The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. —God in the dock, CS Lewis
I make claims about myself and my beliefs on this blog. If you spend enough time reading these posts, you will come away feeling that you can make judgments about me and my character. You may even come to believe that you can accurately predict what I think about specific ideas and issues.
Reading what I’ve written helps, but you could know me even better if you were able to observe me in action. You could then look for signs that my words are integrated into my life in such a way that they actually show up in my behavior.
Words and actions together reveal a lot about who we really are.
Samuel Alito has written a great many things that shed light on his beliefs and character. Others have made claims about what Alito really thinks, suggesting they know the man beneath the surface. Now he sits in the dock of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a place where the man and his words can be judged face to face.
What is going on in Washington is part governance and part theater — call me a cynic, but I don’t believe there is a single senator who hasn’t already decided how he or she will vote. But after all of the words, we’ll each be left to make up our minds about the character of this nominee as best we can.
In human history, there have been many who have made claims about themselves, and some have been quite a bit more interesting than those made about Samuel Alito.
Siddhartha Gotama is known as the first Buddha. He was a holy man who claimed to have discovered the Four Truths and the Eightfold Path, principles that have formed the foundations of modern Buddhism. The Buddha claimed that he had found enlightenment and peace by living by these principles, and his modern followers try to find enlightenment by living out his teachings.
Confucius believed that study and discipline were the keys to living in harmony and creating a just society. A great many eastern religions have used the teachings of Confucius as their starting point.
Muhammad claimed to be God’s last prophet. He said that he was visited by the angel Gabriel, who gave him the sacred words of the Qur’an and had him commit them to memory. Those words live on today and are revered by Muslims as the words of God.
Then, of course, there is Jesus Christ.
This Son, radiance of the glory of God, flawless expression of the nature of God, himself the upholding principle of all that is, effected in person the reconciliation between God and man and then took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high—thus proving himself, by the more glorious name that he has won, far greater than all the angels of God. —Hebrews 1:3,4, JB Phillips
The claims made about Jesus are quite unique.
He was not a man who discovered truth through meditation and study. He was not a man who was a messenger chosen to speak words to humanity.
What is claimed about Jesus Christ is that he embodied the very nature and character of the eternal God. If God is truth, Jesus Christ was truth. If God is love, Jesus Christ was love. If God is good, Jesus Christ was also good.
What is claimed about Jesus Christ is that he, himself, brought God and man back together. What sin had separated, the blood of Jesus reconciled on the cross.
What is claimed about Jesus Christ is that he has been honored by God above all others, and has been given the authority over everything by God, his Father.
In fact, what is claimed about Jesus Christ is that he was God himself. The Word of God was not entrusted to a prophet, but became human flesh and walked and bled in human history, out of love for his people.
It is an altogether higher-order claim that is made about Jesus Christ than has been made for any other religious figure in history.
And, to judge those claims, we are left with his words. Words recorded by the disciples who knew him and who gradually came to realize who he really was. Words recorded by men who wanted to get the story straight, so that others might be able to read and judge for themselves.
His words and claims are right there in the New Testament. For some 2,000 years, men and women have sat in judgment of Jesus Christ. Some have gone in with their minds already made up. Others have approached him openly, in an honest pursuit of the truth about this man whose words have gone around the entire world.
Jesus Christ sits in the dock. Who has the first question?