Fr Nicholas Grace is an Irish priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), who is based in their community in Cowdenbeath, near Edinburgh in Scotland. His article focusses on common errors and prejudices cited by critics of Christianity and has paraphrased texts from – The Riddles of the Gospel in the book The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, in italics below.
I would add, that once our prejudices are laid aside there are two places where we meet the real Jesus and so know him personally. The first through our encounter with Him in the Eucharist; and the second, especially important for those who don’t go to Mass is through us, Christians! To the degree that we are supernaturally transformed in Christ and partaking of the divine nature by participation in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, we are living participants in the mystical body of Christ, walking images of Him who present (albeit dimly) the person of Christ to others.
Fr Nicholas writes:
Many people in today’s world are indifferent to Jesus Christ. Why is that? How can this be after the unparalleled impression he has made in history? I believe that amongst other things it has to do with ignorance & miss-information. People do not love Jesus because they do not know Jesus, and if they do know something OF him it is quite possibly distorted and/or incorrect.
I would, therefore, like, in this article, to present some of the errors that the critics of Christianity and the critics of Jesus Christ peddle on the unsuspecting masses and then compare them to what the Gospel actually teaches us about him, what history teaches us about him.
Firstly, the Critic says that Jesus Christ was a gentle lover of humanity, a placid person who walked around with his hands clasped together in appeal, with his hair parted in the middle & his head in the clouds, he was a peace loving hippy type who loved everybody. Unfortunately, though, the nasty Catholic Church has hidden him behind repellent dogmas & restrictive rules. The nasty Church presents a Jesus who is hard, a Jesus who is very different from the penniless preacher of love & peace.
What should we say to the critic who peddles such rubbish?
Perhaps we could start by reminding him of the popular imagery of the Church. Who has ever seen an image of Jesus with his fists clenched together, with a thunderous look on his face as he castigated a hypocrite or corrected a Pharisee? No, we are used to the tender images of the Divine Mercy, the Sacred Heart and the whole world knows about the innocent little baby Jesus of the Nativity scene.
We should say to the critic: Pick up the Gospels because you won’t find either extreme, either a hard nasty Jesus or even a sugar-coated Jesus, but you will find a Super Natural Saviour.
You will find the Christ commanding winds and spirits to obey him, converting tax collectors and reprimanding Pharisees. Jesus Christ, whose tone was not only meek and mild but one that also often commanded devils with a voice more like that of a very business-like lion-tamer dealing with a homicidal maniac.
The bottom line here is that the REAL Jesus, Jesus Christ of the New Testament, wasn’t a happy hippy who only preached peace. He also preached repentance and conversion and he did it often in a very serious manner.
Secondly, the Critic says: Jesus was a man of his time, his morality wasn’t final so we can’t & aren’t expected to turn the other cheek or practice the likes of Monogamy or faithfulness and certainly not sexual intimacy only in marriage. That would be far too difficult for the modern man.
What should we say to the critic who promotes this kind of opinion? We should remind him that it would have been just as difficult for the prostitutes and the tax collectors, just as difficult for the rough Roman soldiers and the Religious zealots to change their lives and live as Christ commanded. In fact, it would have been more demanding on them than it is on us, we have Super-Natural Grace on tap through the Sacraments they did not. Look, if the Critic speaks of the time limitations of Jesus doctrine we must be clear that the limitation is with the critic! Jesus Christ and his beautiful Gospel break through limitations! This is the amazing thing about Christ. This is the power of Christianity!
Finally, it might help if we simply put the real historical Jesus in perspective for the Critic, then he might become a potential believer rather than an accomplished deceiver. To this purpose, let’s remember two things that are more a part of history than ANYTHING ELSE which distinguishes Jesus Christ from EVERYBODY ELSE.
1. Without money or arms, he has conquered more millions of men than Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon put together.
2. Without writing single line he is the one who has set more pens in motion, has had more works of art commissioned and has had more speeches written about him than all the great men of ancient times or modern times.
Why? His life is totally unique because his life is marked by two impossibilities. A Virgin’s womb and the empty tomb. This is why the penniless preacher from Nazareth is the most dominant figure and the very center of history.
In conclusion, our advice to the critic is to open the Gospel and read it, because only in this way will he find the REAL JESUS, only by this way, will he find the way. The real way, the real truth, the real life, that is, THE REAL JESUS.