Human reason vs. the God of Christianity: this is a struggle that began from the moment Jesus made the claim, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Enlightenment of the late 17th Century onward is recognized for its skepticism of Christianity; Centuries later, Nietzsche is remembered for crying out, “Where has God gone…We have killed him, you and I.” Yet despite these and continued modern attacks such as those of Richard Dawkins, Christianity thrives and grows through the direction of the Holy Spirit and according to the divine plan of God. Human reason, it seems, is not enough to knock down the fortifications of Christianity.
And yet, there exists within the walls of Christianity itself, a reasoning that threatens to quench the fire of faith from within. I like to call it “Christian skepticism.” It is the prevalence of human reason within Christianity that questions the methods and means by which God achieves his plan. Questions like “If God knew Satan would tempt Eve, why didn’t He step in” or “why did God bother making a fallen world that hurts Him?” all fall within this category.
As I became conscious of this issue in my life, I started reading through the book of John, and it has taken me through a tremendous journey of re-unraveling the mystery of Jesus as a man and his claim to divinity. I find myself questioning as the disciples questioned, doubting as the pharisees doubted, as bewildered as the crowds were by Jesus’ parables and figurative language – rather than drawing closer, I felt more distant from Jesus as I read through chapter after chapter of “my time has not yet come” and “do you still not see.”
Finally, I reached chapters 14-16 of John. After washing the disciple’s feet, Jesus begins to “come clean” in a manner of speaking – he begins to abandon the figurative language, speaking more plainly with his disciples…and with me.
I realize that I have been asking Jesus the same questions the disciples asked Jesus so long ago:
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8).
Philip’s request resonates with me: I have seen Christians tell nonbelievers that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (verse 6), but sometimes, I just seek more…proof.
Jesus himself chastises Philip for this request mainly because Philip has already walked with Jesus throughout his years of ministry – I felt a twinge of guilt myself as I read Jesus’ words:
“Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:9-11).
When Jesus mentioned the evidence of the miracles, my eyes opened to the light of all the past ministry of Jesus – up to this point of reading John, I secretly felt that Jesus seemed to be aimlessly walking around healing random people, drawing crowds and then trying to avoid them, performing miracles and then being vague in his explanations of them. Now, it hit me that all along, Jesus was trying to reveal himself to me through his ministry, but I was too skeptical to accept his words – from the beginning, Jesus has been claiming to be from God; his language hasn’t changed throughout his work, but it is my eyes that are beginning to see: Jesus no longer seems to be “claiming” anything. Rather, he is affirming his deity, proving himself through miraculous signs.
I imagine Philip hanging his head at Jesus’ rebuke, and I feel like I know what Philip must have been thinking: I’ve spent so much time with Jesus, and I still ask so many questions, and even worse, I sometimes feel unsatisfied the answers…which is why I continue to doubt.
I love how Jesus lifts the head of his discouraged disciple:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12).
Jesus gives his disciples a promise to untethered power through God. To put it in superhero terms, Jesus had powers such as multiplying matter (feeding the five thousand), raising the dead (Lazarus), even alchemy (Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread).
Aside from the promise of eternal life, this promise is the one that gets my adrenaline rushing – maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too many Marvel-based films. But after reading this, I find that I am not questioning the way God does things anymore – at least I get to have supernatural powers! That’s the best idea you’ve come up with yet, God!
Jesus finishes his promise with this statement: And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
In all my stubborn doubt and now childish excitement, this one truth suddenly holds me still: The power comes in the name of Jesus Christ.
In this passage, God has admonished me and humbled me. When I was so skeptical about the way Jesus was doing things on earth, God showed me a little part of the plan that he knew I would like (superpowers yay) and I had to shut up. He made me realize something about myself – that I question when I don’t like something, and let it slide when it serves me well. Most human beings are like this, and the more I look at it, the more I realize that I have been justifying my discontent with my circumstances, this swing of emotions, beneath a mask of “educated reason.” And what is infinitely more valuable to me, God revealed what awesome power lies unbridled in the name Jesus Christ.
When the questions rise, when the pride swells, when the heart begins to harden, the best answer will always be:
Rediscover Jesus Christ.