Teaching the Divinity of Christ by the Socratic Method

JesusThere are many ways to get a point across.  But some ways are a lot more effective than others.  Have you ever had a teacher who drones on and on, heaping fact upon fact and argument upon argument?  Usually, a day or two later, you forget the facts, the argument, and even the point.  It’s called the problem of the premature question – the teacher is gushing out a long, complicated answer to a question that hasn’t even occurred to you yet, a question you’re not really curious about.

But have you ever had a teacher who intrigues you with a fascinating question that really makes you think?  You strain your brain and – voila!  You figure it out for yourself.  You put the pieces together and see a clear picture.  And you never forget it.

This is called the Socratic method, but it was not original to Socrates.

The Holy Spirit invented this method as we can see from this Sunday’s Scriptures.  Our first reading shows how Job and similar puny humans are powerless over the fury of a storm.  It is I alone, says the Lord, who controls the raging sea and the howling wind.  Psalm 107 tells the same story – God whips up the waves, and then, in response to prayer, causes the storm to subside.

Next comes the story from the Gospel of Mark.  A trough through the mountains acts like a bellows, suddenly turning the Sea of Galilee into a frothy cauldron.   Jesus and company are in the middle of the Lake, and the disciples fear for their lives.  They wake up their snoozing leader in a panic.  He does not tell them to start bailing out the boat or to put on their life jackets.  He does not pray to God to calm the storm, as Elijah prayed for an end to the drought (I Kgs 18-19).  No, he barks out a command: “Be still.”  Immediately, the storm responds.

As one would expect, the disciples are stunned.   Awestruck, they keep asking each other the same question: “Who can this be that the wind and the sea obey him?”

Here’s the Holy Spirit using the Socratic method.  He could have just inspired Mark to write “Jesus Christ is God from God, light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father” as the council of Nicaea confessed three hundred years later.  Or He could have inspired Mark just to spell it out this way: “Jesus was no mere prophet, because none of the prophets, even Moses and Elijah, had this kind of power of command over nature.  Only God, the creator of the universe, has that kind of power to alter nature by a simple word of command (Genesis 1).”

But no, the Holy Spirit, good teacher that he is, prefers to lodge a question in our minds that, like an itch, provokes us to dig through other Scriptures like Job and Ps 107, use a bit of common sense, and come up with the obvious answer to the question ourselves.

Somehow, however, the obvious answer seems to have escaped some folks.  Like the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example.  Or the author of the “Duh”-Vinci Code.

Evidently they also missed what Paul was trying to say in 2 Corinthians 5.  Christ, in dying for all, let loose a power enabling those he died for to become new people and live a new sort of life, a life no longer motivated by selfishness but by divine charity.  Because of this, he says, we no longer regard Christ by mere human judgment, looking at him as if he we just any other human being.  Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. 

The “old” creation was wonderful enough, and can only have been created by God.  If the new creation is even more magnificent, what does that say about Jesus, its Creator?  Duh.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection upon the readings for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical year B (Job 38: 1, 8-11; Ps 107, II Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41) and is reproduced here with permission.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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  1. I find it disrespectful to say that Jesus “‘barks’ out a command” even though the aim of all this is to make a story memorable

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