Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Man vs. myth 2

My disagreements with conventional Christian theology clarified these distinctions I have worked out for myself:
• Yes, God walked on earth two thousand years ago, but God walks on earth no less today.

• Yes, Jesus was an incarnation of God. No, he was not the ONLY incarnation in human history, not the once-and-for-all event changing everything for all time.

• Yes, Jesus had a particular mission. No, he did not found Christianity.

• Yes, Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Mystery we call God. No, the universe was not qualitatively changed at his conception.

• Yes, Jesus’ suffering and death contributed to universal salvation. No, his was not the ONLY salvific suffering and death.

• Yes, Jesus had uncommon wisdom, strength, and character. No, his perfection did not exceed human perfection.

• Yes, it is possible and helpful to relate to a living Jesus. No, he is not the only door to salvation and not the final, definitive revelation of God for all time.

I can go along with J.D Crossan's description of Christian belief: It is 1) an act of faith 2) in the historical Jesus 3) as the manifestation of God. To the question, "Was Jesus really divine?" Crossan answers, Yes in a "relational and intersubjective" sense, because people relate to Jesus as such. Crossan rejects an "essential or substantive" sense, and so do I.

Was Jesus the most perfect human being who ever lived? What does it matter? This is another empty claim to supremacy that can never be supported. Let us give up this triumphalist attitude. It is enough that in the West he is the most accessible great figure of antiquity to inspire right living for us. I revere him; I do not worship him. Instead of clinging to the dogma limiting the Incarnation to one specific man, we have a much better chance of explaining the Incarnation by using a phrase that comes out of scripture--the Body of Christ.


Florian said...

The problems of language stem from you. You don't speak a clear, honest language. You mention that J.D. Crossan's answer to the question, "Was Jesus really divine?" is Yes! yet, not REALLY divine, because then you go on to qualify it by saying only in a relational sense but not a substantive sense, which means the answer is No, not really. This is exactly the sort of theological double-talk which makes the language of liberal theologians to be useless nonsense.

Our job is not to go along with Crossan's description of Christian belief, but that of the apostles. Indeed, it ought to be "essential and substantive", otherwise it will lack substance.

The phrase, "the Body of Christ" is indeed used to explain the incarnation; and it is not limited to one specific man. Nevertheless, the one specific man, Jesus, was a divine incarnation. That's the dogma anyway. But, certainly, that isn't the dogmatic limit of the incarnation. The incarnation continues even today in the Eucharist, in the church, in short, in the Body of Christ.

However, you are missing an important word in that scriptural phrase, the word "one". There is ONE Body of Christ. Let's recall the beginning of the fourth chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"I urge you... live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. [Are you being humble, Jeanette?] Show your love by being tolerant of one another. [Are you showing your love for the Body of Christ, i.e. the church, by, say, being tolerant of her hierarchy? No, you are not.] Do your best to preserve the UNITY [of the church] which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds [the church] together. [Couldn't we say that Paul was trying to build a world-wide "Unity Church", though based on Jesus Christ rather than based on liberalism?]

"There is ONE Body [of Christ] and ONE Spirit... There is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, there is ONE God and Father of us all, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all."

Notice how much Paul is emphasizing unity and oneness here. You, Jeanette, always overlook this characteristic of Christianity. Because God is one, we should be one; but not united in any old way. We should be united to God, who can really unite us because God is Unity Itself. Furthermore, Christianity claims we should be united to Jesus Christ specifically, because he is God. The Christian believes that God has provided a concrete way to be united to Him (through Christ, and his body the church, and the church's sacraments, etc.)

The religious liberal wants to be "liberated" to pursue all the various wild ways to journey to God. For such a person, there is no way to God; there are ways [plural] to God. So the way to God is unclear, not concrete and specific. And the religious liberal will never tire of trying [in vain] to thwart God's attempts to show to His children the clear, specific, concrete path for the journey home.

We know there is one God, who is Unity Itself, and that God wishes to unite us, to make us one. So why is it so hard to imagine that the way in which God makes us one is also one, meaning that there is only one way to God?

The Roman Empire in the early years of Christianity offered to its people many ways to the divine (Imperial cult, pagan mystery religions, gnosticism, etc.) What Christianity offered was not just another way. Christianity was "The Way". In fact, we know that "The Way" was an early name the Christians gave to their new religion (cf. Acts 9:2, 19:9,22, etc.). Rejection of Christianity as the one way to God is a rejection of Christianity. One is free to reject it; but some people don't realize what that rejection really means.

Jeanette said...

I decided occasionally to publish Florian's comments, which might please members of the Christian right.

I find this, like many he has submitted, unanswerable for many reasons, which I'll let readers determine. As I have explained to Florian, debate produces fruit when the parties share some common ground. That's lacking here.

Instead, I will post some of the many email comments I've received.

Marilyn said...

Florian.....I think the argument here is based on definition. How you define God, Jesus and ONEness.
You are clearly loyal to dogmatic rule unable to change with the evolution of consciousness. We are NOT of the same mind as Paul or the era he lived in.

One: I feel at one with the cells of my body, but within me are many different cells which create the one body.
Each have their own role to play. One world, one country is not like one tree, one stone as you seem to imply that is what your ONE is. Based in separation.

You define God as out there, something outside of self. While I believe God is within me and all. Jesus said YOU will do greater things than I. Do you think he meant without a change of consciousness you will do more than He did?

Be Ye Transformed by the renewal of the Mind. What do you think that is saying?

Your views are not unlike Islam where they believe THEY are the way, and you cannot enter heaven unless your become a Muslim. This kind of belief system leads to war not peace.

Your snide remarks to Janet are disrespectful and sourced from your righteousness. How humble is that? Your comments do not hold much of the basic message of Jesus....LOVE.

Finally I find it difficult to hold to a faith based in the death of a man and not in the life he led.

I hope your heart opens enough to let other views and possibilities in. I send you blessings. M

Florian said...

Marylin has made a lot of the same old liberal theological mistakes. At the risk of sounding repetitive, allow me to correct these mistakes, once again.

First of all, I am quite able to change. It was precisely because my mind is malleable that the church was able to mold my mind in the first place. Unfortunately, I am also able to change back and to follow the ways of the world instead of the ways of Christ. That's always the temptation. But by God's grace I remain loyal to the church. Loyalty is the difficult thing. Change, ironically, is sometimes the easy thing; it's easy to go with the flow and to give in to the Zeitgeist.

As we should have learned in Sunday School, we Christians should be "in the world but not of the world"; and so we shouldn't just give in to the Zeitgeist.

Mystical Seeker said...


I like this post a lot. What you say matches my own understanding of Jesus's role and relationship with God.