Saturday, July 09, 2005

The 'Big Picture' series - 7: Christ

It is with great trepidation that I dare try to summarise the relevance of Christ to our faith. Christ is, of course, the central figure around which “Christianity” finds ground, so please view these thoughts only as food for thought and discussion, not as definitive truth. In saying that, what I write here are the conclusions I currently have based on my incomplete knowledge, and I will present them as such. As always, my rule is this: I only accept ideas that help me to love God and love others more, and thus become more like Christ. I encourage others to adopt the same policy when it comes to what I write here. Take the good, leave what is unhelpful.

Who He was

As many will quickly say, Christ was both “fully God” and “fully human” - but how? Well, firstly, there is the virgin birth. One might say that this made Christ’s very DNA somehow far better than our own – perfect, even. Yet, I doubt Christ was different in any biological way to “normal” people, I think He was quite biologically normal. Christ was a person just as we are people. He saw through human eyes, felt through human skin, and heard through human ears. I am not sure He experienced the world or even spiritual things any differently to the way in which you and I are capable of, for I believe part of being human is how our humanity limits us. I think the virgin birth accomplished something different – in that it showed from the outset that Jesus was the Messiah – the Son of God.

So then we are faced with a dilemma; how can a “normal” human be “fully God”? I believe we as humans are created like God, with a mind. We think, and in this we become more than mere anatomy. I will call this part of us that is beyond our physical bodies our spirit, but do not think of ghosts and apparitions – think of your self – who you are besides your flesh and bones. Just as our physical bodies grow and have different appearances, our spirits also grow and differ in character. “God is spirit”, wrote the apostle John. So, I suggest that biologically, Christ was exactly like a normal human, but spiritually, He was exactly like God.

The word “like” I have used is very important. I do not think God Himself meta-physically come down from Heaven to reside in Christ. It seems absurd that Christ would pray to God if He was God in the most literal sense possible. Instead, I think Christ had the complete and perfect Spirit of God. The very thing that makes God the being that He is – His character, nature, or spirit – is the very thing that Christ also had. It is in this sense that Christ was God, in that He embodied the fullness of the Father’s spirit because Christ had a spirit exactly like God’s.

Christ and the Father are still ‘separate beings’, and their ‘spirits’ are still very separate and distinct entities – but because their spirits are exactly like each other they have the same spirit. In this sense they are “one”, and I believe it is in this sense that Christ says that “whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. It is like pouring water from a jug into both a mug and a champagne glass – the two vessels are very separate, as is the water they contain, but both contain the same water. “Same” means identical in every way.

Mountains of literature have been written on the subject of who Jesus was, but for me it is as simple as I have outlined above. One could spend a lifetime getting to know what the spirit of God is like, but that is a different and entirely more challenging matter.

What He achieved

I know I will fail to write here the full scope of what Christ did, or even how He achieved it. Nevertheless, I will try to describe some of what Christ achieved in the “big picture” I have tried to describe so far. There are three typical categories that this topic is often broken into, His life, death and resurrection. It helps me organise my thoughts again to follow these categories, although I believe such a distinction exists only for this purpose.

Life

Most of the time of Jesus’ ministry was before His crucifixion and resurrection, so I dare say His life is very important. The purpose of Christ’s coming was to free the unrighteous from their destructive ways, and save the poor and the oppressed from the unfairness inflicted on them by the unrighteous. He advocated not a new set of rules, but a condition of heart.

I think there were three main emphases that Jesus had,

1) Our motivation – that should be Godly ambition (forsaking selfishness, the desires for wealth, power, and glory, and instead living for God.)

2) The character such motivation brings – that should be personal righteousness (having Godly character of being morally virtuous)

3) The result of these two – that should be social fairness (caring and loving others as God would wish)

He revealed our motivations in life should not be selfish, but rather to please God. Christ demonstrated, described, taught, and led people in Godly ambition. Ultimately, living selflessly is far more rewarding, fulfilling and pleasing than living selfishly and desiring wealth, power and glory. Jesus taught people so that they would not only see His Godly actions, but they would understand the reasons for the actions – the heart behind the acts. Without this understanding, the Christian way of life becomes nothing more that a fa├žade, a legalistic act played by hypocrites. If Christ’s person was like our light, His teachings are like a map of path He travelled and destination He headed for. Indeed, His teachings are often held in higher regard than his life – but we must remember the teachings were so that we can follow in His footsteps in the way we live.

Clearly, Jesus was an example for people, and He clearly showed the Godly character that comes from Godly motivation. Into a world lost in moral darkness, which had forgotten much of true virtue, Jesus was the light that demonstrated how to live. Not merely the light, but the first flame which lit the hearts of those who followed Him to illuminate more people. Those who follow Jesus, I believe, discover its truth through more than mere teaching – they live it and experience it for themselves. If not for the life of Jesus, the world would have remained in moral darkness – blindly bringing its own destruction. Christ showed what being devoted to God looked like, to a generation that had largely forgotten. Furthermore, in Christ we see that it is entirely possible for a human to live a righteous life, for remember He was entirely human complete with our limitations. Christ suffered all the temptations we do because of his humanity, but He did not sin because He had only a Godly Spirit.

So, Christ freed people from their moral bankruptcy by these external exemplary and educational means, which that don’t directly affect people. Yet, He also freed people more directly by involving himself in their lives and them in his life, and coming inside their lives. Christ’s life was significant in His interpersonal relationships with others. Out of His motivation and Godly character, Jesus worked toward social fairness and healing the wounds of sin. Jesus loved others not simply to set an example, but because He actually cared for those people – if He didn’t, his actions would be hypocrisy. He loved the sick, the lowly, the broken, the oppressed, the hungry and the poor. Jesus stood up for those who didn’t have a voice, and demanded fairness instead of corruption. He went into the kingdom of darkness and walked people out of it.

Christ loved others even when He had nothing to gain by it; on the contrary, it brought him trouble. Not only His teachings but His actions prompted a considerable commotion throughout his life. If Christ had not lived in this way, what would have been so great about Jesus? He would have been just another philosopher, another man with his mind in the clouds of moral idealism but chained to selfish human vice. But this man loved others! And that loving heart was far weightier than His philosophy, wisdom, teaching, or example.

God is love, and Christ loved. In this way, Christ revealed God. In Christ, we see how God would be if He were one of us. This then is another aspect of Christ’s life, in that Christ was clear window into the heart of the Father. In Christ, we can see that the Father is a loving, kind, merciful and fair God – a God worthy of our devotion and love. But how can we be sure Christ did indeed reflect God’s heart, and that God wasn’t like something else entirely? The healings and miracles that accompanied Jesus’ life and work are clear signs that God and Christ were united in Spirit, and that the heart of Christ is the same as the heart of God.

During His life, Christ established the church. The organisation He demonstrated, one of discipleship of a few close people and teaching of many, has proven effective to this day.

Lastly, consider the state world would be in if Christ had not come and done all this, most of the foundational principles and values of our society and legal system would not exist. Modern society has been hugely influenced by Christianity, and I would hate to think what it would have been like without Christ’s life to remind the world of those values and principles of Godly living. In a very real sense, Christ has saved the modern world. As a follower of Christ, I would not know how to live in a Godly way if Christ had not lived 2000 years ago, and His legacy had not reached me. Because of His life, I have inherited His way of life.

Death

If Christ’s life showed His love, His death showed what that love cost Him.

Before I go further, let me state clearly that I do not believe in what is known as the “satisfactory” idea of atonement. In my opinion, no cosmic transaction occurred on the cross, and to suggest that the cross was the means by which God provided “salvation” and the “forgiveness of sins” is in my opinion to misunderstand the nature of both. For me, attaching some all-mystical atonement theology to His crucifixion detracts from the pure humanity of Jesus on the cross. It is His humanity that was exemplified on the cross, in stark definition with His divine character. I refer you to my post on the satisfactory atonement idea for more comprehensive discussion.

So if the cross did not achieve “satisfactory atonement for our sins”, what did it achieve?

The cross showed us the depth of Christ’s love, and therefore God’s love for us. He was deliberately put to death by sinful people of the day who didn’t like Him, and He willingly died. Jesus clearly knew his teaching and actions would lead them to kill him, but this did not stop him. He was a voice of the oppressed, knowing such voices are silenced. He spoke out against unfairness knowing that the corrupt people in power would eventually put an end to it. To avoid being executed, He would have had to stop loving people as He had. If He had stopped, his teaching would have been hollow and his life an act. Yet by dying, He proved his selfless love, that doing what is right was more important than His own life. The cross shows us the depth of Christ’s care for others by the price that He was willing to pay for it.

So, the Cross proved Jesus was not merely manipulating people for His own gain, but that He genuinely loved them. Christ truly gave his life for others to save them during his time on earth, at the cost of his own life. He showed the true value of living a righteous and holy life of love, kindness, and service knowing that it would cost Him His life, so that we might live. Christ gave his life for other people during his entire life, not just at the cross. Greater love has no one but to give one’s life for others – every day of it. Jesus didn’t merely die for us; He lived for us, and that cost Him his life. His death is therefore part of His life and not the all-important reason for His existence on earth, for His death would have meant nothing if it were not for his life.

I don’t think there is anything particularly special in the fact that Jesus died. If He was fully human, one would expect Him to die sometime. Indeed, His death proved His humanity. I also do not think the way in which He was executed was nearly as important as the fact that He was executed publicly. The publicity of the cross was to only add fuel to propel the Gospel far and wide. So Christ’s dead on the cross served to send message of love and hope to others for generations, and spread from Himself to others.

His death was very significant politically. Here was the Christ dying at the hands of the very empire the Jews thought He had come to conquer and set them free from. If there was any definitive answer regarding God’s views on political upheaval, this was it, and it was certainly not what the Jews were hoping for. Indeed, His death was his final strong statement against the political uprising that the Jews were hoping for. Instead of Jesus being victorious over the Roman Empire, the Empire was victorious in accomplishing the great injustice of killing an innocent man. His execution showed the wicked hearts of people for all to see. It says much about the wickedness of people that we would kill the very Spirit of the God who created us. His crucifixion made manifest the sinfulness of people.

There is something to be said for His death being analogous to the Hebrew sacrifices, though I am not sure what. The blood of sacrifices would be made to seal a covenant, or agreement, between parties. And this analogy seems to be used occasionally in the New Testament. It is into this covenant that we enter when we follow Christ and become like Him – also loving others at own cost. In those days, a king might go and give himself over to an attacking army to be killed so that the people of His kingdom would be spared their lives. Such a king would have been referred to in similar ways to how Jesus is referred to as “giving His life for us”, and being a “propriatory sacrifice”. So, if Christ had not died then we would die because of sin, thus He died for us. Indeed, if not for the events of the Cross, Christianity and its teachings may never have changed the lives of the disciples, let alone us in the 21st century.

I must also mention His crucifixion fulfilled prophesies in the Old Testament, and confirmed that He was indeed the Messiah.

On the cross, evil won. It showed that being righteous comes at a high price in a fallen world. Jesus was, indeed, cursed on the cross – but cursed by the people who put Him to death, not by God. If God had intervened, He would have quite falsely portrayed that there is no price to pay for righteousness and people needn’t stand for it because God can fix things. By intervening, God would have destroyed the very reality He was trying to teach people about through Jesus. I believe God mourned for Jesus’ on the cross, but knew it would be better not to intervene. Jesus died, and not surprisingly the hope and faith of the disciples died with Him, but fortunately it is not the end of the story…

Resurrection – to impact the disciples, and give hope for our faith

If all that people got for living righteously and being devoted to God was death, then Christianity would be a farce. Why would anyone follow such teaching, if it only leads to death for all who followed it? The resurrection of Jesus proves that the life He lived was worth infinitely more than what it cost Him. Likewise, for us, if we imitate Christ in how we live we know we will have God’s favour and He will give us life after death. Thus, Jesus’ resurrection offers us the great hope of this wonderful reward for living a Godly life. Note, however, that this should not be our motivation for righteousness, for our motivation should be one of love for God and others, rather than selfishness.

In raising Christ from the dead, God demonstrated that evil does not prevail over God, but rather that God’s goodness triumphs over sin. The resurrection is the ultimately victory of God and Godliness. Death was the worst the sinful world could throw at Jesus, but it was nothing compared to God’s power to resurrect Him. Christ gained a reward far greater than death in return for how He lived.

Of course, the apostles would never have started the church if not for the resurrected. They had lost hope and devotion, but these were restored when Jesus re-appeared to them. So powerful was the resurrection to the apostles that they gave their lives for the message Jesus had taught and the way of life He led, and thus each did a similar thing to what Jesus himself did. The same is true of Christians throughout the ages, for it is His resurrection that proves those who follow Him will also be resurrected to eternal life.

His resurrection was also strong proof that what He said was true and Godly, and indeed further evidenced his Messianic position. Of course, for resurrection to occur, Christ had to die – so this provides another reason for his death. Furthermore, because of the public nature of His death, news of His resurrection was quickly spread. Most of 500 or more people He appeared to after He came back to life would have seen or heard of His death, and therefore these people would have likely formed the early church relatively quickly.

His teachings always had in mind the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, but none could really understand it until His resurrection tangibly demonstrated it to them. Rather than an earthy reward, the reward for the righteous is everlasting.

Summary

Christ is the founder of the church, and the leader of our faith. He is the perfect example of a person like us who has Godly ambitions, righteous character like God’s, and who seeks to put right the wrongs in the world. He has indeed saved us from an empty life of pursuing wealth, power, and fame – that ultimately do not bring fulfilment. By following Him, we become like Him, and by being like Him we too can eagerly hope for resurrection to eternal life.

Jesus was devoted to God, and loved Him and others. He loved others, despite the cost – to bring liberation, restoration, healing and help to those who needed it. He led others to do the same by being an example and giving them motivation, revolutionary moral teaching and the organisation to continue to grow the Church. Finally, He showed the reward of Godliness, eternal life.


24 comments:

The Knowledge Sensor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Knowledge Sensor said...

Much is written in your blog. Obviously, much thought has gone into it. Eight pages of word document is substantial for one post.

There are some issues to raise:

1) Christ had to be human.

If Christ had not been fully human, with human frailties, humans would have been less able to relate to him.

His very humanness allowed humanity to see what a spirit led human could achieve.

God appearing as a God have achieved human awe, but humans would not have made the intellectual step to believe it was an example they could follow and live by (We are only made in the image of God after all).

2) Christ was God incarnate.

You state that God did not meta-physically come down from Heaven to reside in Christ.

I disagree. God, as Christ, came to earth and suffered as a human. He didn't have to, and he didn't lose any spiritual power by becoming human. The trinity etc.

3) Christ's primary gift to the world was removal of our sins, not an example of how to live our lives.

You state Christ's significence to this world was the way he lived. Yet, God gave us his own word's thousands of years before which fulfilled that purpose.

Nay, I argue his gift was was his death and resurrection.

True, by living, Christ demonstrated it was possible to live a perfect life, and showed the power inherant in living that life. This was sometihng the Old Testament had not shown in vivid graphic colour.

But his primary purpose in life was to show agape love? What about a mother's love? Is that love any less worthy?

No, Christ's enduring gift to humanity was not simply to show how to live. It was to show that the sins we all commit due to our humanity does not prevent us from one day being reunited with our maker and creator as such sin should.

4) The church is a Holy Spirit powered, human based organisation.

Christ did not establish his church during his life. Christ laid the foundations, but church is humanity impelled.

Techincally, the church was established by the Holy Spirit though the 11 disciples at Pentecost, 50 days after the ascentation.

In practice, the church is maintained by spiritual belief, not simply the actions of a man on a cross in the year 29 AD.

5) Christ has not saved the modern world.

Christ has simply shown those who wish to listen the way to cope with and pass though this 'modern world'. We are 'in the world, not of it'.

6) Christ's death was an atonment for sins past, present, and future.

I shall have to review your post on antonement, but the statements in this post concern me.

If Christ didn't take the sins of the world on himself that day, if God didn't look away from his son for the first and only time in history, and if the ressurection wasn't proof of victory over sin and death, then did Christ simply suffer to show humanity how to die painfully for NO ETERNAL REASON?

7) The cross was essential, although not as a crossed piece of wood or simply as a symbol.

Your comment on the non-necessity of the cross concerns me. You seriously are stating that God decided that he'd send his son to die publically by his own creations simply to make a public statement to spread the word of God far and wide?

8) The eternal lamb as eternal atonement issue.

The belief of Christ being the last and holiest lamb on the altar to prevent need for further blood sacrafices because Christ paid for all sins that day is not one you believe in?

9) The cross and who won what, when and how.

You state on the cross, evil won.
It depends on your timeline. Looking at history, sins for over 4000 years and for the rest of eternity were wiped out over less than 72 hours.

In the broader scheme of things, how did evil win at that time in history? Death and sin conqoured for all eternity, the war won, but evil won because it won one battle?

The resurrection of Jesus proves that sin cannot conquor good. It proves that the pot cannot conqour the potter. It proves that there is hope for humanity despite the stresses the world puts on us!

Due to pressing engagements, I have not given this issue the full discussion it deserves.

But, there will come a time . . .

incognito said...

Thanks for your comment(s). The two seemed identical so I removed the first one, hope that's OK.

So is there anything you agree with?

I wouldn't be so concerned - most of this is theology that has little bearing on how we know we should live as followers of Christ. To discuss the issues one at a time:

1) I agree.

2) I am familiar with this view, as it is probably held by a majority of Christians. A few points to note.

A look at church history will quickly reveal that just because most Christians believe something is right, it does not mean it is right. Take slavery during the time of Wilberforce, for example - the majority of the population were so called Christians, but saw little wrong with slavery. Look at the corruption present before the Reformation. Look at the heresies of the past in various regions.

I would, however, say that Christ was indeed God incarnate... but that it is in the sense I mentioned. I find all sorts of philosophical difficulties with other views.

3) You state this as if it were a fact written on stone tablets by the hand of God himself, as if it were indisputable. Refer to point 2) above.

You seem to have read only that I said Christ gave us an example. I had thought I had made it clear that He did far more than this, but perhaps I did not. Perhaps I will revise my post to make it clearer.

"Nay, I argue his gift was was his death and resurrection."

So then do you think His life of no significance? Was there no significance in His teachings, His care for the poor, His healing of the sick, His example, His discipling of the apostles who started the church?

4) Certainly, the Holy Spirit is essential to the Church. As for Christ not establishing the church... May I enquire then as to what Christ did for three years discipling the apostles? Perhaps also you could explain Mat 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" which does seem to directly contradict your statement that Christ didn't establish the church. You may also like to check verses like Heb 12:2.

You are correct that the church is maintained by the adherence to Jesus' teachings - I would have thought this would be a good case to suggest He founded it.

5) Entirely not sure of your point here.

6) See #2 above. Your logic does not flow here... I am suggesting Christ did not metaphysically "take on the sins of the world" but that His resurrection was indeed a victory over sin and death.

It makes God's mercy far more apparent to me that He would accept me as a repentant sinner EVEN THOUGH I HAVE SINNED... if God works cosmic accounting to make me "pure before His sight", it makes His "mercy" seem like a fraud to me.

7) Again you've missed many of my points and focussed just on one, sorry I didn't make them clearer.

8) Who said God EVER forgave sin by sacrifices? In OT law, it typically says a sacrifice should be made and then "his sins will be forgiven him". Who says God is doing the forgiving rather than the people wronged by the sin? Or who says God is forgiving them because of the sacrifice, rather than because of their repentant heart? There are several verses that state God cares nothing for sacrifices but rather about the condition of our hearts.

That said, sacrifice was indeed part of Jewish culture. Why wouldn't Paul and John have used this powerful cultural parallel to explain what Jesus did? It doesn't necessarily mean it's literal.

9) It depends on your theology.

I understand where you're coming from, I held that view for many years and still understand it. But I have read the NT with both of these views in mind, and drawn my conclusions from what I read, not from popular opinion.

I may be wrong, just as everyone may be wrong.

Knowledge Sensor said...

As I wrote less than 25% of the length of the original post, I must have agreed with some parts of it.

So, in reply to your reply of my reply:

Re: Lack of concern because this is theology that has little bearing on how we know we should live as followers of Christ.

I most certainly disagree. You have raised the basis of Christian belief here. I believe that to state it has little bearing on our life is to state that Christ himself has little base in our lives.

So to follow your logic pathway, what would to point of living be? To live entirely for ourselves, leaving nothing for people to follow of remember us by, while having nothing to look forward to?

Now, onto the points of discussion:

Point 2: Christ is not the Church. The church is Christ working though frail humans.

Humans are fallible as so make mistakes. History records these. People intrepret history as tehy wish.Church history should reveal mistakes, as it is based on humans.

My theology holds the Bible as the Word of God, not as an historical document.

Point 3. Re: You state this as if it were a fact written on stone tablets by the hand of God himself, as if it were indisputable.

Correct.

You dispute what the Bible says on the issue? You know better perhaps? The basis for this?

Point 3 continued. Re: "Nay, I argue his gift was was his death and resurrection." So then do you think His life of no significance?

My statement is that his everlasting gift to humanity was his death and resurrection.

His life provided a salient example to the world on how to live life. But Ghandi and Martin Luther King tried to provide such examples too. No one argues that they had the same effect as a carpenter from Gallilee in the 28 A.D.

So, living a worthy life isn't the basic issue here. (Is there an issue to discuss here ie. Heaven entry by faith vs works?? - A James paraphrase maybe?)

Christ's life alone didn't make the eternal difference. It needed the resurrection.

Point 4. Re: Christ not establishing the church.

Excellent! You refer to Matt 16:18. Does it say 'did build" or "will build"?

Tetiologic I agree, but the Church wasn't established until Pentecost if you follow the timeline. Prior to that it was foundation only.

You stated in your initial blog, without the ressurection there would be no church. So, how can you argue now that Christ established the church during his life?

Point 5. Re: Not understanding my point.

You stated that Christ has saved the modern world. I disagreed because the modern world is still destined for destruction and humans are destined for hell without salvation.

Therein lay my point.

Point 6 re: your claim that Christ did not metaphysically "take on the sins of the world".

I am aware of what you said in your inital blog. I disgree with you on this point.

God cannot look upon sin. Without the "metaphysical matter" God couldn't look at us to offer mercy. Sin is against God. Someone had to take our place otherwise hell would be the only option for us all.

Re: Point 8.

Your statements regarding God caring not for sacrifices but rather about the condition of our hearts appear valid.

Point 9 and Re: It depends on your theology.

So at a the basic level of Christian faith, you feel it is OK to accept markedly different viewpoints?

At what level does an 'OK to differ" stance result in a different religion if not entirely different faith?

Is Christainity still founded on bedrock or have the sands of time swept in and eroded?

Can Christians afford to just 'go with the flow'? If they do and the resulting flow is only luke-warm, God states what happens to the flow.

If not this foundational issue, what teaching of Christ is worth becoming a tiger's dinner in order to defend?

Summary points:

Your underlying theology appears to be taking on debating Christ's words and the eternal purpose of his life on earth.

Although the Bible needs only it's contents to settle questions you appear to have, at the end of all things, Christianity is faith based. We all choose to believe or not to.

I argue that it is impossible to reject Christ's purpose in living, dying, and resurrection, without rejecting Christ himself.

A Christian (Christ-like) accepts Christ's words not because they have to, but because if they don't agree with them they are, by definition, not Christian, and have formed their own personal religion.

On that note . . . . . . . . . .

incognito said...

Brother,

Re: "So at a the basic level of Christian faith, you feel it is OK to accept markedly different viewpoints?

Well, yes, I suppose I do. You have quite correctly pointed out that I disagree with the majority opinion which you appear to hold, and that was indeed my point. I am glad you have spotted my opinion is different.

I don't expect you to understand or believe my point of view - I wouldn't if I were you. Yet we do, in fact, have much in common. We love God, and love others - the two great commandments. Jesus is at the centre the faith of us both. His teachings we no doubt agree upon. I suspect we agree on what we should do as followers of Christ in relation to each other and to the world.

In light of what I think would be mostly our agreement in these large areas, I hope that the seeminly large differences of opinion we have expressed here are not quite as big as our common faith.

Under it all, I am deeply devoted to God. This love, loyalty and comittment to our creator, and in turn other people, I believe, is the foundation of my faith. My devotion to God is not based on a "belief in what Christ accomplished on the Cross", but it is a matter of choice. I have choosen to be devoted to God. As a result, I am doing my best to know Him and His ways to the best of my ability, and to obey and follow Him as faithfully as I can. Whatever I think about these things, I will still be devoted to God.

That is my faith, what is yours?

Michelle said...

I'll just insert this in the middle to break up the flow, sorry.

I thought it was a good post, Reuben. Your big Picture series is really helpful.. i'm liking them =)

Knowledge Sensor said...

It is said "Mind sharpens mind, like stone sharpens stone."

You don't appear impressed at the prospect of mind shapening.

In reply to your post:

Re: "Different opinions at the basis of Christian faith being O.K."

You will have gathered that my opinion differs from yours in this matter.

As per my last post, there are some basic core tenants of Christianity on which it is based. I do not believe Christianity is Christianity without these basic tenants.

Furthermore, although being a beaver and gnawing at these basic tenants will not result in collapse of Chistianity, I fear not only will your teeth get very sore, but you will become disheartened at being unable to gnaw though iron and steel.

Re: I am glad you have noted that my opinion is different.

I'm not enthused by this varience of opinion. I think one of the opinions outlined appear incorrect.

Re: I don't expect you to understand or believe my point of view - I wouldn't if I were you.

If so, why do you believe it?

Re: Yet we do, in fact, have much in common. We love God, and love others - the two great commandments.

So do the Muslims and the Jews. Those commonalities do not make Christianity.

Re: Jesus teachings we no doubt agree upon.

The words of a sage alone does not save the world.

Re: We agree on what we should do as followers of Christ in relation to each other and to the world.

Heaven and Earth will pass away. Eternity is a long time.

It the end of all things, eternity and who is with us from this world is what living on this earth is all about. And THAT is dependent on the ressurection, not an example of life.

Re: What we have expressed here are not quite as big as our common faith.

We are debating BASIC BELIEFS of Christianity. How much bigger does it get?

RE: I am deeply devoted to God; I have choosen to be devoted to God.

So are Muslims and Jews. Isn't the defining feature of Christianity Jesus and the fact he took our sins onto himself so God incarnate can look at us as the flawed humans we are without seeing out sins?

Re: Love, loyalty and comittment to our creator, and to other people, is the foundation of my faith.

My faith foundation is that Jesus died not only for my sins but also the sinners around me on this earth. My actions on this earth therefore stem from that basis.

Re: That is my faith, what is yours?

WELL, since you asked. . .

My faith is based on Jesus and the saving power of his ressurection, not on God devotion.

The Jews state they are devoted to God to this day. Gentiles were chosen to establish his church.

Much of the world believes in 'God', but less that 10% believe in the saving power of Jesus's resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

So, for me, the definiton of being a Christian as opposed to being religious is based on what differentiates Christianity from world religions.

That difference is the resurrection of Christ and the resulting freedom from the chains of sin.

So, in summary,

Are you stating that your religion is God based, not Jesus based?

What about "No one will come to the father but by me; I am the Way the Truth, and the Life etc"?

How does the resurrection, baptisim, and the Holy Spirit fit into a God focused theology?


Well, I shall have to r/v the rest of this series and discuss at another time.

The fun that awaits. . . . .

incognito said...

I'll respond to:

"Re: I don't expect you to understand or believe my point of view - I wouldn't if I were you.

If so, why do you believe it?"


and also:

"My faith foundation is that Jesus died not only for my sins but also the sinners around me on this earth."

at the same time.

Your faith is indeed founded on what you stated, as was mine. However, after studying the Bible a bit, I began to wonder if I was approaching it from an angle quite different to what the writers of the NT would have.

So, I have spent the last 3 years studying the Bible, and considering verses from several angles. With the help of Bible software, I go back to the original Greek, sometimes spending hours on only one or two verses until I'm sure I understand the possible meanings.

After reading through the majority of the NT like this, there was such a weight of evidence that I could not ignore it. What it pointed to was a wholly different paradigm of understanding the NT.

The revelation of this new paradigm did indeed shatter what was then the foundation of my faith, and I was left without foundation. Yet, this was essential for me to rebuild a new foundation based on what I had read and the new paradigm I had seen.

The new foundation of my faith that I formed is without doubt better than my old one. This is the reason I hold it, and why I am entirely unconcerned by your conviction of your beliefs - because I have held them myself and used to be equally as sure as you. It is also why I don't expect you to understand or hold my view - because 1) you'd have to forsake the foundation of your faith, something I found very difficult and very dangerous. 2) Unless you have years of Bible study on this new paradigm with which to build a new foundation of your faith, you won't be able to. None of the explaining I can give will be able to explain this foundation - you have to build it yourself through a lot of Bible study. I would have disagreed with what I now believe without doing the Bible study I have done.

That's all I have time to write at the moment...

Scott said...

As always Reuben, you write with literary skill and genuineness. I appreciated your hesitancy in talking about the center of the Christian faith, and also your transperancy about your underlying assumptions and rules.
I also appreciated the description of Jesus' humanness.

One question I have on your summary of Jesus' main emphases is... where does the idea of the Kingdom of God feature? You speak of Jesus telling us to 'live for God', live moral and socially responsible lives. But Jesus primarily talked of God's Kingdom; the glad subjection of all things under their creator and King.

Similarly, I am disturbed by the statement: "I don’t think there is anything particularly special in the fact that Jesus died."
You say that by the cross, Jesus was showing the depths of his love. But to make an analogy; how would me throwing myself in front of a bus, show that I love my family? In other words, if the cross didn't achieve anything (i.e. turn aside the wrath of God, reveal God's glory, triumph over evil) then how is it a loving act? It is a strange kind of sentimentality that settles for such a view of the cross.

One last consideration.
I personally believe that the ultimate 'end' for which we were created is to enjoy God. Enjoy him by beholding his perfections, his moral excellency, beauty, sovereignty, his redemptive love - in the face of Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose for our existence is to be infinitely satisfied in God alone. That is what I think it means to 'love' God, i.e. to love him as the most valuable treasure.

From my perspective, there is a dilemma in view of the Christian life which has emerged in these posts. It seems like your view of 'love' towards God is merely a selfless striving to be a better person. Jesus came to show us how to serve and work and be better people, because it is a virtuous thing to do our duty as Christians. It is basically a Kantian view of virtue and morality. This is seen clearly in what you said about the hope of the ressurection.

"Thus, Jesus’ resurrection offers us the great hope of this wonderful reward for living a Godly life [life after death]. Note, however, that this should not be our motivation for righteousness, for our motivation should be one of love for God and others, rather than selfishness."

Here love towards God doesn't mean loving him as a Treasure, but of selfless and disinterested service.

But I would say that the reward of living for Christ should be the main motivation. Because the reward is Christ. We live for Christ, i.e. to gain Christ, to enjoy him as the satisfier of our souls. Jesus talked often of reward. Why then do you paint the Christian life as a Kantian path of virtue and disinterest towards fulfillment and satisfaction in God??

Knowledge Sensor said...

Incognito,

So, you have found much intricate truth from detailed study of the scriptures and their meanings in Greek.

So, you're a clever guy, but don't let that result in you losing the wood for the trees.

The intellectuals of AD 29 were looking for the hidden meanings in Christ too. That ended in Christ's death.

Intelligence and reading too much is usually a hurdle to belief, not a light in the darkness to jewels.

The message of salvation, which is all Christianity is, is not complicated. Fishermen taught it initially. Why should it need more intellect to understand now?

Yet, humans continually choose to consider the Bible has hidden meanings which if understood will suddenly make so much difference.

Apply the KISS principle to most aspects of life. "Keep It Simple and Stupid". It saves hastles, time, and lives in the long term.

Brainpower is often a hurdle to spiritual understanding. Do you use all your brain at work? At play? While sleeping? Listening to music?

Why should spiritual matters need more brain power than the rest of life?

In summary:

Attempts to overcomplicate issues in the work enviroment usually results in unnecessary headaches.

I would contend that the same is true in spiritual matters.

Basing a theology on jewels of wisdom gleaned from 3 years of reading Greek rather than the broad strokes of Christ's message to the world strikes me as risky in the long term.

It could be likened to peering at a twig on the forest floor while missing a falling tree trunk from above. . . . .


Incidentally, I am not arguing about most of the statements in your inital blog.

I simply feel the basis for those reasonings is such that it merits some attention.

Other aspects of life call me now . . . . .

incognito said...

RE: "Basing a theology on jewels of wisdom gleaned from 3 years of reading Greek rather than the broad strokes of Christ's message to the world strikes me as risky in the long term."

Umm... spot the title of this post series... "the big picture" =) Guess what I'm trying to do... I completely agree with what you said about keeping things simple. I believe my current idea of the Gospel is far simpler and easier to understand that my old idea. The new one makes must more sense. It seems obvious, not hidden.

I am concerned you think I have been just nit-picking and creating ad-hoc theology. In fact, I take a very broad-picture view when I read Scripture. I think, how does this piece fit with the whole? It's like a jigsaw puzzle... Each piece has a place, but you only know where to try and put it if you know what the whole picture should look like. In this way, the little pieces all coalesce to form a coherent whole, rather than being a jumbled mess. Then, to explain the jigsaw to someone, you can just describe the picture - without detailing how each piece fits in. However, if they want to know, they can always ask.

All that said, I would hate to give the impression that I have all the pieces in the right place - by no means. But at least I think I have an idea of the bigger picture.

How do I know it's the right picture, then? Well, when lots of little pieces all seem to fit into place with it, it's a good sign. It's like knowing when you've got a picture in focus - everything becomes clear and defined and obvious. It just seems so much clearer and more obvious than other ideas. It's still not perfect by any means, but it's much clearer than it was before.

The other thing I am particularly weary of is judging ideas that I don't understand. If a person understands two arguments, he or she can make an educated choice about which argument is better. Without understanding both, it is impossible to say which is better. I believe I understand the common ideas of doctrine and theology, but I also understand my ideas. Understanding both, I choose my ideas because they seem more logical.

If you take time to understand my ideas, and if you still disagree with me, then I will certainly take heed. If however, you criticise me for believing something you don't understand, and tell me all the things I've heard dozens of times before and understand well already, then I hope you'll understand if I don't change my opinions.

Scott said...

Nice reply Reuben.

knowledge sensor, try to be a little more helpful in your commenting. There is nothing wrong with doing thorough work in the original languages of the Bible. Also, if theology is about knowing the infinite God from his self-revelation, then we should expect it to be the most intellectually demanding task in the world.

Knowledge Sensor said...

The above points are noted. Scott, I thought highly of your post.

Is it felt that I am simply being a moccachino regarding the issues raised?

I'm not. And stone sharpens stone . . . . I'm not about to be only a clappachino either.

All people are challenged to defend the basis of their theology eventually.

So, in reply:

RE: "The Big Picture is far simpler and easier to understand . . . It seems obvious, not hidden."

It sounds more complicated than my theology. Do I simply lack sufficient brain capacity. . . .

Re: Being nit-picking and creating ad-hoc theology.

How could three years of Greek study and resulting huge blogs outlining detailed positions result in ANYONE thinking you are creating ad-hoc theology?

[Note the clappachino here.]

I do not doubt through thought depth on the issues, but I wish to clarify what it is based upon. Is it best defendable as heart knowledge and head knowledge?

Hmm, this comment could result in a electronic mauling . . . .

Re: "I think I have an idea of the bigger picture."

You may be right.

[Note more clappachino]

So, convince me why your way is better than a 'Classic Christian Belief'.

Re: I don't expect you to understand or believe my point of view - I wouldn't if I were you.

Christ commands us to spread the Good News to all people. So shouldn't the unearthed pearls of wisdom be forcefully argued in order to convince people like me rather than meekly submitting to 'a differing opinion'?

You have done extensive study. More than most people ever will on the subject. I have questions. Will you answer them for me?

Re: "Knowledge of it being the right picture due to lots of little pieces all seem to fit into place".

Collages can make nice pictures too. . . In fact multiple pictures. Which is the correct picture in that case?

[All right, moccachino here, but with a point I hope.]

Re: "It's still not perfect by any means, but it's much clearer than it was before."

If it didn't make clear cognitive sense, but felt right in your heart, would it be wrong?

This is an honest question.

Re: "If you take time to understand my ideas, and if you still disagree with me, then I will certainly take heed."

What parts of your ideas don't I understand? Why is this? Don't I care enough to ask? Is more explaination indicated?

When would I be deemed to understand the ideas enough to be considered for heeding?

The lesson of Joshua and Israel entering the Promised Land the first time has sprung to mind.

In summary,

I am not trying to cut your arguments to shreds, despite certian appearances. I am searching, as we all are.

I want to know what differences in the basic tenants have been revealed by all your study.

You have stated you have looked at my theology and have found a more correct way. So, in essence, you have stated my theology has been surpassed by yours, in much the same way as the Jews feel about the Christian approach.

If you are further down the correct Pilgrim's path, will you not help a fellow struggling Pilgram to follow you down that same path?

Other issues to consider now. . .

incognito said...

Thanks again for your comments, I find discussing things like this very useful myself. Your comments are more helpful this time.

RE: "If you are further down the correct Pilgrim's path, will you not help a fellow struggling Pilgram to follow you down that same path?"

Well, I guess helping fellow followers of Christ is the ultimate purpose of this entire blog. Unfortunately, helping others is not as easy as you suggest.

If someone comes to a fork in the road (no puns please...), and chooses a certain path. After several miles, they are often very far from the other path. Such a person cannot simply jump from their position to a point on the other path an equal distance from the fork. No, the person must return to the fork and walk down the other path.

This only sounds complicate because you're wondering how it fits in with a whole bunch of things you've been taught. Unfortunately, many popular doctrines don't fit at all - you have to unlearn them to understand my position. That's not an easy task, to let go of some of the foundations of your faith. It's like a monkey swinging from branch to branch, you can't keep hold of the old branch.

The earlier posts in this series should help you to understand how these ideas differ to the "traditional views". If you've not read them then I suggest you do, and it would be great if you could leave comments also about what you liked and what you didn't, or what you didn't understand.

Without understanding the other points, my position on Christ would no doubt seem without grounds.

RE: "If it didn't make clear cognitive sense, but felt right in your heart, would it be wrong?"

"The heart is decietful above all things." If someone feels it is right to kill someone in revenge, does that make it right? If someone feels they are justified to hate their neighbour, does that make it good? God gave us a mind to use... We are told to develop "the mind of Christ". We must at least try and develop a sensible understanding of God, Christ, and Christianty.

Many non-Christians I have explained my ideas are pleasantly surprised to find they actually make sense - they even agree with them. Imagine that, non-Christian people actually understanding and agreeing with the Gospel? The ideas I present make sense in a way the "traditional" ones simply do not.

When I explain my ideas to "traditional" Christians, though, they seem blinded to my views by their own presupposed convictions. Because of this, I have learned it is often fruitless and even harmful to try to explain them to Christians.

I put my ideas forward here for those who want to discuss with open minds these ideas, as I am also open to other people's ideas. That's why I value comments so much, and mind does indeed sharpen mind.

incognito said...

PS:

RE:"When would I be deemed to understand the ideas enough to be considered for heeding?"

Generally, a person can show they understand another's by presenting the other person's ideas accurately. In other words, you could do this by repoducing my logic, reasoning, and thus reaching similar conclusion in your own words. Any misunderstandings can then be more easily cleared up. This is the normal practice of good communication.

Knowledge Sensor said...

Re: I find discussing things like this very useful myself.

That is my intent.

Re: Your comments are more helpful this time.

I can but try. Plus, Scott's comment was accuarate.

Incidentally, I was glad to see your friend defend you. He said what I hope I would have said in his situation.

Re: "Others is not as easy as you suggest".

It is hard to reach someone like I?

Re: Forks and walking.

So, convince me it is worthwhile to retrace my path like you have to have enlightement.

Re: "This only sounds complicated because you're wondering how it fits in with a whole bunch of things you've been taught."

No, it's complicated because my spirit doesn't understand it. And so THAT concerns my brain.

Re: "Earlier posts and being great in leaving comments."

Yes. As per my first reply, there will come a time.

RE: "Re: felt right in your heart, would it be wrong? and "The heart is decietful above all things."

OUTSTANDING reply as I didn't use the correct term initially, so deserved correction.

Good to see you are paying attention tho.

The correct term to use was spirit not heart.

The question in this altered form stands.

Re: "We must at least try and develop a sensible understanding of God, Christ, and Christianty".

Absolutely. Making a start on the journey is far better than never starting at all.

But by the same token, in starting one should then be prepared to be able to explain one's movements on the path to enlightenment.

Re: Non-Christians agreeing with the concepts".

As I have said, Christianity is not rocket science. And everyone is searching for meaning in this world either openly or subconciously.

Re: "The ideas make sense in a way the "traditional" ones simply do not".

Maybe they are just being explained in the right terminology (21st centuary vs AD 28).

Or maybe your ideas strip away the religion from the basic truths for them.

Or perhaps they just sense your knowledge on the topics. ;-)

Re: "Traditional Christians seem blinded to my views by their own presupposed convictions"

How many traditional christians are lukewarm or just religious do you think? Would either of those groups see the issues as clearly as you?

Re: Because of this, I have learned it is often fruitless and even harmful to try to explain them to Christians.

You face the Paul prediciment I see. ie: Why Paul preached to the Gentiles not the Jews.

Reasons of note:

1) God told him to.
2) The Jews wouldn't listen to Christ, let alone his followers.

RE:"Being heeded once am able to
repoduce the logic, reasoning, and so reach similar conclusion".

Such a progression requires the logic and reasoning to be right in the first place.

So, I will have to r/v and ponder that last couple of years blogs on the issue to formulate such porgression and even then I might still disagree. . .

In summary,

You have no idea how much you remind me of myself at your age.

'Age mellows much, [although it may not improve much]'.

incognito said...

Great point on why Paul preached to the Gentiles but not the Jews.

RE: the spirit.

This will be the topic of a future post, not in this series. Could you please define "your spirit" and state exactly what you mean by "doesn't feel right in your spirit"?

Knowledge Sensor said...

RE: "Great point on why Paul preached to the Gentiles but not the Jews."

Reverse clappachino from Incognito!

Unexpected; I had gained the impression that Incognito felt my belief system was outdated, had been superseeded, and the jewels to enlightenment were elsewhere.

On the Paul note, keep in mind it is usually easier to preach to the unconverted. A little knowledge goes further in such cases.

So, which is more difficult: overseas mission work or outreach at home?

Ahh, the cat is dancing with the pigeons now . . . . .


RE: "Define 'spirit' and state what you mean by "doesn't feel right in your spirit"?

In due course. Firstly, the previous question on head vs. spirit knowledge awaits your answer.

To reiterate the question: Is your belief system best defendable by spirit knowledge or head knowledge?

Or more pointedly, some people have a head knowledge based theology. Is this appropriate, or is spirit based theology the only correct way?

Knowledge Sensor said...

Point 1) The relavent question that I meant to reiterate was in fact:

Re: "If a theology felt right in your SPIRIT but didn't make clear cognitive sense, is it wrong?

Point 2) Additional regarding 'the Paul position':

Christ never tried to convince the Sanhedrin in his day either.

Point 3) In regards to the new, albiet somewhat complicated, jewels of wisdom you have gleaned from 3 years of Greek study:

Keep in mind that "God confounds the wise [and gives grace the the humble].

I am NOT implying you are not humble.

It's a semi-clappachino statement!

Although, it does contain the additional caveat regarding new insights based on deep study rather than devine inspirational bolts from above [other than the wooden variety].

incognito said...

Scott,

Sorry, I didn't see your longer comment before...

RE: "where does the idea of the Kingdom of God feature?"

In my post on The Two Kingdoms I tried to outline this a bit. I felt I'd kinda covered it when I said "He went into the kingdom of darkness and walked people out of it [into the Kingdom of God]." I agree that his emphasis was on the Kingdom of God, but I guess I took it for granted and didn't mention it specifically enough here. Thanks for pointing this out.

RE: "I don’t think there is anything particularly special in the fact that Jesus died."

Yeah, it disturbed me when I wrote it too... My point here was that I don't think there was the big cosmic transaction of sin that had to occur during His death. Clearly, the fact that He was Jesus makes His death very special. This was a classic case of me making a strong statement to try and make a point without considering how it could be misinterpreted.

To answer your question about this. I had hoped my post presented my idea only this clearly, but I guess not. I was placing emphasis on what He did that made the people crucify Him. He knew it would make them angry at Him - He knew they were plotting to kill Him, yet He continued.

RE: "It seems like your view of 'love' towards God is merely a selfless striving to be a better person."

Again you raise a good point. It does seem like that. Love, as I observe the Bible talking about it, is not so much a feeling as a choice of action. That said, I believe it's very important to love God in an emotional way - as this is a sign that our hearts are indeed devoted to Him. I do have this emotional love for God.

RE: "the ultimate 'end' for which we were created is to enjoy God."

I'm not entirely sure of the details of this statement. I'll share mine, as it seems quite similar. The meaning of life is to have loving relationships chiefly with God, and secondly with people. This reflects the two great comandments.

RE: Kantian ideas

I researched Kantian ideas briefly to answer this. I would hope my ideas are not Kantian. As followers of Christ, we should be transformed into His likeness so that our for for others is not a legalistic adherence to moral principles - but rather so that we delight in our relationships with the Father, Jeuss, and others... that we do truly love them from our hearts. It is in this sense that I meant "our motivation should be one of love for God and others." Does that clear things up a bit? Do you agree with this?

This heartfelt love and inner transformation is another point I should perhaps have brought out more strongly throughout this series, so thanks for bringing my attention to it.

incognito said...

"Knowledge sensor"... =)

RE: "Firstly, the previous question on head vs. spirit knowledge awaits your answer."

Ahh... no. =) You must first define "spirit" so that I can correctly understand your question, only then can I really answer the question you asked. Otherwise, we'll just get confused. I really don't understand what you mean by it at the moment because people use "spirit" to mean many different things. And while you're at it, perhaps you could contrast "head knowledge" with "spirit" just to clarify.

Knowledge Seeker said...

Incognito ;-),

Think 'the Spirit' needs to be a seperate blog, to allow for later comments and others to find such an important topic.

Plus, who would read these comments if, say, Knowledge Sensor places a eight Word page blog in a comments section that already has 21 commnets?

Plus, the rule of first asked first answered should apply here.

One of us will have to form the basic site on which heated discussion can arise.

I can, but it will have to wait until a more appropriate time.

You can still tear my stance apart if I answer second. . . .

Liked your poem from February by the way.

Katherine said...

Wow, interesting discussion - I really should keep up!

Knowledge Sensor: just thought I should mention, the idea here is not so much that the 'traditional view' is 'outdated' or 'superceded', in the sense of flashy new ideas coming in to take its place. The point is rather to look back to the foundations of our faith to test today's mainstream understanding against what the NT writers were meaning, and what Jesus said. If the two should turn out not to line up, it's our duty to revise our theology accordingly.

No particular comments on my own position at this time. Still a work in progress. *sigh* May God guide us all.

Scott said...

Re: Jesus' death

Yes, I did understand your point here. But my point still remains that therefore there is nothing actually loving in the act of Jesus dying. Jesus could have continued doing the things he did, without dying, and the 'loving bits' of his life would not be reduced. His death adds very little. It seems like you're saying that the purpose of Jesus' death was only to prove that he really believed in whatever it was he believed in. There is nothing particularly amazing in such a death, nothing to stand in awe of.

Love, as I observe the Bible talking about it, is not so much a feeling as a choice of action.

1 Peter 3:8 "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy"

Lack of obedience to God is a clear outward sign that someone does not treasure God about all things. But the essence of 'love' is a sense of delight, and when your soul clings to something, and treasures it above all things. It is not action, (this is a result of love, or proof of it), but it is an approval, a delight, an enjoyment of something.

I'd like to reply to the rest, but have to run.