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Our Reasonable Faith 9

This series is by RJS
Following Tim Keller in The Reason for Godwe have now presented and discussed seven of the biggest objections raised against the Christian faith. None of these objections are fatal to the historic Christian faith when examined objectively. But this is not enough Keller says — it is time to go beyond doubts and questions and to begin to construct a reason for belief. But first…a brief intermission:

In constructing a reason for faith Keller proposes that we first consider the historic Christian faith – not our denominational distinctives, however dearly we may hold them. Keller in his book is making a case for the truth of Christianity in general expressed in the ancient rule of faith in early church fathers and the early ecumenical creeds. In this context Christianity is defined as:

…the body of believers who assent to these great ecumenical creeds. They believe that the triune God created the world, that humanity has fallen into sin and evil, that God has returned to rescue us in Jesus Christ, that in his death and resurrection Jesus accomplished that salvation for us so that we can be received by grace, that he established his church, his people, as the vehicle through which he continues his mission of rescue, reconciliation, and salvation, and that at the end of time Jesus will return to renew the heavens and the earth, removing all evil, injustice, sin, and death from the world.
All Christians believe all this—but no Christians believe just this. (p.117)

This is an important point – isn’t it true after all that all Christians, irrespective of denomination or “brand,” worship the same God and the same Lord Jesus Christ? One could argue that our denominational distinctives are predominantly interpretations in cultural context. Certainly our argument for the Christian faith should, first of all, be general and inclusive, not specific and exclusive.
Second, our argument should be not for proof but for reasonableness.
We are wrong to believe that we will ever construct an irrefutable argument or proof for the existence of or the nature of God. This is an impossible task. Rather we will look at preponderance of evidence and the viability of a Christian world view, taking into account all of the evidence we have available. Even in science we have no absolute proof – only empirically based theories that organize and explain the evidence better than anything else available. A theory is accepted if it explains and predicts — a theory is refined and improved, sometimes substantially, sometimes incrementally, in the light of new evidence, observation, and information. Keller says:

If the God of the Bible exists, he is not a man in the attic, but the Playwright. That means we won’t be able to find him like we find a passive object with the powers of empirical investigation. Rather, we must find the clues to his reality that he has written into the universe, including us. That is why, if God exists, we would expect to find that he appeals to our rational faculties. … It also means that reason alone won’t be enough. The Playwright can only be known through personal revelation. (p.123)

Before we continue on to work through the reconstruction of the Reason for God, lets consider a question or two:
If you believe the Christian story — why? What convinced you to become a Christian? How big a role is played by faith?
If you don’t believe, what are your principle principal reservations?

  • mariam

    I began to become a Christian when secular humanism wasn’t working for me anymore – when I felt as if I myself and people in general were not strong enough or smart enough to make consistently loving and moral choices, without the support of a belief system and community which focussed on those things. Thus my attraction to Christianity was Christ’s teaching regarding loving and serving our fellow man, forgiveness and redemption. Christ the man was much more important to me that the divine Christ because I see/saw Christ as our perfect example. It’s not so hard to be perfect, heal the sick, have compassion for and forgive everybody and perform miracles and even suffer and die if you know you’re heaven-bound after a few days – if you’re God. But if Jesus was human and He did it then there’s some hope that I can try to follow Him, however imperfectly. Everyone has a tipping point – the point at which, if it were proved false, our belief system would crumble. Mine is that Christ actually existed, as a historical person, not a myth created to embody spiritual and philosophical ideas. Without a historical Christ, I would cease to drawn to Christianity. You can’t have a relationship with a myth.
    I find that I can say the creed and mostly mean it but it doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it might mean to someone else. There are parts that I don’t really get and so I just accept them for now, until I figure out how to piece them together with the rest of my theology quilt. For example, I don’t really get the triune God thing – well, I get it and I accept it (sort of) but it doesn’t really do anything for me. I don’t know if I accept that God is a person. I have trouble enough believing God exists on some days. But I assume God exists, I pray to God daily and hope He’s there. That’s as close as I can come as I haven’t actually seen any blinding light or burning bush or anything.
    So my version of the creed goes something like:
    I believe in God (as well as I can, having no real proof), the Father almighty (parent is as good a metaphor as any),
    creator of heaven and earth (if I’m assuming God exists, why not?).
    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, (not entirely sure about the “only Son” bit but otherwise with all my heart)
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (OK, aren’t we all in one way or another?)
    born of the Virgin Mary (if mere mortals can create test tube babies and clone mammals I’m sure the creator God could manage an immaculate conception, but it isn’t essential to my belief system),
    suffered under Pontius Pilate (historical),
    was crucified, died, and was buried (apostolic witness and no evidence to the contrary);
    he descended to the dead (as we all will).
    On the third day he rose again; (my whole belief system doesn’t fall apart if this is just a metaphor, but I am willing to suspend disbelief, I would like to believe this)
    he ascended into heaven, (I would like to believe this too)
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father, (we’re getting into literary devices now)
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead (maybe)
    I believe in the Holy Spirit, (at least my limited understanding of it)
    the holy catholic Church, (all of us who follow Christ, with all our faults and our limited understanding of God and what he wants from us)
    the communion of saints, (this is a lovely notion and I want to believe this too)
    the forgiveness of sins, (central to my faith)
    the resurrection of the body, (we’ll see)
    and the life everlasting. (at least metaphorically, if not literally)
    I am grateful that “the fall”, “original sin”, “biblical inerrancy”and “substitutionary atonement” don’t appear in the creeds. If they were, they would be my principle reservations.

  • Scott M

    “This is an important point – isn’t it true after all that all Christians, irrespective of denomination or “brand,” worship the same God and the same Lord Jesus Christ?”
    No. That’s not true. It could only be the “same Jesus” if Jesus were an idea that could somehow be reconciled, not an actual person. But to Christians, Jesus is an actual person not an idea. And the Jesus of Calvinism is not the same as the Jesus of Orthodoxy who is not the same person as the Jesus of Roman Catholicism who is not the same person as the Jesus of modern “liberal” theologians. I’ve read a great deal about the Jesus these and other traditions describe. And they are not the same person. In many cases, they cannot be reconciled. They are persons with opposing characteristics.
    There is, for instance, absolutely no way to reconcile the Jesus of Calvinism with the Jesus of Orthodoxy. In many fundamental characteristics they are almost polar opposites. One of them or both of them are not a real person, but instead a constructed idea. Yet for Christianity to have any meaning whatsoever, we must relate to the God who was made known to us in the actual person named Jesus of Nazareth.
    It’s the same thing with the creeds. Sure, most Christians today would say them (I say most, because they aren’t actually universally affirmed), but they would mean drastically different things when they did say them. The creeds were designed to express a unified belief, not to create that belief. If there is no unity, the creeds do nothing whatsoever for us.
    And Mariam, it was focusing on Jesus — doggedly and for years — which eventually began to illuminate the Trinity for me. Lately I have begun to be overwhelmed by the beauty and love of the triune God. Still, the only lens through which to glimpse it, the only door into it, is Jesus of Nazareth. But even a glimpse will take your breath away.
    And also, “original sin” (as it came to be understood in the West), “biblical inerrancy”, and “substitionary atonement” were not beliefs held by those who wrote those creeds, which is why they don’t appear in them. They were largely later innovations though the Western view of “original sin” has roots in Augustine. It really wasn’t his fault. He didn’t read Greek very well and there wasn’t a Latin mind who was his peer to correct him.

  • Duane

    I hope this is not too off point, but I wonder how essential a confession of the Trinity is to “true belief.” There are people I care about that struggle with the claim that “Jesus is God,” but who hold an extremely high view of Jesus and the efficacy of his work on our behalf. I know there are some who would drum them out of “the Faith,” but they do worship Jesus and trust in his redemptive work.
    I once spent a few precious minutes with Dallas Willard and because it was on mmind at the time I raised the question of the status of “unitarians” with him. I will never forget his gentle, sweet spirited response, “Well, it depends on what kind of unitarians they are.” What a liberating moment!
    Just this morning I ran across Michael Spencer’s new blog, Jesus Shaped Spirituality. He uses the by-line “God is Jesus.” I really like that and suspect thst my unitarian friends might be able to affirm that confession, whereas they cannot affirm the traditional “Jesus is God.” I know the logicians amongst us will protest that a tautology cannot be sundered like that but what the heck–if it works?!?

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    the apostle Paul spoke to this issue in 1 Corinthians 9: “we know in part, and we prophesy in part… now we see but a poor reflection in a mirrow…”
    None of the historica denominations (or current ones) have a perfect, 100% view of the mirrow … each theological family is able to know some percentage of God’s truth. I suppose that the percentage that the Calivinist acurately “know” is different than the percentage that the Orthodox actually “know” …too bad we cannot all get together and share … through loving dialogue we might be able to bump up our percentages. Perhaps even the Dalai Lama might have some percentage of “knowing” to offer.

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    I think that the Jesus of Calvinism, the Jesus of Orthodoxy, the Jesus of Weslyanism, and we could continue… are all constructed ideas, cultural interpretations, to a certain extent. What we are all trying to do less than perfectly is to understand the “real Jesus.” We need to be in conversation with our contemporaries and with the historic church as we work out what it means to believe in God the Creator and to follow Jesus.
    Isn’t it counterproductive to progress and conversation to make blanket statements about “different Gods” and a “different Jesus.”
    Even Paul in Galatians while fighting deriding a different gospel didn’t go so far as to claim different God, different Jesus.

  • Scott M

    I would say that “God is Jesus” is the more correct ancient form, that is that we only know God through the person Jesus of Nazareth. When you ask how essential belief in the Trinity is, I would have to ask what you mean by “essential”. If you mean is it something you have to believe in order to be “saved”, then I would say that’s something which is ultimately beyond our judgment. I don’t think God is looking for reasons to condemn people. In fact, I see a God in Jesus who is trying to save everyone he can through any means he can with whatever tools a person offers him.
    However, if you mean is a belief in the Trinity essential to core Christian belief as a community, then I would say absolutely and to the nth degree. This was the whole point driving the ecumenical councils and lay at the core of all the ancient heresies. Yes, the Trinity is a great mystery and we cannot fully grasp it. We must always maintain the tension between the unity or oneness of God (the echad) and the Triune nature of that oneness. Overemphasize either and you slip out of Christian belief. The interpenetrating, mutually indwelling dance of love of the Triune God is the perfect source of life, the torrents of living water we are invited to join. It is because the Son and the Spirit are one that to have the Spirit with us now is apparently the same as having the Son with us. It is because the Son and the Father are one that we know the Father at all. And it is only because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one while existing as three distinct persons that we can teach that we can be one with each other and one with God while retaining our own unique identity.
    So yes, the more you find your mind entering the mystery of the Trinity, the more essential you see it to be. But it’s not a quick or an easy journey to even breach the surface. (And I don’t think I’ve caught more than glimpses through a peephole myself.) So Christians must absolutely hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, but we hold to it so that all may begin to see its reality, not as a stick with which to make fences.
    Of course, we live in an age where there is so much said about Jesus and about God and so much of it conflicting, that we must be loving and patient as best we can to all sorts of views that the ancient church would have been much quicker to anathematize. We are in the position of those in the ancient church baptized and taught under heterodox bishops. The church then decided that the baptism and belief was true unless heresy and unbelief were deliberately chosen or taught. We live in an age where it is almost impossible to separate the truth we hear from the chaff. So I think we must be even more generous and embracing in response.
    But at the same time keep proclaiming and teaching these central truths. And I can think of none more important than the Triune nature of God and the nature of Jesus the Christ.

  • Scott M

    Actually, RJS, when he said they were proclaiming a different euvangelion, that’s exactly what Paul said. The gospel is not some means toward salvation, it’s the proclamation of a king. If you proclaim a different gospel, you are proclaiming a different king. And since the king under discussion was Jesus, he was telling them they were proclaiming a different Jesus.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    RJS, don’t you mean principal reservations? Or do you really mean principle reservations? It makes a difference how people might answer.
    During a rousing sermon, I caught a glimpse of myself lost and going to hell (shades of Jonathan Edwards!), and the blood shed by God’s only-begotten Son Jesus as my only hope of salvation, and the hope of resurrection and everlasting life with Him as what my soul had been longing for without my even knowing it. So I came to Him, and He didn’t cast me out. I keep coming to Him, and He keeps receiving me. Not that I understand everything the Bible says yet. It’s only been 47 years.
    I fervently hope this thread doesn’t turn into dreary explanations of “I believe A but I don’t believe B and I have strong reservations about C and I call myself a Christian but any reader with half a brain can tell that I’m not one, really, even though I have advanced degrees in theology.”

  • RJS

    Ok Bob, I meant principal = primary, major, most significant; not principle = standard, rule, theory, dogma … of course.

  • Scott M

    And you can take as one example the disagreement between Ben and I on the other post. Ben says God (and presumably thus Jesus in a Triune understanding) is angry. (Angry at sin, but that translates into angry at sinners. “Sinners in the hand of an angry God” sort of thing.) I said that God (and again the God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth) is not angry.
    Now, those are opposing statements about the nature of Jesus the person. Either he is angry or he is not angry at any given instant in time. And since this discussion is anger as a fundamental part of the nature of God, it would really have to be an enduring state of anger. Those statements cannot be reconciled if we are talking about a real person named Jesus. That person is either angry or he’s not. You will relate to that person in very different ways if you think he’s angry than you will if you do not think he’s angry. It will color and influence every aspect of your relationship with that person. If that perception about that person is not correct, then you will be interacting with the person is such a bizarre way that, to that person and others watching, it will not appear that you are actually relating to the person at all.
    Also, at their core worshiping the right Jesus lay at the core of most of the early councils that produced the creeds you mentioned. It was certainly important to them that they were relating to the actual person named Jesus.

  • Kyle (Ranger)

    No, the Jesus of Orthodoxy is not the Jesus of Calvinism. Nor are either the “real Jesus,” but both are our humble attempts at discovering the real Jesus. Can the real Jesus be worshiped by someone who is currently a Calvinist and has misconceptions of Him based on those convictions? Of course. The same can be said of any of the orthodox systems that spend so much time arguing with each other over. We are all fallen and as such get things wrong more often than not.
    It’s another step altogether to say that someone is a Christian or not a Christian because they hold to one particular system within orthodoxy. Furthermore, I’m not sure it’s a good thing to pin these against each other as separate gods. After all, we are all ultimately atheists in the sense that for all of us what we worship is now seen “in a mirror dimly” and our current worship is only a glimpse of the true God who we will someday fully know, and who was revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
    Kyle

  • Scott M

    Kyle, I would not and do not presume to say who is a “Christian” and who is not. Aside from the fact that the word seems to be used these days in a great variety of ways, I do not and cannot know what God is doing with, in, and through another person. I do know that the will of God is to rescue and heal that person even as I also know that God will not contravene the will of that person in the process.
    However, I think I take a bit of issue with your last statement. I do not think we proclaim a God we will someday fully know. Rather, God has been made fully known to us, completely revealed to us, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. That seems to be what both scripture and the oldest traditions of the church teach. Our problem is not that God has not been fully revealed to us. Rather, our problem is that we misunderstand that revelation. We are not on a timeline on which God is progressively revealing himself and one day he will be fully revealed. Rather, the fullness of the Godhead was revealed in Jesus in all its glory and we are living in the working out of that reality.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    I’ll have to agree with Kyle in this discussion. There is something a bit presumptious in asserting that Calvinists, Roman Catholics and Orthodox all worship different gods, or different false versions of Jesus … it presupposes that the one making the statement has a superior or more objective perspective and, is in fact, worshipping the “true” Jesus … thats just a tad arrogant, don’t you think?
    I’m all for the humility of “we know in part, and prophesy in part… and see through the glass darkly….”

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    I think belief in the trinity is “an essential” to pleasing God. All Christian claim to believe in Jesus. Above, Scott M raised the question, “Sure, but which Jesus?” In the same way, when some says they believe in God, we should ask, “Sure, but which God.” We talk about “God” like it is a proper name–it’s not, it’s a concept. Throughout the Scriptures (especially in the OT), God is very concerned about which gods people worshipped and how they worshipped them. I think a major difference today between worship of the true God and idolatry is belief in the trinity. To paraphrase Keller, there is more to pleasing God than just that, but you have to do that to please God.
    To answer the question posed by the post, I became a Christian because my family was Christian. When I was about 18, I explored what my faith would look like apart from my family’s beliefs. I changed a lot, but maintained a lot, too. Personally, I believe that rational arguments and “proofs” of God are more helpful for the already convinced. As I’ve said here before, people believe based on emotion and defend their beliefs rationally.

  • Kyle

    I don’t think you and I are saying different things, just using different words and confined by talking over a comment thread and not in person. I completely agree that our problem is that we misunderstand that revelation.
    My meaning was simply referring to Paul’s quote in 1 Corinthians 13 where he says that someday “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” The reference is in regards to the depths of love, or I would say the fullness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, which is the fullness of love.
    I too agree that the fullness of God dwelt bodily in Jesus, and that God was fully revealed in Jesus. At the same time I personally neither have the complete revelation of Jesus (although I have some good assistance in getting there in the scriptures, the church and the Spirit), nor do I have the capacity of currently fully understanding that revelation. That’s what I meant, so I’m sorry if I confused you!
    Kyle

  • Scott M

    Is Jesus a person or isn’t he? Is the Spirit a person or not? Is the Father a person or not? Was the fullness of the Triune God made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth?
    Those are non-trivial questions, but they have profound implications. I’ll tackle the last one first. There are plenty of unknowable gods out there. If Christianity simply offers another one, there’s nothing in it which interests me. And, in fact, I was strongly disinterested in the Christian God for a long time. A big part of what drew me to Christianity was the transcendant God who comes near, who empties himself, and who makes himself known in a specific human person who simultaneously was eternally one with that transcedant God. This God was able to form not just a people, but a unity among his believers better described as a single body sourced in that same Jesus. And these people, formed and shaped by love would be joined as one with God through Jesus as a bride is joined to the bridegroom.
    And this God is revealed as a God who embodies love. Love drew me to Christianity. Nothing less. And its the love of a God we can know.
    And it’s also a God who is “personal”, that is a God who exists as one in nature while retaining three distinct and unique persons within that oneness. This is critical because this is why Christianity can offer oneness with a transcendant God without the loss of our own identity. I’m not sure many who follow Jesus today realize how unique that is. However, if God is three real persons, then that also means God is not an abstract idea. God is the three in one and that in and of itself says something about his nature.
    Now, we often create false constructs or faces we show to others. But the degree to which someone actually knows us, how closely they relate to us, depends on how many of those we let down. We talk about this all the time — how well someone knows the “real me”. God doesn’t do this. He doesn’t construct false images and has gone out of his way to make his self knowable to us. Ultimately, this happened in the Incarnation.
    We do still misunderstand God. We do that a lot. Our spiritual minds are darkened. I was not addressing which was the “right” Jesus. I was pointing out that the different “Jesuses” described by those varying traditions (and there are a lot more than just those out there) cannot describe the same actual person, especially if that person is also one in nature with God. Whatever you then do with it, that’s a statement of reality. The descriptions or images of the person of Jesus and the God revealed in him vary so much and so widely today that they cannot all describe the same person.
    It is possible that they are all wrong and God is unknowable. I prefer not to believe that. If I did, I wouldn’t have much reason left to be Christian. But if I believe that Jesus is knowable and that he fully reveals God, that he makes God fully known to us, then that necessarily means I believe there are understandings about Jesus that are more like the actual person and understandings about Jesus that are much less like that same actual person. Further, even though we start with our spiritual minds darkened, I also believe we begin to receive life, full and lasting life, immediately when we place our confidence in Jesus. And, as we follow him, with that life comes illumination. We begin to see better. Again, if that’s not true, why be Christian? Why not worship a constructed image of this unknowable God in any shape or form we prefer?

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    man, we could publish a book from the comments here today…
    i throw my lots in with kyle and rjs – and it’s precisely the belief of some groups that seem to think they own Jesus, and have the only 100% correct doctrines, and that anyone who believes something different is wrong (and of the devil?) that i find quite frustrating. this fath has had nothing if not diversity throughout the past 2000 years – which is a kind way to say we’ve been a bunch of bickering believers since day one. or at least the first few days, anyway, when paul first opposed peter, and God told peter that all foods were good, and paul and mark parted company on a mission trip, and paul had to constantly jump into intra-church differences, etc., etc.
    i take a lot of heat over at justin taylor’s “between two worlds” blog because of my attempts to pull people back from the arrogance of extremes. i was even supposed to debate one of them, but after posting a long answer to three specific questions raised to me, i was told i was not playing by the rules, and bid them adieu. it seems that “following rules” is quite important to their group … imagine that.
    read my interaction with keller’s intermission here. quoting it here would put me over 250 words… :)
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • Scott M

    Or to put it differently, I would prefer to worship an impersonal, unknowable god than an angry one. But I vastly prefer the loving, personal God made fully known to us in Jesus of Nazareth than any other god I’ve ever followed.

  • http://attie.wordpress.com attie

    RJS – Your question got me thinking: “If you believe the Christian story — why? What convinced you to become a Christian? How big a role is played by faith?”
    I became a Christian because a group of young people my age demonstrated authentic relationships between each other and as a group with God. On a Friday night in December 1977 they invited me into that dynamic relationship. They explained to me that they were bound to each other and to God by their shared love for God and his Son Jesus of Nazareth and for each other.
    I accepted their invitation and became part of a group of people who loved God, who loved each other and loved me, a stranger. I knew I was entering some form of relationship with God, (He is my Father; I am His son/child) but I did not understand the dynamics of the relationship with God at that stage. I needed authentic relationships – that is why I joined.
    I knew I was entering a faith relationship, but I did not know exactly what I believed. I believe the Christian story because of the way those young people were interacting with the Christian story.
    Does this make any sense?

  • Howard Walters

    I believe the Christian story, and that story is also the greatest struggle in my life. The gap that exists between the simplicity and holistic beauty in the telling of this story, and the inconsistency, ugliness, and sheer hypocrisy in the living out of this story by those who would be known as “believers” is a gap that causes me great difficulty.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    What convinced you to become a Christian?
    For me it’s not why I became a Christian — I was brought up in a Christian family and never thought there was reason to doubt the truth of Christian teachings — but why I’m still a Christian. Like many, after I got older (college), I had to decide what I really believed.
    I whittled it all down to “there is a god.” I couldn’t get past the evidence for that. I began rebuilding on that foundation.
    After examining for the first time the basic evidence for the reliability of the Bible and especially the accounts of the resurrection of Christ I felt like I could depend on that.
    After dealing with some of the difficult passages and so-called contradictions, I came to the conclusion that the text is basically trustworthy, but here comes the faith part.
    I had enough questions answered to feel confident that most of the questions have answers whether I know what they are or not. I also have taken it as an article of faith that, if God decided to give us a special revelation, it seems likely that He would preserve it — if not preserving it perfectly, at least keeping it reliable on the essentials.

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    Re: the original question: I was given the Christian story from childhood from a majority of everyone I trusted. In a nutshell, that’s why I believed it initially, though I wouldn’t want to discount the role of the Holy Spirit in that process or the ones that follow. As for why I’ve stayed convinced, that’s a mix of so many things. I’ve always thought somewhat like a lawyer, so the logical strength of Christianity’s explanations (compared to those of alternative paradigms) has played a role. But in my highschool years it was the loving and strong character that a handful of adults (by no means the majority) displayed in dealing with me and mine that were the real magnet. An even smaller handful of students at my Christian school also were lasting witnesses to me. Finally, but also critically, my own interactions with God through a mix of largely self-centered prayers and struggles and a few supernatural revelations of his power and love really made doubting Christ as alive and worthy of trust hard to imagine. I still have desires that oppose his and other traits that lead me to blow him off at times. I also get distracted by life in general, but doubting his existence and abilities aren’t things I deal with to any appreciable degree.
    BTW, law school, as most post-graduate work would I imagine, convinced me more deeply than ever that “faith” is a part of every intellectual system, every relationship, and everyone’s paradigm for making sense of reality. We’re all people of faith. It’s just a question of what and whom we trust and why. We’re all placing our bets on what’s true and reliable and good every single day.

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    ChrisB,
    Ha! A similar response and even a similar story it seems . . .

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    Scott M #6
    I would say that “God is Jesus” is the more correct ancient form, that is that we only know God through the person Jesus of Nazareth.
    Isn’t it a little extreme to say that we only know God through Jesus? Doesn’t this contradict the way that the concept of “revelation” is used in the Scriptures? (Hebrews 1 says that God has spoken to us in various ways.) What about the ways in which God has acted in history? The burning bush? The Exodus?
    Sure, the Incarnation was/is the revelation of God par excellence, but do we want to say that it is the only way people can know God?
    When I first saw iMonk’s new tagline, it struck me as modalistic. But, the more I thought about it, the more I was “ok” with it. Saying “God is Jesus” is like saying “God is love” or “God is spirit”–it’s not an exhaustive description of God, but it is a description of God.

  • RJS

    attie,
    When I think of my story I also know that it was relationship with Christians, not rational argument or fear of hell, that brought me to faith. Like Matt Edwards (#14) I was raised in a Christian family and church – and it was mostly the reality in those I saw around me that I found convincing. More than this — in college and graduate school (and beyond) it was authentic relationship with others interacting with the Christian story that kept me from being able to walk away for good (although I tried for a time).
    Rational arguments – beyond the Sunday school sophistication – become critical as we mature in faith however, at least for many. It is hard to walk in faith with caveats and reservations. Rational responses are also important in convincing people, especially educated people, to at least give the gospel a listen.
    And now I see I repeat a familiar refrain in good company with ChrisB and T …

  • Jerry M

    Perhaps as a balance we should ask if there is a possibility that there might be some forms or practices of ‘christianity’ which God despises? We know that such occurred in the OT with the practice of Judaism in Israel. “I hate your new moon festivals and appointed feasts . . .’ [Isaiah 1:14]. This was also the case in Jesus’ day shown by His rebukes of the Pharisees. They set aside the Word of God for the traditions of men. [Matt. 15:1-9]. It was this kind of reality that emboldened the reformers to conclude that perhaps something had gotten off track in the church as well. Scripture had been set aside for the traditions of men. Someone was preaching another Jesus [II Cor. 11:4] Where authentic Christianity exists it will always be returning to the revelation of God to find out who Jesus is and what God thinks. Individuals may try to broaden the fold of Christianity to be as inclusive as possible – but in the end God is the one to decide who is in and who is out.
    Also – while authentic Christians may disagree over certain issues such as baptism, eschatology, etc. – I think if we are honest with ourselves the really fundamental truths of the faith are not obscure or cloaked in darkness for the honest reader enlightened by the Holy Spirit. It’s been a month of two since I read Keller’s book – but I think those are probably the assumptions he was working off of as well.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    If I am not mistaken, despite some significant differences, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Calvinists all worship the triune God, and Jesus of Nazareth who became man and died for our sins. do they have differences about the work of salvation, and how they view Christ? of course… I agree with Kyle, RJS and Mike…
    Kyle said,
    “…I personally neither have the complete revelation of Jesus (although I have some good assistance in getting there in the scriptures, the church and the Spirit), nor do I have the capacity of currently fully understanding that revelation.”
    I agree Kyle … I lean toward Brian McLaren’s view of a Generous Orthodoxy ….no need to put down any group as decieved or following a false Jesus, unless they seriously deny the incarnation … “its all good!”

  • Scott M

    Matt, the only Christian answer to the question, “How do I know God?” or “What is God like?” is: Here is Jesus. The church is not given any other answer to give. None of that limits God. But we are the body of Jesus and Jesus is who we proclaim. Our scripture also says again and again that we know the Father by knowing Jesus and that the fullness of the unknowable God has been made known to us in Jesus. If we want to know God, we look at Jesus. Any other answer could be many things, but it’s not Christian. That’s why it is and has been from the earliest years so important that we actually know the real person of Jesus. Whether it’s John fighting against the gnostics, the Arian heresy, or any of the rest, they all boil down to the nature of the Jesus to whom we are trying to relate.
    And while I continue to acknowledge that every tradition could be wrong about Jesus, my main point is that they can’t all be the real Jesus. But I will also point out that there are serious consequences when you say that no tradition actually knows or proclaims the real person, Jesus of Nazareth. When you say that, you once again make God unknowable. He is no longer the God who is as close as your next breath, the God to whom we are to relate and within whom (and in the same way) we are to be one with each other. If we don’t know who Jesus is, then we don’t know who we worship.
    I’m not prepared to say that. I would rather hope that somewhere there are people who have retained a clear knowledge and relationship with our head, Jesus of Nazareth. I would rather seek for a people who deeply know, not just intellectually, the man named Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve met some individuals along the way who I believe fit that bill. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be a Christian now. I have not found that knowledge yet expressed beyond the isolated individual. But I’m also not yet ready to give up the hope that it exists, that it has not been lost in the chaos and across the gulf of the past two thousand years.
    So for now I try to get to know the different Jesuses that different traditions offer. And I whittle out the ones in which I’ll never believe, the ones which, if they are the true Jesus, then I don’t want to be a Christian. That still leaves a number I wouldn’t mind knowing and worshiping. But again, I’m just not interested in “knowing” my own personal Jesus. If that’s the game, there’s no reason to be Christian. I want to know the real person, even if he’s not exactly what I prefer him to be. (In fact, as I think I get closer the scarier this Jesus begins to look. The scope of his love his frightening, especially since he expects me to love the same way.)
    And if you walk this path, it inevitably leads to the question: Which Jesus? It’s either one or none. And your answer to that question is really your answer to everything that matters in life. I’m a Christian, over some fairly strenuous effort at resistance, because of people who really did embody Jesus. But I’ll only stay a Christian if I find an actual person named Jesus whom they embodied.

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

    2 Words. Sacrifice and grace.

  • Scott M

    There are a lot of things that are truly not all that central or important, but the nature of the person of Jesus the Messiah, Lord of heaven and earth, is not and has never been one of those things. It’s not simply “all good” to spout potentially meaningless words like “Incarnation”, “Resurrection”, “Cross”, etc. when you actually mean very different things when you use those words. Christianity is all about the nature of Jesus the Christ. That’s the God we worship. And if the Jesus you worship is fundamentally different in nature from the Jesus I worship, then we are not worshiping the same God. Jesus is not an abstract idea. He’s a person with all the attributes of personhood.
    Once again this has always been right at the core of Christian belief. The questions about the nature of Jesus strike right to the heart of our faith in ways that no other questions can. I’m not speaking on those zillion other things, but solely on the question of the nature of the Jesus to whom you and I are trying to relate. And also once again, I’m not speaking in terms of ultimate judgments but in terms of the life we receive and the life we live now.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    Scott M, I think the repeated refrain that “they can’t all be the real Jesus” risks putting people on the defensive unnecessarily.
    Not all descriptions or understandings of Jesus and His teachings are equally accurate, that’s true, but I think we can avoid phrasing that in such a way as to make anyone who doesn’t agree with me proponents of a false gospel or another religion or anything else.
    We are all doing our best to understand Jesus as revealed in the scriptures. Some will necessarily be more correct than others, but we’ll have to wait until we see Jesus face to face to find out who.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    Scot M, the three groups you mentioned, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Calvinists all agree on the central tenents of the faith; they would all endorse the early creeds of the patristic church. So why do you insist that they do not all believe in the same Jesus, if they all endorse the creedal understanding of Christ?

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com Matt Edwards

    Scott M #28
    Matt, the only Christian answer to the question, “How do I know God?” or “What is God like?” is: Here is Jesus. The church is not given any other answer to give.
    No arguments here. But when we say, “Here is Jesus,” what are we pointing to? He’s not here any more in the same way that he was 2000 years ago. (He’s still here, just not in the same way.)
    Our scripture also says again and again that we know the Father by knowing Jesus and that the fullness of the unknowable God has been made known to us in Jesus. If we want to know God, we look at Jesus.
    Again, I agree. You are alluding the the prologue of John. But how does John end? With Jesus breathing out His Spirit (20:22). John makes a deliberate play on the “sending” motif. The Father sends the Son to reveal the Father. The Son sends the Spirit from the Father to reveal the Son (15:26). After breathing out the Spirit, the Son sends the church to the world to reveal God (20:21).
    All of this to say that the Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the revelation of God–especially in the way in which He works in the church. I also think that the Spirit played a role in the production of the Scriptures, so that God is revealed in them as well. Neither the Spirit’s revelation through the Scriptures nor through the church is as accurate/powerful/extensive as God’s revelation through the Incarnation, but it is real revelation nevertheless.

  • Scott M

    Actually, those three traditions do not endorse the ancient creeds or the central tenets because the three of them actually mean very different things when they say the words. I’m an outsider to Christianity without a “home tradition” so to speak and an acquired practice (from fairly early childhood on) of exploring different religions and spiritualities through their own lenses and on their own terms. I’m a member of a Southern Baptist Church, but that’s next to meaningless as far as personal tradition goes. If I’m being funny, I say it’s because Jesus has a sense of humor. And there’s some truth to that. The deeper truth is probably that it was this group of “Christians” who injured me personally the most as a teenager, so I probably had to experience the healing touch of Jesus through that same people to ever willfully move forward into Christianity.
    I mentioned those three simply because they are three of the big ones with significant and fundamental differences on the central question of the nature of God. And I have spent considerable time allowing the practices and teachings of them (and others) wash over me until I feel I have some sense for what they say about Jesus — at least as good a sense as one can have from the outside looking in. And when I say they do not describe the same Jesus, that’s exactly what I mean. They describe and worship a Jesus and thus a God who is very different in some pretty important and utterly fundamental ways.
    Efforts to simply reconcile those conflicting images of Jesus produce an abstract, constructed image which, whatever else it may be, is not actually a real person. We will never be able to move toward unity if we are not able to talk among ourselves about the Jesus we worship and the ways our Jesus is different from your Jesus. Christian unity rests on a person, so it cannot be reached by attempting to reconcile abstract ideas and theologies. We have to talk about the person. I’m not trying to pick fights. I’m describing the Jesus I worship and trying to get other people to do the same. If we can do that much, we can at least have a real conversation even if we don’t reach any agreement.
    I do probably speak in harsher terms about Calvinists than I do about Orthodox, Wesleyans, Anabaptists, Roman Catholics, or really anyone else. I don’t mean to do so. My words simply tend to capture the strength of my visceral reaction to calvinism when I first encountered it in my exploration. It’s a reaction that has never lessened. I don’t think C.S. Lewis spoke too strongly about some of its beliefs (some of which are shared by a number of traditions). In fact, even as strong as his words were, they may not have been strong enough. It’s not even so much a matter of intellectual disagreement. Even if I granted they were one hundred percent right, I’ve never been able to figure out why anyone would want to worship a God like that. (Not that what you want necessarily matters, but that’s a different discussion.) So the more closely a description of God revolves around the calvinist description of God, I’m sure it’s true that I react more strongly. That’s my failing and my fault. I still think it’s vitally important for us to talk about the actual Jesus in whom we believe, not in rushed abstract terms, but in what those words actually mean to us when we say them. I liked what mariam did for exactly that reason. She laid out on the table what she meant when she said one of the creeds. That at least lets us move forward. Glossing over our differences (or even pretending their is no substantive difference) on the fundamental nature of God does none of us any good.

  • Scott M

    Hmmm. I actually meant those three do not endorse the same creeds and statements about the nature of God because they mean different things when they say them. That one word same makes a pretty important difference in how the thought reads.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    hmmmm…. no disrespect intended Scot, but my reading of church history is quite different … Catholics and Orthodox largely agreed on all of the ancient creeds up until about the 10th century … The Calvinists were not around until the 16 century, but I am not aware of the Calvinists repudiating any of the early creeds… I’m sure you have a good point there somewhere, but you are misapplying it to church history.

  • Scott M

    The great schism of 1054 marked the breaking point in the two traditions. There was a lot which led up to it before that, including Rome changing the Nicene Creed in a way which altered what it said about the nature of God. However, I was mostly speaking of the divergence in the traditions since the schism. I’ve read large chunks of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I do own it. I’ve read the Summa Theologica which tremendously influenced the direction of Roman Catholicism. I have friends and family members who are Roman Catholic and have attended many liturgies over the years. I have read a wide array of other Catholic works. When I say I have tried to immerse myself and view things through their lens, I meant what I said.
    Similarly, I have read many books and listened to hours upon hours of Orthodox speaking to and for other Orthodox about their faith. I have read and reread scripture through the lens they offer.
    I have similarly read and listened to and attended a wide array of traditions within Protestantism. I have certainly spent more time within the Lutheran, Anglican, Anabaptist, and Wesleyan traditions than I have either the charismatic strains or the calvinistic strains.
    And it makes no difference whether people “repudiate” the creeds or not. The creeds are just words. If you don’t mean the same thing when you say them, which those three don’t (though Roman Catholicism and Calvinism are probably closer to each other than either is to Orthodoxy these days), then you aren’t saying the same thing. It’s not the words that matter. It’s what you mean when you say them, the reality you are describing, that determines if you are holding to the same creed, the same beliefs. The Jesus who lies at the heart of one of those traditions is substantially different from the Jesus at the heart of the other ones.
    The realities of church history are much deeper than the bare words of the creeds. Simply saying the same words and trying to pretend we are engaged in the same act of worship is meaningless when people mean radically different things when they say the words.
    But it goes well beyond the creeds and what people mean when they say them. The three traditions both use the word “Incarnation”, but attach very different meanings to it. The three traditions (and others) would all claim the Cross is central, but would give extremely different answers explaining way. All three hold to the Resurrection (though in much of Protestantism, the reasons for it I hear given are often pretty weak – N.T. Wright definitely excepted) but mean radically different things when they discuss it.
    Now, when people are willing to put their cards on the table and not hide themselves behind the “same Jesus” and “same words” shields amazing things do happen. For instance, the things N.T. Wright says about the Resurrection are almost indistinguishable from what the Orthodox say about it. We can begin to return to common ground, but a truly common ground reaching down deep, not the shallow enlightenment ground of “tolerated” differences. Tolerance is infinitely better than intolerance, hatred, and rejection. But it’s not even a shadow of Christ’s love. It’s not Christian. We need to learn (or relearn as the case may be) to do better than that.

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    I comment here with a bit of trepidation – but, there are not different Jesus’s and there are not different Gods.
    There are different imperfect and culturally shaped ways of trying to wrestle with exactly who and what God and Jesus are; exactly what incarnation and resurrection mean; exactly what the atoning work of God through Jesus is; exactly what the present and future kingdom of God are. I don’t think that anybody has it all right or ever did. I would venture to suggest that even includes Peter and Paul and John, who appear to have been growing through their encounters with Jesus and the faith as recorded in scripture; it certainly applies to the churches they established. It also includes the apostolic and ante-Nicene church fathers. I am not sure that there has ever been a common ground in the church in the sense that you seem to mean. There are somewhat fuzzy boundaries beyond which we may not step without repudiating the faith; without stepping beyond one God, one faith, one Lord Jesus Christ.
    Now—that does not mean that I think that we should simply practice shallow tolerance. I think that we need to continue to wrestle deeply in communion with the global and historic church. We should pursue common ground – but we will not return to something that has never existed within fallible human community.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    Scott M. (#10),
    Angry at sin…translates into angry at sinners.
    Uh, no. To use the analogy of a disease (perhaps not too far wrong), if my child contracted a deadly disease, I can envision being very angry at the disease because it (microbes, bacteria, virus, whatever) has invaded and is harming my child, but that wouldn’t make me angry at my diseased child. I still love my child and want him or her to be free of the deadly disease.
    Please feel free to give me your non-Calvinistic, non-Orthodox, non-Roman Catholic response.

  • Scott M

    So the apostolic witnesses to the Resurrection did not truly know Jesus in all fullness and thus did not fully grasp God? Certainly Jesus continued to stretch and pull them in the person of the Spirit even after Pentecost. However, the claim you make is as staggering in its implications as any I have made. If nobody has ever known and understood the fullness of God revealed in Jesus, then it seems to me that Jesus and the Holy Spirit failed. If we don’t know who we worship, if we can’t truly know who we worship, if nobody has ever truly known the God we worship, what’s the point in being Christian?

  • Scott M

    Bob, I should have said I’ve rarely heard the “angry at sin” statement used in a way that did not translate into “angry at sinners”. I used the disease metaphor for hating sin myself over on the wrath thread. And I heard that metaphor from someone, though I don’t remember who. I wasn’t careful in what I wrote.
    I’m also non-Anglican and non-Lutheran and non-Pentecostal and just about everything else you could put in there. I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church, but I don’t think I sound like much of anyone I’ve heard in Baptist circles and wouldn’t want to confuse people who don’t know Baptists by claiming a Baptist perspective. ;)

  • http://www.faithemergenc.com Dan

    What convinced me to become a Christian re. the first question.
    I’ve been a Christian since God’s grace swept into my life through baptism less than a month after I was born.
    What do I do with that as a 27 year old man continuing to explore faith every day? What continues to convince me to believe in God? That same act. Why? Because on a daily basis I’m reminded that I’m absolutely dependent on God’s grace and that I couldn’t find it myself because there’s something inside me that would rather go my own way than find it’s way back to God. Yet there’s a God out there who went out to find me and pulled me into a new and much better life. That’s why I continue to believe.

  • mariam

    Ouch! #42. That was a bit personal. Maybe we’ve got to the point when we are talking past each other, because we are dealing in concepts that are very large and very hard to define. Great discussion but maybe time to take some deep breaths and go spend some time with our families. Peace, all.

  • mariam

    OK. It was #42, but now #43 (josenmiami). I’ve always thought you and Scott were closer in theology than what this discussion seems to indicate.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    Mariam, you must have meant #43 … thats me. You are right, that was too sarcastic … I should have just checked out for the night. My apologies…hasta luego amigos….

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    josenmiami,
    For some odd reason I couldn’t access my site while everyone else was … now I’m back. I deleted that comment as out of character for you.

  • RJS

    Scott M (#41)
    I would turn your question around a bit. If we must “truly” know who we worship, what’s the point in being Christian? Where “truly” here is knowing in the sense you seem to imply. We are not capable of that kind of knowing this side of eternity. I am sure I get it wrong in some fashion and always will.

  • RJS

    Whoops – Scott M (#40)

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    building on the rjs/scott m comments:
    we talked about mormons one time in seminary. my theology professor, earl radmacher, went into a long recitation of everything mormons believed about Jesus (whether it was all factual or not, i’m not sure – but i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, as he’s a sharp guy).
    at the end, he said, “that’s the Jesus they believe in. thus, we know they are not Christians because that Jesus simply does not exist.”
    one wonders how many things we have to get right to even be nominal Christians if we have to believe in the only Jesus that ‘exists’. that’s probably limited to God and the Holy Spirit.
    maybe al mohler and johnny mac…
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    Mariam #44: we probably are, I have just been a bit moody and cantankerous lately…. :-) )

  • Scott M

    And I missed josenmiami’s comment, but I’m sure I’m confusing a number of people who have read my thoughts on a number of different topics. Here we are talking about the very center of the set called Christianity. That alters the nature of the discussion.
    RJS, I’ve had the drive home to get over my initial shock at your statement. I’ve been framing my thoughts here in terms of my current exploration of the chaos and confusion and disunity which passes for Christianity today. But I’m perfectly willing to go back and discuss ancient history. Let’s talk about Arius, who was the driving force behind the council from which we get the Nicene Creed, arguably the granddaddy of all creeds. I don’t know how much you’ve explored or studied Arianism or that council, but it is utterly fascinating.
    You see, Arius based his argument solely upon scripture. And he had a logical and integrated interpretation for every verse of scripture with which the council tried to test him. Finally, they rejected his teaching not from reason or from scripture or from any human insight. I’ll let Athanasius speak for himself here.
    “But concerning matters of faith, they did not write: ‘It has been decided,’ but ‘Thus the Catholic Church believes.’ And thereupon confessed how they believed. This they did to show that their judgement was not of more recent origin, but was in fact of Apostolic times…” (Volume 1, Faith of the Early Fathers, p338). In this regard also, Athanasius askes rhetorically, “… how many fathers can you cite for your phrases?” (Ibid, p325)
    Put simply, the basis for the decision of the council and the Nicene Creed was the understanding of the nature of Jesus which had been traditioned to the Church by the apostles and which the Church had always believed. That’s it. That’s really the whole basis. They said the Jesus Arius taught was not a real Jesus because it’s not the Jesus which the Apostles taught and the Church had believed.
    Based on your statement, they were wrong to do what they did. And if they were wrong, we really don’t have any creeds on which we can rely. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a First Arian Church on the corner with all the rest. And in all honesty, we already can’t speak against effectively against the resurgence of modalism (which denies that Jesus is a person unique from the Father and the Spirit) so I’m not sure it matters if we drop our complaint against Arianism. Admittedly they have a number of other odd beliefs, but I’m pretty sure the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is similar to the Jesus of Arius. Or for that matter, why not embrace the Jesus of the Latter Day Saints. Heck, can we really reject out of hand the Jesus of Islam? How about Jesus as modern Judaism understands him? Or Bishop Spong?
    If nobody has understood Jesus, if nobody has ever really known the person Jesus even in the first generation, much less later ones, then on what basis do you reject any picture, however contradictory, of Jesus of Nazareth?
    As far as your question to me goes, I’m not sure I grasp your point. If Christianity were more similar to Hinduism or a religion like that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It simply wouldn’t be germane. It matters in Christianity because the central claim of this faith is that there is only God, he exists in three persons, and we know this God through the actual, real, historical, and still living person named Jesus of Nazareth. And we know Jesus through the Spirit (the presence of whom seems to be such that it’s the same as if Jesus was with us), through Scripture, and through the Apostolic witness to the actual resurrected Lord. If Christianity didn’t make that claim, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference what sort of ‘Jesus’ any of us believed in and tried to relate to as a person.
    But Christianity does and always has claimed that Jesus is a real, knowable person and we aren’t free to simply construct our own personal image of Jesus. At least, it’s claimed that until pretty recently. Now I’m not sure what ‘Christianity’ has to say about Jesus.

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    I don’t think that we are free to construct our own image of Jesus – not in any fashion. But it seems to me that you are expecting a degree of certainty about detail and uniformity of understanding that does not exist.
    I have not read the history of the Nicene creed in detail – largely because I have not gotten there yet. I started with the Apostolic fathers and have only gotten as far as Tertullian and Origen (slow going sometimes).
    But perhaps I misunderstand the degree of uniformity in common understanding you really expect.

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    One book I read last year was Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ which traces devotion to Jesus in the early church. I thought that it was a good book. Clearly devotion to Jesus and some understanding of Jesus developed very early – but a worked out understanding of who Jesus really was took longer, and perhaps continues yet at some level. In the early church they did not even have the proper language to express their nascent ideas.

  • Howard Walters

    Took a while, but I read all of this conversational thread. Some excellent writers and thoughts. Scott M., I wonder if you’ve perhaps skewed slightly past “hearing well” some of the other ideas in constructing your own response? Jesus is a real, honest to goodness, historical person in every way (at least) that I am. I am known on many different levels through various combinations of my characteristics, personality, gifts, moods, attitudes. Jesus the Living Man/God is likewise known in many combinations of his wonderfully complex self.
    If you really press to the heart of some of this argument, you land on the issue of “proper” interpretation of scripture. Orthodox or “un-orthodox” renderings of the written word.
    Is it not possible that many different people and groups have landed on various expressions of the “real” Jesus? That we observe, as the five blind brothers observed the elephant in the road, someone so beyond the human capacity to know that we are left knowing and worshipping with partial and perhaps partially wrong/right views of Jesus?
    This isn’t worth arguing. No one changes their minds anyway. It is worth noting in praise and thanksgiving that my Jesus doesn’t seem to mind if I get it wrong a little bit. In my field, we call this the margin of error. Hopefully God grants us a wide one!

  • Scott M

    RJS, I expect the Jesus presented by the various Christian traditions to be reconcilable to a single, non-contradictory, non-self-opposing, historical, real person. A wholly divine and wholly human person true, but nevertheless a person. Right now they don’t. Anything I can say in a sentence, a paragraph, or a single page about those different traditions would be a caricature. Nevertheless, they do say not just different things about Jesus, but contradictory and opposing things. Even when they use the same words, they often encompass very different meanings within those words. The church has developed and is still developing language to describe Jesus. At the same time, though, Athanasius could say, “Thus the whole (catholic) Church believes” (and had always believed) about Jesus and have it actually mean something.
    Nobody could say that now. At least not with a straight face or an ounce of knowledge.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M,
    Are you really the author of this blog? Your views and demeanor seem counter to your book.
    “But Christianity does and always has claimed that Jesus is a real, knowable person and we aren’t free to simply construct our own personal image of Jesus…”
    The act of writing a gospel is an act of constructing an image of Jesus. We have 4 cannonized versions of such images. That is the whole point of creating a play, novel, script, or “gospel” through the lens of the author.
    There is a big problem with your statement. You’ve not defined what it means for Jesus to be “real”. What is real? What is Jesus now? For that matter, WHERE is Jesus now?
    The problem with orthodox views (or calvanist – whose differences are so minute it really is of little concern), is that none of them explain the metaphysical workings of their ideas. They merely use metaphorical language (soul, heaven, hell, fall, reconciliation, etc.) but they are unable to describe the physics behind the words. Therefore, belief in an orthodox view of God and incarnation of Jesus is not really belief in anything other than an agreement to use a particular set of words and an admission that you have no idea how it works. That is not really “belief”. It is more like hope or trust in language, but it is no kind of certainty about God and Jesus.
    So, if you believe in a God that is a “person”, then what is it, where is it, and how is it that it becomes human for a time?

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    Progressive,
    Are you aware that Scot McKnight and Scott M are two different people? Scot may have received some of his drive for brevity at the moment his parents named him, spelling “Scot” with the minimum required letters!

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Matthew,
    I just realized that and emailed the real Scot. Thank God that other guy isn’t him! I owed the real Scot an apology for thinking he was a goober the last 2 weeks!
    Almost as bad as not closing my italics in the last message :)

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    Progressive, what exactly is a goober?

  • RJS

    Progressive Faith
    We will get to resurrection in a few posts once again – so I am sure that you will have plenty to say there; but for now what do you consider the “physics” behind your words?

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    RJS (#60),
    I don’t try to make any metaphysical claims about God. I suspect it is a natural product of the human mind, but I never try to claim that guess as “truth” and it still leaves much to be discovered. We know less about the human mind than we do about the Earth. We don’t understand it as of yet(or maybe never will).
    The point is that I don’t base my faith on “knowing” what God is. Instead I see my faith as a response of fidelity to a particular set of stories. I don’t think we get brownie points for either discovering what God is, how it works, or convincing others to claim certainty in what it is.
    Without a concrete explanation of what God is or how divinity works, traditional views of God are really just “images” or metaphorical pictures of something that we can’t (yet?) explain. My critique was aimed at those who mistake a particular terms as Gods rather than what the terms point toward.

  • mariam

    Progressive,
    I don’t think either of the Scot(t)s are goobers. Scott M is more like a walnut, pretty big, tough to crack and then when you open it up it looks like a brain and you have all that stuff to pick through before you can eat the meat (Sorry, Scott, I couldn’t resist:). Scot is more like a macadamia – comes in small but richly flavoured bites.

  • RJS

    mariam, excellent imagery.
    Progressive Faith – Why should we have fidelity to a specific set of stories? Why privilege one set of stories over another?

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    RJS (#63),
    We shouldn’t privilege any set of stories over another. It is the only set of stories that I know in such detail and the only stories that move me. If I grew up in another place or time, I might know another set of stories. I also recognize that other stories and other symbols “may” say the same things. When they do, they are true also. Truths exist beyond stories. The stories/myths are merely vehicles that allow the truths to transcend time.
    My fidelity is to the truths beneath the stories, but these stories are the only way I know to tell the truth. That doesn’t make other stories “wrong”.

  • Scott M

    :D Mariam. Love it.
    I won’t claim I’m precisely sure what you’re trying to say, but to the extent I do there are certainly plenty of religions and spiritualities that work as I believe you are trying to describe. I’ve explored a number and actually tried on or lived (to one extent or another) a smaller set.
    The problem is that Christianity has never been one of those. Oh, there have been offshoots stretching back to the first and second century gnostics who have tried to head in directions like the one you are describing. But they’ve generally withered and died within a generation or two. And they’ve certainly never been anywhere near the center of the river called Christianity.
    No, Christianity has always historically made very different and very specific claims. If you treat those claims as other than what they were and are, then you are not actually interacting with the real two thousand year old faith. Now, nobody is going to shove those claims down your throat. They’ve always been pretty hard to swallow. That’s nothing new. Nevertheless, they sit there. And to the extent you keep them at arm’s length, you are avoiding rather than embracing the experience of this particular faith.

  • RJS

    Progressive Faith,
    I don’t find fidelity to a set of stories any justification for adherence to an ethic – oh say the ethic of Jesus. Why bother? Unless of course – these stories are true and others are not.

  • http://www.covthinklings.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    a walnut and a macademia? That makes me a buckeye, which is appropriate since I was born in Ohio …
    buckeye = a worthless nut …

  • RJS

    josenmiami,
    Not worthless even though born in Ohio (said as a Wolverine)
    I must be a hex nut or a lug nut as I have spent most of my time building things – tinker toy optics and unistrut.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    RJS(#66)
    Why bother? Because the truths that the stories point us toward actually WORK. Forgiveness, justice, mercy, non-violence and self-sacrifice trumps revenge, injustice, evil, and war.
    Other stories don’t have to be wrong for these stories to be right. Why? Because the other stories often tell the same truths. When I say 2 + 2 = 4 I’m just as correct as you are when you say II + II = IV.
    A tree is judged by its fruit (or NUT in this case!). That goes for people and for stories. We should never follow a story simple because of its source. We should follow it if it works and only if it works. Actually, that is how we will determine its source.

  • Scott M

    Progressive, we’re a pretty pluralistic society and becoming more so. You aren’t culture-bound to any particular story about the nature of reality unless you choose to be bound. I’ve chosen to live within some of the different ones, including the one which tries to make all stories windows to the same truth. That latter one is the weakest and is mostly a refusal to meet any of the stories on their own terms. If you do meet the stories on their own terms, you will find they do not say the same thing about the fundamental nature of reality and what it means to be a human being. Marxism for instance says almost the polar opposite of Hinduism. And I’ve not found any other view that says what Christianity says on those two topics. Unsurprisingly, Judaism is the closest. Most others are much, much different.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M (aka goober),
    Of course I’m not making a blanket statement that every story in the history of mankind is equal. I’m simply saying that we can find more some commonality in the deeper meanings. We wouldn’t want people to judge the Christian story on its surface (7 headed beast and all). So, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that other traditions have stories that also contain many of the same truths if we care to look beneath the symbolism.
    Within the Bible there are mulitple myths/parables that tell the same meaning. We shouldn’t write of all but one as “untrue”.

  • RJS

    Progressive Faith,
    You keep making comments – on this thread and on ORF 8 – oh like this one to me on the last post I completely respect the more literal view of scripture and I acknowledge its value to your life. I truly am looking for a way beyond the scripture wars. (#96 – ORF 8 )
    What you don’t seem to realize is that I don’t base my views on a typical “literal view of scripture” but rather on thinking through the problems in the context of the church and of scripture – which was preserved by the church. But – “literal view” ain’t the issue. I do think we need to be able to take scripture “seriously” but by this I mean in the sense that it is not “a novel” or an intentionally constructed falsehood as some of the gnostic documents likely were for example. I cannot do justice to my meaning in a short comment – but you seem to consider historicity and literal view of scripture in lock step. I don’t – these are two different issues to wrestle with.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    1 + 1 = 10 in binary; 8 + 7 = F in hexadecimal. So what?
    I got a system, you got a system, all God’s children got a system.
    What we need to have is Him.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    RJS (#72),
    Yes, I do consider those in lock step. When I say literal view, I mean a view that insists the scenes and dialog in the gospels (and other narrative stories like genesis, exodus, or even acts) were historical events in time and space. Not just that they reference historical people, but that they must have happened just as they are presented in the story or else it has no value.
    A non-literal view does not mean the stories were “intentional falsehoods”. You’re missing the third and more probably option. The authors created the stories using real history, but telling the story in a way that used scenes and dialog meant to convey a deeper meaning. Just like the way ANY playwrite or movie producer would craft a story about a historical character, but in a captivating format. Real life rarely moves at the needed pace to captivate an audience. It must be cut and crafted to make a good story.
    I think you are really focused in a more modern idea that the goal of a gospel was to nail down the historical truth. For example, why do you suggest that a novel isn’t a serious document? Why couldn’t a novel be more truth-filled than a text book? I would suggest that for pre-modern people, a dry history book would be LESS valuable than a grand myth.
    Another example would be… can the parable of the prodigal son be true even if it didn’t happen? If so, why not the resurrection story or ascension story? Wouldn’t we expect followers of Jesus to teach about him in the same way he taught about God… through parables? Add to that the fact that Jews had been teaching this way for centuries. Do you take 6-day creation or the flood story literally? Or must they be “real” history in order to be valuable?

  • RJS

    Progressive Faith,
    It seems to me that you are the one insisting on all or nothing. Either all is story or all is literal history.
    There is only on piece of this I am actually interested in interacting with now and that is resurrection. Well that and the fact that Jesus actually existed as a distinct human crucified in Jerusalem. It seems to me that you are saying that as the Prodigal Son is story and Job is story and Noah is story – so too resurrection must be story. I won’t concede that point because I think the framework and genre is entirely different. Not only that, the witness of the church – in the first few decades as well as in the first century – is to resurrection. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are validated and accepted because they tell the story the church knew – not because they convey metaphysical truths. It is an invalid comparison to equate the telling of the story of Jesus with the other examples listed.
    Resurrection is victory and it is only victory if it happened.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    RJS (#75),
    I said…
    “The authors created the stories using real history, but telling the story in a way that used scenes and dialog meant to convey a deeper meaning. “
    What part of that is all or nothing – history or myth?
    Now for the real “all or nothing”… You said:
    “Resurrection is victory and it is only victory if it happened. “
    I agree it’s meaning is victory. Why can’t it be a symbolic victory that suggests Jesus can be physically killed by the empire but vindicated by God through the continuation of his message? They can kill the man, but not the message. The revolution continues as Jesus now lives in his NEW body, the church. How is it ONLY victory if a corpse gets up out of the tomb? Paul is right that the story is nothing without resurrection, but he is also right to suggest that the resurrection happens in us, his body, as we live out his mission to bring restoration and renewal.
    Explain how it is an “invalid comparison” to compare the story of the exodus to the story of the Jesus’ resurrection. Both are grounded in some element of history (real people and places), yet unprovable by historical information. Both have deeper metaphorical meanings intended by their authors. They are very good items to be compared.
    If you are so certain you have this nailed (pun intended) down, then what is Jesus now? Is he molecular? Is he physical? Where is he? How is it he was/is God? Was he the same molecules that is God? Was he NOT made of molecules and only a “vision”? Do you KNOW? Are you certain about how this works? Can you describe how any of these things happened?
    I’m more than happy to accept a way to see the story as historical. Just simply explain any way it could work. Not iron clad proof, just a hypothesis. Otherwise, you are simply an agnostic. Either your “know” or your don’t “know”. If you don’t know how it worked then you are agnostic but holding faith in the specific set of terms and the language of your tradition rather than a certainty in facts.
    My view is not all or nothing, because I’m willing to say I have no proof, therefore I don’t know so believe what you want about the historicity. But, unlike the liberal secularists of the modern era, I’m more that willing to follow the values of a story even though it is likely a myth and I can’t prove otherwise. Myth is perfectly fine with me because that is the best literary mechanism to convey deep truth and carry it through time. Our myths are not the only myths in antiquity that happened to be not myths. Our myths are in my view the ones whose truths make the most sense. They are my favorite. For me, they are the best. These divine stories are saving me. Therefore I am a Christian.

  • RJS

    Progressive Faith,
    Thanks, I have a lot clearer idea of what we are talking about now – and don’t even want to try venture a quick reply. You’d tear it apart in an instant. We will get to resurrection again in a later post on Keller’s book – and I’ll think about it in the mean time. Perhaps others have insights as well.

  • Scott M

    Progressive, talk about mixing categories, whew. That’s one confused tangle of … Maybe I’m a little unusual in that I was raised in a family which included scientists, artists, teachers, historians, lawyers, engineers, (and machinists, firemen, and a number of other things not directly relevant here). Heck, I even have an uncle now who is a professor of religion. (Don’t confuse that with Christian. He’s not and that’s not his specialty.) But I immediately note that you talk about accepting some as historical if you are given a hypothesis of (I presume) the physical mechanics of the resurrection.
    Talk about confusing categories. RJS can speak better on this one, but it’s generally a waste of time to formulate hypotheses about singular, unrepeatable events. Not always, mind you. But often. If such an event seems to be required for other data, as the singularity called the Big Bang is required, it is simply postulated. (I’m rusty and out of date on my physics reading. Been concentrating on other things for the past decade or so. But I do recall a popular Stephen Hawkings essay on exactly that topic.) Singular, one-off events can’t be tested or confirmed or repeated by their nature. So such a hypothesis can never be directly confirmed or denied.
    Now history is an entirely different beastie. History specializes and focuses on singular, often unrepeated events. And it gathers data to confirm or deny those events from many different sorts of sources all of varying reliability. History deals in a very different sort of intellectual currency. My interest in history, especially ancient history (which is again pretty different from modern history) long predates my days as a Christian. In fact, they stretch back to my childhood.
    Now, I can’t go into gobs of historical exploration in a comment. And frankly, I can’t think of anything I could possibly say that N.T. Wright (who is certainly a historian) hasn’t said in The Resurrection of the Son of God. He covers everything I ever considered and lot of questions and slants I never even thought to ask, much less pursue.
    But the historical point is this. Within two decades of the Crucifixion and Resurrection it had already been established in creedal form as an oral tradition. And the specific shape of that oral tradition is fascinating. It gives specific detail and then it provides a list of people who were witnesses to the Resurrections and says if you have any questions, go ask them. That’s the creed which was traditioned to Paul and which he passed on and from which he quotes in 1 Corinthian 15. In other words, over a period of time which, in my own life covers a time at which I was already an adult with two children to the present, not very long at all, this oral tradition was established. And it was very specific. And from the very beginning Christians did not say believe this spiritual event. They presented it as historical fact and told everyone to check up on it if they had any doubts.
    Now, there has been a lot of thought and many different hypotheses given over the course of twenty centuries to the makeup of the resurrected body and the manner in which it is both physically continuous with the previous body, but also transcends it (it’s not just a resuscitation). Explore them all at your leisure. But from a historical perspective, there is simply no other event than the physical, bodily resurrection to which the witnesses all testified that explains the course of subsequent history. The only reason it’s even a historical question (Lord knows we establish a lot of other events in ancient history with much less data) is because it is hard to swallow. Fine. But there isn’t another explanation that works. If you want to chase that faerie, first work through Wright’s big academic book.

  • Scott M

    More importantly and directly to the point here, Progressive, is the fact that those who followed Jesus, those who were called Christians, from the earliest time and continuously throughout history proclaimed the Crucifixion and Resurrection as historical events. As with any story, you don’t get to alter the premises and terms of the story and yet claim that it is still the same story and you are a part of it. When you appropriate a story for yourself and change it to suit your preferences, you have made it a different story. On this point, it doesn’t really matter if the story is Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, or anything else. Some have more structure and more fundamental premises. Some have fewer. But if you change those, you are not joining that story. You are starting your own new story which perhaps takes elements from another story but is discontinuous with that story.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M. (#78),
    Yes, Christians always proclaimed self-sacrifice (the crucifixion) and restoration to community (resurrection) as central. Also many were fixated on supernatural phenomenon as proof of those things. Those people also saw the world as flat, sickness as demonic possession, 6-day creation, and a literal afterlife. The point of christianity is not to adopt the ancient world view of our story’s authors, but to extract the “more than literal” meaning of their stories and apply those meanings to our lives.
    I’m not opposed to trying to keep a pre-enlightenment world view if that helps a person follow Christ, but to insist that being Christian means we must accept “unreasonable” beliefs is not true to our history as a people of an intellectual faith. The odd combination of modern people trying to force a pre-modern world view (fundamentalism) has produced some horrible results. In the same way, the modern combination of scientific rejection of our stories because they were proved to be non-historical (atheism or hardline secular liberalism) is unproductive.
    I don’t really think we need a new story. The old stories are fine with me as long as we can take them seriously without taking them literally.

  • Scott M

    Progressive, the things you are saying do not conform to reality. It is not an ancient worldview or a myth or superstition that was claimed. Christians, within years of the event, had already turned the Resurrection into an oral tradition which told people to go and talk to specific witnesses. The resurrection was not proclaimed as a metaphor or a “spiritual” event and there would be no Christianity today for you to pick and choose from had it been proclaimed that way. From the very earliest days, it was proclaimed as a specific and actual event and those to whom it was proclaimed were told to go talk to the people who had actual witnessed it. That’s the basis of Christianity. And that’s a historical fact.
    Thank you for finally being open with your belief that you are too “enlightened” to participate in that very specific Christian story and would rather construct your own reality and your own story. There is nothing to stop you from doing so and has never been anything to stop people from attempting to do so.
    But it’s not the two thousand year old Christian story. It’s not even particularly similar to it. And I don’t have much interest in shallow and recent spiritualities, whether spawned in the enlightenment or the postmodern reaction to it. I didn’t even before I was Christian. I dabbled in some of the more modern spiritualities growing up, but by the time I was in my twenties, I had largely lost interest in them and focused on ancient traditions which had real legs. I never expected to be Christian at all, but that’s another story. Nevertheless, since I am I certainly don’t have much interest in anything that is not deeply rooted in this particular ancient faith.
    And you don’t get much more central than the resurrection of Jesus. That’s the proclamation from the beginning. And as a matter of historical fact, without it there would be no Christianity today. Period.

  • Scott M

    Or to put it more plainly, I do not believe that we have only truly discovered what it means to be a human being in the past few hundred years. That is the core story of the Enlightenment and I don’t buy it. I never have as an adult. If I weren’t Christian today I would be Hindu or Buddhist or one of the other truly ancient spiritual traditions (conceivably even Judaism). And I would be working to conform myself to what they say it means to be a human being according their particular perspective on the nature of reality rather than attempting to force those traditions into the thimble of my perspective.
    I don’t buy into that aspect of the central story of the Enlightenment. If you do, that’s fine. Do try to be honest and forthright about what you are doing, though.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M.,
    Then what is a resurrection? How does it work? What does the Bible have to say about it?

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M. (#81),
    We are no where near understanding what it means to be human. Other than it was a fusion of 2 chromosomes that mutated apes to humans. As far as understanding what makes for human consciousness, we have a long way to go. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the greek dualism that influenced so much of orthodox Christian views. Yet, the Biblical story of redemtion and salvation through self-sacrifice and forgiveness holds as our understanding of the universe grows.
    I still hold that there is a possible 3rd way emerging beyond the war of secular left and fundamentalist right. A way out of our old fight that is honest about our latest discoveries, and also honest about the transforming power of our truth-filled ancient stories.

  • Scott M

    Progressive, instead of condescending to all that is older than the past few hundred years as “unenlightened” it would profit you much to study, read, and humbly learn. As long as you have rejected most of human history as somehow beneath you and primitive, you can learn little from it. Personally, I find the arrogance of enlightenment-style thinking off-putting. I always have, whether I was Christian or not. And frankly, the claims to enlightenment are hollow and empty. The 20th century proved that beyond all doubt.
    You are also making a category mistake. The question of the resurrection is not a question for scientific inquiry through the tools of hypothesis, test, and observation. It’s always been presented as a singular event. And it has always been incredible and beyond belief. You might as well ask me the mechanics of the singularity called the Big Bang, what caused it, and what came before it. The resurrection is a matter for the realm of historical research, it has always been presented as a historical event, and it can be studied that way. All the historical evidence supports it. And there is no other historical explanation that can satisfactorily account the results we see. If it were any event less unbelievable than the resurrection, there wouldn’t even be a historical question or debate. N.T. Wright’s big book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, says everything in that arena I could say and much I never even thought to ask or question. That discussion is beyond the scope of a blog comment thread.
    You are also historically and categorically wrong about the influence of Greek dualism on ancient orthodox Christian thought. Of course, you would actually have to study and read those first thousand years and the minds within it rather than condescend to them as primitive to know that. The early Christians were very familiar with Plato. And they were constantly fighting against the sharp intrusion of platonic thought. Those struggles were actually what led to most of the ecumenical councils. And again and again that dualism was rejected. Now, I do agree that a very great deal of Christian experience and practice today is very dualistic. Plato and Aristotle form the ground of much of Western culture and thought (ironically including the Enlightenment which you hold in such high esteem). But Christianity is not and has never been even vaguely dualistic when it has also been orthodox.
    Frankly, I could care less about either the modern left (which is hardly uniformly secular) or the modern right (which is also hardly uniformly fundamentalist). You are forming a dualism which has never really existed in reality. I don’t find either of those modern expressions particularly interesting or enlightening. Feel free to follow your new story, your third way. I hope you enjoy the journey. But it’s not a continuation of the ancient Christian faith. It’s discontinuous and centered around new ideas and a different ethos and story about reality and what it means to be a human being.

  • Scott M

    Actually, I suppose I meant “couldn’t care less”. Pesky words.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Scott M.,
    I’ve read Tom Wright many times and heard him speak. I’m well aware of his views. If you want to debate Richard Dawkins, then please call him. I’m not him. I’ve never said people before the enlightenment period are bad or dumb. I’m not sure where you get that. Jesus was likely illiterate, but that doesn’t make him an idiot. If you’ll listen, I’m giving the highest regard to people of a pre-modern world view. I’m suggesting they had a better way of communicating truth because they were not caught up in modern insistence on facts and historicity. They used myths and parables and those methods work better because they can transcend any single world view. Labeling a view as “pre-enlightenment” is not an insult. It is simply a fact of dating a statement. It happened before the modern enlightenment period and therefore drew heavily on that perspective on the universe. That must be part of our exegesis.
    I have never said that early Christians didn’t believe in a physical resurrection. I agree with Tom Wright that they did. He wins. I agree. Yes, some people believed in miracles and resurrection was a key miracle for them. Yes, that story helped preserve the message of Jesus. In that way, that story it is vital to Christianity. And Paul was right to suggest it was the key in winning converts in his time. Without that story, I fear they would have failed and we would not have the story of Jesus today.
    You are really ignoring the fact that I never claimed one way or the other on this issue of resurrection as “correct”. I am simply suggesting that no one yet has explained it (including Tom Wright). There was a pre-enlightenment view that accepted it as history and a post-enlightenment view that does not. Neither discounts the underlying meaning. Christianity need not be a mandate to adopt the ancient view. If we look beyond the historicity of the events we should be able to agree on the deeper meanings that the authors are trying to preserve in their stories. We should hopefully be able to move past those modern wars.
    How many times do I have to repeat that I believe the stories are GROUNDED IN HISTORY, yet told through non-historical narratives. I don’t understand why you keep ignoring that even though I’ve said it in nearly every post. You believe it was only history, I believe it is both history and myth. Ok, so what? Now lets talk about what the stories mean regardless of if they “really” happened. What does it mean to be born again or resurrected? (literally?) I suspect, if you are honest, that your view is actual more of a “both/and” also.
    We agree on our disapproval of both the modern left and the modern right. This other way IS a continuation of the ancient Christian story despite the fact that it accepts people of both ancient and modern world views. The story is not itself a world view. It is told through one view, but it can be told again through another.
    Maybe you are turning me into Richard Dawkins. If I had to choose his view or yours, hmmmmm… his view is growing on me simply because of your tactics. I suspect that trend is growing around the world.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    Jesus was likely illiterate, but that doesn’t make him an idiot. (#87, Progressive Faith)
    I was reminded of a short poem of Emily Dickinson’s (and remember, one-t Scot, there are her words, not mine):
    He preached upon “breadth” till it argued him narrow,—
    The broad are too broad to define:
    And of “truth” until it proclaimed him a liar,—
    The truth never flaunted a sign.
    Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence 5
    As gold the pyrites would shun.
    What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
    To meet so enabled a man!