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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That Quote May Not Mean What You Think It Does!

Yesterday, I began a rebuttal of some comments from a previous post on Gandhi. I had said that Gandhi's eastern background hindered him from understanding the gospel message because he filtered it through his pre-existing Eastern conception. I quoted Gandhi, who said, "If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself." I then explained, "Jainism specifically teaches that one can remove all their bad karma and become God. In fact, in Jainism the only Gods that exist are those humans who've rid themselves of their karmas."1 So, it isn't surprising that Gandhi would somehow misunderstand Jesus' unique claim to divinity since in the Eastern view, being divine is not unique; it's the goal.

I supported my point with several footnotes, including one by scholar Huston Smith and one from, which is one of the most comprehensive sites covering Jainism. However, that passage elicited this response from Nate:
Also, as far as Gandhi's issues with "if God could have sons, all of us were sons." Are we not "children of God?" I don't see any issue with his logic here. And this: "If Jesus was like God, or God himself, then all men were like God and could be God himself---" Seems as though his perspective is consistent with many great Christians.
In order for Gandhi's perspective to be consistent with many great Christians, these Christians would need to be polytheists, like Hindus and Jains are. However, being a polytheist is a direct contradiction to the most basic of Christian theology, which is widely recognized as one of the three great monotheistic faiths of the world.

For his support, Nate included sixteen different quotes from the Bible, C.S. Lewis, and others. They are reproduced here as he supplied them:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . .
—C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

. . . the Spirit and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory."
—St. Paul, Rom. 8:15-17

They (those who love him) are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers.
—St. Paul Rom. 8:29

God became man, so that man might become God.
—Early Christian Proverb

I am the vine, you are the branches.
—Jesus, John 15:5a

For the Son of God became man, that we might become God.
—St. Athanasius, De inc

God said to this hairless monkey, "get on with it, become a god."
—C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

"the Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God"
—St. Irenaeus, Adv Haer III 19,1

I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.
—Jesus, John 14:12

Souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes . . . abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God.
—St. Basil the Great, On the Spirit.

(God) said that we were "gods" and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him-for we can prevent Him if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 174-5

Let us applaud and give thanks that we have become not only Christians but Christ himself. Do you understand, my brothers, the grace that God our head has given us? Be filled with wonder and joy—we have become veritable Christs!
—St. Augustine of Hippo

The Only-begotten Son of God, wanting us to be partakers of his divinity, assumed our human nature so that, having become man, he might make men gods.
—St. Thomas Aquinas

In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.
—St. Paul, Ephesians 4:13

Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be remade. . . . we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.
—C. S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle, p. 85

A seed of God grows into God.
—Meister Eckhart
With the possible exception of Eckhart, who was a very controversial figure in the 14th century and whose teachings were put on trial as heretical, these are good Christian sources. However, these would more prove my initial point than Nate's. Each of these sources, removed from its context does not communicate the full thought of the passage. Some, such as the John 15:5 quote, are incomplete. The entire verse reads, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (emphasis added). Rather than teaching Gandhi's view that we have the power within ourselves to become sons of God, it teaches the opposite. We need Jesus otherwise we are hopelessly lost.

Quote-Mining Distorts of the Truth

I don't how Nate amassed these quotes. He may have been gathering them in his studies or he may have done a bit of Googling. Regardless, I highlight this to show how quote-mining without context is a dangerous thing.  Notice how C.S. Lewis used scare quotes in Mere Christianity when he wrote, "(God) said that we were ‘gods' and He is going to make good His words." That's a tip-off that Lewis doesn't believe that we will become divine in the way the Hindus, the Jains, or even the Mormons do. He's talking about something else. To use this quote as support for Gandhi's perspective being "consistent with many Christians" is to twist Lewis' words and make him say something he is not saying.

And so it is with all of the quotes above. Not one of these quotes supports a view that would coincide with man becoming an equal of Jesus. Remember what Gandhi said: "If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself" (emphasis added). That isn't Gandhi claiming to have a God-centric attitude. That's saying man has the potential to be all that God is—omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Can the context for any of the quotes above to show that they argue for that position? I think not.

The problem with quote-mining is that it's pyrite, fool's gold. It looks like it supports a point of view, but it often has no value for the conversations. Occasionally, like the John passage above, it can even be used to support the opposing point. Without context it always disregards the author's intent. I think it smacks of dishonesty, as it portrays form of knowledge that doesn't really exist.

I've seen Christians who have been caught up trying to defend their faith sometimes resort to gathering quotes that they don't completely understand and offering them as proof of their position. You shouldn't do this! This is unfair to the author and to your objector. If you are researching some supporting evidence for your view, make sure you understand the author and his or her position.  Even then, make sure you understand the quote itself, in its proper context. That may even require you to read the entire chapter in which the sentence appears. However, it will be an honest way to present good evidence to others who are questioning the faith.

Yesterday, I quoted another passage from Mere Christianity where Lewis explicitly states that one cannot take Jesus as a moral teacher and leave behind His claims to Lordship. Lewis said, "let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Jesus very clearly taught the same thing: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). While Gandhi wants to take Jesus in just this way, he has taken Jesus out of context.  That was his undoing.


1. Esposito, Lenny. "Why would Gandhi Reject Jesus?" Come Reason Ministries. 2014-07-24. Web


  1. I have found with so many counterfeits to the Jesus of the Bible that a common denominator does exist in all of them. And it is this dichotomy. Either you see yourself as born into sin, wretched, separated from God, spiritually impoverished and ripe for judgment, else you see yourself as having within you the capability to overcome all of your shortcomings, be all that you want to be (including 'think and grow rich'), and be as gods yourself. This is no new promise. It was promised in the garden to Eve. ~r

  2. Well said, Lenny!

  3. Why do eastern people have problem understanding the precepts of Christianity? The philosophy that blocks them is:

    You are (or an attribute of you is) unchanging and immortal, and when that attribute goes back to the original source, there remains no difference between - your attribute and the original source - you become one with it. They strive for it, and refer to it as "self-realization". They think that you can take any of the paths to reach that original source - for your peace of mind – for redemption from all sin in this world and all the troubles in this world. For this, they are even willing to isolate themselves and go on top of the mountains to meditate on this - attribute - and to shun everything else - so that they might become one with the source.

    Eastern people ask, "Why do we have to love the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob? God is everywhere, omniscient." They do not understand that they only know the attributes of God - omnipotent, omniscient, unchanging, immortal - but they do not know the Person of God, whom He revealed to Israelites. They do not have this concept of Immortal omniscient God as a Person who is beyond their every speck of imagination. They think that having faith in idols, yet being aware of his infinite nature is same as having faith in Jesus Christ, having faith in Yahweh, or having faith in Islam's God. They do not know that Jesus Christ is the exact reflection of the Person of God - who loves beyond our reason, who being in very nature God was humble beyond human standards.

    Once they realize that God is a Person yet too big for our comprehension, they will realize that Jesus Christ is the perfect representation of that Person. Or vice versa, if they understand that Jesus Christ is the perfect Person, they will realize that He is the perfect representation of the Person of God.

    They do not know that the inward draw of the spirit does not lead to impersonal "enlightenment", but to Faith which we get to know only because - He revealed Himself to us through Abraham, and through Jesus Christ as His perfect revelation. What kind of enlightenment is that which does not warm our heart and soul - and which does not spread the love of God?

    As one commentator here rightly says:

    "Either you see yourself as born into sin, wretched, separated from God, spiritually impoverished and ripe for judgment, else you see yourself as having within you the capability to overcome all of your shortcomings, be all that you want to be (including 'think and grow rich'), and be as gods yourself. This is no new promise. It was promised in the garden to Eve."

    This "unchanging and immortal attribute" of creation is so used in the eastern philosophy as to distort the Truth, using a truth. Exactly, what satan did in the garden of 'Eden'. He also knew the Word of God, that is why he was able to tempt and deceive Eve, by using a portion of truth to throw them into an inner world of lies (fallen from the knowledge and love of the Person of True God).

  4. Adding to what I wrote before:

    "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

    He is the perfect representation of the Person of God, so He is the perfect Person - Son of God - who has to be the way, the truth, and the life. For God is life, truth, and the way.


    "No one comes to the Father except through me."

    How can anyone come to the Perfect Person of God, except through the Perfect Person?

    "I am the vine, you are the branches."

    I confess that I have this egoism, that whenever I do something better than others, I think "this is me, so good." But then this ability, whatever I may have, is sourced from God - but I am using it in a vain way. This is the fruit that I am bearing, half-good and half-bad - which is bad for God, and is worth only to be thrown in fire. I am bearing bad fruit because the message of Christ is in my head, not in my heart. Source of everything - all good things - is God. Who tells me what is good - completely good? How do I bear good fruit - by being in the One who is 100% good, the One who is 100% God. 100% the Person of God. So Jesus naturally becomes the Vine, and we the branches, and without Him we can do nothing - bear no good fruit - just good enough to be thrown into fire.


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