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6. How Might Our Understanding Of Who And What We

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6. How might our understanding of who and what we are, as human beings, change if we remove the need for the sacrifice of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, our redeemer?

 

 

I think it changes us at the core! I believe this because I think it changes who God is. God is no longer judging and demanding "his son" be sacrificed... God can be God when Jesus is not a sacrifice. With the sacrfice God is an angry volcano that will erupt if a virgin is not thrown inside...

 

Instead Jesus' death is recognized as a political matter... the Romans were afraid of him and his message. They killed him.

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The sacrificial acts experienced in the higher layers of the mind remove the blinders of the ego, so in our own darkness we are able to see the hidden light that is connected to the all pervading light of God. I see Jesus dieing for others as a light that is connected to its source and shows us the way to the everlasting love of pure consciousness. Doesn’t it inspire you to know that God is manifest and un-manifest in pure consciousness here on earth? These sacrificial acts do not happen just once; they are continuous every second of everyday because a sacrifice in the higher layers is not a static acceptance. In a spiritual sense a sacrifice is a dynamic flow that is full of movement from the manifest to the un-manifest. This constant sacrifice flows in the idea of the crucifixtion unseen and quietly, giving momentum to life after life through out time and stretching through out space.

 

I think sacrifice helps us to discard and surrender all the fears we may have so the pure consciousness of Life can be seen working in and through the motives of everything that is approached. If everything is indeed supplied by God, then one does not have to be afraid of anything including poverty or wealth, and then one can live in God drawing upon His perfect peace. I guess I see sacrifice as a positive thing.

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I feel if God is everything. He is abstract pure consciousness and matter concrete consciousness.

 

The pure consciousness behind the scenes is not static, but is constantly being manifest in a series of steps. These emanations lead away from its center to the outer extremes where matter is manifest. Even though pure consciousness is invisible it is still the world of cause. The created universe as projected in the physical world is the visible world of effect where matter is at the lowest point of this manifestation, but it is still the result of pure consciousness.

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I find it very conforting to know that the sky is all around us, which seems to be the case rather than just above us which is what we are told.

 

God is infinite, which we would assume is everything; therefore, God is in matter.

 

Universe...........Uni....one.....verse.

 

Physicist say everything is vibrating. The word

 

All vibrations come from one vibration. The word within a word.

 

It that better or worse?

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I find it very conforting to know that the sky is all around us, which seems to be the case rather than just above us which is what we are told.

 

God is infinite, which we would assume is everything; therefore, God is in matter.

 

Universe...........Uni....one.....verse.

 

Physicist say everything is vibrating.  The word

 

All vibrations come from one vibration.  The word within a word.

 

It that better or worse?

 

 

ummm... not sure... I don't see the jump from everything is vibrating to the word.

 

or

 

how it relates to Jesus dying

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I hope I don't make things worse, but here goes.

 

When the first vibration occurred, the sound of everything together could be experienced. This one sound of everything vibrating together is the Word.

In the beginning of the Gospel of St. John it says,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not."

The Word is the offspring of God from which everything is born. It is qualified consciousness where pure consciousness takes on more and more vibrations or qualities. When the first vibration is allowed to impose on the pure consciousness, it gets quality and becomes aware of itself. This is where cosmic mind gets the feeling of existence and the universal ‘pure I' feeling is experienced. This ‘pure I' feeling is composed of all the individual ‘pure I' feelings in the universe because they came from the Word. It is the collective ‘pure I' or the feeling of existence because it is in every cell, in every heart and in the subtle as well as the gross forms. Everything is saturated with this feeling of existence, but few are aware of it.

The Word is the seed in which all vibrations are contained because it is the source of everything in creation and is spoken in the silence of pure consciousness. It is God the Father revealing himself as the ‘pure I' feeling. From this Word or vibration all things are born and without ‘pure I' feeling nothing can exist without this feeling of existence. Each one of us is also a Word within the One Word. We are children of God and are the sons of God. There is one collective ‘pure I' feeling and there are individual ‘pure I' feelings in each one of us. The collective ‘pure I' feeling is the personal concept of God that we usually call the Father. The ‘individual I' feelings are our own intimate relationship with that Father.

This Word within a Word can be referred to as the microcosm within the macrocosm each containing all the qualities of the other. That is why we can say we are made in the image and likeness of God.

 

We being in our egos thinking we are doing everything, I would say we are in the doer I with little awareness of the pure I . Jesus dieing showed us that he was doing, aware and one with the Father. "I and the Father are one" His great act of sacrifice inspirors me to sacrifice my doer I for awareness of the pure I. In doing this I realize that I am a soul with a body and not a doer I with a soul.

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I see your point where the body and the soul are one. When I am in body awareness I feel separate, but when I am in soul awareness I feel al----one even if I am alone. In this state I feel one with soul, body, universe.

 

Both the scientist and the theologian have discovered layers, emotions and states in the mind where the functional systems of the body are perceived as substance. Carbon, oxygen and other elements found in the body and brain are also found in the external world so many people become attracted to a material existence and are ruled by a material representation of who they are. I have been in this state where I have been attracted to a sensual material concept of life where I see myself as a body and a mind alone in the world, not as a soul connected to God’s creation where the elements and all living things are an integral part of a whole. It doesn't matter if I go from the outside in or the inside out, we are all connected and we are all one, body and soul. This is what I want to remember, but sometimes body awareness gets in the way.

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6. How might our understanding of who and what we are, as human beings, change if we remove the need for the sacrifice of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, our redeemer?

 

It would change everything for me.

 

1) It would make the world uglier. Here was Jesus a great guy who spoke beautiful words and god killed for it. After which his message and life were totally misunderstood and twisted. Mmm, yep, nice guys finish last.

 

2) God remains the abstract glowing cloud in the sky. If Jesus, the Son of God (i.e. God) incarnated and suffered and died, it was because He loved us enough to want to be with us, to share our lives, our pain, our dangers, our joys. If He couldn't be bothered to do that, if He is the abstract, uncaring "First Principle" in the sky, then I have no use for Him.

 

3) If Jesus wasn't the God Who came to be one of us, then His words have no more authority than that they are "nice" and sentimentally attractive. But if they are the words of just another wandering philosopher . . . so what? Others have said most of the same things, but He was stupid enough to get Himself killed.

 

Yep, I want the sacrificial Jesus Who loves and cares enough about me, about all of us (Christian or not) to want to be here with us, no matter the danger.

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It would change everything for me.

 

1) It would make the world uglier. Here was Jesus a great guy who spoke beautiful words and god killed for it. After which his message and life were totally misunderstood and twisted. Mmm, yep, nice guys finish last.

 

2) God remains the abstract glowing cloud in the sky. If Jesus, the Son of God (i.e. God) incarnated and suffered and died, it was because He loved us enough to want to be with us, to share our lives, our pain, our dangers, our joys. If He couldn't be bothered to do that, if He is the abstract, uncaring "First Principle" in the sky, then I have no use for Him.

 

3) If Jesus wasn't the God Who came to be one of us, then His words have no more authority than that they are "nice" and sentimentally attractive. But if they are the words of just another wandering philosopher . . . so what? Others have said most of the same things, but He was stupid enough to get Himself killed.

 

Yep, I want the sacrificial Jesus Who loves and cares enough about me, about all of us (Christian or not) to want to be here with us, no matter the danger.

 

1) I have always thought the Romans would have crucified anyone who overturned tables in the temple at any time, much less Passover. If that was the primary cause of the crucifixion, the world is no uglier. Countless numbers of people were crucified. Many false Messiahs were crucified. Why not the real one?

 

2) It is not just a substitutionary atonement that is loving. If Jesus was an atonement by example, it may have been just as loving. Jesus may still have heard the Father say, "Let them kill you" before praying in the garden, "not my will, but Yours". If He wasn't the sinless Lamb, if He didn't have all the powers of God, then it is even a greater faith and greater love that kept Him from running away.

 

3) Is it the words of Jesus that matter most or something else? Yes, the gospels say to keep His words, but Paul wrote, "But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him." (Romans 8: 9) It would seem that words are not enough, though there are other verses that say belief is enough. Whatever is involved with having the Spirit come live within us, it is what it is, no matter whose authority is involved. If God says that the Spirit of a wandering philosopher will determine how God sees you, who is any man to say otherwise? To argue that only one sort of theology can support this process is pure sophistry and idolatry, no matter how commonly the argument is made.

 

Conservatives have gotten used to belittling the idea of atonement by example and/or a diminished sense of divinity to Jesus. What I know is that I read the gospels, saw Jesus as someone to follow and did that. As a liberal I liked what a lot of liberals like, to follow the gospel version of the commandments being to love God, love neighbors and love enemies, in that order. For years that's how I evaluated what was moral for me to do on a daily basis. I also prayed a lot for direction and other things and found I would have these prayers answered in various ways, in recent years in words from God. My awareness of the Spirit living in me gradually increased to where I can now go through all of Paul's description of what the Spirit did for Him in all of his letters but Philemon and see that the Spirit in me does what Paul describes. Some of that is untestable, such as the Spirit giving us eternal life, but some of that is more immediately experienced.

 

In contrast, conservatives say that what matters is belief in the trinity, the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, resurrection, and the inerrancy of the Bible. What authority is there for that? The words of the Bible and argument? Paul's description of the Spirit isn't necessarily true because it's in the Bible. It's only true if it's true. One can test it. Look at the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Some people have them, but look how many who favor substitutionary atonement don't, instead who are arrogant, ignorant, hateful, neglect the needy and raise up idols of doctrine, rituals, leaders and institutions instead of being loyal to God, whoever and whatever God is. Those who say they would walk away from God if God isn't just who they say He is are inviting God to invite them to do just that.

 

Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. Exactly how that came to be is less imporatant than that it did come to be. I have come to understand that from the Bible, from following Jesus, and from watching the Spirit come to live in me. It did amaze me to discover how the Spirit is a palpable presence that given how few Christians mention its importance, must be fairly rare to sense as Paul did. Maybe it is much more common in a quieter form. I know this first-hand. I am suspicious that those who rely so heavily on argument know much less.

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2) It is not just a substitutionary atonement that is loving. If Jesus was an atonement by example, it may have been just as loving. Jesus may still have heard the Father say, "Let them kill you" before praying in the garden, "not my will, but Yours". If He wasn't the sinless Lamb, if He didn't have all the powers of God, then it is even a greater faith and greater love that kept Him from running away.

 

But then it wouldn't have been God on the cross and that's important. If it was just God-in-the-sky putting requiring some schmuck to die, then to hell with Him. But if it was Yahweh Himself coming and suffering and dying and thus uniting the divine and the human in a way which would change the world . . . ahh, that's different. And Jesus didn't have all the powers of God. Where does Paul say: "He was equal with God but didn't find equality something to grasp onto?" (rough quote from memory). The Son of God emptied Himself to become one of us. He wasn't like Superman dressing up like Clark Kent.

 

As for the rest of your argument, I'm a little troubled. Yes, you may hear the Spirit and have all the gifts that Paul lists, but not all of us are so "blessed". Some of us are just muddling through (which, if I am reading the Bible correctly, is how just about everyone does it).

 

Jesus' words do matter and Who He was.

 

The world is full of good words and wise wo/men. Has been for a long time. So what? What has drawn me to Christ is something different, that God so loved us as to become one of us, to close that gap that has been between us and Him for so long. Think of that: God-as-Lover. Not in some theoretical and "spiritual" way but in such a way as to have God-in-flesh. God didn't remain up in heaven, too holy to be with us. He joined us here in this messy, sloppy, crazy world. He could have just washed His hands of the whole thing, or remained aloof and apart. But He didn't.

 

Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection has changed the world, heck, changed the universe and changed my life. How exactly does that work? Example or bloody atonement? I don't know, I can see advantages to all the different theories and I'm willing to bet that it's more than just one. But I also don't really care. He saved me, He loves me, I'll follow Him in my flawed, sloppy, imperfect way. Along with the whole crazy caravan of misfits that we call the church. Yeah, maybe I don't have all the gifts of the Spirit. Maybe my life is hardly the example of Christian perfection that I'm called to. Maybe I'm just another one of the vast group of losers and disappointments who calls Jesus "friend"

 

But . . .

 

I have been invited to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb while many who are "better" than me have left their invitations sitting on the kitchen counter unopened. That is what is key. That is what matters. That I will sit with friends and strangers at the Banquet at the End of Time.

 

Hey, gifts and ethics and doing nice things are important, but if that's all there is to being a Christian, there are easier ways. I want that seat at the Table.

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If it was just God-in-the-sky putting requiring some schmuck to die, then to hell with Him.

 

Might this be reckless? I never will see it this way, not that Jesus is some schmuck no matter what His ultimate nature is. And why do you assume that God required His death, even if substitutionay atonement is not true? There are many ways our behavior may have required His death beyond the fact that the Romans would have crucified anyone who acted like Jesus.

 

I bring up the Spirit to say that there is something more important than words. Paul says so. Paul says it is the Spirit that brings eternal life - I forget in which of his letters. So if you believe Paul in one place, why don't you believe him in another? It is not a matter of my being so special. I simply pursued God however I could, not assuming that traditional theology was correct. If traditionalists want to believe that tradition is perfect, to hang on to their understanding of John 3:16 or Romans 10:9 and hope that that is God's understanding, that is up to them. I don't trust mere words, especially not from people who contradict those words in their own actions.

 

The Bible tells other stories that are not true. Whatever else is wrong with Genesis, it certainly gets the order of the appearance of different kinds of life on Earth wrong. It's not true that disease is all due to sin and can all be cured with prayer. It's not true what people take from Romans 1 to mean that homosexuality is a consequence of abandoning God. It is not enough to quote the Bible. I believe you need some confirmation that something in the Bible is correct, from living with the Spirit, not as a single "Yes" or "No", but as a lifetime process of prayer, study, living with God and moving on to something else. It's not all for this world. What makes you think that my argument was limited to ethics or gifts? Did you understand what Paul said in Romans 8:9? Do you know Matthew 25:46? This is what the Bible itself says, that words are not enough, for anything but eternal punishment. Now maybe death is punishment enough. It doesn't look to me that it's God who's insisting on that.

 

So no matter how lovely and easy, the traditional way of seeing the atonement may not be right. If you tell God, "to hell with You", should you find that out at somepoint, I don't think that will help. I think what helps is to acknowledge that God is God, whoever and whatever God is, and I'm not God. Neither are you. Neither is everyone who believes the same tradition put together. No matter how much people want certainty, God cannot be bound by theology. Now maybe He bound Himself or maybe He didn't. Maybe there is another story that He likes better. His belief is the one that counts.

 

If you don't believe Paul when he said, "Christ lives in me." as something very real, not abstract, then don't believe me. People can choose to believe whatever they want. If you do believe Paul, even if he made some mistakes, the presence of the Spirit is not one he was likely to miss. Yet so many people pretend that that is not important. I'd look up where Paul says that it is the Spirit that brings eternal life, but you really should look through his letters and remind yourself of everything Paul says about the Spirit. This is not something that deserves to be pushed aside as merely "spiritual". Ask God and wait for an answer. Anyone can do that instead of just repeating the same story that everyone you know tells, no matter how much it insults God during the course of its telling. Did no alarm go off in you as you told it? How you talk about God and the Spirit is between you and Them, but I never would write as you write, and I am quite sure God loves me no matter what I do.

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You miss my point, David. If Jesus was just a man who wound up getting killed for all his trouble, then his story is just another case of injustice. But if Jesus was God incarnate, come to be one of us, to save us, to heal us . . . then that's the story I want to hear and that's the man I want to follow. The traditional way of seeing the atonement may not be right . . . or it might be. We will find out eventually. But the argument I will not tolerate is to see Jesus as a "nice guy" some sort of only human prophet who came to say nice words and got killed for it. That's not enough.

 

As for all the things you say about Paul and the Spirit, you really don't understand. I am not just a rationalistic theology machine. I pray, I offer my prayers to God and wait for answers . . . and I get them. But both sides are important: Word and Spirit, prayer and theology (as you have acknowledged when you use Scriptural references in your posting).

 

As for my ways of talking about God, that's between He and I, as you say. You might not speak about Him that way, but He's my Daddy and He understands what I mean. Who Jesus is and was is a serious issue to me. I can't ignore what the Bible teaches, I have to deal with it, to wrestle with it. Remember the story of Israel wrestling with an angel of the Lord all night? That is the model of the spiritual life: a wrestling with Word and Spirit.

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I personally feel that two thousand years of faith, interpretation, and religious construction have elevated Jesus onto a level that he himself never sought to occupy. It was at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, according to Lloyd Geering in his Westar Institute article, 'How Did Jesus Become God and Why?' that Jesus was promoted to God. This is an excerpt from the Council declaration of the Christian Curch at the time that pronounces the postition that Jesus was of divine origin:

 

'We then, following the Holy fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of the natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted nor divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, the only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us, and the Creed of the Holy Father has handed down to us.'

 

The Council of Nicea and the resulting Nicean Creed makes essentially the same proclamation. The concept of the Trinity is a human construction and I reject these proclamations because they are simply that: human constructions. Jesus never proclaimed himself to be the Son of God and made no absolute claim to be The Mesiah. I DO believe that Jesus was a healer, teacher, and mystic with a deep sense of conscious contact with God. I DON'T believe that his demotion to human status minimizes his teachings one bit, either. Jesus had a vision of what the Kingdom of God was like and proclaimed that Kingdom's imminent arrival. His mentor, John the Baptist, carried the same message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught what Citizens of that Kindom would act like, what the norms and values would be like, what the politics and economics would be like...all radically different from the Hebrew Laws that governed life at that time. It has to be remembered that Jesus was not a Christian...He was a Jew. And one the likes of which no one had ever known before. His message of sexual and economic equality, love and compassion, inclusion and forgiveness, all point to a way of life that would bring us closer to that Kingdom. The challenge isn't to base the validity of Jesus' teachings on Jesus being of divine origin, but to accept his teachings on their own merit and as a testament to his understanding of what is required of us to be Citizens of the Kingdom of God.

 

I personally feel the teachings of Jesus have been minimized BECAUSE of the absolutely radical demands they make of us and it is far less a challenge to our Politics and Ecnomics of Empire if Jesus' divinity is taught instead. Once we shift the focus and begin to live as Citizens of the Kingdom of God, rejecting the politics, culture, religious props and constructions, economics of deprivation and greed, etc. etc., the Empire will begin to rust and crumble on its own.

 

Russ

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Got to disagree Russ.

 

The divine status of Jesus was held and taught very early (check Paul's letters, the earliest of which was written within 20 years of the crucifixion then check the early Church Fathers). The same with the Trinity. They aren't human ideas, but human discoveries about God and Jesus that solved problems of understanding that the early church faced. The Councils you mention officially confirm what was already the shared belief of the Christian church community. The leadership wasn't imposing a theology on the people, but stating concisely the theology the people already held.

 

It is often held that somehow the idea of Jesus' humanity/divinity gets in the way of people actually living out the Kingdom values that He taught. I just can't see that. I for one find it easier to follow the Kingdom ethic because it is being taught and represented by someone with divine authority. Otherwise what's left is an ethic which seems counter-intuitive, counter-commonsense and counter-survival. Taught by a guy whose teachings just got Him killed. Not much of a recommendation as far as I'm concerned. The teachings of Jesus have a certain "sentimental" attraction to our society, but aren't followed very closely, you are right about that. And I agree, the following of these teachings, the living of the Kingdom, not just nice words about Jesus and God, is what is paramount.

 

What has allowed the church to make societal changes throughout history has been the fact that the rabbi we follow doesn't just speak with the words of a good and reasonable man, but with the authority of God. That means He isn't just another guy with an agenda, not different than you or me, but someone, Who when He says "love your neighbor", "pray for your enemies", "turn the other cheek", etc. has the authority to testify that these commands are the best way to live.

 

But without the authority which the Man/God Jesus holds and the supernatural help offered by the Holy Spirit, following those teachings are not only difficult, but nonsensical. Without the Resurrection, you have a prophet Who taught very unusual stuff, got killed for it and Who (if He wasn't divine) was seriously misunderstood for the next 2000 years.

 

Once we shift the focus and begin to live as Citizens of the Kingdom of God, rejecting the politics, culture, religious props and constructions, economics of deprivation and greed, etc. etc., the Empire will begin to rust and crumble on its own.

 

I couldn't agree more. If I had to make a choice (although I don't think I do) I would prefer to see someone who doesn't believe in Jesus' divinity following the way of the Kingdom over someone who does believe and doesn't follow. But I don't think it has to be one or the other. :) And I will certainly be more willing to stand and work with the first person than the second.

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In fact, early Christians disagreed often among themselves about the nature of Jesus and the nature of God. There was no "shared" theology on these issues. On the contrary, the internecine squabbles were quite serious, and they lasted for a long time. Marcionites, Ebionites, Docetists, Gnostics--the list goes on and one. Some believed that Jesus was fully human but not divine. Some believed that Jesus was fully divine but not human. The nature of God was also disputed. You see considerable evidence of these squabbles in the New Testament epistles, which were often written with the intention of promoting a position on various matters, thus indicating that such differences were there from the beginning (for example, 1 John was critical of docetism). Once a victory was declared, the winning side got to declare itself "orthodox" and all the others as heretics, and of course those scriptures that supported their position were eventually included into the canon, while others were not.

 

Two excellent and well-researched resources on this subject are Bart Ehrman's book, "Lost Christianities" and L. Michael White's book "From Jesus to Christianity".

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Yep, a very messy and human process. God seems to like to work through these. (Of course, he's working with us, what choice does he have?).

 

My only disagreement is the conclusion that when a decision was reached, it was a "winners" imposing their opinion on the "losers". You could make the same argument about scientific progress, as the creationists often do: the Darwinians are the "winners" who have imposed their ideology on teh "losers". I would maintain that what is today called "orthodoxy" triumphed because it solved the most problems and questions. The others didn't. Not all the ideas about Christ and God were equal. Just as not all ideas in science are equal. Some solve the problems, others don't.

 

It was a messy process, but that doesn't make it's conclusions inherently false or illicit, any more than the fact that the scientific community accepts evolution as a whole make that conclusion false or illicit (which is a fallacy the creationists refuse to give up <_< )

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The Council of Nicea and the resulting Nicean Creed makes essentially the same proclamation. The concept of the Trinity is a human construction and I reject these proclamations because they are simply that: human constructions. Jesus never proclaimed himself to be the Son of God and made no absolute claim to be The Mesiah. I DO believe that Jesus was a healer, teacher, and mystic with a deep sense of conscious contact with God. I DON'T believe that his demotion to human status minimizes his teachings one bit, either. Jesus had a vision of what the Kingdom of God was like and proclaimed that Kingdom's imminent arrival. His mentor, John the Baptist, carried the same message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught what Citizens of that Kindom would act like, what the norms and values would be like, what the politics and economics would be like...all radically different from the Hebrew Laws that governed life at that time. It has to be remembered that Jesus was not a Christian...He was a Jew. And one the likes of which no one had ever known before. His message of sexual and economic equality, love and compassion, inclusion and forgiveness, all point to a way of life that would bring us closer to that Kingdom. The challenge isn't to base the validity of Jesus' teachings on Jesus being of divine origin, but to accept his teachings on their own merit and as a testament to his understanding of what is required of us to be Citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Russ [/b]

 

I think that was very well stated, and it summarizes my own views very closely. What could be more inspirational than to have a human example of someone who pointed the way to the Kingdom of God? If others feel the need to believe in miracle stories, the virgin birth, the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, or in his literal resurrection, then more power to them. But for me and many others, the power of the religion is not in literalizing myths but in the way that Jesus epitomized the religious life as it should be led. By following not just his teachings, but his example, one can see a way to live in communion with God--and taking away his divinity doesn't make his teachings less true or his life less inspirational. It is my belief that the early Christians, including Paul, did not believe in a physical resurrection as a literal historical event, but rather they experienced Jesus post-crucifixion as a visionary and mystical presence (the evolution of how the resurrection was viewed can be traced by moving through the various and contradictory post-resurrection accounts, starting with Paul's bona fide epistles, to Mark, to Matthew, to Luke, and finally to John), and yet they found power and inspiration in his life and death. The construction of various literalizations of the myths around Jesus is not something that many of us in this postmodern world can do anymore. Instead, we are able to find a new kind of faith that moves beyond the old dogmas, dogmas that simply don't make sense to us.

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Yep, a very messy and human process. God seems to like to work through these. (Of course, he's working with us, what choice does he have?).

 

My only disagreement is the conclusion that when a decision was reached, it was a "winners" imposing their opinion on the "losers". You could make the same argument about scientific progress, as the creationists often do: the Darwinians are the "winners" who have imposed their ideology on teh "losers". I would maintain that what is today called "orthodoxy" triumphed because it solved the most problems and questions. The others didn't. Not all the ideas about Christ and God were equal. Just as not all ideas in science are equal. Some solve the problems, others don't.

 

It was a messy process, but that doesn't make it's conclusions inherently false or illicit, any more than the fact that the scientific community accepts evolution as a whole make that conclusion false or illicit (which is a fallacy the creationists refuse to give up <_< )

 

The difference between scientific paradigms and theological paradigms is that the scientific method isn't used in matters of theology. Theological dogma is not subjected to repeated scientific trials, using empirical methods, and published in peer reviewed journals. Evolution is true to the best of our knowledge because the scientific method discovered it to be true. Furthermore, there is no real debate between bona fide scientists on the validity of evolution; scientific revolutions really take place as a result of the voluntary decision by scientists to accept the new paradigm (a la Thomas Kuhn.) Some other scientific theories, by contrast, really are debated and controversial, and remain so until, and only until, one side voluntarily accepts the other paradigm as valid. Creationists make a false claim about evolutionists "imposing" their beliefs, when in fact there is no such imposition taking place. This isn't the same as what I see having taken place in Christianity.

 

Note that I am distinguishing here between theological dogma and religious studies scholarships, which is or at least can be scientific. So when a scholar estimates the date of the writing of Mark to be 70 AD or so, there is at least some science that lies behind that. That is different from declaring the Trinity to be true. There is no application of the scientific method to the Nicene Creed. Whether or not one thinks that the doctrines of the trilogy make logical sense is one thing, but there isn't any real correlation between that and, for example, evolution.

 

Ultimately, the doctrines of what became "orthodox" Christianity were imposed on Christianity as a whole by one faction. Whether or not the new orthodoxy solved problems depends on who you talked to. But the winning side got to decide what was true and what wasn't.

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The notion of Jesus being 'fully man' and 'fully God' isn't a Jewish philosphical or theological one, but Greek. The idea of the Spirit of God entering and existing within Jesus is foreign to the faith and culture that Jesus was part of. Paul never met Jesus, didn't live as a contemporary, and displays a decidedly 'Athenian' approach to Jesus in making any reference to Jesus being one and the same as The Sprit of God. This was a completely alien concept to the people of the early First Century Palestine, but not to the Greeks or Romans. Zeus and Jupitor had been taking all kinds of forms in those culture's mythologies and the influence of those myths reach deeply into the legends and myths of Christianity...bringing the dead back to life, virgin birth, God appearing as a human, etc.

 

Another point is how convenient it is for Jesus to be God when it just so happens to be our faith that says so. Where does this leave everyone else? Out in the cold? Un-saved and doomed forever? Or was this a statement of preference on God's part? Was God really saying that appearing as a First Century Palestinian Jew was preferential to appearing as, say, a First Century Japanese peasant? Or was it that God really planned on appearing in other cultures, but he never got around to finishing the tour? To single out our faith as being the one in which God appeared as a man and none others is not only ethnocentric, but opens the door for a deluge of prejudices.

 

Jesus was a model Citizen of the Kingdom of God that he was proclaiming to be the Herald of. We would do well to heed his teachings and not try to jockey for position in God's eyes by proclaiming our myths as being Truth while maintaining that all other religious myths are simply myths.

Edited by Russ

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Russ,

 

It's good to emphasize the social justice aspect which is in almost all the 8 points here. Jesus came to help the people who needed it most, the poor, the sick, the outcast, women and children, slaves, the downtrodden and oppressed. All of us who feel like misfits or victimized by life.

 

As mysticseeker said, taking away Jesus' divinity doesn't make his teachings less true or his life less inspirational--more so in fact.

 

You seem to be saying that it's wrong to voice a belief in Jesus as divine, as more than a teacher and "model citizen." Isn't there room in Progressive Christianity for a fairly wide spectrum of beliefs about him? Does PC exclude those who believe Jesus was more than human? Does that make one an evangelical? If so perhaps I need to change the way I write, if I'm going to continue here.

 

Spong would agree with your view. Marcus Borg would agree with you when he says "Do I think Jesus thought of himself as divine? No. Do I think he had the mind of God? No. the power of God? No." but then he goes on to say, "the post Easter Jesus is a divine reality--indeed one with God. He is the embodiment or incarnation of God." So he waffles a bit. He calls Jesus the messiah, the Son of God, the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, but says that Jesus did not see himself that way. That could well be true.

Edited by rivanna

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You seem to be saying that it's wrong to voice a belief in Jesus as divine, as more than a teacher and "model citizen." Isn't there room in Progressive Christianity for a fairly wide spectrum of beliefs about him? Does PC exclude those who believe Jesus was more than human? Does that make one an evangelical? If so perhaps I need to change the way I write, if I'm going to continue here.

 

Thank you Rivanna. I was tempted to continue arguing the point, but realized, it doesn't matter.

 

I think Russ and I are on the same page where it's important: Jesus calling us to live out the Kingdom day-to-day. I don't want to turn into one of those people I dislike: the one's who lose sight of what's important simply to make some debating points (one of my biggest temptations, let me tell you.) How is it Churchill defined a fanatic: "Someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

 

Whatever disagreements Russ and I would have, I think we'll be standing side-by-side when it comes to the question of "What do we do?"

 

I especially like what you've said about the hope for a wide spectrum of beliefs in Progressive Christianity. I don't like conservative groups with a rigid and narrow definition of who's acceptable. I'd like a liberal group with a narrow definition even less!

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There is a place for everyone in this dialogue and I do not by any means dismiss any other style or personal interpretations associated with anyone's faith with the exception of people who use Christianity as a weapon and a wall. I currently work with an ordained Methodist minister, my Pastor, on a new ministry and will be working with other clergy and people of faith on this same community wide project. Much of my thoughts here on this board I share only with members on this board for the reasons that have been pointed out: we must have a middle ground upon which we can join together. There are people in my church who would agree with some of my thinking about Jesus and Christianity, and there are others that would throw their hands up in horror. And I participate in my church and services. I was called upon to plan out and deliver a service a couple of months ago that included writing and delivering the prayers and sermon. I do this from a middle ground, through our common faith in God and Jesus. I don't reject all Christians and Christianity simply because I think and feel the way that I do. If that was the case, I would be better off signing up with the local fire and brimstone folks. But if we are secure in our beliefs and view each other as Friends, we have a Common Ground. It is not up to me to make room for you, it is up to all of us to make room for all of us. Many times I reflect upon our faith in God and Jesus and really have to chuckle at the fact that it's mostly speculation. We base much of our faith on our intellect as humans. It's sort of like the way I dance...if I lead with my head and think out each move, I step all over my wife's feet. If I lead with my heart, I go where I should. The fundamentalist appreoach to faith, however, is not based on faith, but on fear and conformity. Believe this or else. We on this forum have chosen to get up, walk out, and say 'Or else WHAT??' Questioning and struggling with our faith is a way that we come to a personal, deep understanding of what our faith is about. Without this process, we are simply accepting dogma. But through this process of questioning, struggling, doubting, breaking apart and putting back together, we form a more solid, personal understanding that helps to strengthen our own faith and develop a secuirity in it as well. There must be room for all of us...the deeper questions will have to be postponed for a bit. God will answer all of our questions after class. In the meantime, let's lead with our hearts, too...that way we won't step on each other's toes.

 

Russ

Edited by Russ

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