Sketch by Patrick Murphy: inspiredsketch.blogspot.com
Jesus is real. I could not deny that any more than I could deny my wife and kids, who live with me. Jesus is not a set of propositional truths to be debated. Christians may derive propositional truths or creeds from Jesus, but creeds are not Christ. Creeds or doctrinal statements are not truth, either (though they may reflect truth). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Truth is a person.
Persons cannot be neatly reduced to axioms. At the risk of stating the obvious, persons and axioms are in completely different categories. I might describe your behavior to someone, but until they meet you, they will probably misinterpret my description of you. If they took my descriptions of your behavior and tried to imitate you without having met you, it would be farcical at best.
Similarly, believing the tenets of Christianity or imitating Jesus’s behavior based on written descriptions does not make me a Christian. I must meet Jesus and personally interact with Him if I am to know Him. After years of knowing Him and interacting with Him, perhaps He starts to rub off on me, so to speak.
Creeds and propositional truth have their place. Written descriptions of Jesus’s behavior and thoughts (AKA the scriptures) have their place as well. But they are like a dot-to-dot. Without connecting lines, there are just dots on a page. They could be connected any number of ways. If we don’t personally know what Jesus “looks like,” we have no way of knowing where to draw lines or which dots to connect.
Jesus said, “You pore over the scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me” (John 5:39). Jesus set Himself above the scriptures and said He was the key to understanding them, not the other way around. Studying scripture is a neutral activity; helpful if studied in light of the person of Jesus, a blindfold if studied in the light of anything else, even Christian doctrine.
Paul agrees with this when he says a veil remains over our hearts whenever scripture is read—unless our hearts gaze on Christ while we read (2 Cor. 3:14-16). He goes on to say that God causes the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus to shine in our hearts (2 Cor. 4:6). So it comes back to Jesus within us. As His face shines in our hearts, we know a person. As we know this person, we know reality and truth.