08/06/2024 lewrockwell.com  6 min 🇬🇧 #250086

The Genius of Jesus Christ

By  David Deming

June 8, 2024

I've noticed something concerning regarding the human race. People devote little attention to what is important. The daily news headlines are preoccupied with crime, politics, or trivialities such as what dress a celebrity wore to a social event. Occasionally, the news media will take note of some technological breakthrough, but almost never in the context of a long term perspective. There is little recognition of the need to focus and prioritize our attentions and industries.

An exception to the fascination with the inconsequential is Elon Musk. Musk has stated that his primary objective is to make human beings a multi-planet species. This is an important and laudable goal, but I would argue that it is not the most important. Our most important focus should be the sustainability of human progress. By progress, I mean the technological and societal changes that have taken place over the last two million years to reduce human suffering: the harnessing of fire, agriculture, animal husbandry, writing, the printing press, the Industrial Revolution, and electric power. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and nuclear fusion power are on the horizon. Progress encompasses all the changes that have increased life expectancy, knowledge, prosperity and welfare-values that all human cultures appreciate and desire. Progress also means the eradication of slavery, reduction of poverty, liberation of women, spread of democracy, and the enlargement of individual freedom and educational opportunities.

Human progress requires science, a method for creating reliable knowledge that withstands empirical tests. "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed." And progress requires intellectual and economic freedom, the freedom to disagree, to innovate, and to create. But the most important requisite for the continuation of human progress is the reduction of violence. The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the potential for unprecedented destruction on a global scale makes this paramount.

We shall get nowhere in understanding the problem of violence if we deny the reality of human nature or the facts of evolutionary biology. Human beings have an intrinsic inclination for violence. The entire line of hominids, including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, are disposed to violence. No human culture has ever been entirely peaceful. The entire history of the human race is distinguished by the ubiquitous presence of violent crime, warfare, and cruelty. Granted, the modern world is more peaceful than pre-state societies. Nevertheless, current wars in Ukraine and the Middle East illustrate that we still live in a world of destructive conflict that has the potential to erupt into a worldwide conflagration.

Enter the enigmatic figure of Jesus Christ. He was an itinerant preacher, miracle worker, faith healer, and exorcist. Christ taught in the oral tradition. He wrote nothing. As late as fifty years after his crucifixion, no one considered him to be an important person. Yet Jesus Christ eventually became the most important and influential person in the history of Western Civilization. And Christianity became the world's largest religion.

For the faithful Christian, this is no mystery. Jesus was a divine being, the son of God who was predestined by providence to be resurrected from the dead. But one need not accept the Christian faith or any facet of supernaturalism to understand the triumph of Christ and Christianity. From a secular viewpoint, Christ's message resounded because he recognized the most important question in human existence and provided the correct answer. This was the genius of Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ gave us two great laws to govern human behavior. First, "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Love of God is paramount, because the existence of God is synonymous with the existence of moral law. If there is no spiritual or moral absolute, there is no logical reason to avoid violence or predation. To accept this, one does not have to believe in the Christian God as a patriarchal figure who lives in the clouds. The existence of natural moral law is acknowledged in numerous religions and philosophies. Aristotle discussed natural law, and it is the basis of the tao in Chinese religions and the logos of the Stoic philosophers.

Jesus' second law was "love thy neighbor as thyself." Nor is this commandment unique to Christianity. It is simply a statement of the Golden Rule,"do unto others as you would have them do to you." The Golden Rule was known in ancient Egypt and India, thousands of years before the advent of Christianity. It was mentioned by the Greek philosophers, and is found in the Old Testament.

Furthermore, Jesus of Nazareth laid the foundation for a global scale civilization in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews hated each other. Yet when a passing Samaritan found a waylaid Jew by the side of road he did not seek vengeance for perceived grievances arising from past conflicts. Instead, he stopped and helped the injured man while other Jews passed him by. The message here is that if we are to coexist we must evolve beyond tribalism. From the beginning of time, human civilization has been tribal. People identify with members of their own group. Anyone outside our group is viewed with suspicion and hostility. We identify on the basis of race, nationality, culture, language, and religion. We can retain pride in our diversity and heritage, whatever their nature, while simultaneously recognizing that we're all members of one group, the human race.

Finally, Jesus taught that mercy must supersede justice. When asked how many times we must forgive a person who transgresses against us, he answered "not seven times, but seventy-seven times." In effect, we must never seek retribution for perceived offenses. The perception of offense is subjective. The desire for vengeance masquerades as a quest for justice, leading to an endless cycle of offense, retribution, and violence. Jesus tells us that the cycle must be broken at the beginning.

The sustainability of human progress requires peaceful cooperation. If human civilization is to endure and advance, we must find a way to reduce violent conflict. Jesus Christ showed us how to do this two thousand years ago. It is not necessary to be a Christian to recognize the genius of Jesus Christ or accept the value of his teachings. The world's leading atheist, Richard Dawkins, recently made the shocking announcement that he identified as a "cultural Christian." If we do not find a way to work together cooperatively and peacefully, we risk mutual destruction and reversion to a pre-industrial state characterized by suffering and misery inconceivable to modern man. The Fermi Paradox is a stark warming. Given everything we know, the universe should be swarming with intelligent life. Yet we have no evidence for the existence of any advanced alien civilization. Perhaps they all simply destroyed themselves. If we do not take heed, our fate may be the same.

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