizing there was none, I stammered out a line I had remembered from a childhood friend. “He’s my Lord and Savior,” I finally exclaimed.
Though I struggled for an answer, it is the most fundamental question. In fact, Jesus once asked his disciples the same thing: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). Only Simon Peter got it right. Indeed, few of us could respond well because, to know who Jesus really is, we first have to have a relationship with him.
According to one study, there are about 100 million Catholics in the U.S. Of these, thirty million attend church occasionally, ten million attend on most Sundays, but only five million are active in their parishes. More surprising is that only about twenty percent of these could be called “intentional disciples.” As a result, roughly one percent of self-identified American Catholics have a real and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today, we begin a new six-week message series leading up to Advent called, CSI: Christ Scene Investigation. It’s based on the New York Times Best Seller, The Case for Christ. In the book, award-winning legal editor and seasoned reporter, Lee Strobel, chases down the most important story of his life to answer one question: “Is there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God?”
Over the next six weeks, we’ll pore over the details and study the proofs together. Join us on a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure, as we retrace his steps in history, search for clues among archaeological ruins, and examine critical testimony in the ancient manuscripts of his time. At the end of the series, our hope is that the trail of evidence will lead you even closer to the Man of Sorrows, the Prince of Peace, the Lord and Savior of the world.
Was he a fool, an imposter, or truly the Son of God? What judgment will you render in “The Case for Christ?”
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
In her book, Simply Your Life, Elaine St. James wrote that each sunrise, which most people take for granted, is, by far, “the greatest show on Earth.” Since learning this, even though definitely not a “morning person,” I have been getting up to watch that beautiful golden orb peek over the horizon above the outline in the distance. On the day I write this, the sunrise was particularly spectacular. The same, I suppose, is true of every sunset. And both of these “shows” are completely free of charge, produced and directed by our loving Creator, so that we will always know of his love and concern for us.
This Sunday is the final installment of our current message series that we’ve been calling, God’s Not Dead. Over the last six weeks, we have been reflecting on recent scientific developments that make belief in God a rational and logical endeavor. So far in the series, we have explored:
While the specific information we have provided in this series is important, and I urge you to watch our messages online for the details, what is of utmost importance is that the mysteries and indescribable beauty of our vast and silent universe speak volumes about the love of its Creator for us. From the sunrises and sunsets to the incredible elegance of our own DNA, it is—and always will be—the greatest show on Earth.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Christians and other spiritual people frequently are criticized for having what is called “blind faith.” According to atheists, skeptics, and other critics of religion, the acceptance of truths that are supposedly revealed by a divine higher power, without the support of empirical validation or scientific corroboration, is irrational. Propositions that cannot be investigated or observed using our five senses, they say, are unworthy of belief.
The phrase “leap of faith” is attributed to the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. It is the act of believing in something outside the boundaries of reason. Kierkegaard rejected the rationalist philosophical idea that God can be proven to exist and that faith can rely on sound logic. For Kierkegaard, there is no reason in faith, and that is what makes it a leap. His classic example is God’s command to Abraham in the Bible to kill his own first-born son. He could only perform such an act contrary to reason through a leap of faith.
But while faith at some point may require such a leap without the aid of reason, it “is not a leap in the dark,” says Oxford Mathematician John Lennox. Rather, faith is “a commitment based on evidence.” As such, he says, “it is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule.” C.S. Lewis similarly suggested that faith is holding on to what your reason has led you to conclude, despite shifting moods, attitudes, and circumstances.
“Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) n. 154). As Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica, “[b]elieving is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (II-II, 2, 9).
Real faith is not blind because it requires knowledge of God that comes through both divine revelation and the evidence exhibited in the world he created, assent to that knowledge, which is a product of reason and thinking, and trust, which also is not blind, but based on evidence that the person making the promise is trustworthy.
Ultimately, we do not believe because revealed truths “appear as true and intelligible in the light of reason” (CCC n. 156). We believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them” (Dei Filius 3). But so “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit” (Id.).
Join us online or at church this Sunday as we continue our message series, God’s Not Dead, to learn more about how real faith is not blind and how science and religion together support a fuller understanding of the world and faith in its Creator.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
When we eat donuts after Mass, the sugars (carbohydrates) from those donuts are broken down for use in our bodies. They give us energy to do all the Sunday chores like go to the grocery store, do the laundry, read the newspaper, play sports, or whatever we need to do after Father Roger says, “Go in peace; the Mass has ended.”
The cells in our bodies cannot use little pieces of donuts to carry out their functions, though wouldn’t it be cool if they did! Instead, once we eat those donuts, our digestive system starts to break them down into smaller and smaller pieces, until what was a chocolate old-fashioned donut becomes tiny molecules of sugar that can enter our cells and be transformed into energy.
This breaking-down process is highly regulated. Our bodies need to make sure that the food we eat is actually being turned into energy. Many hormones control this activity through a process called the “Cori Cycle,” named after the two Catholic scientists who figured it all out.
The first of these scientists, Gerty Radnitz, was born in Prague in 1896. She was a determined, confident woman, who worked her way through a school system bent on excluding women from the fields of science and math. When she applied for university, she learned that her education had grossly underprepared her and that she lacked the necessary prerequisites for entry. Undeterred, however, she managed to study the equivalent of eight years of Latin, five years of science, and five years of mathematics in one year. She earned admittance to medical school and graduated in 1920.
The second scientists, Carl Cori, also was born in Prague in 1896, but had a slightly different path to the sciences. His family encouraged his interest in math and science from a young age, his father having run a national marine biological station and his grandfather having been a professor of theoretical physics. His education prioritized all the things that Gerty’s did not, and though he was slightly deterred from his career path due to World War I conscription, he too entered medical school and graduated in 1920.
Gerty and Carl graduated in 1920, and married the same year. Her family was Jewish, but she converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry her husband in the Church. The Cori’s emigrated to the United States in 1922, due to deteriorating conditions in Europe, where they began a research lab together in Buffalo, New York. While each did publish individually, they worked largely as team, doing some of their most groundbreaking science side-by-side.
Remember the donuts? The Cori’s wanted to know how exactly our bodies turn sugar into usable energy for our cells, a process called carbohydrate metabolism. In a series of fifty papers, they proposed a model that worked it all out. The Cori’s were recognized for this incredible work in 1947, when they won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with their research colleague Bernardo Houssay. As a naturalized U.S. citizen, Gerty became the first American woman to receive this prestigious recognition.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Father Roger Gustafson