The Genius of Jesus

November 14, 2002
Veritas Forum at Ohio State

According to the Veritas Forum, "Many of the world’s great universities were founded on the idea that faith and reason are inseparable in the pursuit of truth. We believe this still holds true—and that an openness to dialogue and discovery is essential to both the university and Christianity. The Veritas Forum puts the Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs and invites participants from all backgrounds to seek truth together. " Dallas had several opportunities to contribute to such dialogues over the years.

In the Fall of 2002, Dallas spoke at a Veritas Forum held the Ohio State University. The full title of this talk was "The genius of Jesus, the University, and the Question of God." He addressed these issues within the context of "What it Means to be Human?" which is the title of the second talk he gave there.

"...any system of education that ignores the moral and religious nature of the student is fundamentally defective. And what I am here tonight to say is, that's the system we have." 

Dallas addresses truth, knowledge, morality and belief - and why Jesus is the single most influential person in human history. "We must shift the understanding of Jesus away from someone who is perhaps nice, but doesn’t really provide knowledge, to one who provides us with the most essential knowledge about the most important things in human life." 

Resources

1: The Genius of Jesus Part 1

Dallas delves into the profound impact of Jesus' teachings within the context of modern academia and the broader quest for truth. Dallas challenges the prevailing educational paradigms that often overlook the moral and spiritual dimensions of human existence. He provocatively explores the essential human quest for truth and knowledge, the nature of reality, and the pressing need for an education system that embraces the whole person. 

2: The Genius of Jesus Part 2

Dallas discusses the enduring power of Jesus' answers to the great questions of life and explains why Jesus’ vision of reality and well-being remains unparalleled. For academia to minimize or ignore Jesus and place humanity as the ultimate reference point, is a disastrous development, which has distorted our understanding of truth, knowledge, and freedom. "We have to shift the understanding of Jesus away from someone who is perhaps nice, but doesn't really provide knowledge to one who provides us with the most essential knowledge about the most important things in human life."

The Genius of Jesus Part 1

Highlights:

  • The Crux of Education and Humanity: Dallas begins by asserting that any educational system ignoring the moral and religious nature of students is fundamentally flawed. This sets the tone for his argument that true education must address the entirety of human existence, not just the intellectual aspects.
  • Defining Knowledge: “We have knowledge when we have the ability to represent things as they are on an appropriate basis of thought and experience.” Dallas critiques modern education for too narrowly defining knowledge, leaving students unprepared for real-world challenges and not knowing why they are taking courses in the first.
  • Role of the University: Dallas discusses the university's essential role in seeking truth, highlighting accreditation standards that mandate integrity in truth-seeking. He stresses the contradiction in educational systems that claim to pursue truth while simultaneously dismissing its importance in curricular content.
  • Reality of Truth and Belief: Exploring the conflict between truth and desire, Dallas explains how belief functions as the rails on which life runs, shaping actions and perceptions of reality. He warns against the danger of confusing beliefs with truth, which can lead to misinformed decisions and societal confusion.
  • Four Great Questions: Dallas introduces four critical questions that guide human existence—What is the nature of reality? Who is well-off or blessed? Who is a good person? How do you become a good person? He asserts that these questions are central to Jesus’ relevance in academic discussions and should be integral to university teachings.
  • Assumption of Secularity in Education: He critiques the prevailing academic assumption that knowledge of God is irrelevant across all disciplines. Dallas argues that this secular approach is a relatively recent development that undermines the comprehensive understanding of reality.
  • Clash of Worldviews in Education: Dallas outlines three predominant worldviews influencing contemporary culture—theistic, materialist, and Nirvana stories. He argues that each story shapes individual and cultural perceptions of truth and reality, with significant implications for education.
  • Challenge of Agnosticism: Dallas tackles the comfortable ambiguity of agnosticism in academia, challenging its validity as a stance that claims ignorance yet often asserts the impossibility of knowing certain truths. He calls for a more honest engagement with the foundational questions of life and knowledge.

The Genius of Jesus Part 2

Highlights:

  • Historical Influence of Jesus:  Dallas asserts that Jesus is the most influential figure in human history due to the power of the answers he provides to essential human questions. 
  • Reality and the Kingdom of God: Dallas explains that the foundational concept of reality for Western universities has historically been God and His Kingdom. 
  • Great Omission from the University: Jesus “made clear what morality is and how it can be lived. And that is the number one problem or omission from university life today is it has nothing to say about that.” The university has abandoned the theistic story and has made humanity the ultimate point of reference.
  • Kingdom of God Defined: He describes the Kingdom of God as the realm where God's will is effectively carried out, encompassing both the natural world and human affairs. “Where what God wants done is done.” 
  • Morality Defined: A morality is “a shared public understanding, with associated emotional postures, concerning what types of persons are to be or are not to be admired, approved, imitated, encouraged, and supported, without regard to whether they prosper or not. It is a matter of character and will. And who is to be admired and who's to be supported and encouraged and emulated and imitated and so on.”
  • Our Personal Kingdoms:  Humans have kingdoms too – the range of our effective wills.  Dallas compares individual control over personal domains to the broader, divine control exercised in the Kingdom of God. He emphasizes that understanding our limited personal kingdoms helps appreciate the expansive nature of God's kingdom.
  • Conflict and the Human Condition: Dallas addresses the inherent conflicts within human kingdoms and desires, noting that these often lead to societal strife. He argues that only through embracing life in God's Kingdom can people find true harmony and resolve these conflicts.
  • Role of Love in Morality: Dallas discusses Jesus' commandment to love others as a fundamental moral directive. He stresses that genuine love for others is a reflection of divine love and is essential for true morality and societal well-being.
  • Challenges of Modern Morality:  Dallas critiques modern approaches to morality that exclude divine perspective. He argues that without a higher moral reference point, societies struggle to live up to their ethical ideals, often failing to achieve true goodness.