Writing in the mid-1600s the French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that, “There is no denying it; one must admit that there is something astonishing about Christianity. ‘It is because you were born in it,’ they will say. Far from it; I stiffen myself against it for that very reason, for fear of being corrupted by prejudice. But, though I was born in it, I cannot help finding it astonishing.”1
I’ve had that type of charge thrown at me a handful of times, ‘You’re only a Christian because you were born one.’ Besides the fact that such a statement is far from a logical attack on one’s faith and almost exclusively relies on rhetoric and emotional appeal, it misses the point of how truly stunning Christianity is.
For those who have been in the Church for an extended period of time, we can far too often forget this. There are certainly times when I feel as if I’m just going through the motions and failing to be awed daily by what I believe. But every now and then, a good sermon reminds me of the stunning nature, or as Pascal would say, that grand astonishment that is found within the Christian claim, even if that reminder was written in 180 AD. Read the words of Melito, bishop of Sardis, and may you stand amazed once more of the triune, infinite, eternal, inscrutable God of holy perfection being murdered in the incarnate person of his Son. (Acts 20:28)
“And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed.. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
The Sovereign is murdered.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
and formed mankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree, The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead
and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist
from the beginning of time.
This One is ‘the Alpha and the Omega,’
This One is ‘the beginning and the end’
…. the beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible
This One is the Christ. This One is the King. This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.
This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
‘To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.’”2
Amen. Astonishing. No matter what you believe about Christianity, the claim itself is remarkable. That the holy creator God who is so separate from mankind in perfection would take on flesh and be willingly murdered by those whom he had created in his image is nothing short of amazing. I don’t care what background you are from, Christianity should be seen for what it clearly is, an astounding claim of what God has done in history to reconcile humanity to himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
- Blaise Pascal & A. J. Krailsheimer, Pensees, Penguin Books (Hudson Street, NY: Penguin Books, 1995), 246, (615)
- sourced from: James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Revised & Updated), (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019), 183-184