Monday, January 25, 2010

Part #4: The Most Personal Is the Most Ultimate

In my speculative opinion, I would say Jesus of the Good Messages in the New Testament is the meeting point of God and the human, that Jesus' message and Jesus himself are the crossing of the finite and the Infinite. Jesus is the Chosen One. The nature of Ultimate Reality (God) is Good, Personal, and Loving. What is most personal is most Ultimate.

Jesus represents not only someone who had ethical insight such as in saying "Love your enemies"; more importantly he personally lived out his statements (when he rose above his own ethnocentrism, which sometimes shows up in his speaking).

He demonstrated the love and moral idealism he spoke of, became the image of God. He revealed God most clearly in not violently resisting the Romans, in rejecting the tempting motivation to mount a revolution like the Messiah was expected to do according to the Jewish Scriptures. He also rejected other temptations many charismatic individuals have succumbed to in history such as to use their power and influence to control and manipulate. Instead of giving into humanity's incessant egotism, he humbly gave of himself ultimately.

Infinite Truth and Goodness and Love showed through his temporal self.

Exactly how all of this works out depends on one's Christology. I tend toward a lower Christology similar to Henry Emerson Fosdick or Walter Rauschenbusch.

I think God at times shines through other "human windows or images" too such as Martin Luther King, but often the Infinite in the finite is tragically marred, distorted, or destroyed by the sinful acts of the human. For instance, in MLK's case the FBI caught him committing adultery repeatedly, being very unfaithful to his wife.

Of course, as I referred to in my first post, we don't know what weaknesses Jesus had that didn't get written down that may have dulled his being the Son of Man, Son of God. However, I am not one of those kind of textural critics who think they can get behind the text, not of the sort of scholars who cast doubt on most of the received text or even question whether Jesus ever lived. Nor am I like the more conservative ones who think we have a mostly accurate recording of Jesus' words and acts. I think Jesus was very much a human being in whom God indwelt.

I also think the personal is reflective of the Ultimate, that Jesus is the Christ because I've been influenced by the philosophical views of individuals like John Cobb and Daniel Day Williams who considered personhood as more real and more important than the physical and the cosmic. It is via the personal that the universe is being influenced eventually to move toward the more spiritual.

Currently many of the big weights in science and philosophy consider human consciousness a "fluke," and they laugh dismissively at those who think that human consciousness represents anything real or important in the Cosmos. They call such theistic outlooks "species-ism" and emphasize that on the contrary, humanity is just one twig on a branch of evolution existing for no reason or purpose.

In my opinion, they are woefully wrong and we can already see the very bad influence such thinking has on humanity.

In the past, I've also had spiritual experiences which have given me a new way of seeing Life. On a rather mundane level, I've encountered a deep love for Jesus to the point I've been overwhelmed.

On several occasions, I've experienced God in what I suppose would be called "openings" or mystical awarenesses which also lead me to think that what is most personal is most Ultimate.

In those very personal encounters with God, I was highly aware, most rational, not overwrought emotionally or out of control, but very much balanced, not delusional. I was so aware of my finiteness, yet expansively aware of the Infinite. And felt boundless love despite my very temporal insignificance.

Later when I was reading Friedrich Schleiermacher's On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, his passages about the Infinite encountering the finite suddenly jumped off the page reminding me of my own encounters with God.

Change your mind, take up your cross and follow Jesus:-)

To be continued:-)

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

4 comments:

Katya5 said...

Hello, Daniel - long time, no see. I don't know what to say... Higher Christology, Lower Christology - I didn't even suspect there were such terms. I think it's ironic that humankind has to crucify the person and then put that same person on a pedestal. In a mafia kind of way, it makes sense - dead men tell no tales, and now he is a symbol, he can't talk for himself, because - hello, he's dead - and we can assume away whatever it is we want about him and the meaning of his words... Convenient, isn't it?
Some long time ago I heard someone say, "Those same people that talk about Jesus the most probably would not recognize him if he knocked on their door. They would turn him away like some homeless bum - because he very well may look like one." In my mind, Jesus has been turned into an idol that has been worshipped mindlessly and whose image has been used to serve the lowliest of human needs. Then, the convenient "truths" about Jesus - after being created to serve our needs - have been neatly sorted and named: Lower Christology, Higher Christology, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc. etc. Take your pick and worship what fits your needs... Jesus that fits your needs - how convenient... But Jesus was a live, real man. What would he say if he heard some of current sermons preached from his name? probably sue the hell out of some churches for copyright infringement and defamation of character....
Long rant - hope that's all right with you.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Katya,

Considering that we have such different worldviews, I actually agree with most of what you've said.

Jesus has been turned into a wide variety of different characters. Some are diametrically opposed to his views and his recorded words. If he lived again as a human, I think he would be ostracized by most if not all Christians, maybe even executed again.

I seek to be Jesus' follower, to live his view of Truth (rather than the many others in the world). I don't intellectually know if the words and stories recorded in Scripture are accurate. However, they are so vitally real and meaningful and have done so much good in the world that I am dedicated to this Way, the way of altruism and compassion, not the way of the world-- "bucks, brains, boast, brawn, and body."

Yes, it's ironic that humankind kills and then elevates the same individuals. Though Jesus has been demoted again too. His name is cursed profanely all the time in daily conversation and movies--as if he represents all that is worthless and repulsive. And even many of those who claim him don't follow his ethical commandments.

Try to look at my admiration and worship of Jesus as somewhat similar to how people look at someone like Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King, too, represented Truth to humanity; he, too, stood against oppression, violence, injustice and extended compassion even to his enemies such as the KKK. He, too, was murdered because of what he represented. He, too, has been since elevated. Etc. In many ways he, too, is a "window" to the Infinite in that his words and acts show forth Truth.

Yes, Jesus "was a live, real man." That's what the theological term "low Christology" means that Jesus was like you and me--a normal human being; in total contrast to "high Christology--omniscient, omnipotent, that Jesus is God, third person of a Trinity Godhead. The latter abstract supernatural creedal statements seem contrary to most of the N.T., contrary to reason, and contrary to daily experience in Life.
You say that "Jesus has been turned into an idol that has been worshipped mindlessly."

I don't see much "mindless" worship. Even though I strongly disagree with such theologians as Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth, they were brilliant thinkers, probably geniuses. And many average Christians who worship Jesus, don't do so "mindlessly."

I suppose all of this has a lot to do with our perception, because, if you remember, I found your Pagan beliefs incomprehensible. However, I don't think you are "mindless" like you think we Jesus followers are:-).

Jesus is special because unlike nearly all humans, he devoted himself so ultimately to God's Truth, that he became a "window," image," "word," of God.

The ultimate nature of Existence isn't Marx, or Adam Smith, or Mohammed, or any of the Pagan gods...

The destiny of humankind is Christ--love, peace, patience, compassion, purity, equality, mercy, justice.
That's an Ideal worth living.

In the Light,

Daniel

Katya5 said...

Hi, Daniel,
I want to apologize for a misunderstanding - I did not mean "mindless worship of Christ" by all that are Christians, I meant - many people say they worship Christ, but in reality they are not even sure what they believe in. Another words - I did not mean to say that worshiping Christ (or anyone else) is mindless in itself; it's the knowledge - or lack of it - about the subject that makes a difference. For that matter, I have met plenty of individuals claiming to be Pagans - but when I start talking to them, I often realize they are in it just for "kicks" - cool jewelry, wearing something provocative, looking cool etc. That is what I mean by "mindless" - when you use all the symbols and signs, but have no idea what the whole thing is about. it does not pertain to any particular religion...
Personally, I think that there is no one true religion or way - the world and the powers in it are so vast and often incomprehensible by a human mind that each religion offers a view - a side view, if you will - of the whole bigger picture. it's like having a chance to be near a masterpiece in a museum, but being able to view only a small piece of it... Other people around you look at the same thing - or so you think - but their view is different from yours. So, in short - there is one big Truth, but we are just looking at it from different angles. Arguing over who is more right is pointless - it's like claiming that Michelangelo's David's shoulder is more important and beautiful than his arm. Both are one and the same thing, we just can't see it for some reason.
Thank you, and I hope I was not too 'wordy" to get my point across.
Katya

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Katya,

Thanks for writing again. I would agree that many religious believers don't think through their commitments. I have been mindless sometimes:-)

I do think there is one big Truth, however some religions are much closer to that Truth than others. Religions which claim there is nothing wrong with malaria or which claim God predestines billions of people to eternal torment or which are racist or sexist, or foster polygamy, etc. are twisted.

Someone pointed out that religion brings out both the best and and the worst in humans.

So I think it is important to guide people toward the religions which are closer to the Truth and warn them against the ones that hurt and corrupt.

Like you pointed out in your first comment, Jesus (and other religious leaders) would sue for defamation of character if they came back and saw what religious people are promoting now:-(

Thanks for sharing.

Daniel