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Believing In The Name Of Jesus


DHAWLIA
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My view is that to believe in the name of Gods only begotten is to believe in the character of Jesus and/or what He stood for NOT His literal name (Or person). Jesus lived a perfect life of love, and that IS His character AND excellence. A name is nothing more than how we identify an individual, but we actually come to know them by their character and what they stand for, no? Those who believe in Jesus' name are those whom believe in the character He was known for and the excellence thereof [Love]. (IMHO)

 

What is light if not love, and what is darkness if not the absence of. We are a selfish and cruel species. Very few value love (The light of life) as we ought. Most would rather live in darkness, which is evidenced by our evil deeds.

 

onoma (Name)

 

Is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one's rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc.

 

John 3:16-19

 

 

DHAWLIA aka GK

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I would say that that is a reasonable interpretation. There are indeed many who see in Jesus both a particular (the historical figure) and a universal (the Logos). According to this, then, knowledge of Jesus the historical figure is not essential to know God, while knowledge of the Logos is. If we see Christ as Wisdom personified (God's Logos=Wisdom?), then this does make sense, because regardless of where or who you are, you cannot do without Wisdom. And again, in this view, the scripture saying that Christ is 'the way, the truth, and the life' and that 'no one comes to the Father' except by him, makes more sense.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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I could be wrong, but I see in the language of this threads original comminique a belief of the evil behavior born in man and the need for believing in the character of Jesus, but (and here's the problem as I see it) without the need in the literal person of Jesus.

 

It is not possible to seperate this character from this name, or this man. Without this particular personification, the characteristics of Jesus cannot be understood. While You may know His name in many different languages, the original characteristics of Jesus do not exist without Him. They cannot be understood nor communicated unless invoking the name (the particular vowels and consonents) of this particular person, Jesus. It is not a worship of the letters, as is unique to some eastern religions, but of the person who has this name. A name only by which the characteristics can be understood and only by which they can be properly communicated to others.

 

Jesus is an actual person. The argument provides the evidence for the need of this person Jesus, but yet concluding no need for him personally?

 

Progressive christianity has consistently emphasized the sayings of the particular historical Jesus. In this setting, I would like to see it explained more fully how it may make "more sense" that the words of the particular historical person Jesus can disavow the same particular historical person Jesus who says knowledge of him is essential to knowing God the Father?

Seems rather circular in its reasoning. (John 14:6)

Perhaps I have misunderstood.

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Hi David,

 

It should not come as a surprise that Jesus may represent more than the historical figure who bears the name. John emphasizes that Jesus is the Logos manifest in the flesh. The Logos has a more universal character, and pre-existed Jesus. By identifying Jesus with something greater, John therefore attributes metaphysical aspects to Jesus that transcend historical particularities. This seems to have been the attitude of the church for a long time as the creeds announce him to be the second person of the Trinity.

 

The theologians of the church have identified Jesus as God’s wisdom, the New Testament itself identifies him as God’s Word or Logos, which may very well mean God’s wisdom. In this light perhaps the teaching that Jesus is ‘the way’ is not so exclusive since Jesus, as he has come to mean for the church, is not exclusively restricted to the historical person.

 

Yet it does seem typical of religions in general to make claims to exclusivity, so perhaps that really is what John meant when he wrote his gospel. But I do not see the gospel of John as having a direct link to the actual words Jesus spoke, they seem to me to represent more of what Jesus came to mean within the community that produced this gospel. In other words, I do not think the historical Jesus himself stood up and said ‘you have to know me to know God. It’s all me or it’s nothing at all.’

 

For instance, in Mark’s gospel Jesus says ‘why do you call me good? there is none good except God.’ These are two very different attitudes, and to my mind both of them cannot go back to the same historical person. And if one of them does, I would bet that Mark’s is more accurate, and that John painting a picture of what Jesus had come to mean for them. If we’re talking historicity, I think if you went back in time and asked Jesus ‘are you the second person of the Trinity?’ he wouldn't have any idea of what you're talking about.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Hi David,

 

It should not come as a surprise that Jesus may represent more than the historical figure who bears the name. John emphasizes that Jesus is the Logos manifest in the flesh. The Logos has a more universal character, and pre-existed Jesus. By identifying Jesus with something greater, John therefore attributes metaphysical aspects to Jesus that transcend historical particularities. This seems to have been the attitude of the church for a long time as the creeds announce him to be the second person of the Trinity.

 

The theologians of the church have identified Jesus as God’s wisdom, the New Testament itself identifies him as God’s Word or Logos, which may very well mean God’s wisdom. In this light perhaps the teaching that Jesus is ‘the way’ is not so exclusive since Jesus, as he has come to mean for the church, is not exclusively restricted to the historical person.

 

Yet it does seem typical of religions in general to make claims to exclusivity, so perhaps that really is what John meant when he wrote his gospel. But I do not see the gospel of John as having a direct link to the actual words Jesus spoke, they seem to me to represent more of what Jesus came to mean within the community that produced this gospel. In other words, I do not think the historical Jesus himself stood up and said ‘you have to know me to know God. It’s all me or it’s nothing at all.’

 

For instance, in Mark’s gospel Jesus says ‘why do you call me good? there is none good except God.’ These are two very different attitudes, and to my mind both of them cannot go back to the same historical person. And if one of them does, I would bet that Mark’s is more accurate, and that John painting a picture of what Jesus had come to mean for them. If we’re talking historicity, I think if you went back in time and asked Jesus ‘are you the second person of the Trinity?’ he wouldn't have any idea of what you're talking about.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

Mike, I think you and I are pretty much on the same page ...

 

According to Greek terminology, Logo's means "Divine Expression", or perhaps more appropriately - God’s divine Wisdom, and power.

 

According to Proverbs 8 and according to John 1, this wisdom and power was in the beginning with God, and [was] God. Christ declared this Wisdom and power during His ministry, meaning He revealed it to us. He revealed to us the Father that dwelt [in] Him. Wisdom was [clearly] in the beginning with God (According to Proverbs 8 and John 1) but wisdom is not something [separate] from God. It might be said to be God’s substance, reality, essence, and perhaps even the metaphorical [fountain] from which all things derive.

Joh 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth [came] by Jesus Christ.

Joh 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

 

John is telling us that Grace and truth came to us by Jesus, and that no man has seen the Father at any time. But, Jesus [His only begotten son] has revealed Him to us. He declared to us God’s wisdom, and power, which was clearly demonstrated throughout His ministry. Christ was not the [literal] Word, but rather the “Word” was made to manifest in Him. (It was made evident)

 

Christ was conceived by the Spirit, begotten by God, and born of Mary. He was filled with the Spirit through which all truth emanates. He was filled with God’s wisdom.

 

Christ was the appointed vessel, and light that enlightens every man that comes into the world. God expressed, conveyed, and made known to us His "Word" [through] Him, which is the love, wisdom, and divine expression of our Creator.

 

Joh 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

Jesus was full of grace and truth. To be full of something implies to have an abundance of or for something to be present and very noticeable, or even as a container filled with substance. Much like a pen being filled with ink, Christ was filled with the Word of God. He was filled with God’s Love, power, and Wisdom. Jesus was the Word personified - He was the instrument by which the "Word" was manifest (Revealed.)

 

So, it isn't the name itself that we are to believe in, but rather God's divine expression, or rather that which Jesus revealed to us. We are to believe in the power of God's Logos, which is the love, wisdom and divine expression of our Creator. [iMHO]

 

 

DHAWLIA (GK)

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Hey Mike!

It has been my point as well that the person Jesus is more than many have only been able to see as the physical man. Your post continues to reinforce that the name of Jesus is inseperable from understanding His personhood and His characteristics.

 

John very succinctly explains in the verses of his Gospel, this being, known to us as Jesus, pre-existed and will survive beyond any physical manifestation. He has always been historical, if not physical. (Logos/Wisdom: usu cap, actively expressed creative revelatory thought and will of God exclusively identified with Jesus, the second person of the Triune Godhead); (person: a being possessing personality; personality; self; being; any of the 3 modes of being in the Trinity; personhood.).

 

It seems a bit presumptuous, ignoring some quoted statements of Jesus while relying on others. For this technique has tended in the past to manipulate Jesus' teaching, whether from pentacostal or aetheist. With the quotes to which you refer, you've doubted the veracity of one by feeling they somehow contradict, therefore leaving you to feel the need to decide which to take to heart. Which should it be? Would either be any more verifiable than the other? If these words of Christ actually contradict, it casts suspicion on all of the text. May as well throw the whole thing out.

 

As far as the quote from Mark, I submit it was spoken not to say that Jesus wasn't claiming to be good but as part of a dialogue with a rich young ruler in gently exposing the shallow faith of the young man. Quite different from the meaning you seemed to have assumed.

 

David

(GK, I'll have to hit you later. Good post)

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Howdy Dave,

 

John very succinctly explains in the verses of his Gospel, this being, known to us as Jesus, pre-existed and will survive beyond any physical manifestation. He has always been historical, if not physical. (Logos/Wisdom: usu cap, actively expressed creative revelatory thought and will of God exclusively identified with Jesus, the second person of the Triune Godhead); (person: a being possessing personality; personality; self; being; any of the 3 modes of being in the Trinity; personhood.).

 

Firstly, I’m not sure that this is what John was saying. John’s opening hymn about the Logos does not say that the Word was a ‘being’ or ‘person’ and that this person is Jesus, and that Jesus in this way pre-existed his birth. I see in John 1 an identification of Jesus with God’s Wisdom, but not in a literal, unqualified sense.

 

What I mean is that I would say that it is not justified from the text to say that the Logo’s new name is now ‘Jesus.’ To do that is to take the words too far. Rather, Jesus identifies with the Logos, the Logos is ‘embodied,’ manifested in the particular historical life and person of Jesus. There is a difference, a duality, and in this reading the difference excludes a model simply equated Jesus = Logos. The two are not synonyms, otherwise the language John used loses a lot of its meaning.

 

Secondly, from a historical point of view I would say that the assumptions latent in such interpretations, and in those of Trinitarian theology in general, represent a later theological development of the Church, and I would not use them in critical exegesis of the text. That is not to say there is no value or meaning in later Church theology or that it doesn't have its place in theological studies. To me, Christianity is not circumscribed by the first century, but reading certain ideas retrospectively into a text - any text - does not satisfy the criterion of the historical-critical method.

 

It seems a bit presumptuous, ignoring some quoted statements of Jesus while relying on others. For this technique has tended in the past to manipulate Jesus' teaching, whether from pentacostal or aetheist. With the quotes to which you refer, you've doubted the veracity of one by feeling they somehow contradict, therefore leaving you to feel the need to decide which to take to heart. Which should it be? Would either be any more verifiable than the other? If these words of Christ actually contradict, it casts suspicion on all of the text. May as well throw the whole thing out.

 

Well, on the surface I would question whether John’s account really records the words Jesus actually said. In my view, the contradiction is real, yet only matters if we are asking the same thing from both texts. Now, there are several reasons why I would think that Jesus’ attitude or disposition in Mark is very different from John, but I’m sure those reasons are themselves available to you as well. We resolve them differently based on what we find personally convincing or compelling.

 

The way I see it, the bible, in a way, is a compilation of theological treatises. They are not history as such, but rooted in the Christian communities’ experiences and beliefs about Jesus - what Jesus had come to mean for them. And that’s what Jesus has always been about in the life of the Church. To me we’re not going to ‘get at’ the ‘real Jesus,’ the object of critical history, because it’s always conjecture and speculation contingent upon the available evidence and the assumptions of those studying it. The New Testament has historical memory in it, but it is also about meaning - what Jesus means. And for that question we have presented to us different answers, angles, assumptions, purposes, and secondary questions.

 

I understand that our disagreement is not fundamentally about this interpretation or that one, but about our guiding assumptions and our approaches to faith. I’ve made no secret that I’m theologically liberal and a pluralist. As such I do not see in the bible an all-or-nothing message or a necessity for there to be one. It would indeed be presumptuous or contradictory from the viewpoint of an inerrantist, to hold one text to be more credible or, in a way, useful than another. But I do not have that viewpoint, my purposes are different, and I am not particularly troubled by questions like ‘which should it be?’ or ‘which should I take to heart?’ I also don’t see the need to throw the whole thing out, anymore than I would need to reject the whole of Buddhism because I'm not convinced of reincarnation.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Hey Mike, (that was quick!) and GK,

 

It's true our pressupositions (I prefer that to assumptions; relates more to background beliefs) do influence our view of truth. If we can't presuppose knowledge that man has from outside- from God, by way of a verbalized revelation, then everything else said with that presupposition may seem as just nonsense.

 

Mike, I thought you HAD been giving some text more credibility than others. Isn't that the reason for our discussion between the Mark and John texts; your believing one and not the other? You've lost me on that one.

It would indeed be presumptuous or contradictory from the viewpoint of an inerrantist, to hold one text to be more credible or, in a way, useful than another. But I do not have that viewpoint, my purposes are different, ...

--

Briefly, John is the only Gospel which begins with the story of Jesus, not from the time He appeared on earth but from before there was any beginning. He had existed as the Logos, the intelligence, which gave birth to everything that is and who became the expression, the Word, explaining that intellegence which is undiscoverable, except through His word and works.

 

It would be inconsistant with the language in John to say in John's account that "the Word" was merely manifested in Jesus. The language of the text defines Jesus as being the Word, not a hint of merely a vessel for it.

 

Quite literally; There are 2 main verbs throughout this passage (vv 1-18). en, the imperfect of eimi, "to be," which in this context could have been translated as "had been" for an indefinite time in the past. So, paraphrased, the first verse would be: "Before there was any beginning, the Word had been, the Word has been toward the God, and God had been the Word." This verb "en" is found in every instance where the person of Jesus is referred to in His eternal self-existent state (vv 1,2,4,8,9,10,15). The other verb to be contrasted with "en" is egeneto, aorist of ginomai, "to become" something that one was not before. So then in v14 we find, "And the Word became flesh..." Jesus at a particular time in the past became that which he was not before, a physical being. Because He was essentially Spirit before (4:24). In the aorist "egeneto" (vv 3,6,10,14,17) or in the perfect gegone (vv 3,15), which means becoming something that one was not before. Referring to some historical time in the past, as the beginning of this new state, and it also implies continuing to be that.

 

 

If you continue through the text of Jn 1, it's abundantly clear he speaks of the manifested Word actually being Jesus. (the translation "only begotten" in v 14 is an unfortunate translation of the word monogenes which gives the idea that in His eternal state Jesus was generated by the Father, but the meaning in the context is "the unique Son[God] who being in the bosom of the Father, He Himself brought Him out [at a particular time in the past to visiblity and made Him understood].")

 

 

God's Grace,

David

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Hi David,

 

Mike, I thought you HAD been giving some text more credibility than others. Isn't that the reason for our discussion between the Mark and John texts; your believing one and not the other? You've lost me on that one.

 

Very quickly, I just want to clear up the initial confusion at my phrasing. The 'viewpoint' in question that I was referring to is the 'viewpoint of the inerrantist'. Sorry for the confusion.

 

To further explain my view, I would say that Mark's gospel is more 'credible' than John only in the sense that it is closer to the historical Jesus. Yet I would not say that John is inferior for this, or that I believe him over Mark. I don't really take sides, I draw from both. Like I said, my concern in approaching Christianity is not reconstructing the 'real Jesus' but ascertaining what Jesus meant to the early Christians and, by extension, what he can mean for me. I would not say that my beliefs are bound to what any particular biblical author had to say.

 

Hey Mike, (that was quick!)

 

Right back at ya! :)

Right now I have to go but later I will try to respond more fully to what you have written.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Hello again David,

 

I will go ahead and further explain how I see John 1. But if it comes to a debate over Greek grammar I’ll have to forfeit because it’s a little beyond me. :)

First I’ll point out, just for emphasis, that I wasn’t denying that John identifies Jesus with the Logos. There is no question that he does so in the text. The thing in question is really “how is Jesus the Word?” And I would argue that Jesus’ identity with the Word is perhaps more poetic and subtle than an exactly identical ontological status. I think that this passage has always proved difficult for scholars is in part due to the fact that there is ambiguity, or poetry, in the language.

But let me emphasize just what John does not say. He does not say that in the beginning there was a personal being and that this person, previously known in his eternal state as Logos, now goes by name of Jesus instead of Logos - as if the ‘enfleshment’ of the Logos were a matter of changing titles.

After all, John opens with ‘the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ It is very difficult for me to get the notion that the Word here is literally a separate, personal being. (In Trinitarian theology is not the Word supposed to be separate but equal with the Father? - yet here we have separate but equal with the whole godhead, with God.) But if the Logos is seen as God’s Wisdom, then it makes perfect sense to me how the Logos can be at once distinct from God and yet still fully be God. Therefore, I do not take the incarnation language to refer to the incarnation of a pre-existing personal being called the Logos, but rather as the personification of God’s Wisdom in the life and person of Jesus Christ. I take John’s prologue as revealing of what the Johannine community saw in Jesus. It is obvious that for them he personified and embodied something metaphysical. Perhaps in some Platonic sense they saw him etched in the pre-existing Word, or divine purpose, of God. But I just detect something different in this passage than an unqualified ‘identicality’ or absolute ‘synonymousness’ between Jesus and the Word.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Oh, and one more note. I would just add that I am very much aware that John has a much higher Christology in comparison to the Synoptics.

For some reason it has been somewhat easy for me to lose sight just what I've been trying to argue for: so I'd like to point out that my reading of John 1 doesn't necessarily negate a high Christology. It is perhaps just a different Christology than what the Church later developed.

 

My initial premise was this:

 

It should not come as a surprise that Jesus may represent more than the historical figure who bears the name. John emphasizes that Jesus is the Logos manifest in the flesh. The Logos has a more universal character, and pre-existed Jesus. By identifying Jesus with something greater, John therefore attributes metaphysical aspects to Jesus that transcend historical particularities.

 

And what I've been trying to argue for is that by identifying Jesus with the Word, John makes Jesus, in a sense, 'transcend himself'. Therefore some very universal claims can be made about this very particular individual. Because Jesus embodies or is the incarnation of Wisdom, he at once identifies with it and is distinct from it. It's poetry, so we can say that he is, and he isn't.

 

There, I knew I was going somewhere with this... :lol:

 

Goodnight,

Mike

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At the risk, or rather, the imminent danger of being too all-over-the-place, I'm going to make another post, now that I've had a night to reflect on this and John's gospel as a whole. Please forgive me, it's actually been a while since I got into a discussion over any particular biblical passage. But I really think that in this post I can better get at what I've been trying to say.

 

You see, as I further think about what I've been trying to get across, I wonder if it would have been simpler for me if I'd just argued that yes, John says Jesus is the Wisdom of God - that is the identity he gives Jesus.

 

Now, where do we go from there? What does it mean for Jesus to be Wisdom? Does it mean that God's Wisdom has now ceased to be what it was, and is now a person with a definite locality and individuality? -- that Wisdom now answers to the name of the historical person Jesus, and if you don't know that person then you don't know Wisdom?

Does it mean that Wisdom was a personal being and that this being has had a change of address, encasing itself in human flesh?

 

I just don't find the underlying logic of the these interpretations to be present in John, or how they make sense of what John was saying. I would say that what it means for Jesus to be Wisdom, is that he is sharing his individual, particular identity with something greater, universal. Yet, Jesus is not exhausting the identity of the Logos. If this is correct, then Jesus is in some sense distinct from the Logos while yet being it. That is what I've been trying to argue for.

 

Because I see John as poetry and not an equation, I think Jesus can both be the Logos and not be it. There is a identification, a sharing of identity, but not in an unqualified or unreserved sense. I would say if such were the case, then John's careful and enigmatic phrasing becomes superfluous. John says the Logos 'tabernacled' among us, which I take to mean that for Johannine community, Jesus was the temple of God (John 2:19), and there is plenty of indication that for John, Jesus in some way identifies with God himself (after, the Word was God), sharing in the identity and role of the Divine. Like I said, I see a very high Christology in John. But it is equally important to note as well that Jesus is always distinguished from God. To what degree (quantity) and in what way (quality) Jesus identifies with God is up for debate with me, but that is for another discussion I suppose.

 

Peace to you (I'm done, I promise!!! :D ),

Mike

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I just wanted to say that I thought your posts were excellent, Mike. Alot of food for thought there. I'm with you, I don't think that John was necessarily arguing for the pre-existence of Jesus of Nazareth. I think he was simply drawing a poetic parallel and contrast to Genesis. In the beginning of Genesis, according to Hebrew tradition, we see God's wisdom (his "sophia", his "logos", his logic) displayed in creation. It is through his wisdom that he creates the universe. John, being a follower of Paul, well knows that evidence for God's wisdom is seen in creation.

 

And, IMO, John is now saying that the same wisdom that we see in creation has been expressly manifested and seen in a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. It is as if John were saying, "The same creativity whereby God made a universe that supports life has now been seen in a person who has come to give life, and life abundant."

 

This understanding doesn't require a Trinity (or even a Quadrinity with the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and Sophia) or the pre-existence of Jesus. It is simply a recognition that God is starting a "new creation" through this person called Jesus. I agree, it is a very high Christology. But it doesn't require that we believe that Jesus was Yahweh or that Jesus abandoned deity in order to become a man.

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I just wanted to say that I thought your posts were excellent, Mike. Alot of food for thought there. I'm with you, I don't think that John was necessarily arguing for the pre-existence of Jesus of Nazareth. I think he was simply drawing a poetic parallel and contrast to Genesis. In the beginning of Genesis, according to Hebrew tradition, we see God's wisdom (his "sophia", his "logos", his logic) displayed in creation. It is through his wisdom that he creates the universe. John, being a follower of Paul, well knows that evidence for God's wisdom is seen in creation.

 

And, IMO, John is now saying that the same wisdom that we see in creation has been expressly manifested and seen in a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. It is as if John were saying, "The same creativity whereby God made a universe that supports life has now been seen in a person who has come to give life, and life abundant."

 

This understanding doesn't require a Trinity (or even a Quadrinity with the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and Sophia) or the pre-existence of Jesus. It is simply a recognition that God is starting a "new creation" through this person called Jesus. I agree, it is a very high Christology. But it doesn't require that we believe that Jesus was Yahweh or that Jesus abandoned deity in order to become a man.

 

Thanks Bill. Good to 'see' you around on the board. You bring up good points as well, especially the creation parallels between John and Genesis. The influence of Hellenism is very apparent in John, but you are right to point out that Paul had basically the same ideas.

 

What you say here - "It is through his wisdom that he creates the universe...the same wisdom that we see in creation has been expressly manifested and seen in a human being...The same creativity whereby God made a universe that supports life has now been seen in" Jesus, is very close not only to John's theology but to Paul's theology in Colossians...

 

 

Colossians 1:15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

16 for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him;

17 and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

19 For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell;

 

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Colossians 1:15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

16 for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him;

17 and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

19 For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell;

 

Personally, I tend to think that Paul was a gnostic. For him, Jesus pre-existed his birth as a spirit and took on human flesh, while still being God on the inside. After all, Paul states that Jesus never sinned, something no human has ever attained. And while some might think that Paul believed in Jesus' literal, physical resurrection, Paul himself states that Jesus' body is a "spiritual" body. This seems to imply, again, that Paul did not believe Jesus to be human, only to appear to be so.

 

So while I can appreciate the devotion to Christ seen in Paul's hymns to him, I don't see Jesus as an eternal spirit-being who temporarily took on flesh just so that he could offer it as a blood sacrifice to appease God's wrath. Jesus is, for me, just the poetic embodiment of God's wisdom, not a literal incarnation of God.

 

Namaste,

bill

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Personally, I tend to think that Paul was a gnostic. For him, Jesus pre-existed his birth as a spirit and took on human flesh, while still being God on the inside. After all, Paul states that Jesus never sinned, something no human has ever attained. And while some might think that Paul believed in Jesus' literal, physical resurrection, Paul himself states that Jesus' body is a "spiritual" body. This seems to imply, again, that Paul did not believe Jesus to be human, only to appear to be so.

 

So while I can appreciate the devotion to Christ seen in Paul's hymns to him, I don't see Jesus as an eternal spirit-being who temporarily took on flesh just so that he could offer it as a blood sacrifice to appease God's wrath. Jesus is, for me, just the poetic embodiment of God's wisdom, not a literal incarnation of God.

 

Namaste,

bill

 

I think of Paul as a mixed bag who devoted himself to his own creative theology. Obviously influenced by Greek thought (as was his whole world), and granting that the 'spiritual resurrection' is a valid possible interpretation of Paul, I would personally resist categorizing him as a gnostic, as I think Paul did consider Jesus to be human, even if he was without sin. I'm becoming increasingly suspicious, though, if the idea of the atonement as a blood sacrifice to appease God's wrath isn't an element basically foreign to Paul.

I mean, I'm not sure that the internal logic of Paul's writings is supportive of the idea that God was presenting himself with a sacrifice to appease his wrath, in substitution for us, as is the common Christian understanding.

Romans 3:24-26 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.

 

Perhaps the atonement for Paul was more participatory than substitutionary. There is plenty of evidence in his writings that he thought so. And he seems to have thought that God was offering Jesus to us to reconcile us to him, not the other way around, not that Jesus paid for our sins and in so doing satisfied God's wrath. Moreover, the resurrection always seems to be an essential ingredient in Paul's notion of the atonement, making Christ's sacrifice efficacious. According to traditional atonement ideas, one might wonder why.

 

6:4-10 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

I think Paul's idea of the atonement, while it may have familiar elements, was closer to: Jesus 'died to sin once and for all' and hence received eternal life, and God set him up as the new Adam/new creation/mercy-seat by which reconciliation may occur. To my mind that seems closer to Paul's ideas than the traditional understanding of Jesus making a literal payment for sin. Seems to to be participation over substitution.

That is an understanding that was presented to me a few years ago and which continues to seem convincing to me. Just an idea to consider, though ultimately it's not very important.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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I think of Paul as a mixed bag who devoted himself to his own creative theology.

 

I suspect so also.

 

Moreover, the resurrection always seems to be an essential ingredient in Paul's notion of the atonement, making Christ's sacrifice efficacious.

 

NT Wright seems to think so, but traditional Christianity thinks that it is one's personal belief or faith in atonement theology that makes Christ sacrifice efficacious i.e. if you don't believe in it, it does you no personal good.

 

When it comes to Jesus, the central character behind Christianity, there are a number of different viewpoints and interpretations of his essence, his mission, his life, his death, his resurrection, and the church. He is like the quintessential Rorschach test. I suspect that what we ultimately come to believe about him says more about us and how we view our relationship to God and others than it does about the ontological and historical circumstances of his life.

 

It’s for that reason that I tend to focus more on his life and teachings than on the mystical interpretations of his death and resurrection. While I find the different interpretations and explanations fascinating to study and consider, I find that they usually hinder rather than help my faith in Jesus. I find this to be especially true of atonement theory. As you’ve noted, Paul simply states that Jesus died for our sins, he doesn’t explain the mechanics of how physical human blood could remove immaterial guilt or sin. He doesn’t tell us how it could possibly be considered to be just for one person to suffer the penalty of another. He simply states what he believed happened at the cross, without much explanation thereof. That’s why I tend to view his perceptions about Jesus’ death as poetry more than forensic analysis. Paul gives us a lot of “why” but not much “how.” Claiming that his teaching came directly from God or from Christ himself, Paul didn’t seem to embrace the lack of certainty and status of being a seeker that many progressives do.

 

This is why, for me, believing in Jesus is more about following his teachings than about holding to a particular interpretation of his death, whether it be Paul’s, Augustine’s, or Anselm’s. Like it or not, Paul’s gospel was centered in the last 72 hours of Jesus’ earthly existence, and I find such a Pauline gospel to be very short-sighted compared to all that Jesus did and taught. This doesn’t mean that I don’t find value in some of Paul’s mystical insights. I just tend to see myself more as a follower of Jesus than as a worshipper of Christ. If I may be somewhat facetious, even the demons believe in Paul’s gospel. But they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings.

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It appears that not believing the Apostles could actually be saying Jesus is the incarnate God, despite the clear language of the texts of the NT, is simply because one doesn't believe it could be true.

 

Whether you believe He is God or not, why try to skew the writings of these men to say they are ambiguous or somehow say something they don't. If your belief is in oppostion to these eye witnesses and close companions of Jesus, then the Christian faith may not be what you believe. How does one claim faith in a particular religion while argueing disbelief in the origins and original writings of the Faith?

 

On another note, it seems on these pages that God and personal can't be thought of together. I contend they are instead mutually inclusive. God is the original personal. The first cause, the creator being, possessing personality. In other words, God is the personal Creator and not just a theoretical or impersonal entity or force. If God can be understood as He really is, a personal God and creator, then His having made a personal appearance on earth in the manner written in Scripture, would seem a bit more reasonable in light of the Gospel's claim.

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I don't post much, but I thought I'd throw my $.02 in.

 

I am intrigued by those who see Jesus teaching as authentic, but find Paul’s teaching problematic. I’ve spent forty plus years reading, researching, and studying scripture. I do not claim that such investigation has made me anything more than a confused biblical novice though.

 

I’ve found scripture to be filled with contradictions and inconsistencies, so much so that I’m no longer certain what I believe beyond the fact that a man named Jesus Christ likely existed. And that he taught and did remarkable things that both mystified and intrigued those who encountered him.

 

I’ve encountered a number of skeptical theological views since broadening my previously held fundamentalist beliefs. I admit that I am mystified by the beliefs of those who see Jesus as the only authentic teacher, and believe that Jesus teachings are the only ones that must be followed and adhered to. Beyond loving God and loving others exactly what was it Jesus taught that mankind must adhere to? Jesus told a lot of parables that seem to me were intended to validate the concept that His followers are to love God and others. I admit my ignorance. Beyond loving God and others what else was Jesus teaching?

 

Paul’s teaching, at least in my view, provide insight into the revelation of God’s will and nature. Paul tells us who Jesus was, why the cross was necessary, and what it accomplished. If Paul was a narcissist, who was creating his own religion, then he must also have been a genius who suffered from some form of mental illness since he chose to live the sacrificial life that he did. If he was creating his own religion I find it strange that he promoted Christ as the object of worship rather than himself. Why form your own religion if you’re not the direct beneficiary and object of adoration and worship?

 

I have no explanation for God requiring a blood sacrifice. The atoning sacrifice, at least for me, is a faith issue. My skepticism is focused on modern day religion and its accompanying traditions and teachings. I have no issues with the concept of an atoning sacrifice.

 

My biblical concerns are centered on the Jew/Gentile dichotomy. I don’t believe Paul and the other Apostles were on the same theological page and did not understand Christ in the same context. It seems to me that Paul and Jesus were on the same theological page, but not Paul and the original Apostles

 

It appears to me that the original Apostles, who were Jews, understood Christ in the context of their Jewish beliefs and traditions. Paul’s revelation, on the road to Damascus, seems to have changed his mindset and sent him a different theological direction.

 

I have come to conclude it is these differing theological views of Christ that account for the inconsistent and contradictory teaching that I find in scripture. I haven’t settled the works/grace concept fully in mind yet though. Believers obviously retain their carnal nature, which is clearly in conflict with their spiritual nature. I haven’t found a satisfying answer that resolves that conflict yet.

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NT Wright seems to think so, but traditional Christianity thinks that it is one's personal belief or faith in atonement theology that makes Christ sacrifice efficacious i.e. if you don't believe in it, it does you no personal good.

 

 

 

Bishop Spong argues in his book, Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism, that St Paul believed in the resurrection of Jesus but not the ascension of Jesus. When you stop and think about it, St Paul really never says anything at all about Jesus' physical body raising from the dead. Spong's argument was basically that St Paul believed Jesus was raised from the dead in the sense that he believed Jesus was already raised when he died and so when Jesus died, he immediately went to heaven and appeared to the apostles in forms of visions similar to his own appearance rather than the physical resurrection we typically think about.

 

There's also a verse in 1 Co 15 where St Paul says it's impossible for a physical body to enter heaven and he refers to us as having a physical body and a celestial body and the celestial body is what we will be raised into when we die, not a physical one. Another argument I've heard is that when Paul talks about the resurrection of the body of Christ being essential in 1 Cor 15, he's referring to the church as the Body Of Christ and that unless Christians die to their sins and resurrect the church in a new spiritual body, then Christians are to be pitied.

 

But I don't think St. Paul was a Gnostic because weren't the Gnostics anti-resurrection but St Paul was pro-resurrection? I also had read in Bart D Ehrman's book Lost Christianities that the Gnostics believed having sex within marriage is a sin because they believed the physical world was sinful and even having sex in marriage was a sin, but St Paul approved of sex in marriage. Of course, I don't know if different Gnostic sects believed different things about sex like in modern day churches. But I agree that speculating on the metaphysics of religion misses the point of religion and faith is about action rather than believing in a correct set of beliefs.

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Hi David,

 

It appears that not believing the Apostles could actually be saying Jesus is the incarnate God, despite the clear language of the texts of the NT, is simply because one doesn't believe it could be true.

 

Whether you believe He is God or not, why try to skew the writings of these men to say they are ambiguous or somehow say something they don't. If your belief is in oppostion to these eye witnesses and close companions of Jesus, then the Christian faith may not be what you believe.

 

Respectfully, that seems to be a loaded question, negating the possibility that it is not at all obvious to me that that is what the NT claims, and that perhaps my treatment of their writings is as honest as I know how to be. Aside from just saying 'ultimately I can't really say for sure what so-and-so believed,' I've given my shot at interpreting them in light of what I understand to be their context.

Like we already agreed, our assumptions or presuppositions are not the same, so just because mine take me to a different place does not mean I’m skewing their writings. I honestly don’t believe that Paul, the authors of Mark, Luke, Matthew considered Jesus to be God, with the possible exception of John, depending on how he’s interpreted.

 

How does one claim faith in a particular religion while argueing disbelief in the origins and original writings of the Faith?

 

I wouldn't call it an outright unbelief, but I certainly relate to the text in a way considered unacceptable to many Christians, and that can be seen as unbelief by comparison. However, I think the progressive Christian movement as a whole, and the presence of this website with everybody here, is an answer to what you are fundamentally asking. I can certainly understand your objections to it, believe me - I'm not saying my approach is a universally acceptable path, but it does work for me.

 

To make another point, it is my understanding that Christianity did not remain in the first century. Many Christians tend not to realize the extent to which the character of the faith they have received has been influenced by the progression of history. For instance, it may very well be claimed nigh without exaggeration, that Augustine did as much for Christianity as did St. Paul. Also, I'm not aware of any of the great theologians of Church history who were not steeped in Greek thought, and who did not subsequently redefine Christianity to accommodate Plato and Aristotle, altering the originally more Hebraic faith of Jesus.

 

Now, is not PC redefining Christianity in light of modern philosophy and world philosophies?

 

Which is the truer Christianity? Perhaps it depends on what kind of questions you ask. To me, Christianity can no more be defined exclusively by its original form any more than I am still identified by my baby pictures. That is why I insist that the meaning of Jesus is not to be found merely in the past, but right now, because that is where he has always been for the Church as a living, present reality. I say that the diverse approaches or forms of Christianity are each worthy to be studied in their own right as valid approaches to the meaning of Jesus, in the context of what we're asking about him. But taken as a whole, Christianity weaves a tapestry of many different approaches, questions, answers, meanings, and Jesus becomes like a jewel with each of the many connecting surfaces reflecting all the others, and each a valid meaning according to the need with which the question is asked. A romanticized interpretation of history? Yes, but perhaps there is just enough reality there to stick. :)

 

On another note, it seems on these pages that God and personal can't be thought of together. I contend they are instead mutually inclusive. God is the original personal. The first cause, the creator being, possessing personality. In other words, God is the personal Creator and not just a theoretical or impersonal entity or force. If God can be understood as He really is, a personal God and creator, then His having made a personal appearance on earth in the manner written in Scripture, would seem a bit more reasonable in light of the Gospel's claim.

 

I absolutely agree that in Christian scripture, whatever else can be said of God, he is certainly personal. My contention was the interpretation of John's Logos as a pre-existing personal being that became Jesus of Nazareth. To me the Logos is impersonal, in the sense that it is God's Word, Wisdom, and if it is personal it is in the sense that it is not truly separate from God's own self. Hence, the Word was with God, and was God. But the Logos, in my view, is not to be seen as a pre-existing being that later became Jesus, but rather as God's Wisdom, in that plain sense.

But perhaps to debate deity claims about Christ is to diverge a bit from what we were originally talking about anyway.

Thanks for the interesting discourse.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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It appears that not believing the Apostles could actually be saying Jesus is the incarnate God, despite the clear language of the texts of the NT, is simply because one doesn't believe it could be true.

 

I suppose that is correct, Davidk, but it is not simply because I have arbitrarily chosen not to believe the "clear language", but because it doesn't make any sense if taken literally. My reasons for rejecting the doctrine that Jesus is God are many and would warrant a completely different thread. But the bottom line, for me, is that GOD is not man and man is not GOD.

 

If your belief is in oppostion to these eye witnesses and close companions of Jesus, then the Christian faith may not be what you believe. How does one claim faith in a particular religion while argueing disbelief in the origins and original writings of the Faith?

 

Again, you are correct. I don't have a "Christian faith" nor do I believe in the "Christian religion". My faith is in GOD, which transcends all human religions and concepts. And my faith is not based upon believing certain things about GOD, but in the GOD of my experiences, a GOD who is beyond creeds and doctrines but who is incarnate in compassion and justice. For me, Jesus doesn't have to be God in order for his teachings to be true. Either what he taught is wise and best or it is not, regardless of where he got his teachings and authority.

 

On another note, it seems on these pages that God and personal can't be thought of together. I contend they are instead mutually inclusive. God is the original personal. The first cause, the creator being, possessing personality. In other words, God is the personal Creator and not just a theoretical or impersonal entity or force. If God can be understood as He really is, a personal God and creator, then His having made a personal appearance on earth in the manner written in Scripture, would seem a bit more reasonable in light of the Gospel's claim.

 

As humans, we have a tendency to make GOD in our image. We are persons, so we make GOD a person or personal because that is how we relate to one another, as persons. As Spong says, "If horses had gods, they would look like horses." I agree that I often speak, write, and think of GOD as a person. But I am also aware that when I (or anyone else) make the claim that "GOD is...", I am engaging in idolatry. IMO, Christianity turned Jesus into God and thereby made an idol of him and God both. Idols are worshipped, not followed. Jesus didn't go around telling people to worship him as Yahweh nor did he recite to them everything he did as Yahweh in the OT. He seemed to shun being worshipped, but he did tell people to follow him. IMO, when Jesus is turned into God, we can disregard his teaching by saying, "He was not one of us, therefore he did what we cannot and it matters not whether we obey him, as long as we believe in him."

 

This goes back to the OP. Believing in Jesus is not believing certain facts about him. Jesus didn't care whether or not you called him 'Lord' if you didn't obey him. I sometimes think Christians argue over the nature of GOD and Jesus because it is easier to do that than to obey what GOD and Jesus want us to do.

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But I don't think St. Paul was a Gnostic because weren't the Gnostics anti-resurrection but St Paul was pro-resurrection? I also had read in Bart D Ehrman's book Lost Christianities that the Gnostics believed having sex within marriage is a sin because they believed the physical world was sinful and even having sex in marriage was a sin, but St Paul approved of sex in marriage. Of course, I don't know if different Gnostic sects believed different things about sex like in modern day churches.

 

The Gnostics, like most religious groups, had a wide variety of beliefs. What I was referring to, Neon Genesis, is the gnostic notion that Jesus was essentially an eternal spirit-being who took on the appearance of humanity but was not truly human. Whether it is believed that he only had an outer shell of flesh or whether his flesh was an optical illusion probably depends on which gnostic you are talking to. As I understand Gnosticism, the major theme is that Jesus was a pure spirit-being who took on flesh for a time, had that flesh corrupted by all sins being poured into it at the cross, and then left that flesh as, once again, a pure spirit-being who ascended back to heaven.

 

Side note: Didn't Paul say that it was not good to touch a woman? I don't know whether he qualified that by marriage or not.

 

My point is that, according to the apostle Paul (or most disciples of Paul, like Augustine, etc.), to be human is to be sinful, to have a sin nature. Christians insist that Jesus was not sinful, did not have a sin nature (despite Paul's assertion in Romans 3:23 that ALL have sinned). So I see no way that, in Paul's view, Jesus could be considered as being human. It is analogous to say that it is a fact that all humans have blue eyes but Jesus had brown eyes. If it is true that all humans have blue eyes, then whatever else we might say about Jesus, he was not human. For many people, this is not a problem. They do see Jesus as "God zipped up in a man suit", but I eventually faced the fact that I couldn't believe that way. I think God's spirit was in Jesus, but I don't think Jesus was God.

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Side note: Didn't Paul say that it was not good to touch a woman? I don't know whether he qualified that by marriage or not.

 

My point is that, according to the apostle Paul (or most disciples of Paul, like Augustine, etc.), to be human is to be sinful, to have a sin nature. Christians insist that Jesus was not sinful, did not have a sin nature (despite Paul's assertion in Romans 3:23 that ALL have sinned). So I see no way that, in Paul's view, Jesus could be considered as being human. It is analogous to say that it is a fact that all humans have blue eyes but Jesus had brown eyes. If it is true that all humans have blue eyes, then whatever else we might say about Jesus, he was not human. For many people, this is not a problem. They do see Jesus as "God zipped up in a man suit", but I eventually faced the fact that I couldn't believe that way. I think God's spirit was in Jesus, but I don't think Jesus was God.

But does Paul ever actually say that Jesus was perfect? I thought that was only the view of the Hebrews author who most scholars agree is not Paul that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice? And while Paul did say that about not touching women, I had always thought that was about premarital sex and not within marriage. But Paul also encourages sex within marriage in 1 Cor 7 where he says he prefers it if you remain celibate like him, and he encourages his followers to get married if they can't control their sex drives. He also says his views on sex are not commandments from God and are his own personal opinions. Interestingly, Bart D Ehrman also argues that 1 Timothy, a forgery written in Paul's name, is a refutation of Gnosticism. Edited by Neon Genesis
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