Jun 25 2009

The Trouble with Jesus

Published by under Talks

Dunedin Sea of Faith Group, 25 June 2009

The Trouble with Jesus

What is the trouble with Jesus? That’s a question that might make some wonder, what’s the trouble with me? Why should I be asking, “What’s the trouble with Jesus?”

Fair enough. Let me account for my own position briefly at the outset. I once believed that Jesus was and is definitive, even divine. I now believe that Jesus was and remains a defining moment in the human story. The difference is in degree, but the degree is significant.

So, to return to the question, “What is the trouble with Jesus?” I’m surprised how seldom I hear it or a similar question, inside or outside the church. Why might that be?

At our last meeting we addressed the question of whether a non-realist (or non-supernatural) church is feasible. We considered a long list of potential purposes for attending church, yet I don’t recall the name of Jesus being mentioned. The nearest indirect reference to him may have been from a couple of the small groups who suggested stopping the recital of creeds – that would be relevant because the role of Jesus dominates the traditional creeds.

Perhaps the reason why Jesus hardly featured at all in such a discussion may be that he is so much the eponymous bedrock of Christianity that we can easily take him for granted. But that would apply to God as well, and in groups such as ours there is no compunction about raising questions about God. So am I right to wonder whether Jesus is the last taboo? I remember how once in a church group, after searching questions on God and the Bible had begun to fly, a member concluded that whatever else might go the centrality of Jesus would remain.

Well, does it and, if so, in what manner? You may have noticed that my question is ambiguous. That’s deliberate. It could imply that there is a fatal flaw in Jesus or simply that his mission, through no fault of his own, is encountering problems along the way. What it clearly implies is that no question about Jesus should be ruled off limits. And I don’t just mean the hoary questions of whether he was born of a virgin or raised from the dead.

Yet I may have overstated any reluctance on our own part to address the question. After all, the next Sea of Faith Conference in September is on the question, “Who needs Jesus? – Life in the 21st Century”. That’s good, and I look forward to what comes out of the Conference.  In the meantime I hope that some amateur field notes may not go astray.

First I shall offer some propositions that reflect my own leanings in answer to the question.

What is the Trouble with Jesus?

(Embedded in the question is another one – Which Jesus? – that must also be dealt with)

  1. 1. Jesus, in so far as we can know him, is in large measure a composite of the historical Jesus of Nazareth and the Jesus movement that grew out of the legacy of his life and death.

  1. 2. From a birth at Bethlehem to major segments of the Passion narratives, much of the so-called life of Jesus arose from creative interpretations by the Evangelists, including retrofitting imaginary sayings and events onto earlier scriptures.

  1. 3. The real Jesus, beneath the thick varnish of the records about him, remains elusive despite much scholarly effort and some more progress in recent decades.

  1. 4. Whatever else might be historically ascertainable about Jesus, there are two indelible characteristics conferred through his genetic and cultural inheritance to take into account – his maleness and his Jewishness.

  1. 5. The quest for the Jesus of history is valid and helpful but does not of itself settle the bigger issue of what is at stake once a more authentic Jesus is revealed – authenticity is one thing, intrinsic authority quite another.

  1. 6. Everyone, even those who pare down their expectations of the historicity of Jesus, has a predisposition as to his significance, which may well be carried over from earlier imagery of him.

  1. 7. Christians are even more sensitive about their image of Jesus than their image of God, in part because (to adapt Albert Schweitzer’s analogy) finding Jesus can be like peering into a deep well and seeing one’s own reflection.

  1. 8. It must be acknowledged that without the traditional Christ of faith, risen and ascended, it is uncertain how well the Jesus of history would have been preserved. The two Jesuses are mutually dependent.

  1. 9. It may not be too much to claim that Jesus’ story remains the greatest ever told, yet the story itself may be even greater than its hero.

  1. 10. The Christ of faith has been an all-embracing and generally grace-mediating influence within Christianity.

  1. 11. It seems to match a deep-seated need in the human psyche for some heroic godlike figure as a protector and guide, and might have gained more universal acceptance if world history were confined to the Middle East.

  1. 12. Yet history has demonstrated that unquestioning commitment to act according to a particular perception of Jesus as Lord can be dangerous and damaging. Examples abound.

  1. 13. Whether Jesus himself had any flaws in his character may not be a very fruitful line of inquiry given the compulsive idealisation of the early church and the gulf that separates us historically and culturally.

  1. 14. That is not to say that he should be regarded as immune to criticism. To be fully human is to have a personality, so at the very least some people must find his personality (even if shadowy) less compatible with their own than others do.

  1. 15. The contention that there is trouble with Jesus is not to be confused with a negative response to the challenging fact that in one sense Jesus was, and still is, a troublesome prophet, an uncomfortably unpredictable do-gooder, and a gadfly.

  1. 16. The main problem with Jesus is that his enthronement by the Church as Lord and Christ has elevated him into a supernatural world inhabited by the doctrine of a triune God, an increasingly alien concept in the modern worldview.

  1. 17. In particular, the divinisation of Jesus has presented him as a virtually exclusive gateway into the fullness of life, thereby treating other faiths as inferior paths to salvation.

  1. 18. The godhead role assigned to Jesus creates a credibility gap on a grand scale – remarkable as his effects have been on human life, the fact remains that the combined inspiration of his teachings and example can never fully deliver on the expectations of such a divine saviour.

  1. 19. Jesus needs to be emancipated from the theistic literalism that stands in the way of genuine acceptance of him as a human being, creative dialogue with his message, and the celebration of his story.

  1. 20. He needs to be interpreted as a giant leap in the evolution of human culture and gathered up into a broader movement of person-centric and earth-centric reverence embracing all of humanity.

  1. 21. Realistically, no such pivotal change is likely to take place in any mainstream church anytime soon – the notion of lordship lies too near the heart of the power structures of church polity.

  1. 22. Nevertheless, there are some small signs of hope of a retreat from Christian chauvinism. (With apologies to George Herbert, the non-realist “God’s mill grinds slow, but sure”.)

  1. 23. A major breakthrough would be full acceptance and joint celebration among those who relate to Jesus in what would normally be considered mutually exclusive ways. There is for some, “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God … whose kingdom shall have no end” and for others, an astonishing affirmer and giver of life and love, not fundamentally more and scarcely ever less.



That is my sales presentation. Rather than expounding on each proposition in turn, I shall now share some notes on personal observations from my local travelling in recent weeks. As someone closely connected with the church, I find that questions about Jesus keep on arising all the time. I hope that connections with one or more of the propositions may often be clear enough without always labouring the point.

Episode 1

Three weeks ago I attended an open lecture at the University by Paul Molnar, Professor of Systematic Theology at St John’s University, New York, on the question, “What difference does it make if Jesus really is God?” I did not make a seminar the following day on “Can Jesus’ divinity be recognised as definitive, authentic and essential…?” Molnar is a Barthian scholar and his lecture confirmed my perception that parallel universes in theology and more particularly Christology are indeed a reality.

Episode 2

In anticipation of this paper, I wanted to make sure of reading one particular book in the last couple of months. That was David Boulton’s Who on Earth was Jesus? The Modern Quest for the Jesus of History (2008). It has been glowingly reviewed in recent Sea of Faith Network Newsletters by Lloyd Geering and Richard Holloway. Geering says Boulton’s ten year project has done for the 20th century what Schweitzer did for the 19th century. I was most impressed by its balance and breadth. Perhaps I wasn’t fully persuaded by his conclusion on the direction that may be developing. He is very confident that Jesus was not apocalyptic. I don’t see why Jesus couldn’t have been a bit more of two minds, or even changed his mind. That would certainly have made him truly human. But never mind.

One of the scholars that Boulton introduced for me is Kathleen Corley, a member of the Jesus Seminar. Let me pass on the barest summary of the thesis in her book, Women and the Historical Jesus: Feminist Myths of Christian Origins (2002). Her focus is on Jesus’ attitude to women. I think it impinges on the trouble with Jesus in a number of ways. To put it bluntly, and at risk of putting it crudely if I may, was he in any way tainted by testosterone?

Corley’s conclusion from a study of first-century Mediterranean and Jewish society and the Biblical texts is that “Jesus does not appear radical in his relationships with women; it is the women who are bold, not Jesus… Jesus was part of the patriarchal society in which he lived and evinced similar patriarchal biases”. Corley acknowledges that this makes for a less congenial Jesus than we might like to find in the texts, but in the end, she says, “the impulse towards equality stands on its own without needing to appeal to an ancient man, however influential he may still be”. [End of quote] Thus, for half the human race, there is a problem with Jesus if he is construed as something more than what he was, a man.

Episode 3

I’ll come back to Boulton again, but now I want to refer to an email from Greg Hughson in May to members of the Methodist Liberal Society, with the subject line: “Ponderings of a University Chaplain”. He had been discussing with a Christian student the significance of John 14, verse 6: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me”. Greg noted that the verse often comes up in discussions about how Christians should view the “spiritual condition” of people of other faiths and no faith. He then asked members how they interpret John 14:6 “these days”.

One respondent reasoned that, since the verse reads, “No one comes to the Father except by me”, it thereby implies a distinction between Christianity with God as a Father, and Judaism and Islam. One can come to God through Judaism and find Yahweh, the God of Righteousness and one can come to God through Islam and find Allah, the God of Fatalism. By contrast, another respondent quoted the Jesus Seminar: “Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition.” Such is the range of views on Jesus and Scripture even in a Liberal Society.

Do not underestimate the likelihood that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there will be two or three perceptions of him. And by the way, Jesus is unlikely to have been the author of the “two or three” saying, as there are parallels in the Mishnah and other ancient Jewish teachings.

Episode 4

In contemplating my own response to Greg’s inquiry, I was taken back to the church of my childhood. I vividly recall the local preacher for whom this passage was his favourite text. He suffered from a mild speech defect which made us kids merciless in aping his delivery, but at the same time we were absorbing the underlying message of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. My receptivity was being nourished. And the more I change, the more, in part, I remain the same.

Advance to this year and my five-year old granddaughter’s experience. Last month she was telling her nana about what had happened at Sunday School. They had been told about a man who had a lot of money and went away and wasted it. He had to work looking after pigs. No mention of the living conditions for the pigs, but here is the punch line. He went to Jesus and said he was sorry he had wasted all the money.

Two things to notice. First, like me, a childhood grounding in Jesus as the watchword. What effect may it have in years to come? And second, a neat example of the “Chinese whispers” effect on oral traditions such as the preservation of Jesus’ sayings and stories.

Boulton covers that topic very well. He quotes Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar who noted that “one experiment has shown that most people forget the exact wording of a particular statement after only 16 syllables intervene between the original statement and the request to recall that wording”. So, compare 16 syllables, less than 16 seconds, with more than 16 years after the death of Jesus before the first version of his words, in a language other than the original, was committed to a form of writing that had to survive all the perils of copying to be translated yet again into another language, ours.

Episode 5

Going back to that email about John 14:6, Greg had also asked for feedback on a new hymn by Ruth Duck that had been used at the Mornington Methodist service the Sunday before. It’s a hymn of unity for the three Abrahamic faith traditions. The first verse begins:

Hope of Abraham and Sarah,

Friend of Hagar, God of Ruth,

You desire that every people

Worship you in spirit, truth.

All published responses from the Society members about the hymn were positive. References to “mosque and synagogue and church”, to “Torah, Cross and Crescent” no doubt pressed liberal buttons, and why not? Was it then miserable on my part to observe that while it marks a great step, it still speaks of a sovereign God seen as the preserve of the three monotheistic, Abrahamic faiths? The real journey goes much further, but I did acknowledge that at least some steps are being taken and there are signs of hope.

In the same service at which the hymn was used, a congregational affirmation included these words:

Many are the shinings from the one light.

Our one light is Jesus…

Many are the branches of the one tree.

Our one tree is Jesus…

Could it not have said?

Many are the shinings from the one light.

Our one shining is Jesus…

Many are the branches of the one tree.

Our one branch is Jesus…

But, I repeat, some steps are being taken and there are signs of hope.

Episode 6

The next Sunday was Ascension Day, one of the more fearful days in the Christian calendar for liberal preachers. I got up in time to hear the end of the “Hymns for Sunday Morning” programme on National Radio. It finished with:

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Doth his successive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

Till suns shall rise and set no more…

People and realms of every tongue

Dwell on His love with sweetest song…

Let every creature rise, and bring

Its grateful honours to our King…

No trouble with Jesus for Isaac Watts.

Episode 7

For once I was unable to go to church that day, but I knew that it was also Aldersgate Sunday. In case you’re not familiar with that observance, it marks John Wesley’s conversion, when, in his own words, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins…” No trouble with Jesus in 18th century Methodism.

Episode 8

That afternoon I had a rare chance for a little break from my sheltered monocultural existence. Friends of the Dunedin Chinese Garden were invited to a talk by Malcolm Wong, the Chairman of the Trust, on The Culture of Chinese Gardens. The influences he listed included the Emperors, the Arts, three ways of thought, and wealth and power. Shades at first of similar influences on the development of Christianity. But what were the three ways of thought? – Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. Dao – literally the way, a path, the right way of life. Jesus as the way is a beautiful thought, but it is not unique.

In one of the books being passed round was this prayer by a Wen Yidou: “Who are the Chinese? … Softly tell me, don’t shout it out.” What I was picking up that afternoon were gentle reminders that Jesus does not “reign where’er the sun…” and, frankly, never shall.

After Malcolm’s Wong’s talk, refreshments were served with fortune cookies. Mine read: “Kindness: a language the deaf can hear, the blind can see, and the mute can speak”. Faint echoes of Jesus’ signs of the kingdom. My neighbour’s fortune cookie read: “The sum of human knowledge is not contained in any one language”. Not in Chinese, not in English, not in Arabic, not in Hindi, not in Hebrew, not in Aramaic, not in Greek.

Episode 9

Speaking of Greek, I am reminded of the Dunedin classical scholar, Doug Little, who died recently. His death notice described him fittingly as “a citizen of Ancient Greece”. He read an hour’s Greek before breakfast each morning. I can at least admire such erudition, having spent three years as an undergraduate student under Professor E. M. Blaiklock in Auckland. Blaiklock was a prominent classicist who strayed slightly from his field in criticising Lloyd Geering in his book Layman’s Answer, published in 1968. But as an exponent of Greek literature Blaiklock was a master. Pardon the expression, but he made Plato’s description of the trial and death of Socrates really come alive.

The poet Shelley named Socrates “the Jesus Christ of Greece” while Voltaire spoke of Jesus as “the Socrates of Palestine”. A recent book by Emily Wilson, The Death of Socrates (2007), parallels and contrasts the deaths of Socrates and Jesus. Socrates, like Jesus, turned the other cheek and forgave the enemies who had caused his death. Wilson points out that the New Testament writers were often conscious of the example of Socrates, Luke especially with his reference to Jesus’ death as a “cup”.

Yet Socrates’ death was different from the agony of Jesus’ death. It complemented that of Jesus. Socrates showed how death is always integrated and involved with life. As Karen Armstrong put it, “Socrates showed that it was possible for a human being to enjoy a serenity that transcended … circumstances, in the midst of pain and suffering”. Why then do we so neglect Socrates’ death? Simply because he was only the Messiah of paganism, whereas in Christendom Jesus’ death was accorded cosmic salvation status.

Episode 10

I recently picked up a copy of Gyro, the Otago Polytech Students’ magazine. It was running what it called a “Celebrity Deathmatch” column, actually two columns on “Jesus vs. Gandhi”. There were four sections to the lineup, starting with a nutshell biography of each. There was a nod to the view that Jesus may not have existed at all. Part of the trouble with Jesus is that a case can at least be made for such a sweeping dismissal of his existence.

The second heading was for Jesus’ and Gandhi’s “Achievements”. I can’t quote them all. Gandhi’s political achievements in India and even South Africa are noted. Then under Jesus, a taste of student language: “Teachings made into a religion which has since pissed on most of them… Supposed to have cured the world of evil. It’s remarkably persistent.” Gandhi won that section.

Thirdly, the “Personal Life” of each. Gandhi’s oath of celibacy was suspect. Jesus is believed to have been celibate but as a Rabbi took too many liberties with women. But Jesus wins as less dodgy.

Finally, under “Moral/Political Philosophy”, the summaries of Jesus’ teaching on the “Kingdom of God” and of Gandhi’s insistence on Truth as the basis of all political action are pretty good. Result: Gandhi wins as “the ‘Kingdom’ hasn’t come but the ‘Truth’ never left”.

David Boulton would challenge Gyro on its interpretation of the “Kingdom” as Jesus proclaimed it, but you get the drift as to why, no doubt to the compiler’s delight, Gandhi is declared the overall champion.

All just a typical bit of student banter and bravado? In part, yes. But the trouble with the Church is that it has so fenced off Jesus from taking his place in the battle for minds and hearts that he becomes a loser almost by default. He needs to be allowed to step down from his deified pedestal to join the cut and thrust of the world’s discourse.

Episode 11

Who now among great figures in world history am I thinking of?

  • Born in very humble circumstances

  • An incomparable way with words

  • Championed the poor and oppressed

  • Scornful of hypocrites and the ecclesiastical establishment

  • Accused of being a glutton and a drunkard

  • Peerless expressions of love

  • Died young

  • World wide following and devotion

A couple of months ago for a family birthday party I had occasion to draw on the poetry of Robbie Burns, spurred on by the celebrations earlier in the year of the 250th anniversary of his birth. As I browsed some of his poems again I could not miss both the canny and the uncanny echoes of Jesus. Like the Pharisee who went up into the temple to pray, so “Holy Willie’s Prayer” gives thanks to the Lord:

… I am here, a chosen sample,

To show thy grace is great and ample:

I’m here, a pillar o’ thy temple

Strong as a rock,

A guide, a ruler and example

To a’ thy flock. –

Such parallels, not to mention divergence, between Burns and Jesus are probably familiar enough, but what I want to explore a little further is whether the comparison might throw any light on the trouble with Jesus.

First, to pinpoint some of Burns’ own trouble, I found insight in an article by Susan Manning on “Burns and God”, published in a collection of lectures entitled Robert Burns and Cultural Authority (1997). According to Manning:

A decaying belief-system … forced his poetry in two directions: first towards exposing and undermining [the cultural authority of the Scottish Kirk] from within … in satire or parody …and second, away from direct religious engagement altogether, towards exulting in life evoked in entirely this-worldly terms… Repeatedly refusing the transcendent in favour of a heightened, intensified immanent … Burns found a way of evading the debased religious discourse which surrounded him, and learned to ‘speak true’ to another.

In many ways this was Jesus’ position as well. His aphorisms and parables cut through what Burns called “Religious Nonsense” in similar ways to Burns’ poems and songs. But, unfortunately for Jesus, he has partially become a victim of his own success. The once revolutionary religion named after him has to some extent ossified, and not just as it had in 18th century Scotland. It therefore can become itself a candidate for Burnsian scorn.

And let’s take the cautionary note a step further back. Not only has the church allowed much of the energy of Jesus to dissipate in its liturgy, but also some of his own words no longer cut the mustard, as they would have in the 1st century. In all fairness that was eight times more distant from us than Burns’ lifetime, but such are the ravages of time.

An example I suggest is Jesus’ trademark phrase, “the Kingdom of God”. To be honest, I don’t think it has ever really ignited my imagination. Nor have any of its synonyms: kingdom of heaven, realm of God, God’s imperial rule, commonwealth of God, or even dream of God. David Boulton ends Who on Earth was Jesus? with a quoted heading “The utopia that sets history in motion” and he subtitles his earlier book, The Trouble with God with Building the Republic of Heaven. Getting warmer perhaps, but I am still not excited.

Conceptually, I think the emphasis we now need would be better expressed by something like “the circle of earth”, but the spark is still missing. We need the liberating virtuosity and verbal exuberance of a Burns to harness human hope in our own time. So, incidentally, I wonder how many Presbyterian churches would have celebrated Burns Day this year, and what’s this I see about the Dunedin Burns Club languishing so badly?

Now just one more Episode:

Episode 12

Friday, June 5th was World Environment Day. Its theme was “Your Planet Needs You – UNite to Combat Climate Change”. World “this and that” days pepper the calendar, so the risk of it being just another day was real. Greenpeace tried to counter the apathy with its Sign On campaign to lobby the Prime Minister ahead of his attendance at the Copenhagen Conference in December. “With the world on the brink of runaway climate change”, it said, ‘it’s time to get serious. There is no Planet B.”

Contact with a couple of friends this month has demonstrated for me the depth of concern and commitment that may be required. One, no longer having any church involvement, wrote to say that in his years in the ministry he cheerfully rejected notions of apocalyptic doom, and now finds them all too real (and unfortunately without the solace of rapture). The other, still energetically active in church life, says that nevertheless this is now virtually the obsession of her life. Everything else is secondary to it.

So what about Jesus? “What would Jesus do?” That’s the question that was beloved of Christian educators in our time, but how now? If it ever was the key to ethical behaviour, how can it possibly deliver today when issues confront us that would have been beyond comprehension two hundred years ago, let alone two thousand?

Which prophet do we need today to bring about “the circle of earth”? JC or JL? For thirty years James Lovelock has been at the leading edge of a new vision of the earth and its survival as a nursery for life. Ironically, if Jesus were alive today the apocalyptic doomsaying that many of our favourite scholars say was foreign to his original message might well be now his first choice. There is certainly no Planet “B”, but if Jesus is now to be relevant to Planet “A” there may be need for a Jesus “B”. A Jesus both apocalyptic and evangelical, whose followers would have to make a decision for Christ by Signing On for the salvation of the world’s climate, or else.

In a review of Lovelock’s The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning (2009), Peter Forbes had this to say: “Lovelock speaks with a unique authority, but he is unlikely to be right about everything… It is hard for a lone prophet to avoid a certain over-assertiveness.” That, no doubt, is a salutary note to add about Lovelock, but what if I were to substitute Jesus for Lovelock? “Jesus speaks with a unique authority, but he is unlikely to be right about everything… It is hard for a lone prophet to avoid a certain over-assertiveness.” What do you reckon? And if it were likely he was right about everything, how much more difficult to avoid a certain over-assertiveness? Master or mentor? Which shall it be?


To wrap up this paper I would like to recapitulate by way of going back to the question posed in Episode 3. How to interpret John 14:6 these days? Here then is another similar set of propositions, parallel to the interpretation in the first list, but focusing particularly on:

The Trouble with Jesus in John 14:6

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”

  • 1. For many Christians, the truth about Jesus and the truth that belongs to Jesus are one and the same, but there is a distinction and the former can have a bearing on the latter.

2. For this reason, it is important to note that, according to Biblical scholarship, Jesus himself did not say these or even similar words.

3. The words reflect the Johannine community’s view of Jesus and his significance, at around the end of the 1st century or slightly later.

4. Along with the other “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel, they carry an interpretation of Jesus as the Logos and embodiment of God the Father, through whom alone we gain eternal life.

5. They reflected and contributed to the development of Christian orthodoxy and the belief in Jesus as fully God incarnate.

6. While not inspired in the conventional Christian understanding of the word, they have contributed to one of the most powerful ideas to hit humanity, inspiring personal discipleship and the growth of Christianity.

7. But most shades of Christian thought, from fundamentalist to humanist, would have to agree that they help to constitute a stumbling block in the way of interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.

8. Within our secular culture they also contribute to a common view of Christian faith as otherworldly, dogmatic and arrogant.

9. They were written as pious (in the best sense of the word) hyperbole, but their effect on individuals and groups has ranged from false religiosity and exclusiveness to “Christlike” living and truly caring and compassionate service in Jesus’ name.

10. Given their potential for such good outcomes (wheat as well as tares), it is possible to see behind the literal text to a profound level of insight that the “way” is best found and experienced not in abstract ideas as in loving personal relationships.

11. For countless numbers of Christians, such an enhancing and fruitful way of life is focussed on a mystical relationship with the Jesus of faith, derived in part from the Jesus of history.

12. In this case, validity is what actually works, and in so far as it works wonders it deserves deep respect and honour.

13. The trouble with Jesus in this text is that its absolutist claims are rejected more and more widely in modern culture, and “post-Christian” becomes increasingly the default position.

14. For the church to regain credibility in western society it is imperative that it adopts a far more elastic understanding of what it can mean to follow Jesus.

15. Without abandoning the orthodox option as a genuine form of faith there needs to be an open recognition that for many it is the story of Jesus that inspires rather than his glory (such as in John 1:14).

16. For some, Jesus is transcendent as “the only Son from the Father”; for others he is profoundly transparent, allowing “a glimpse of his glimpse” (Robert Funk).

17. For the first 300 years or so (about 15% of its life history so far), Christianity was in a relatively dynamic state until the vision of John’s Gospel helped to harden its dynamism into a solid state. It is time to disturb the mould, even if, in all likelihood, it takes another 15% of its life span.

18. If the mould should crack, let the chips fall where they may. Ironically, for a significant school of one-time disciples, the doctrinaire risen Christ has been an asphyxiated Jesus. Allow him the full dignity of his death and the mysteriousness of his life, and warts if any. Let it not be odd to have trouble with Jesus. Let him be as we each find him.

David Kitchingman

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply