Of late, like the psalmist of the Jewish Bible times and George Fox at the start of the English Civil War, I have despaired observing the ocean of darkness that is again inundating, drowning this present generation.
Fundamentalists of all stripes justify violence, from Christian rightists to Israeli settlers to Muslim jihadists to Hindu extremists. Even Buddhists are getting into the attack mode in the name of truth. And while this bloodletting stains the world on the physical level, all manner of darkness comes forth from various worldviews twisting our understanding...
Some polytheists claim that malaria and Death aren't evil; religious nontheists assert, with amazing certainty, that there is no Ultimate Meaning or Purpose to Existence.
Reformed leaders inundate the Internet and bookstores with their claims that God loves and wills only a limited number of humans to find the Truth. They assert that God preordained the vast majority of humankind to be eternally damned for his glory.
On and on this deluge of despair keeps 'reeking' havoc in the lives of human beings.
So, again, I turn to the one who I follow for rescue--for hope and joy and peace and love. Let us encounter again this one human who lived 2,000 years, this "son of man" (his own term) who stood against the evil of his generation to the extreme point of torture and death.
Tragically, however, this individual now has so many false selves, so many utter distortions and reversals of what he stood for that I am going to use his name in Aramaic/Hebrew for a few paragraphs rather than the common English version.
Hopefully, this will keep reminding us that the one I am referring to isn't the religious figure who Augustine, the crusading Popes, Cromwell, Dabney, Sproul, or Piper follow. Of course, I realize that this is my own limited perspective. I am an average joe:-) academically. I don't read Aramaic, and only started Hebrew class when in Israel/Palestine so I am not a scholar, but rather simply an individual who hopes to help shine a little of God's light into this current overwhelming darkness.
"And it came about in those days that Eashoa came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by Yokanan in the Jordan." (NASB Mark 1:4 and 9, except for Aramaic names)
If we take these verses in the plain sense of the text, (without theological abstraction or tradition) it would seem to be that Eashoa came to be baptized for his sins! But of what sins? Traditionally, most followers of Eashoa have claimed he is perfect and sinless. Most even claim he is omniscient, is God.
So what sin could this Eashoa have committed that led him to want to be baptized for repentance? Only one is mentioned in Scripture. Eashoa is shown to have "missed the mark"--to have sinned when he took off for 3 days without permission and without notifying his parents.
At least most parents, whose kid at 12 years of age takes off without permission and disappears until they finally find him 3 days later, would consider this less than perfect behavior.
Luke seems to be aware of this difficulty because he emphasizes that after this Eashoa was obedient to his parents and "kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men." (NASB Luke 2:52)
Also, note that at this point, (as well as later in his recording of the disciples'' speeches in the Book of Acts), Luke describes Eashoa as a human being, not as God, certainly not omniscient. Luke emphasizes that Eashoa is separate from God, but increases in favor with God and in wisdom.
This is a very different picture of Eashoa from the Nicene Creed. As a student of religious history I understand what motivated ancient church leaders to create the Creeds.
But I never have seen Eashoa as God--not even when a young and fervent fundamentalist Baptist, nor as an educated Evangelical, etc. It's been much clearer for me to understand my rescuer and leader as Colossians 1:15 says: "And He is the Image of the invisible God..."
In this understanding, I follow William Barclay the N.T. Greek scholar, and others, who point out that the vast majority of Scriptural texts emphasize that Jesus (Eashoa) is the Son of God (not literally but spiritually, metaphorically), is definitely not God.
Barclay says there are only two verses in the Bible which assert Jesus is God. The familiar statement of Thomas after the resurrection and in some manuscripts of Titus 2:13 "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." However, Barclay points out that some manuscripts say instead "the great God and our Savior Christ Jesus."
While some early followers of Jesus, even in N.T. times, must have seen him as God (probably Thomas), generally this is not the N.T. view. Even the book of Revelation one of the last books of the Bible separates God and Jesus.
Contrary to many Christians in history and today who claim Jesus is God, including being omniscient, the author of Revelation says this: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him..."
Notice that even though this is at least 70-some years after his resurrection, Jesus isn't omniscient, nor is he God in many other ways.
The text states God gives Jesus a "revealing" of the end of the world.
Also, while there is great value in the Book of Revelation, observe that the author of the book gets verse 3 wrong: "for the time is near." But, of course, if one reads the plain meaning of those words, they are incorrect.
Nearly 2,000 years of human history have passed and the end of things hasn't come yet. Obviously, the author was in error.
So what's the first point of this reflection?
#1 Jesus, at least in the openings of the Good News of Mark and in the Book of Revelation isn't like what most of church history has theorized him to be. And, to me, at least that is a relief--is indeed wondrous Light, for it means that the "Jesus" of theological determinism, of the Inquisition, of the many Christian wars, etc. isn't the real Eashoa.
There is in Eashoa an infinite Ocean of Light and Love which overcomes the ocean of religious darkness.
To be continued:
How does this give us hope?
Why did Jesus call himself the Son of Man?
How is Jesus the Son of God?
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?
In the Light,