Thursday, May 30, 2013

AJ or JC?

A man in a rural region near Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia has made an extreme claim. He says he is Jesus, yes, the Christ, and that his partner is Mary Magdalene. He claims to remember the crucifixion and the emotions of Mary as she watched. He remembers resurrecting several people including Lazarus. AJ Miller now runs a religious movement called "Divine Truth" and teaches seminars, sells DVDs, and takes donations.

Someone I know was pulled into a discussion of how one would go about proving this guy to be wrong. His friend on FaceBook, once a Christian, but now an atheistic humanist asked how we Christians could discern whether or not such a person's claims were true. The humanist friend was perhaps suggesting that Christians are a little too willing to accept truth claims without sufficient proof.

I think we can tackle such a problem with logic and faith. While seeking to be charitable to all involved in this discussion I would suggest that there are multiple ways to weigh the evidence and find it wanting in a case such as this.

Some would simply argue from biblical texts and show that this man's life, and the circumstances of his birth and life do not fit with what the Bible has to say about the return of Jesus Christ. I believe several others have already waded into this discussion with quotes from the Bible. If one is willing to accept the Bible as the words of God (indeed, the Word of God, and Jesus as the incarnation of that Word) then it is quite simple to show that this person did not show up the way the Bible says Jesus will return.

However, let us consider the community in which these questions are being debated. Most of the FaceBook audience will not want you to start from the Bible. If someone does not want a Biblical argument we might start at a different place. We could ask the other person, "Who do you think Jesus was?" "Who do you think he is now?" "Why do you think he might come back to the earth?" Then, based on what they think of Jesus we might say, "Does this guy fit your expectation of the "return" of Jesus?" If he does fit what they expect we might warn them to be cautious about turning over their life-savings to the guy and wish them luck. We might say that we think this guy does not fit our understanding of the Messiah and that he has not returned in the way the Bible has said he would; but, in God's economy he does allow people to do things that are spiritually dangerous and allows them to walk away from him.

We do need to recognize that we live in a world without absolute proofs. We have axioms, theories, and evidence which support a theory to the point where the theory becomes a statistical proof. At some point we start to believe the statistical proof is close enough to proof to say "I believe in that theory." Those of us with a faith background still use some form of theory, evidence, statistical proof, and belief. I cannot prove God exists. I have pretty good evidence that someone named Jesus existed. I have plenty of literary evidence to substantiate some of what he said. At some point I begin to believe in God and in the deity of Jesus.

In further conversations with those who believe that AJ Miller is Jesus, we might have to resort to further logic. If I were to make the claim that I am a poached egg (to follow a line of reasoning presented by C.S. Lewis), then you would have to determine, "What is a poached egg?" "Does Keith fit with my expectations of what a poached egg should look like or act like?" If Keith does not fit this then one of our definitions of a poached egg is wrong. If I am not a poached egg, then I am either a liar or mentally unstable in suggesting that I am a poached egg.

AJ Miller is not the first person to claim to be the returning Messiah. His claims may simply be more direct than some others before. It will be interesting to watch his religious movement and see what becomes of him and his followers. If it follows previous patterns, we can expect that the movement will end in disunity or disaster. Perhaps the words of Gamaliel are in order here: "Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Acts 5:38, 39. At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that AJ Miller is from God.

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