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Set Forth Your Case – Paper #10

Part 10 of a 16 part series…

To catch you up, my father, Dr. Michael Ruth (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s) gave me an assignment to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters.  It might be a little difficult to fully understand my responses to or summaries of the chapters without reading the book, but I wanted to share my work anyway.

Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock
Chapter 10: The Fact of Christ

Directly on the heels of his last chapter, which focused on the preponderance of evidence for the historical accuracy and validity of the Bible, Pinnock decides to fine-tune his point to say that a case for the evidence of Christianity is essentially a case for Christ Himself.  Pinnock states, “Christianity is Christ…He is the center both of our theology and our apologetics.”  We get a sense of just who Christ is in the first chapter of John’s gospel, and we learn some very important things about Him, including the following:

  • Christ is the “Word”; that is, He is the embodiment of all that God the Father wanted to communicate to us.
  • Christ has always been (“In the beginning was the Word”).
  • Christ was God the Son in the flesh (“and the Word was God”, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”).
  • Christ is the creator of all things (“without Him nothing was made that was made”).

Clearly, the importance of Christ cannot be overstated.  He is everything.  The Old Testament is a foreshadowing of Him, and the New Testament is a chronicling of His ministry and a promise of what He will do in the future to complete the redeeming work of His creation.  The problem is that, in our day, the popular perception of Christ (even among some self-professing Christians, shockingly enough) is that He was a mild-mannered moralist…nothing much more than a wise teacher or do-gooder.  However, if you read the accounts of Christ from the New Testament you have to honestly say that nothing could be further from the truth!  In fact, Pinnock goes so far as to say that, “…the Christ of the New Testament is an intrepid egoist.”  That initially sounds like a critical – or even sacrilegious – statement, until you back up and realize that in many ways it is absolutely true.  Christ was always making outrageous claims about Himself…that He had the power to forgive sins, for example, or that He would die and rise from the dead.  In perhaps one of the boldest examples, Christ walks into a synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath, reads from the Prophet Isaiah, and proclaims to everyone in attendance that He is the Messiah of whom the Prophet spoke (Luke 4:16-30)!  Indeed, He was eventually arrested, tried and crucified for His “blasphemies”.

Given the abundance of credible evidence available detailing the life, times and exploits of Christ, an objective seeker has plenty of data at their disposal upon which to make a decision for their salvation.  Pinnock’s major argument at this point, and indeed it is an argument that has been made by many, is that it is intellectually dishonest to dismiss Christ as nothing more than a Rabbi.  There is just as much evidence documenting the life of Christ as there is documenting the lives of Caesar or Alexander the Great; and among His many attributes, Christ was certainly a polarizing and radical iconoclast.  Christ tells us that Himself in Luke 12:51, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”

C. S. Lewis summarized this concern almost better than anyone when he said the following:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic…or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.

There it is.  If you are presented with the “good news” of the Gospel, which is the news of Christ, and you are courageous enough to be intellectually honest about what is presented to you, then, as Lewis said, you must make your choice.  As ministers of the Gospel we need to try to convince non-believers that this choice is the most important choice they will make in their lives, and it is a choice with eternal consequences.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth


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