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Is God Jesus?


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Guest billmc

One of the raging debates both inside and outside Christianity for the past 1700 years is the question of Jesus' divinity, or put another way, "Is Jesus God?" People have argued about whether Jesus was Yahweh with human skin or whether Jesus was half-human and half-divine or both human and divine or simply a human indwelt by the divine. The dualistic paradigm that has seemed to dominate this question is that humanity and divinity are two separate things and therefore should not be mixed or, if done so, must be a mystery impossible to explain.

 

For some reason, this question has been knocking about inside my head recently and I've found myself wondering about it. Not because I think I have a once-for-all conclusion to the question that will satisfy myself and everyone else, but because I have been pondering another way of asking the question, "Is God Jesus?"

 

Christians have historically claimed that if we want to see what God is like, we can (and some say should) look at Jesus as the highest revelation of the divine. But my ponderings have taken me a step further than trying to stuff the traditional God into a Jesus-shaped box. What I'm wondering about is, should we let go of other images of God in order to embrace the divinity or God that we see in Jesus? If we did this, it might well revolutionize the way we see God and, therefore, how we relate to God.

 

Here are a few "for instance's":

God has traditionally been thought of as omnipotent. But we don't see in Jesus as all-powerful deity. Sure, there are some miracles attributed to him that are quite spectacular. But we don't see him wiping out all disease or death. In fact, there are many places in the gospels where he either doesn't want to do miracles or says that his ability to do so is dependant upon faith. This goes against the general consensus that God is almighty.

 

God is said to be omnipresent. But we see in Jesus that God is most experienced where people gather together in compassion.

 

God is said to be omniscient. But we see in Jesus that God doesn't know everything, that God is more known through asking questions than through giving answers.

 

God is said to be in control. But we see in Jesus that God is a servant. We see in Jesus that God is not manipulating mankind according to some predestined plan, but inviting us to join with God and each other in a new creation.

 

God is said to be immortal. But we see in Jesus that God would rather die than live without us.

 

God is said to guide humanity by giving laws that should be obeyed with death (or worse) as the consequence for breaking those laws. But we see in Jesus that God leads us by the Spirit, certainly allowing for consequences, but showing mercy and grace that seems to be without end.

 

God is said to be about judging who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. But we see in Jesus that God wants to bring heaven to earth.

 

God is thought to be an old man who lives above the clouds and demands our worship. But we see in Jesus that God is "just like us" and is about relationship, not worship.

 

God is thought to be a conquering king who will return to earth to destroy his enemies and demand allegiance or else. But we see in Jesus that God is a suffering servant who never killed anyone.

 

I have little doubt that the earliest Christians, being Jews, tried to stuff God into the Jesus-shaped box. They simply couldn't do it so, being inventive, came up with the doctrine of the Trinity to try to explain the differences between God and Jesus. Is there something to the incarnation that says that we really didn't know what God was like until Jesus came along? Is there something to the notion that if our views of God don't line up with the character of Christ, maybe we should reconsider our images of the divine?

 

There are many images of God found in the scriptures. To me, some of them are attractive and some of them are repulsive. In fact, there are quite a number of images of Christ in the scriptures that repulse me, mainly those found where people have tried to stuff the tribal war-god into the person of Jesus. But apart from these "interpretations", I find the image of Jesus as God quite appealing.

 

If it is true, as many conservative Christians insist, that Jesus is God, then doesn't it also stand to reason that God is just like Jesus? Would this change how we see God? If God is Jesus, then it seems the last thing he would want us to do is to worship him, but he would want us to follow him.

 

Just some thoughts rattling around in my head.

Edited by billmc
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Bill nice post, it goes to show me I can’t think God, but I can feel Him/Her. In Jesus, I can feel the love, compassion, and mercy of God. In Jesus I see that God is real even if my ideas about God are not. In my case a clear idea of God emerges from the consciousness of all the different faiths, their images, ideas and experiences, but I realize that some can gain the same experience with only one image. The sharing of mutual spiritual experiences in interfaith dialogue helps me to understand the Bible and Jesus. For example, I feel our Christian Koan is the Trinity or that God is three persons and one because there are no answers, or better yet the answer is the question. Thank you for awakening me to see other possibilities in God from my fixed way of thinking.

Edited by soma
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Guest billmc

Thanks for the conversation, Soma. I appreciate your contribution to this topic, heretical as it would probably seem to most Christians. I do realize how strange this idea sounds and your pushback made me think of a clarification that I wanted to make lest it seem that I am arguing for something I am not.

 

I am not at all saying that Jesus is the ONLY revelation of God in humanity (though many Christians would claim this). Rather, what I am saying is that in Jesus we see a shift from God being primarily revealed in nature or in laws or in writings or in religious institutions to God being primarily revealed in PEOPLE who live in compassion. Of course, Christians claim that God is seen in Jesus, nothing new there. But they usually mean that Yahweh of the OT or of Revelation is seen in Jesus, albeit with his “divine attributes” somewhat restrained or muted – “God-lite”. God with almost zero calories.

 

What I’m pondering is a shift in theology, especially as seen in Jesus in the Bible, that our best human concepts of God or the divine are seen in others, especially in those who live lives of compassion and self-sacrifice. This includes Jesus, of course, but this also includes many other people down through history from many different cultures.

 

Of course, it is doubtful that Jesus would have held to this view of himself. But I doubt he held to a notion of himself as the second person of the Trinity either. He seemed to speak of God as a father-figure in heaven, a somewhat typical Jewish notion. But he also seemed to acknowledge his unity with God and said that what he did and taught was actually what God was doing and saying.

 

Granted, my pondering have some Marcionistic overtones, I’m not denying that. But I see no way that Jesus could be the incarnation of the God who told Israel to go kill her enemies. Either God changed his mind about how his people should treat their enemies (a very open-theism idea) or Jesus didn’t consult God about this issue or what we see in Jesus (and other luminaries of humanity) is a new way of seeing God – a God of compassion. A God who is at work in our world bringing about a new creation, but working through compassionate humans, not intervening from without humanity.

 

In my experiences, Jesus has not really been seen as God but as the mediator between man and God. Despite all the language of Jesus’ divinity and the “God-man”, God was and is still separate from humanity. But perhaps we see in Jesus and others like him a true incarnation, not of a Being out past Alpha Centauri, but of our very best concepts of God and divinity, not so that we can transcend being human but so that we can truly be human.

 

In this understanding (and experience), to say that God is a Trinity is like saying that a forest is a tree. :) In this understanding, God is met in anyone and everyone who mirrors "Christlike" attributes, no matter their label or culture. Perhaps, in some small measure, this is what Paul was referring to as the Body of Christ.

 

Again, just musings running through my mind.

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Nice post Bill,

 

It seems to me that God is not a man to the exclusion of any other. To worship Jesus as God to me is to make an image of that which is beyond images. One can argue either way to the question and build a significant case from church writings but it seems to me there are too many contradictions to explain to draw an affirmative answer with any certainty. Regardless of ones conclusion, in my experience, Christ can surface within any man/woman in spite of his/her reported view on the issue.

 

Having said all that. If a response to your question is yes and it works for that one, i would have no disagreement. To me, One who seeks and acts in Love covers a multitude of possible errors in beliefs which will perish in the fullness of times.

 

In Christ,

Joseph

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Guest billmc

It seems to me that God is not a man to the exclusion of any other.

 

That was the point of my second post, Joseph. Historically, God is experienced in nature, in sacred writings, in sacred places, etc. But for Christians, it is said that God is revealed in a person, in Jesus of Nazareth.

 

 

To worship Jesus as God to me is to make an image of that which is beyond images.

 

That is true. But then, your statement, my friend, is harkening back to a concept of God (mainly an OT one) that says that God needs or desires worship. If we let go of these images of God where he continuously needs his self-esteem to be propped up through human worship, then we can bypass all the "worship wars" that plague Christianity. With few excepts, Jesus seemed to eschew being worshipped. But did he call for folks to follow him. I have a book on my bookshelf that I want to read (one of many) that is entitled, "How to Stop Worshipping Jesus and Start Following Him." If we say Jesus is like God, then, yes, God wants worship and we find ourselves worshipping him. But if we say that God is like Jesus, then we can say that God wants us to follow him.

 

One can argue either way to the question and build a significant case from church writings but it seems to me there are too many contradictions to explain to draw an affirmative answer with any certainty.

 

I agree. So I'm not saying that my ponderings are certain answers to the divinity of Jesus or the understanding of the Trinity, etc. I'm simply asking the question of did the Church do the right thing to make Jesus into God, when it could have considered that God was like Jesus?

 

Regardless of ones conclusion, in my experience, Christ can surface within any man/woman in spite of his/her reported view on the issue.

 

The word "Christ" simply means "annointed one", the Greek translation of "messiah". To use the word to describe people who are annointed by God, yes, I would agree with you. But my sense is that you mean something more by it and I'm not sure what that "more" is. Perhaps you could share it with me? :)

 

But, historically speaking, Christianity considers Christ to be synonymous with Jesus of Nazareth. So because I often speak Christianese, I don't often use the word "Christ" when speaking of other humans. Maybe we should. Again, it is sometimes helpful to challenge our images.

 

In Christ,

Joseph

 

Is this "in Jesus" or in something else? :D

 

Regards,

billmc

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Guest billmc

I wasn’t able to modify my prior post, Joseph, but I wanted to say that, yes, I agree with you that musings such as mine are just an opinion and may or may not be helpful to others. I’m certainly not saying, “I’ve finally got this all figured out and now everyone needs to think like I do about this.”

 

Christianity, even Progressive Christianity, is very diverse, as diverse as the people who find it a meaningful way to experience their relationship with God or with the divine. So my musings are simply a way to say, “Here is another way to think about or experience this, a way which some of the Christian scriptures lend credence to, a way which might help others to get over some of the hurdles erected by historical theology. This is “a” way, not “the” way.

 

Thanks for giving me the opportunity for further explanation. I’ve certainly not put any of this into a framework of systematic theology. I am merely and metaphorically just turning the diamond of the Christian faith in my hand to gaze at it through another facet. It helps me. Your mileage may vary. :)

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Thanks Bill for the detailed response. I didn't really expect a detail response as i was just sharing my own view of the question and not really looking for agreement or analysis.

 

Since you ask, In answer to your question ...

 

The word "Christ" simply means "annointed one", the Greek translation of "messiah". To use the word to describe people who are annointed by God, yes, I would agree with you. But my sense is that you mean something more by it and I'm not sure what that "more" is. Perhaps you could share it with me? smile.gif

 

But, historically speaking, Christianity considers Christ to be synonymous with Jesus of Nazareth. So because I often speak Christianese, I don't often use the word "Christ" when speaking of other humans. Maybe we should. Again, it is sometimes helpful to challenge our images.

 

In my view, Christ is a title and though it is translated as "anointed one" it is applicable to anyone who is in that anointing. It is used my me with the understanding of the word "anointed" being as the Greek implication 'to be pressed together with God' or more simply as being made one in God. God in my view, not being a person nor Christ limited to a single human. My words are limited and not meant to mean any more, they only point to that which i experience in myself and recognize in others.

 

Is this "in Jesus" or in something else? biggrin.gif

 

Whatever you want it to be is okay with me. biggrin.gif

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PS Bill,

 

Sorry, I missed your post of 9:35 AM as I was slow to post my response to your post above that one. Neither was I analysing the "musings" you refer to by my first response nor agreeing or disagreeing. I was just sharing my personal view to the initial topic question you posed and not disecting your own view or passing any judgment on them other than to say "Nice post Bill".

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Guest billmc

Thanks for the comments, the feedback, and your explanation of Christ, Joseph. I’ve known you long enough to know that you don’t dissect or analyze people’s posts looking for theological correctness or religious orthodoxy, giving them instead freedom to explore. So that’s all I’m doing, exploring.

 

I also appreciate what you said about what some might call universalism, the notion that all will at some point come to an understanding or experience of what we might God or the divine. I lean towards that hope myself while readily admitting that I don’t know how or when it will be accomplished.

 

All I wanted to add to that is that while we might agree on the destination, our journeys are different. And things that might impede my journey do not affect yours, and vice versa. For me, certain images of God, both from the scriptures and from traditional Christianity can sometimes be stumbling blocks on my journey. Sometimes I can ignore them. Sometimes I can easily move them. Sometimes I have to go around them. And sometimes they force me to find another path on the journey. The destinations may be the same, but journeys can either be easy, difficult, or, most often, a combination of both along the way.

 

So all I’m doing here is thinking aloud about a couple of my own stumbling blocks and how I might turn them into stepping-stones. :)

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Bill, I appreciate your mindfulness in the Christian tradition, we all benefit from your musings and explorations. The heart of your musings cannot really be defined or confined by any system of thought. It lives in the here and now in the mind of anyone who takes it to heart. I would say it is the joy of Christian Zen.

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I just bought Marcus Borg's book The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith. I acknowledge this doesn't track this particular topic exactly, but it has some similarities. I believe the concept of Panentheism is a potentially relevant link to the original topic of this thread.

 

Marcus Borg

The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

Readers review:

 

1. Most of us as Christians were taught about a supernatural being out there who created the world a long time ago and sometimes intervened - especially during biblical times. After death we might be with Him if we were good on earth and believed the right things.

Instead of believing in a supernatural being out there, Borg suggests we will find it more satisfying to be in relationship with a sacred reality right here. God is not the sum total of things. God is more than everything. He is all around us and within us and we are within God.

The Christian life is not about beliefs and requirements. It is not about believing in a God out there for the sake of an afterlife later. The Christian life is about entering into a relationship with God as known in Jesus Christ. This is the God who is out there but also right here. This God is real and is the God we never knew. A relationship with this God will prove to be a life-changing experience.

 

2. This is definitely a must-read book for open-minded people who have been brought up in the traditional Protestant Church setting. I for one, grew up that way and have been either a member of or have attended just about every denomination of Christian church at sometime in my life. This was because I was on a quest; a quest to find a Christian church that I, a strong follower and avid reader of the natural sciences could feel comfortable attending. It was in vain however, because of all my doubts, questions and alternate points of view to what the churches were traditionally teaching. Reading Borg's book was like looking into the mirror of my own life and my religious quest. We followed a very similar path (until he went to seminary). His 'new' view of God and of Jesus is revitalizing, unless you happen to be a Christian fundamentalist. In which case, you will probably find the book quite disturbing and perhaps even bordering on what you would consider sacrilege. However for the many 'liberal' Christians out there like me, Borg is a writer who is able to explain why we have the questions, the doubts and disbeliefs; from whence they originate and how we got ourselves into the 'dying faith' situation that many of us in main-line churches are now experiencing. With a vast amount of study and Bible scholarship at his command, Prof. Borg arrives at a very credible view of God and a faith 'system' that makes belief in God and the 'Christ' a real possibility for the 21st century faith seeker.

 

Chapter 2: Why Panentheism?

 

Panentheism as a root concept for thinking about God is a broad umbrella.... Within it I include all concepts of the sacred that strongly affirm both the transcendence and immanence of God. It is what John Macquarrie calls “dialectical theism”: the affirmation of two apparent opposites, God as 'beyond' and God as “right here.' God is more than the world.... Yet God is present in the world....

 

"Panentheism is unfamiliar to many Christians, so deeply entrenched is supernatural theism. When they do hear of it, some welcome it enthusiastically because it makes sense and fits their own experience....

 

"When I first ran into this way of conceptualizing God in modern thinkers like Tillich and Robinson, it seemed to me like a way of trying to evade the intellectual difficulties posed by thinking of God as a being 'out there'.. But I now see this as one of the virtues of panentheism: it does genuinely resolve much of the intellectual difficulty posed by supernatural theism. For the most part, modern skepticism and atheism are a rejection of

supernatural theism....

 

Borg explains the key difference between pantheism and panentheism in this way:

 

Pantheism lacks the extra syllable en, which makes all the difference. Pantheism (without the en) identifies the universe with God: God and the universe are coextensive (literally, "everything is God"). Pantheism affirms only God's immanence and essentially denies God's transcendence; though the sacred is present in everything, it is not more than everything. But panentheism affirms both transcendence (God's otherness or moreness) and immanence (God's presence). God is not to be identified with the sum total of things. Rather, God is more than everything, even as God is present everywhere. God is all around us and within us, and we are within God

 

Panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (theós) "God"; "all-in-God") is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well. Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe.[1]

 

Briefly put, in pantheism, "God is the whole"; in panentheism, "The whole is in God." This means that the Universe in the first formulation is practically the Whole itself, but in the second the universe and God are not ontologically equivalent. In panentheism, God is not necessarily viewed as the creator or demiurge, but the eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God. The cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God.

 

Pantheism is the view that the Universe (Nature) and God are identical,[1] or that the Universe (including Nature on Earth) is the only thing deserving the deepest kind of reverence. The word derives from the Ancient Greek: πᾶν (pan) meaning "All" and θεός (theos) meaning "God" - literally "All is God." As such Pantheism promotes the idea that God is better understood as a way of relating to nature and the Universe as a whole - all that was, is and shall be - rather than as a transcendent, mental, personal or creator entity.[2] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. Although there are divergences within Pantheism, the central ideas found in almost all versions are the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity and the "sacredness" of Nature.

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... I find the image of Jesus as God quite appealing.

 

If it is true, as many conservative Christians insist, that Jesus is God, then doesn't it also stand to reason that God is just like Jesus? Would this change how we see God? ...

I would argue that that is the main argument of the gospels. And, this is precisely the point of trinitarian theology. In more recent theology, from what I understand, the metaphor of Jesus as "icon" through which we view God has become quite popular.
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