Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who Is Jesus the Christ?

Who is this Jesus that the Nebraska village kid accepted into his life at eight years of age, the historical figure who many millions have allegedly turned to and sought to follow in the last 2000 years?

Tragically, like so many other words, "Jesus" has come to mean almost anything--another semantic empty bucket to be filled by human speakers whether with silver or slop or manure. The first thing which comes to mind is how Jesus gets used for excitement, frustration, anger--"Jesus F. Christ! Look what that idiot driver just did!

Such cursed meaning grieves deep. Think how we would feel if every time someone got frustrated they used the name of our sweetheart as an expletive.

My earliest memories of Jesus aren't from some creedal statement. I don't know if this is normal for being a kid or because I didn't grow up in a creedal church. We were American Baptists, my father a serious pastor of a small village church of probably about 30-40 town people and farmers. What first comes to mind now are the pictures of Jesus from the walls of the church and our parsonage and from Vacation Bible School. Jesus was my savior, my shepherd, my friend...yes there were those warm pietistic hymns I so loved..."What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Shepherd Like a"..."Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"..."Nothing but the Blood of Jesus"...In this indifferent, sometimes hostile world, I knew Jesus cared for us--he loved me so much that even if I had been the only sinner in the whole world, he would have died for me. "The Wonder of It All"...another great song rises out of my memory.

Even when I reached my teens and began to seriously abstract and to consider complex doctrine, I never could find a home in the doctrine of the Trinity. I, of course, as a good Baptist accepted the concept, but it seemed unreal. Jesus, as Son of God, I could understand. And God as Father...And the Spirit was God's influence here and now, his inner presence within us, guiding us, correcting us.

Indeed, to me that is the wonder of the Friends way of viewing all of this; its key phrase is "that of God" in each person--the Spirit/Light of God either wooing those still prodigal and lost, or guiding ones now seeking and following. So God (Ultimate Reality) isn't a group of fickle supreme beings or impersonal Fate (like the Greeks), not an animal or an urge (like other pagan religions) or Chance, Energy, and Matter (like modern Non-Theism).

No, Humanity--in their essence--is the image of True Reality. To most Friends for the last 360 years, Jesus, the Christ, is the true Image of the invisible God, the Ultimate Reality beyond our finite minds' ability to intellectually grasp. This is what the Incarnation is all about--not some abstract theological doctrine--but that Ultimate Reality is revealed in the life of a common laborer born in a despised backward corner of the Roman empire, illegitimate in birth, rejected by family and community, and finally executed by the political and religious leadership as a dangerous revolutionary.

The strangest of all quandaries, however, is how did this Son of Man--both a term emphasizing his common humanity with all humans and his prophetic supernatural reality, one who showed great compassion to all types of individuals caught in their sinful ways, from the rich and famous to the poor and despised--come to be the poster boy for endless forms of war, oppression, cruelty, torture, slavery, intolerance, discrimination, prejudice, and unkindness?! 2,000 years worth of mostly horrible abyssed distortion and going very strong now as many modern Christians continue to wax intellectual about Jesus being the Son of an amoral god of powerful sovereignty who destroys most humans for his own glory.

I suppose all of this is the strongest reason to consider whether maybe there is no meaning or purpose to the cosmos--that the nontheists are right--that Jesus was one deluded Jew, pathetically wrong. And we humans are here only briefly and absurdly alone in an indifferent cosmos going no where for no purpose, as Bertrand Russell said--from darkness to darkness.

Only of course, I didn't choose such a path, nor many of the other human ways of perceiving existence, nor do I now. Despite the naysayers and twisters of all types, I still respond to the love of Ultimate Reality revealed in Yeshua, the Chosen One.

Next, we will consider the issue of the Atonement.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox


Hystery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hystery said...

Dear Friend,

Sorry. Reposting due to trouble with my tenses.

For what it is worth, I don't think that Jesus was deluded. I think he knew. I think that that of God in him was so brilliant that it continues to shine to this day despite all the muck and grime the institutionalized Church has layered upon his memory. As I was reading this post, I thought of this, a favorite carol from my childhood:

(Bob Beers)

The Beers Family - 1971
John Denver & The Muppets - 1979

The garment of life, be it tattered and torn
The cloak of the soldier is weathered and worn
But what Child is this that was poverty-born
The peace of Christmas Day

The hope that has slumbered for two thousand years
A promise that silenced a thousand fears
A faith that can hobble an ocean of tears
The peace of Christmas Day

Add all the grief that people may bear
Total the strife and the trouble and care
Put them in columns and leave them right there
The peace of Christmas Day

You do minister to me! As I read this and digested the thought of a non-theist understanding only impersonal, scientific energy, I realized that this is not how my heart understands this Energy. For me the Universe is En-Souled.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Thanks for sharing the warm carol.

I am fascinated by your response's last line. The word "ensoul" has such power. And is so "spiritual" and (in my opinion), so God-focused.

I must admit that, to me, this doesn't sound like "NON-theism" at all. But I try to understand other individuals' perspective, not see them through my own perception.

Also, your comment doesn't sound like some of the Nontheistic dialogues you share on QQ.

I still personally don't understand how any Nontheist (and there seems to be a very large and growing number) could possibly find reason to come to unprogrammed worship since the central purpose of the latter is, by definition, to worship God in community.

It baffles me and confuses. Though most of the Nontheists I have shared with claim they aren't seekers but are confirmed in their view there is no One to worship, I still wonder if, perhaps, their God-rejecting language is emotional rejection of past religious suffering, not rational rejection of the One who Is and Will Be.

Can you help this confused blogger out:-)?


Hystery said...

I've tried to respond but find words so inadequate. Anyway, here's a link to my stumbling response.

A Spiritual Non-Theist?

Daniel Wilcox said...

Dear Hystery,

Thanks for responding.


forrest said...

I would much like you to join in at the site; I've picked up some good commenters lately but not enough to keep it going easily.

(& I look forward to that 'atonement' issue, if you're up to discussing it... A good starting point might be: "God didn't need to kill anyone to be reconciled to human beings. But human beings needed to see something drastic before they'd believe that God could forgive them." Of course, it's unlikely I would have thought of the whole explanation of why God would produce any one event...)

As for the 'nontheists', I think I've got to go with the idea that Quakers are not like some "denomination" formed around a "belief system"-- but rather "a people" of God (as Chuck Fager & many earlier Friends put it)--so that which particular humans get collected in the process is between them & God, even if they (and we) don't see God at work in the process.

There's a Theosophist who used to come to our reading/discussions (discontinued, I hope temporarily) who fervently resisted any suggestion that God could be a personal entity--but she's quite aware that it's a spiritual universe, not a mechanical one, that we live in. (I gather that the Catholic version of "God" she was raised with was too scary.) A certain number of "nontheist" Buddhists would probably have a similar attitude--faith that the universe works in accord with an ultimately benign spiritual purpose, without the need to specify how that happens, beyond "Shut up and meditate!"

So what does Christianity contribute, at least potentially? Sort of an extension of that Jewish notion, that God could look at this world and call it "good." If God incarnates in human beings... then human life is not a mistake to be escaped from. Whether or not we should want to remain in our human forms forever... this world is not just a trap, but a suitable home, precarious as it's been getting to be.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Forrest,

Thanks for the reflection and the suggestions.

I agree that the atonement was necessary for us, not something necessary for God. Eternal Love doesn't need "death." As Scripture says, "mercy triumphs over judgment."

I agree that Friends is not a 'belief' system as in creeds. However, Nontheism by definition claims there is no God to worship. Since the central core and purpose of Friends is to worship God, it is totally baffling why avowed Nontheists come to a meeting whose whole purpose is to worship God.

If Nontheism is true, then we Friends truly are deluded as Richard Dawkins claims.

I strongly urge Nontheists to come to worship. Hopefully, their wrong shadowed worldview/misperception will be changed by the Ocean of God's Light.

Buddhists are of a different sort. It is true that Buddha refused to speculate about Ultimate Reality mainly because he saw so much wrong in formal Hinduism and its gods(similar to why the early Quakers were against abstract theological creeds and formal Crhistianity). Some Buddhists are atheistic, but others, such as Thich Nhat Hanh do hold to Eternal/Ultimate Reality (though they don't specify that U.R.created the cosmos).


forrest said...

Well, one version of 'nontheism' is more like "I know there's something Strange at work in this world, but calling it 'God' sounds misleading because that word has been so misused." I disagree, but it's a position that leaves room for a person to come to know that Strangeness better, whereupon whether they call it "God" doesn't much matter, as long as I get the same right to call it that.

Anyway, we humans do not seem to be consistent creatures. I was invited to Meeting back when I was an atheist, and went to see what the old Illusion would have to say for Itself. It felt like a good, valuable practice, but I left because I didn't believe in God and didn't want to mislead anyone about that. But in those days I spent a lot of time arguing internally with that Illusion; and when I was later forced to recognize how much God had been at work choreographing my life, it took me a long time to arrive at any sort of consistency between my experience of God's help and my 'normal life' expectations.

Anyway, I've done my share of trying to persuade nonTheists that we theists are not, in fact, deluded as they assume. But it seems to be a job for God.

[I'm still wondering what 'my job' might be, given that it isn't to accomplish God's job--but that's a subject for a blogpost of its own...]

Hystery said...

I do not, btw, think that theists are deluded. I find it offensive when atheists make that claim. My non-theism comes from my discomfort with theistic language and its limitations and not from a belief that the Ineffable does not exist. I really don't want to name and describe it with too much confidence. Seems cheeky to me. :-)

Not that I have much right to be so persnickety about language. As Daniel knows, my own language can sometimes compromise my meaning. Thank goodness Meaning transcends our attempts to capture it. I also think our love for each other as well as faith in and patience for the process attests to the spiritual Heart of Reality.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Well you probably already know I what I am going to say:-)

I completely agree that the "Heart of Reality is far beyond human understanding.

However the Ineffable One, the Heart of Reality has symbolically shown forth to us in the image of a Jewish prophet. Otherwise we wouldn't know the "Heart" is Love but would still be caught in the natural cycle of instinct, kin, and survival which so entraps humankind.

Yes, Meaning transcends our attempts. Thank goodness, Meaning woos us like a Beloved, as Scripture and Process Theology says.


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Forrest,

I have faith God is wooing humans in all sorts of different ways. As the cliche goes, I'm in sales, or better yet a human sign for God, while God is the manager and owner:-)

My only confusion is how a "non-Godist" can worship. Doesn't make sense to me.

And worship isn't even the primary thing. Jesus spoke of how the number one command is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
How can we do so if we don't even think God IS?