When BOTH…AND Yields to EITHER…OR

Often we are confronted by ideas that seem to contradict each other. For instance: “Did you hear? So-and-so did something awful.” Then someone says, “I sure love so-and-so. She is a wonderful person.” Or: “So-and-so promised me this.” Someone else says: “So-and-so promised me the exact same thing.”

We make our world a more peaceful place by assuming that apparent contradictions can be reconciled somehow. The humble person assumes: These statements only appear contradictory because I do not properly understand them. If only I knew more, or were more insightful–then I would see the truth on both sides.

This is called being irenic, peace-making. It is usually a virtue. But not always.

Someone once told the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor that it is more open-minded to think that the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is a great, wonderful, powerful symbol. Her response was, “If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”

Recently, the following conversation took place. (I am not making this story up. An eye-witness recounted it to me.)

A six-year-old said to his father, “Daddy, I am Jewish.”

“Yeah, buddy. So am I,” replied the loving father.

“But I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

“…Okay…Okay. That’s great. I believe that he was a great man, a great teacher.”

Who knows what will come of this boy’s profession of faith in Christ. Only God knows. I have no idea how to comment on the boy’s remarkable statement. What I am getting at is: The good father’s response was deft and irenic, surely aimed at keeping family peace. (The boy has three Jewish grandparents and one Christian.) The problem is that it makes no sense.

The father seems to believe in a mythical Jesus. The father thinks that somehow Jesus can be BOTH the second Person of the Blessed Trinity for Christians AND a great man for everyone else. But BOTH…AND does not work in this case.

The mythical “Both…and… Jesus” was invented by nineteenth-century Scripture scholars. Some of these scholars proposed that the four gospels in the New Testament include made-up details. Therefore it is supposedly necessary to “de-code” the gospels and find the truth. Then you can come up with a Jesus who can be BOTH the Messiah AND a great teacher with no delusions of grandeur. This “scholarship,” however, has been exposed for what it truly is: An exercise in creative writing which always results in a Jesus with exactly the ideas that the author wants Him to have.

Book of the Holy Gospels
Book of the Holy Gospels
In truth, to know Jesus–to know what He really said–we must read the four Holy Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What do we find? We find that EITHER Jesus is the divine Messiah, OR he was a terrible liar or a lunatic.

In a nutshell, this is what He said: “I am the Son of God Who has come to reveal the love of the Father by dying for your sins. Therefore, do not judge others. Leave judgement to Me. Rather, repent of your own sins. Then give yourself over to the humble service of God and neighbor. My grace will sustain you, if you stay close to Me.”

If Christ is not divine, to hell with him–because he was a madman.

But He is divine.

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