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This course changed my concept of what it meant to be a Christian in three fundamental ways, all focused on what it means to me to be a Christian in modern society, rather than on the theological underpinnings of Christianity. This course helped me realize that Christianity is not merely a system of belief, which is how many people conceive of religion. Instead, Christianity must be a combination of action and belief. However, it also made me more committed to some of the fundamental underpinnings of Christian theology, which I had admittedly abandoned in my own desire to equate being a Christian with being a good person and trying to do the right thing. However, reading this book, I came to the realization that I was failing to embrace all of Christianity. Just as it is necessary, but not sufficient, to be a good person in order to honestly claim to be a Christian, is also necessary, but not sufficient, to believe in the divinity of Jesus in order to be a Christian. The three topics that have most changed my understanding of what it means to be a Christian are: 1) Whether Jesus claimed to be God; 2) Why Jesus needed to be born to a virgin; 3) Why how a Christian lives his life is important.
The most important realization I had when reading Towns' book was that Jesus was not only divine, but made claims to divinity while he was on Earth. When I began this course, I really had the impression that Jesus' divinity was not really critical to Christianity. After all, regardless of whether he was wholly human or a mixture of the divine and human, all sources supported the idea that Jesus was a very good person. There seemed little harm in a religion where the people practicing the religion were striving to be like a very good role model. However, to take that approach to Christianity really strips it of its spiritual meaning. Christianity is not merely an ethical system outlining acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In fact, without the divinity of Jesus, why would his opinion on what is right and wrong be any more important than the opinion of any other person? Therefore, his divinity becomes a crucial part of the religion. Moreover, while some people dismiss the idea that Jesus made claims that he was God, the text of the Bible makes it clear that Jesus made those claims. "When Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that He had seen Abraham they said, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM' " (John 8:57 -- 58). The Jewish leaders understood Jesus was calling Himself God, so they picked up stones to kill Him. But they were unable to harm Him, for He walked away through the midst of them" (Towns, p.6). This was not the only time that Jesus spoke of his divinity, and there is no way to reasonably suggest that he was somehow unaware of his lineage. "His preexistence was not something that was blotted from His memory while on earth, for He said, 'I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father" (John 6:28). And the night before He died, Jesus prayed for the return of the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5)" (Towns, p.6). These statements highlight that Jesus did claim to be God, and did so in a manner that was consistent with his behavior.
The next critical revelation I had was linked to Jesus' divinity and was that it was important that Jesus be born to a virgin. I admit to being a fan of John Shelby Spong's works, and I have previously read some of his writings and really considered whether the idea of a virgin birth was theologically necessary to Christianity. After all, while an all-powerful deity could create life in a virgin, he could also cause a conception in a natural manner. Therefore, while I was not opposed to the idea of a virgin birth, I admit that I did not feel it was essential to Christian theology. However, Towns has…[continue]
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