Recently I got a LOL from a reader who said: Odin came to earth to defeat the Ice Giants*….guess what? No more Ice Giants. Jesus came to earth to get rid of sin…guess what? LOL.” This seems more an attempt at wit than a try at making me laugh out loud really, but there is an argument here: even as a fictional character Jesus is ineffective.
It runs something like this:
- Fictional Odin came to earth to kill fictional ice giants.
- There are in fact no ice giants.
- Fictional Jesus came to Earth to end actual sin.
- Sin exists.
- Therefore: Fictional Odin is greater than Fictional Jesus.
This is an odd argument, because it seems to say that Christian fiction aspired at too much. Jesus came to conquer sin and death. The mistake Christians made in producing their myth (assuming it to be false) was picking an actual target. They should have picked something to defeat such as a flying spaghetti monster or “a state that is officially atheistic that has not killed millions of people.” Since neither a flying spaghetti monster nor a genial atheist state has never existed, this Fictional Jesus would have won just like Fictional Odin.
Were our Christian ancestors too mythically ambitious?
They were if their goal had been to run a scam. The smart thing to do if inventing a bogus philosophy or religion is either to solve a problem that does not exist or play to be people’s desires by claiming uncomfortable truths are not true. For example, Christianity could have cleared all our “thetans” and triumphed quickly. Sadly, we went after “sin” and I do not know anybody who denies we still all fall short of what we should do or be.
As for death, we are going to die. Somebody in some future time (one hopes decades from now) is reading this and I am dead.
How is death defeated?
So do we just lol and move on?
Not if we are reasonable, because the question is what real Jesus did. The historical Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, His followers claimed Jesus rose from the dead. Christians believe in life after death for good reasons or so we think. Everyone knows that people of strong character can change their behaviors whatever their beliefs. That is not the problem that Christianity solves. While the Holy Spirit aids in our change, it is more concerned with internal changes that might or might not lead to obvious behavior changes. We are to learn to love and out of that love will come many things. The problem is ontological: we are prone to see the ought and choose what is. We have glorious dreams of what might be, but fall into dull imitation of whatever the world, our flesh, or devils are selling just now.
Our operating system is skewed. Created in God’s image, we need a new way of being, a core reboot. This deep work, if it happens, will make us more loving, will change our behavior, but that is accidental to the process. We are transformed, born again. This transformation, becoming like God, is what we seek in Christ Jesus.
The operating system changes, but this change has to permeate us. Sometimes we choke off the change. Sometimes we refuse to allow that change to continue: we say thus far and no further. However, we can look at centuries of Christians and Christian civilizations to see the fruit: science, medicine, international law. They are all the result of the deep work of God at the heart of our problems. History is moving forward, though as Augustine points out, this pattern is hard to see in any given event or in just a few years.
Jesus came to allow us freedom from sin, but Jesus does not make us change. We can choose. If Odin had come and given the Ice Giants a chance to change, some might have done so. Some might not have done so. There would still be Ice Giants, but that would not be a sign of failure, but of freedom. We gain possibility in Christ and that possibility has given the world hope in Christendom ever since.
* Dear Norse Myth Studying Colleagues: Yes. I know he (atheists are almost always he) made a mess of Norse mythology. Odin is collecting warriors to fight the ice giants . . . he will probably lose. That is not the point here.