Dare to believe that Jesus was God

Writing the book I have started is threatening to take over my life. That means either writing less blog posts, or writing faster/sloppier blog posts. This morning I’m going for fast and sloppy. So in what follows excuse any … I dunno, unclarities, or … the making up of words such as “unclarity.”

In response to my recent post A church for the unchurched? an online friend of mine wrote this: “I’m one of those Christians who thinks Jesus was no more, (or less) Divine than any other person.”

Whoomp: there it is. That, right there, is what I think lies at the heart of the problem so many progressive Christians have with Christianity. Sure, it’s the insanely toxic fundamentalists, and the homophobia, and the hypocrisy and the misogyny and all the rest of it. And all of that stuff is awful, of course. But what I think is also really going on with many many progXtians is that, when it comes right down to it, they don’t believe that Jesus Christ was actually and truly God incarnated on earth as a man.

(I think that what actually happens is that sooooooo many progressive Christians don’t really decide on the matter either way. On the one hand, they like the idea of Christ being divine—I daresay that deep down they want to believe that Christ was divine, because we all want life to be more wondrous and magic than, alas, we fear that it is—but on the other hand they’re afraid that believing that Christ was God would cost them too much—that it would make them laughable, simple-minded, shallow, foolish, absurdly unmodern. And they see no pressing reason to make a decision on the matter either way. I know a lot of pastors who on this point of theology waffle so much within themselves that outside of themselves they might as well hand out pieces of waffle during communion. I know a lot of progXtians who’d take umbrage if their pastor made a point of affirming that Jesus was God. And though as far as I know it’s never part of any polling data on the matter, I know it’s safe to assert that one of the main reasons untold millions of self-identifying Christians stay home on Sunday mornings is because, deep down inside, they really don’t believe that Christ was God come to earth. So they have no real motivation to go to a place that is based upon and grounded in that very specific conviction.)

So I just want to say real quick that God’s primary mode of communication with us is through our subconscious mind. Waiting for your everyday intelligent mind—the mind you use to do your taxes and strategize about your career/job and decide what to buy at the store and all that—to tell you that Christ was God is like waiting for a dog to start chirping like a bird. That’s not going to happen. It can’t. That’s not what dogs do.

Again: God speaks to us through our subconscious mind. That is where within us all the wonderful and ineffable magic and mystery of life abides and thrives. That’s where our souls exist. That’s where dreams occur. That’s where intuition churns and waits to become conscious thought.

That’s why nature is so powerful to us. When you’re standing on the beach or in the woods, it’s not your conscious mind that’s being so affected by everything around you. Your everyday brain can’t begin to process all that magnificence. What responds to the glory of nature is your soul, your heart, your whole … integrated core thing.

That’s the same place and way God communicates with you. That is God communicating with you. And that’s the part of you that church is meant to stir. Church isn’t about your little “me! me! me!” brain. Church is about the whole of your subconscious being. It’s about your soul. The thurible (which is what the guy in the picture is swinging), the kneeling, the communal worshiping, the music, the service of the eucharist, the administering of the holy sacraments, the sacrifice of tithing, the very reading of the Bible, simply being in a church where generations of people have come before God to pray and worship—where that long and intense history of pleas and veneration are seeped into and radiating off the very walls of the place—all of those things are designed to elicit in you a response that has no more to do with your everyday ego-based brain than children splashing in a pool has to do with the price of gasoline in Topeka.

And none of it works—none of it has the resonance for Christians it’s meant to have—if you don’t believe that Christ was God. Then it’s all just … people in various degrees of delusion doing stuff that’s perfectly lovely and perhaps in its own way even moving, but not really substantive in any way that can possibly matter in “real life.”

None of it passes the brain muster. It can’t. That’s not what brains are for. (This is, btw, a long way from saying that Christianity is irrational: see my post The rational genius of Christianity.)

I know this will bring me all kinds of … heartfelt objections, but a Christianity predicated upon the idea that Christ was just a man is no Christianity at all. (It drives me nuts when people claim that Jesus was just an “inspired teacher,” or a “profound philosopher.” No, no, no. Jesus was always extremely clear about claiming he was God: “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” “Before Abraham was, I AM.” “‘You,’ they said ‘a mere man, claim to be God,'” etc. If Jesus wasn’t God, then he was definitely one seriously deluded nutjob, and no serious teacher at all. And if Jesus wasn’t God then he also never walked on water, changed water into wine, spontaneously healed anyone, withered a fig tree just by talking to it, raised anyone from the dead, or reappeared after he’d been crucified: mere men, of course, can’t perform true miracles. And if Jesus didn’t perform the miracles he’s credited with then the Gospels cannot be anything but bullshit. You remove the God from Jesus, and I don’t know what you have, but it’s no more Christianity than an omelet is Easter.)

I don’t personally care whether or not any given person is Christian. That’s their business. But if you’re a Christian who isn’t quite sure whether or not Jesus Christ was actually God, I would encourage you—especially now, one day before the three holy days before Easter (for more, see my recent This week be churched)—to dare to step into that magical, trusting, childlike subconscious place where you allow yourself to believe that he was. Where you allow yourself to believe that God so loves us all that he came to earth as a man, proved via his miracles and resurrection that he could be none but God, and then, exactly as he said he had come to do, allowed his human body to be destroyed, as a way of evidencing, in the most graphic and memorable way possible, that he was forever destroying all the terrible, life-crushing karma of every sin that had ever been done to or by anyone—including you.

You know how in the New Testament Jesus is always saying, “Believe and you will be healed”? What that means is that you have to give it up—you have to turn off your doubting, ever critical, ever suspicious mind—before you can take what God as Jesus is offering, which is a way to simply enjoy life more (and to also be comforted when you most need it). Jesus isn’t saying, “Believe, so you can be duped.” He’s saying, “You’re the boss. You can brain-block me if you want to: that’s why you have free will. Or you can choose to believe who I am, and thereby experience the joyful lightness that comes from knowing that you are not, after all, guilty of anything: that you are good and fine and forgiven and loved and in no danger whatsoever, because the very God of Gods has your back always.”

This is Easter. This is when believing Christians around the world are doing what believing Christians have done for centuries: giving it up for the God who gave up so much for them.

If you’re a Christian who doubts the full divinity of Christ, for today and the next three days go ahead and be all in. Allow yourself to believe in the miracle of Jesus Christ really and truly being God. From such a suspension of your doubt you have nothing to lose, and just possibly everything to gain.


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  • Simosito

    Lovely article, but I do personally believe that some particular churches (especially in the English-speaking word) tend to confuse Jesus with the Father.

    And I personally do not think we can say that when Jesus said (if he did, as that’s in John’s gospel which is more theological than historical) “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) meant “the same”.

    In particular I like the so called “extra Calvinisticum” which (imho) balances the divinity of Jesus with God’s essence. Basically what it says is that Jesus is “totally God” but not “the totality of God”, or as the Gospel of John puts it, Jesus is God’s Word/Logos/Wisdom.

    Or as French theologian André Gounelle puts it: «Likewise for Zwingli and Calvin when John’s Gospel (4:6) says that Jesus is tired, it is his humanity and not his divinity that is tired. […] On the Golgotha a man is crucified, the man
    inside whom the divinity is incarnated, but not the divinity itself.
    It’s the man Jesus who dies, and who will be resurrected; it is not God.
    When two people are married and their lives become one, they are still
    two, likewise a independence persists between the divinity and humanity
    of Jesus.»

    Or, as my church’s website says: «In Jesus we see the human face of God» (as in the Godhead)

    I’d love to discuss this with you further.

  • BarbaraR

    Interesting observation and essay. I think you have made valid points.

    But along with that, I would offer this thought: many of us do believe Jesus was God, but also feel that Jesus reveals himself in many ways, many guises, and meets people where they are. Jesus may not present himself as Jesus, but as Buddha, as Vishnu, as the Eight Immortals. He does not say, “You HAVE to call me Jesus or it’s no heaven for you!”

    Yes, Jesus is fully God, but he may also be fully other deities as well.
    Good luck on your book.

  • Matt

    However sloppy, it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now when I’m hurting. I have never doubted the full divinity of Christ, only that He would bother with someone like me. I was scared that God really would create someone like me just to exclude from His redeeming sacrifice. It’s a gift so great that even attempting to fathom a small part of makes me terrified, because it feels too great for me.

    But you’re right. I need to let down my hyper-intellectual guard and let God in, however that shows up. After being so numb for so long, feeling myself as an integrated whole is a big learning curve!

    I do hope your writing is very rewarding even as it sucks up your life. I’m eager to hear about it when you’re done. I’m sure it will be great.

  • James Walker

    I like the way you laid this out, Simosito.

    For myself, I am perfectly content with the idea Jesus was the living Presence and Logos of God here on earth during His ministry. I also don’t think this view requires Jesus to have been anything magical or supernatural. Buddhism and the various Hindu and Sikh faiths also contain the idea of some rare people being so in tune with the Divine that they become, for all practical purposes, Incarnations or Vicars of God to those around them.

  • Jane

    Thank you! One of those ‘I needed that’ blogs for me today.

  • Simosito

    The United Church of Canada in a document about dialogue with Islam says: (I can’t find the original, so I’m going by memory) “Jesus is God’s revelation once and for all, not once and that’s all”.

    Which is my personal understanding (and also the one which emerged from Council Vatican II for Catholics), that Jesus Christ is the Son, that is incarnates that aspect of God we call Son/Logos/Wisdom, because he is a *perfect* unity of humanity and divinity, but not the only instance in which the Logos/Widsom/Spirit of God has been present in a human being.

    (Which means that most faiths, not just Xtians Muslims and Jews, see to different extents the light of God, meaning that Christians got “more” of it right, not all, as “we see in a mirror, darkly” as Paul put it)

  • No one is arguing your point. I’m not. You didn’t hear me say anything about exclusivity.

  • Thanks! I have to say that it does indeed seem to me like … a really great work. I mean, it will be when I do it justice.

  • BarbaraR

    You’re right. I apologize if I came off sounding like that.

  • Julie Rodriguez Green

    Barbara – you state exactly what my biggest problem with Christianity is.

    I, too, believe Jesus was “God revealed (directly!) through man” and divine in nature, and I believe he performed miracles. But I cannot, no matter how hard I try, reconcile with the idea that his name is the only name that saves.

    As far as salvation is concerned, I don’t think we need “saving” so much as we simply need the light of God to light our pathways. And *definitely*, I believe that those who cannot or will not see God’s light in this mortal coil will not be tossed out of the club, but that rather they will have as much time as it takes in God’s infinite mercy to see his face and know.

    I’m glad to know I am not the only person who can follow Christ while acknowledging in all good conscience and faith that there have been others throughout human history who also were beacons of that divine light.

    At the end of the day, it is God himself, and only God that really matters, at least in my estimation.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    God sent His son to us, a mortal man, because we are mortal men. God chose to rule over us, not by fear and lightning bolts from an angry God willing to kill those who disobey, but rather by showing us His living example of how He wants us to be and created us intending us to be, the way we must be if we are to survive. Jesus was not “God”, nor does it matter. The time spent debating the irrelevant is wasted and serves absolutely no purpose of God or Jesus.

  • Julie Rodriguez Green

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this.

    You just changed the entire direction of my day, and hopefully it will rub off on the rest of the week.

    For now, though, I choose to be grateful for my new day. 🙂

  • I hardly think discerning one’s thoughts and feelings relative to the divinity of Christ qualifies as irrelevant.

  • You lose me at the “everything to gain” line. Pascal’s Wager is lame, even when it’s not exclusive to Christianity.

  • Lonnie

    I really appreciate this, John. Just last night I was literally losing sleep over this. As a progressive Christian this holy week has been a tough one because exactly – if Jesus wasn’t (um, *isn’t*…?) divine then what’s the point? (yeah, I know what us progressives say the point is, but it’s just not enough to bother going to worship services over) So yes, I want to believe that Jesus is God. I try, but yeah, I’m a waffler. I love the story and I want to to be true. I just don’t know. Keep writing! You’re helping us.

  • BrotherRog

    Seriously ponderable! Feeling moved to add, “…and dare to embrace your own divinity.”

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

  • No, no: you, Barbara R., could never offend me! (I didn’t realize it was you saying that, or I’d have been less … blunt.)

  • BarbaraR

    ‘Sokay. Blunt is better than pussyfootin’.

  • Lance Schmidt

    And there we have it folks – the John Shore call to experience the mystery of faith – to leave all our preconceived ideas and self-truths and to step through the door into the wild, blue yonder of uncertainty with outstretched arms into the unknown sacred spaces where we join in the prayer, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” as we watch and wait together.

  • Thank you, Lance.

  • Thanks a lot for this, Lonnie; I greatly appreciate it.

  • Well, I think it’s safe to say I “lost you” well before that single line. I doubt you were like, “Yeah, Jesus is, or at least really COULD be God! What’s this? ‘Everything to gain.’? Oh. Well screw that, then.”

  • (Well, as you know, I spend considerable time finding a tone somewhere between the two. But lately I’ve sort of run out of time/patience for that kind of … fine-tuning.)

  • Tim

    I guess I’m kind of in a weird place on this; I’m not entirely sure that Jesus is “God”, but I’m confident that he is divine/ of God, and was/ is God’s perfect representative/ son. My reason for this is because of Jesus’ own words as recorded in scripture regarding his relationship to the Father, the One True God; and my serious doubts that trinitarianism is a valid explanation of the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    To illustrate what I mean: If I were to speak words out of my mouth and those words were incarnated as a person, I would consider that person to be part of me, but not “me”, in sort of the same way that my right hand is part of me, but not “me”.

  • Yikes. If you’re trying to lose your non-Christian readership, you’re doing a good job. It was fun while it lasted.

  • Pam Boyington Holmes

    I disagree with a lot of this–especially the old CS Lewis argument that Jesus was either God in the flesh or a lunatic. in spite of the Gospel of John (a book with mystical, not literal meaning), I don’t believe Jesus ever claimed to be God in the sense implied by this article. The Jewish Messiah was never meant to be God, and Jesus saw himself as a reformer of Judaism, not the founder of a new religion. I think the deification of Jesus has more of a pagan influence than a Jewish one. I also think there is no basis for the claim that Christianity has no meaning unless Jesus was God. I know of no other religion that requires this of its founding teacher, and plenty of people find plenty of meaning in them. If Jesus fully embraced his divine nature, it was to challenge us to do the same.

  • I’m a little worried that this sounds a lot like fundamentalists – “Just believe because, well, have a little faith.” Faith in what?

    As Greg Boyd and Bruxy say, “Faith goes beyond the evidence, but not against the evidence,” or “We run the ramp of reason before we take the leap of faith.”

    I can respect believing just because faith, but I’m worried that it leads to people accepting all sorts of horrible and ridiculous beliefs just because, like homophobia and the like. Or did I misread it?

  • Matt

    Islam requires strict monotheism, so while Muhammad was a very important prophet of Islam, Muslims in fact are strongly against him being divine. It’s central to the religion. Judaism hinges on Jesus not being divine, because Jews are still waiting. That is also central.

    People do draw lines in the sand all the time. It’s…what religion is about, basically. Why can’t Christianity do something so basic? People seem to be conflating Jesus’ divinity with being saved or not. I suggest setting that aside. Jesus being divine is…just that. Full stop. Do not pass go, do not assume you or anyone else will burn in hell.

  • Pam Boyington Holmes

    I erased that “line” a long time ago. Christianity has made a lot more sense to me since. “Lines in the sand,” like religion itself, are human constructs. They can be moved (or erased altogether) when they no longer make sense.

  • Matt

    I just wonder why that particular line was necessary to be erased. Honestly curious. It’s okay if you’d rather not discuss it.

  • Pam Boyington Holmes

    I actually love to talk about it! I think the idea that God can appear in the form of a human being limits who or what God is. I don’t see God as a “being” in the same sense that we are beings. I think the entire universe is an incarnation of God so it seems redundant to talk about Jesus as an incarnation of God.

  • Matt

    That’s cool!

    I’m in a different place. I too believe God inhabits every part and particle of the universe, but my understanding is that God became human for a very specific purpose: reconciliation. To absorb, once and for all, the pain and suffering that separate us from Him. And along the way, try to teach us some things. That, of course, does not mean He is not still speaking in every moment.

  • Christopher Teese

    This post resonates with me because I was actually just thinking heavily about these things last night and I am a progressive Christian who believes in the divinity and literal resurrection of Christ as well as miracles and a very personal God. I sometimes feel somewhat alienated from my own sect since many Progressive Christians and theologians seem to have opted to throw these things out entirely with the bathwater. To me, when Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain, and we are to be pitied the most among people.” I take that seriously. I would not be a practicing Christian if I believe there wasn’t literal truth whatsoever to the central tenants of Christian faith. More irritating to me is the ambiguous “double-talk” liberal preachers and theologians will use when they don’t actually believe in a literal resurrection or miracles or a personal God but will use ambiguous language as if they do. I wish people would just say what they mean instead of using ambiguity and the same vocabulary to describe completely different concepts.

  • Charles

    John, you’re not usually bitchy in your responses. The above response is an exception.

  • sorry to lose you!

  • I didn’t mean to be bitchy. I was just saying … well, what I said. I didn’t lose Ryan, I am sure, at the last line. I’m sure it’s the very premise of the piece to which he objects. That’s all I meant to express. The rest was just humor. But I’m in a hurry today. So maybe it wasn’t as funny as it seemed to me to be. That happens. (Maybe it was the single curse word. I’ll go change that to “screw.”)

  • Mark Fitzgerald

    I am with you Pam. I have been Catholic all my life and when you look at it….Christians did not always believe that Jesus was God per say.

  • Look, I get that it’s impossible for you to remember all your readers, and who has said what in the past. That said, assuming the worst is bad form, even when you’re hurrying.
    You’ve done a lot of good here. You supported the LGBT club my alma mater formed a few years ago, writing an article in defense of their existence.
    But for atheists like me, the mockery of our disbelief is a deal-breaker. The existence of hell, as implied by “everything to gain,” is what gave most of us the freedom to think our way out of theism. And while the thinking leads us out, the feeling doesn’t always leave, so we linger on blogs like this one, hoping to find way back in that doesn’t require agreeing to silly ideas like Pascal’s Wager. At least on blogs like this, there’s a semblance of decency involved in the faith. Usually.
    But fine, if you want an admission, you’re right, the idea of Jesus as God is not on my radar. And as long as hell is the punishment for disagreement, it will continue to be off the radar. So you win, if that’s what you were going for. But you’ve lost my respect.

  • I have honestly been struggling with this. I believe Jesus is divine…yet sometimes I am not so sure, or even if it is important to my belief in God. Where I struggle is some of the theology surrounding him, it feeling inadequate and too simplistic for such a complex persona. There’s something deeper, more etherical about Jesus than is found in scripture. I just can’t quite wrap my head around it all…but maybe I’m not supposed to.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    FWIW: in the tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians, which John wrote, here’s what he says about hell:

    #8 “There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.”

    So, to assume “everything to gain” means “fire insurance” is to make assumptions that I don’t see evidence for.

  • Jakeithus

    John, I’ve recently found lots to bother me and disagree with when reading the blog, but on this topic I couldn’t agree more fully. The disagreements amongst Christians may be real, but overall they pale in comparison to what has united Christians across time; Jesus Christ, Son of God, our crucified and risen Lord. Thank you for this, as it is a personal reminder to check my own prejudices and what I might mistakenly place importance on, in light of the Gospel; that the Son of God became a man so that we might become sons of God.

    Blessings to you and to all my Christian brothers and sisters, progressive or otherwise, this Easter season.

  • Lance Schmidt

    Nice post. I think this is where some of the mainline denominations really shine in their focus on the mysteries of Christianity. I don’t think any of us who by faith believe in Jesus as the Son of God can begin to grasp the depth, wonder and even horror of what it really means. Maybe that is our opportunity to let go and relax into the mystery instead of trying to rationalize or understand it.

  • John, I have followed your blog for about a year; I doubt that I have missed a single post.

    Here is my question: What do you mean by God? What do you mean by divine?

    I believe in the resurrection, and I think it likely that Jesus was pre-existent. But I don’t think he is God. Jesus, himself, identified the Old Testament God as the Father, and Jesus is not the Father.

    I don’t think Jesus claims to be God, though he seems to claim pre-existence and a close relationship with the Father. The ‘I am’ statements are a weak foundation for saying that Jesus declared himself to be God; he was more likely provoking his Pharisaical detractors.

  • Jill

    My small contribution to this conversation might be summed up by saying that we are all coming together around this concept, to this experience so uniquely personally that I think John’s well-reasoned post is going to be heard through individual filters. I don’t know how it couldn’t.

    I can’t claim to feel the same as John and yet I don’t want to merely step away, feeling disparate and ‘standing on the other side’. For some of us we do not experience Jesus as God so clearly. I never have. I continue not to. I’m ok with that. If Jesus takes issue with me, we can have that conversation. If anyone else takes issue with me for that matter, so be it.

    I still believe the heart of John’s message shines brightly through any objection: that there is magic, beauty, truth and wonder to be shared. Maybe the name I place on it isn’t as important as sharing in it.

  • Ray Shawn McKinnon

    John. Bravo. I loved this post.

  • Scott Spencer-Wolff

    No thank you. Not fond of belief litmus tests. It’s too much like the whole model of “if you don’t believe what I believe, you’re not a REAL Christian.” Where have we seen that mentality? If you don’t think homosexuality is wrong, you’re not a real Christian? The divinity of Christ (and I’ll say “Christ”, not “Jesus” since I separate those identities) is a very large concept, and within the Christian Framework there are very differing opinions.

    If you’re familiar with Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development, http://www.usefulcharts.com/psychology/james-fowler-stages-of-faith.html

    that’s like asking someone at Stage 5 to go back to Stage 2. Not really an attractive prospect if one has worked really hard to reach a more integrated belief system.

    Ditto the “God gave up so much for them…” model. That’s ONE, of several schools of thought in the Christian repertoire. If you read Borg, Crossen, or Spong – Jesus was executed because he was a colossal pain in the behind to the Jewish Authorities and DARED to question their authority, not to save us from anything. Some theologians refer to the idea that God ‘sent’ Jesus to die for our sins as the “Child abuser model of God” The Romans went along with Jesus’s execution because it was expedient for them to do it. One might want to read Borg/Crossen’s “The Last Week: What The Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem”.

    There are entire strains of mystical Christianity where these terms are defined in very different ways. The distinction between the Resurrection of The Christ, and the reanimation of the corpse of Jesus is another issue. So, just really different viewpoints on all of this. And just moving to a “magical, trusting, childlike subconscious” place (which ignores, BTW, the archetypal material here, since this particular process of Death/Resurrection is by NO means unique to the Christian faith) isn’t really helpful, or even possible for some of us.

    Anyway… after what you wrote the other day, I really evaluated the question about whether I’m a “Christian” or not. The word is too vague to mean anything at this point – and the “magic” inherent in the symbolism of the next few days, works for me at a far different level than the literal stories offer. I can work with the idea that at some core level, Jesus is God, but then I can’t help but recognize that so is everyone else.

  • Ray Shawn McKinnon

    Awesome explanation of Christ’s divinity from an awesome source: Stephen Colbert


  • Again: all I mean to indicate is that you were dissembling when you said that I lost you where you said I did. That’s not true: I never had you in the first place. So I thought what you said was essentially a cheap parting shot–which it was. And if my body of work is such that this one little exchange has caused to to decide I’m unworthy of your respect, then … I suppose I’ll just have to trying living with that.

  • DonRappe

    I suppose I agree that it is sloppy to address this question without addressing the question of what a statement like “Jesus is God” could possibly mean. There is no shortage of things it could not possibly mean.
    For me, if the statement I quote means that Jesus is not just a man, than I must categorically deny such a heretical misstatement of the faith. If Jesus was not truly a human mortal, then the whole NT story loses its point. But, Jesus was just a man who was anointed as the promised Jewish Messiah. By the power of God, his Father, he commanded the Torah down from the hill of Zion and out to the gentiles. The Torah obeyed. Through Jesus, God made his saving Covenant available to all people and peoples. That is why we refer to the humiliated and executed Rabbi as “King of kings and Lord of lords”. Not because he was some kind of half-assed demigod like Hercules.
    I agree with the Christian teaching that because Jesus was truly a man, his death and resurrection as the divine figure The Lord Jesus Christ reveals to us and to all the salvation which is found in the Covenant which God once announced at his holy mountain in Sinai.
    The NT teachings of Jesus were to expound and correct misconceptions of the Covenant God made with those who hear his call. His life, death and resurrection led to the ideas of the New Israel and the adoption of gentiles as heirs of God’s kingdom.
    While there is no harm in adopting metaphysical ideas about how all this took place, I think there is some harm in muddling the central message, which is not about the metaphysics of God and Man, but is about turning to God and being healed.

  • Scott Spencer-Wolff

    “Jesus clearly says, ‘I am da vine'” Loved it. This is not only interesting and helpful – but entertaining too. Our book study group at church has read Bart Ehrman’s book and enjoyed it.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’m not a churchgoer for my own mentally-defective-human-unit reasons, but I feel very much like this when I read around online. It’s like, okay, I’m not politically conservative anymore… I see a lot of complexity to the world’s problems and want people to be able to be themselves, marry whom they want, and I’m not too keen on the idea of an irrevocable Hell… So, you know, I can’t go back to being Southern Baptist… Then, when I come and read some of the Prog. Christian blogs by people who seem to be on the same page as I am about a lot of things, I come across a theology post that has them basically laughing at the fools who still believe that things like the resurrection were not completely symbolic…

    And I think, “If people are just functionally atheists while calling themselves Christian because they like the pretty poetry and the philosophy, why don’t they call themselves that?” – I think it would be easier on them… they’d be considered more intellectual and equal and worthy to be in the smart people’s club by the smart atheists out there. It would be easier on people like us so we know to not bark up the wrong tree when seeking fellowship (online or otherwise) with people we won’t have to worry are secretly looking down on us.

  • Sam Halverson

    I totally disagree with your original point (and, I suppose, that’s where you lost me in this one) – I know many, many “progressives” who believe Jesus is the incarnation of God. I don’t know where you get this generalization. Granted, I do know others (the more “famous” or “well known” progressives) who don’t believe he’s God, but then again – that may be why they’re so well known. And, I have run into a number of conservatives over my years in various churches who don’t believe he’s God, too. However, those are the ones that just don’t understand the incarnation. We Christians confuse the issue by calling Jesus “Son of God” more often than teaching the incarnation. It’s no wonder that people grow up thinking of Jesus as someone other than God incarnate.

  • “…and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

    John 1:1 may as well be a zen koan. Jesus as God is not exactly a straightforward tenet. Jesus often differentiates himself from God. Many Christian traditions are not trinitarian; to them, Jesus is divine but not God.

    There are two reasons why I embrace the belief of Jesus as God incarnate.

    First, I take great comfort in the idea that the Creator experienced his creation – the way a composer gives voice to the world that created her song or an author inhabits the world from which his words flow.

    Second, there are, I believe, absolute truths about the goodness of humankind (and therefore God) – being able to see the pain of others and liberation through selflessness – that are perfectly embodied in the biblical account of Jesus. If we are all created in the image of God but marred by sin, then Jesus is the perfect, sinless rendering of that image.

    I recognize that my beliefs are based on emotion and ancient writings by fallible men. My beliefs are arguably irrational. But I wholeheartedly agree with John; belief is not always rational.

  • I’m not sure if the incarnation is the key to the most profound aspects of Jesus. I think the way he operated on earth in the 33 years of his humanity is really the most relevant and awe-inspiring aspect of Christ.

  • I love this comment so much.

  • Very beautifully said, Ford. Thank you.

  • Sam: Please do note that I didn’t say there weren’t many progXtians who believe that Jesus was the incarnation of God. I said there are many who do not believe that. One doesn’t preclude the other.

  • I didn’t discover the mystical side of Christianity until recently.

    Ok, that’s not exactly right, I knew there was something more, but I just didn’t know what it was, what you called it, or if it was even proper. Once I discovered that this aspect of faith was normal, I was delighted.

    I just realize that the more I think I know about God, about the man who lived on earth as a lowly carpenter, turned rabbi, turned the ultimate example of love for one’s neighbor…who happens to be every last one of us…the more I realize how little I know.

    Thanks guys for your kind words and encouragement. It helps to know that someone out there gets my crazy thought processes.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    The “divinity” of Christ is irrelevant to the commandments He gave to His followers. It does not feed the poor, or heal the sick, or help to lead a sinner away from the path to self destruction. The issue of divinity is a matter of religion, and religion is a smile on a dog as the song goes.

    Religion leads to things like mega churches and preachers in million dollar mansions. It’s the profit arm of satan as far as I’m concerned.

  • Kevin McFoy Dunn

    Speaking as one who regards himself as a committed, nay, invested Trinitarian, I’d say that the issue isn’t the full divinity of Christ but what the linearly-bounded term “divinity” might mean in/to the cognition of a contingent being in the first place. Key names/terms: Sabellius, modalism; Caputo, the “claim”; Sri Shankaracharya, advaita. Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi had Xtian dervishes, after all. The Absolute …

  • Tim Wilcox

    Jesus of Nazareth was a man. An extraordinary man, but a man no less. He was every bit a human as you or I. He lived an exemplary life, free from sin and in constant communion with God, whom he referred to as his Father. He was the highest example of love in a human being. For this reason, he was given the title, “The Christ.” However, it is also known that “Christ” is the name of the highest form of consciousness, or state of being – the Christ Consciousness. It is Unconditional Love. All thoughts, words, and actions that are expressed from this state of being are genuine love and purity. When Jesus spoke of himself in a matter that put him equal with God, he was coming from this level of consciousness. His very words were God’s Truth, expressed through a humble human being. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he Was/Is God, it just means that he was coming from such a high level of being and awareness that was so open and pure that seeing him was essentially LIKE seeing God. Christ is God, the Son of God, and second person of the Trinity, but Jesus is The Christ. There is a slight distinction, you see. However, it was not Jesus’ intent that he be the only one to ever obtain Christ Consciousness. He desired that all people eventually achieve this level of consciousness in order to finally spread the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you (or, in some translations, ‘already in your midst’ or ‘already among you’),” only mostly all of us are still quite unaware of this. The main difference between us and Jesus is that he knows this, and most of us do not. I believe it was Jesus’ mission on earth to help awaken that realization in all people. To believe in him, was to identify with the Christ in yourself. In John 14:12 Jesus tells us, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” Therefore, Jesus is no more divine than you or I and he did not intend for us to believe that we are any less divine than he was. With this in mind, if you are still going to claim that Jesus is God, then you would have to claim that we ALL are God, or at least a part of Him.

  • Jodie Reed Regan

    Thank you!!

  • Steve Sensenig

    “And if Jesus wasn’t God then he also never walked on water, changed water into wine, spontaneously healed anyone, raised anyone from the dead, or reappeared after he’d been crucified: mere men, of course, can’r [sic] perform miracles.”

    This is a really odd statement, because I’m not sure how you are overlooking the reality that: 1) Peter walked on water, 2) The Apostles spontaneously healed people, and 3) Paul raised someone from the dead.

    So mere men can’t perform miracles?

  • Shaun W.

    I would contend that to completely abandon reason, to “turn off [my] doubting, ever critical, ever suspicious mind,” to the issue of the supposed divinity of Jesus dilemma is a deeply flawed approach. If I were to adopt such a perspective, what’s to stop me from embracing another faith tradition? Another religion? Or from contriving my own religion? I understand that scripture seems to, at least in places, indicate that Jesus claimed divine status; these same scriptures also evolved over a significant period of time, were subject to edits, and originated within disparate communities with differing theological agendas. Additionally, each passage can be interpreted in any number of ways. What’s to be the basis for my understanding of such passages? Do I defer to reputable theologians (among which there is not a clear consensus)? Reason, personal experience, intuition, God’s guidance, etc. should all lead me to my conclusion (not blind acceptance of doctrine or some misguided notion that truth is truth, and, if I just unquestionly embrace such truth, I’ll come to sincerely believe it in due time).

  • BrotherRog

    For those seeking to be churched, 7 Ways to Find a progressive Christian Church:

  • Ray! Thank you brother. So good to hear from you.

  • charlesmaynes

    amazingly great post John…. thanks!!!!!

  • Thanks Charles. Good to hear from you!

  • Josh Jinno

    While I agree that the problem is that progressives (and I would add even many many evangelicals) have used any language they can to avoid “Jesus=God” (and dismiss it as “implied”), I do not believe that we can make the argument that Jesus claims so… this is a straw man. Jesus does however ask the question: “Who do you say that I am?” and it is on this rock, not arrived at by reason or man, but revelation, on which he builds his Church.

  • Jill

    Thank you, my dear. I had a challenging time writing it.

  • The belief that Jesus was both fully divine and fully is the great paradox at the heart of Christianity. If Jesus was merely human then there is no resurrection and the cross has no meaning but if Jesus was totally and only divine then his suffering and dead on the cross would not be possible for how can an eternal God die. Thus we are left with a paradox so big that the mind can not resolve it through mere logic. In the end one must make a leap to faith. Only by embracing the paradox can we come to a place of understanding.

  • Thank you for this post John. It’s something that’s deeply important to me…and it’s something that should be deeply important to all Christians. Jesus is the very heart of Christian faith, so who he actually was is an absolutely foundational issue.

  • I am sure that John is well aware that the non-Christians are not necessarily going to find kinship with this piece, but then John covers a wide range of topics, some for the faithful, some not, some for all his audience, some more focused. This one is clearly his opinion on the topic, and his intended audience is clearly for those of us who are Christian, like himself.

    I read nothing in his piece that demands adherence to his way of looking at the divine, or that anyone who doesn’t is an idiot. He is speaking as a Christian, one who’s faith example is beneficial to a lot of people regardless of their faith structure. He shouldn’t have to apologize for stating how he views things from a personal view, and to share it with us, so we can all share those views.

    What non-christians can gain is maybe how widely we see this topic of just who Jesus was within the myriad ocean of viewpoints that is Christianity. One thing we are not is one size fits all. I for one have learned a great deal from John, who’s views have challenged and assisted my own faith, even if we don’t always see things the same.

  • buzzdixon

    Well, the apostles were able to do all these things b/c Jesus showed them how and/or gave them the authority to do so. Pete, BTW, only got a few steps out then sank & needed Jesus to pull him back to the surface. And IIRC the Bible is ambiguous as to whether the person Paul raised was actually dead after falling off the roof or just appeared dead.

  • Tim

    Sort of. But we often forget that Jesus got his authority/ power (and said so himself, repeatedly) to do the things he did from somewhere else as well; God (the Father).

  • Tim

    Absolutely; and Jesus even told them that they would be able to do even greater things than he did. (Presumably after the Spirit was sent).

  • buzzdixon

    When I was a kid I wondered how in the world we were supposed to “be like Jesus” as our Sunday school teachers told us. If Jesus was God then he was like Superman, imbued with “powers and abilities far beyond those of normal men”. If he was incapable of sinning then it would be as unjust for him to judge me for my sinning as it would be for Superman to judge me for my inability to fly.

    As I grew older, I began to realize what we humans imagine God incarnate to be has little if anything to do with the reality. I certainly do believe Christ was God made flesh, but the idea of him being a super-being separate and apart from the rest of humanity has faded.

    It’s become not a matter of either / or but both / and.

    There is one area where we can be God-like. While we lack the power to create universes or the authority to dictate moral judgment, we do have the capacity to love unconditionally.

    To make a very poor analogy, I’ve come to view our souls not as batteries that power our radios but rather the signal we are tuned into. For one person 2000 years ago the Divine signal came through perfectly; the rest of us are still fiddling with the dials…

  • That last paragraph….It is NOT a poor analogy at all.

  • Matt

    As with most things in life! Very, very few things are all or nothing. I think it’s beautiful that our universe is built on the principle of a flexible balance, making a way for two divergent concepts to exist within a space. We can observe it in nature, in our own bodies, in our relationships, and so in our theology. Just way cool.

  • Jason Edward Kamrath

    I am a Progressive Christian who fully believes in the Divinity of Christ. How else could a human being love every other person? The divine light of Christ is love. I feel that it is exactly our “undivinity” (you got unclarity, so humor me haha) that keeps us from fully experiencing the love of Christ in our interactions with other human beings. I do not believe in a number of other Christian notions relating to heaven and hell and numerous other things, but my belief in the Trinity has always been unwavering. I thank God for progressive Christianity and the way it allows for much deeper examination of our faith and beliefs on a very personal level as well as room for differences in belief. Fundamentalists would call that apostasy, I guess, but I call it my much more intimate journey with God. Blessings to you this Holy Week and a glorious Easter!

  • Heather

    “Allow yourself to believe in the miracle of Jesus Christ really and truly being God.”
    Been there. Tried that. Didn’t work out for me. 🙁

  • Steve Sensenig

    Tim beat me to the punch on this, but yeah…your reply doesn’t do anything to contradict my point or to bolster John Shore’s original point. Think about what you said for a minute:

    “The apostles were able to do all these things b/c Jesus showed them how and/or gave them the authority to do so.”

    That’s not contradicting me at all. You still are left with the fact that “mere men” are able to do miracles. I never argued that they did them in their own power, but that’s not the point John was making. He’s saying it’s impossible for men to do miracles, therefore Jesus could not have been a “mere man”. Jesus said he said/did the things his Father told him to say/do. And the scripture tells us that the Spirit came on him, and that it was God working through him. So, no evidence whatsoever to conclude that his miracle-working necessitated him being God. Not unless you read that into the text.

    “Pete…got a few steps out then sank….”

    And…? What’s the point? He walked on water, didn’t he? Not only that, the text tells us WHY he began to sink. He got scared of the waves around him. It doesn’t say that he suddenly realized that he wasn’t God and shouldn’t be able to walk on water. He walked on water. That’s the point.

    “IIRC the Bible is ambiguous as to whether the person Paul raised was actually dead….”

    What part is ambiguous? It says they picked him up dead. Not “thinking he was dead”. And even so, how would this be any more ambiguous than Jesus saying that Lazarus “sleeps” or other references to dead people being “asleep”? I guess it’s not really clear that Jesus actually raised them from the dead, huh? Kinda ambiguous?

    Bottom line, you haven’t shown any reason to believe that “mere men can’t do miracles” because the same text that tells us that Jesus did them tells us that others did them, too. The source of the power for doing those miracles isn’t being questioned in this context. It’s the clear denial by John Shore that “mere men” did, in fact, do miracles as well.

  • Steve Sensenig

    A couple of passages that are interesting in regard to this topic (and I’d love to get your take on them, John Shore):

    Acts 2 — when preaching on the day of Pentecost, Peter refers to Jesus as “the man” chosen by God. He does not equate Jesus with God, but rather demonstrates that God chose Jesus, “the man”, to be the instrument of reconciliation. If Jesus = God is so absolutely necessary to the Christian faith, I’m not sure how we can look at Peter’s sermon as anything but faulty and preaching some other religion. (And I don’t mean that to be snarky AT ALL….I seriously think that the ramification is pretty clear.)

    Acts 17 — when preaching in this passage, Paul talks quite a bit about who God is. But he doesn’t equate God with Jesus here. No, instead, he describes God in quite a bit of detail and then refers to Jesus as “the man” — again, the man whom God chose. Paul appears very plainly here to have two distinct identities in mind: 1) God, and 2) Jesus.

    Neither of these sermons incorporate any trinitarian theology at all, and neither strive to make any point whatsoever as to Jesus = God or Jesus being fully divine or however you want to put it.

    I’m not trying to argue here that Jesus is (or was) NOT God, but I think that the point of this post (which seems to imply a particular usage of the concept of Jesus = God as strongly trinitarian, pre-existent, etc.) has little to stand on as it specifically relates to this detail.

    Stating that it is because….well, because it is, doesn’t really add any support for your point.

  • leighcopeland

    The Gospel is the announcement of an event in real space and time that can an must be examined with the same historical methods and resources as any other historical event. I’ve been exploring “Progressive Christianity” as a reflex from the anti-science streak in the Fundamentalism of my past – but if I run into too much of this kind of stuff I’ll look elsewhere and go back to reading N. T. Wright.

  • Heather

    I love this so much. You pretty much put my thoughts into words. Thanks.

  • Agreed. But re-reading what I wrote earlier it comes across as a Classic Comics adaptation of Kierkegaard. I was trying to explain how I get by the objections of my conscious mind and arrive at the place where I can experience God. That place where art, and music, and God merge into what can only be experienced but never fully understood by the conscious mind. Those moments when God speaks to us in a clear still voice and whispers “Be still, be still and know that I am hear.”

  • I believe that Jesus through his incarnation has torn down the walls that separate us from one another and no one stands on the other-side.

  • “run into too much of this kind of stuff”
    What kind of stuff? Believing that Jesus is God?

  • Bones

    It’s interesting that Mark begins with

    “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”

    To me, that tells me while it was an event in time and space, it actually goes on for eternity.

  • Bones

    Do you think it’s important to Jesus if people view Him as God, Son of God, prophet, holy person, rebel?

    In our days, things like the docetist and arian controversies seem incredibly bizarre.


  • Jill

    I agree with your sentiment, and yet it is not how life is experienced, is it? There seems as much division and ‘otherness’ within Christianity as without. I understand the ego makes its entrance here, and no one exists without it.

    It would just be nice to be able to once and for all say to another person: I may not get where you’re at, or you may not get me, but there’s no animosity for it. Why does that seem so out of reach?

    My excessively idealized notion is that religion would bring humanity closer together, not divide us so bitterly. Speaking to the choir here…

  • Jennifer

    Nope, just can’t get on that bandwagon, but then I’m not a Christian, tho I AM a Jesus follower………..

  • Jill

    Allegro, I love your crazy thought processes!

  • la la la la la. Fantastic notion.

  • mark

    An interesting and helpful post – thank you. If you would allow me to nit-pick though, the guy in the picture IS the thurifer, and he is swinging the thurible. Swinging the thurifer sounds like it’s getting dangerously close to the gay debate 🙂

  • HLee

    Lonnie, your view sounds like mine. John, I very much enjoyed your post, and I plan to try your “three days of belief” experiment. On the other hand, I do think you may sell progressives like me a little short when you say:

    “I think that what actually happens is that sooooooo many progressive Christians don’t really decide on the matter either way. On the one hand, they like the idea of Christ being divine—I daresay that deep down they want to believe that Christ was divine, because we all want life to be more wondrous and magic than, alas, we fear that it is—but on the other hand they’re afraid that believing that Christ was God would cost them too much—that it would make them laughable, simple-minded, shallow, foolish, absurdly unmodern.”
    Progressives like me may indeed be stupid and shallow like this — I certainly am about many things — but I really struggle with this question of whether or not Jesus is divine. I *would* love to believe it, but so far I just can’t. Reading the scriptures doesn’t get me there; prayer doesn’t get me there, even God’s guidance doesn’t get me there. I’m kind of at the place, after all these years (I’m probably old enough to be your grandmother!) that I can only take comfort in the phrase, “God looks to the heart.” God knows I *want* to believe that Jesus was actually God. But I can’t, any more than you (I expect) could believe that the Book of Mormon was *really* written on golden tablets delivered by an angel.
    Some of us really, seriously, with all our hearts *want* to believe that Jesus is God. Because, if not, you know, what’s the point?

  • Oh, right. Duh. Of course. Thank you.

  • corrected! thanks again for the catch.

  • Guest

    And yet.

  • Jill

    How weird. That was me, trying to formulate a decent reply, deleting it and having it reappear as written by Guest.
    If you can’t tell, a decent reply hasn’t alighted to my brain.

  • ortcutt

    Why not dare to believe that Xenu killed billions of people with volcanoes 75 million years ago? If we’re daring to believe things for no reason, then why dare to believe this one particular unsupported belief?

  • James Walker

    because that particular belief isn’t all that helpful for Christians seeking to be more in tune with the traditions of our faith during the Easter season.

    which also takes care of your “believe things for no reason” point, I believe. 🙂

  • Most beliefs have a reason behind them, however inane. Where it can help a faith, is when one contemplates it, considers the why behind such a belief, or seeks a personal, deeper meaning behind it.

  • ortcutt

    Why should someone want to be more in tune with the Christian faith? You haven’t explained why someone should be a Christian at all.

  • James Walker

    the overarching theme of John’s posts this week has been embracing some of the ancient traditions of the Christian faith so that Easter can be an experience that revitalizes our personal faith and brings us closer to those ideas that are central to following Christ in our daily lives.

    like you, I, too, have adopted a very scientific approach to what the Bible is and how we received it as a reaction to the very same anti-science, fundamentalist teachings you mention. and yet, I see value in leaving ourselves open at least once in a while to ask the question “What if Jesus really was and is God?” it doesn’t mean we suddenly revert back to those rigid dogmas we escaped from. it just means we allow ourselves to examine the possibility as we engage in worship during this commemoration of the death and rebirth of the Christ. was Jesus’ connection to the Divine while He was here on earth with us sufficient that we can make the equivalency Jesus = God? is this a Salvation question? (I think it isn’t)

  • Jill

    I found the post very specific. If you actually want to answer your own questions, I’d recommend reading it again.

    And leave the dripping sarcasm behind.

  • James Walker

    umm… you’re on the blog of a Christian writer and many, many people in his audience are Christians.. so.. maybe he wasn’t writing this piece for you?

  • ortcutt

    It’s also possible for someone to be a Christian who doesn’t believe in a divine Jesus. Let’s not forget the proud Unitarian tradition in this country. We’ve had six Presidents who were Christians who didn’t believe that Jesus was divine. So, it’s still not clear to me why someone should be daring to believe something that they don’t believe.

  • James Walker

    well, if you find those questions to be unanswered after reading John’s entire article, I’m not sure any of us can help you to understand here in the comments.

  • Exactly. This post was more to a specific target audience.

  • Exactly. Its taking a moment to wonder the “what if”.

  • ortcutt

    The article basically boils down to “dare to believe it because I say to” or “what do you have to lose?” Why not ask the same question of someone who DOES believe in a divine Jesus. “Dare to believe that Jesus wasn’t divine” Why isn’t that the message?

  • Jill

    I don’t disagree with this point. But your question now seems to have morphed from mocking derision to sincere inquiry.

    Genuine curiosity wins the day everytime.

    So my reply to your point above: let this season be not yet another time to ignore our spiritual longing and our need to connect with others, provide solace and help. If you don’t need to experience Jesus as God, join the club. There are many here who can still commune graciously without absolute agreement.

  • James Walker

    as I mentioned to a different commenter, the purpose I see behind what John is writing this week is to encourage us to touch the roots of the Christian faith and belief. we may not ultimately adopt all of those beliefs and many of them aren’t Salvation beliefs anyway. but some of them were very important to the early Church as it sought to differentiate itself from Judaism and Gnosticism in the 1st and 2nd centuries.

    we see the idea of Jesus being God becoming important when we look at the progression of the “Christology” in the gospels and in the epistles to early churches. those first written approach Jesus as the “Good Man”, the chosen representative of God to bring about a revolution in the Jewish faith. those written later really emphasize the supernatural and the idea that Jesus wasn’t merely a good man but that he was God in human flesh.

    so, for the purpose of understanding more about what it means to be Christian, it might be useful to “dare” taking on some of the earliest traditions of our faith at least for this week. we have all the rest of the year to go back to our “safer” scientific, rational approach.

  • ortcutt

    I’m happy to see genuine curiosity. It just seems as if this article is advocating the shutting down of genuine curiosity. The person in the anecdote thought about the issue and concluded that Jesus isn’t divine. Well, the article says, he should believe it anyway, i.e. forget about his curiosity and just believe it. Why? Well, … because… everyone else is doing it? Didn’t our mothers teach us that that’s not a good argument for doing something? Or how about “Why not?” or “What do you have to lose?” That’s problematic because it could equally be asked of the person who does believe in a divine Jesus. Why not say, “weigh the evidence, and make a conclusion”? That’s generally how we advocate that people decide other important questions about how the world is.

  • Jill

    If you don’t agree, say so and move on. Why is this writer’s specific perspective so important? Again, John spoke clearly to a defined audience. No one is ordering you to comply.
    May we move along to something more substantive now?

  • Maybe we can put it as “dare to consider” Trust me, its not an easy thing to wrap one’s head around, especially for those of us who’ve found ourselves down the road of skepticism. But daring is helpful. It helps, if nothing else to try to understand why people think the way they do.

  • Jill

    YES! Understanding where others are coming from puts all kinds of new possibilities and compassion right in our reach.

  • Jill

    well said

  • ortcutt

    Why not dare to take on other beliefs of historical forms of Christianity? Ebionitism, Arianism, Socinianism, Gnosticism, Nestorianism…. It’s a long list. Why shouldn’t Chalcedonian Christians try out some other forms once in a while?

  • James Walker

    umm.. again…



    the author isn’t from any of those other traditions you mentioned. as a result, he wouldn’t be able to write passionately about recommending we try those out.

    perhaps you could write your own article about one of those traditions and email it to John for possible publication later?

  • Jill

    Ok, but if you’re coming to the John Shore party a little late, I can affirm for you he’s not of the ‘shutting down of genuine curiosity’ type. His archives are brimming with thoughtful, logical, open discourse– Christian and otherwise. Many Pagans, Atheists, Buddhists, non-theists etc. hang here for the variety.

    No one can tell you how you should interpret this message nor what you should do with it.

    John actually didn’t either:

    “I don’t personally care whether or not any given person is
    Christian. That’s their business. But if you’re a Christian who isn’t quite sure whether or not Jesus Christ was actually God, I would encourage you—especially now, one day before the three holy days before Easter– to dare
    to step into that magical, trusting, childlike subconscious place where you allow yourself to believe that he was.”

  • Jill

    Move along. Go start your own blog where you can be creator and master of all your content. Your debating skills are transparent.

  • ortcutt

    Telling people to disregard their reasoning abilities isn’t promoting genuine curiosity. The author seems to consider it a problem that progressive Christians might not believe that Jesus was divine. Well, maybe they do and maybe they want their beliefs to be formed on the basis of reliable evidence rather than dares. Telling people to dial down their skepticism isn’t curiosity. Skepticism is the thing that keeps real curiosity alive.

  • ortcutt

    I saw this article and it seemed poorly justified so I made a point. That’s all. No need to create another blog when so much is being read uncritically to begin with. Maybe it would be good for real curiosity if people cast a more questioning eye on what people advise them to do.

  • James Walker

    so your bone of contention is that the author of this blog article didn’t make his argument sufficiently tight and coldly rational to persuade you. and rather than simply state that as your comment and move on, you chose to snidely query why the audience shouldn’t take on some other set of beliefs you find equally irrational. furthermore, when some members of that audience and one of the moderators engaged in discussion with you and addressed your initial question (snark though it was), you doubled down and expanded on the same theme (why not belief X? why not belief Y? etc. ad nauseum).

    I stand by my earlier comment where I said I’m not sure it’s possible for any of us to help you understand here in the comments. I’m not sure you want any help understanding. which begs the question, why are you still here commenting?

  • ortcutt

    OK. I’ll spell it out clearly for you since you’re having difficulty following.

    If someone argues that a particular belief Z is epistemically well-supported, then there is a perfectly good reason for someone to believe Z and not another belief. That’s an argument that someone could make, but that isn’t what Mr. Shore is doing here.

    If someone says rather “If you open yourself up to believing X, then you might come to believe X”, I certainly think that might be true, but it doesn’t explain why someone ought to open themselves up to X rather than opening up themselves to Y, or Z, or P, or Q. I’m sure it’s also true that if you open yourself up to Y, then you might come to believe Y as well. That’s a problem and it’s not one that the article resolves. It seems like the author ASSUMES that it’s virtuous to believe that Jesus was divine, and then argues on pragmatic grounds that you should open yourself up to that in order that you might come to believe it. He says that the waffler should open up to the divinity of Jesus. Why not claim that the waffler should open up to the non-divinity of Jesus? There is no answer.

  • Al Cruise

    Maybe the ancient writers were trying to understand and explain the world they lived in and their personal experiences that occurred every day. Fears, doubts, joys, happiness, anger, aggression, conflict, making peace.They saw that harmony, love and beauty always overcame chaos, evil and ugliness when it came to making a choice about right and wrong within the quietness of their hearts. They observed and wrote about it and they made the “Word” [meaning for the rational principal that governs all things] become flesh in their writings. Today we concern ourselves with that flesh creation instead of wanting to understand the true meaning of that metaphor. Humbleness and repentance will lead us to the “Word” and into harmony, love and beauty. Dare to believe Jesus was God? How about dare to believe God was Jesus in those ancient writings.

  • Bones

    You’ve missed the point.

    John’s not going to tell us to try out Islam or Hinduism.

    John is purely speaking to a Christian audience.

    “But what I think is also really going on with many many progXtians is that, when it comes right down to it, they don’t believe that Jesus Christ was actually and truly God incarnated on earth as a man.”

    The vast majority of Christians believe, somehow, Jesus was God and human.

    I would say progressive Christians emphasise Jesus’s humanity over His divinity.

    Other Christian churches would stress Jesus’s divinity over His humanity. Like some superhero.

    John is merely calling to progressive Christians to remember and reflect on that part of the Christian tradition.

  • ortcutt

    The divinity of Jesus is a part of some Christian traditions but not others. I still get the impression that you and John Shore think that Christians who don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus are doing Christianity wrong. If you have some actual evidence that Jesus was divine, then that claim would make sense, but otherwise, it’s just special pleading.

  • Randy Oftedahl

    We use the word “believe” when describing a exercise of the mind; we “believe” certain things and our beliefs rely in large part on whether we can grasp something with our minds. I “believe” that when the word is used in Scripture it is more like our meaning to the word “trust”. To believe in God is to trust in God. It is not an intellectual exercise. It’s an act of the heart. We can believe all sorts of things about God, about Jesus, about anything. But in what do we Trust?

  • Guest

    So, it’s better to believe that Jesus was divine because

    (1) most Christians do, and
    (2) it’s traditional to do so (at least within some traditions)

    Those are both really terrible reasons.

  • ortcutt

    It’s always interesting to me that the Unitarian Revolution in New England is basically ignored in popular accounts of American religion. Unitarianism was particularly important in the history of liberal religion in America.

    Theophilus Lindsey opened Britain’s first Unitarian church, Essex Street Chapel, in 1774. Unitarian works by Lindsey, Priestley and Belsham began to reach the US and Boston’s King’s Chapel switched to a Unitarian theology in 1785. In 1805, a Unitarian, Henry Ware, was appointed to Harvard’s Hollis Chair of Divinity. In the period 1815-1830, huge numbers of New England parishes settled Unitarian ministers, in many cases, keeping the existing church buildings and forcing conservative Congregationalists to build new premises elsewhere. All of this was hugely influential, but we are told that the default option should be to believe in the divinity of Jesus.

  • theworthingtonpost

    This was great passover reading. Thanks. 🙂

  • Kevin Osborne

    God apparently does not agree with you since he has provided a non-sectarian voice for you to listen to and learn from. If God is the entirety then understanding the entirety, as one can, will lead one closer to God. Rejection and fibrillation of hackles lead elsewhere.

  • Les Burch

    New to the Shore blog so perhaps overstepping my interpretation. I think John is talking about a leap of faith, not in place of facts and logic and consideration and evidence but in addition to. Bottom line is that mankind is incapable of proving that there is a God. We are equally incapable of proving that there isn’t. (Both of which are really good evidence that there is!)
    At some point, after the curiosity and the discussion and the research we are left with a choice of faith. We believe the world is flat or we do not. I’m not at all sure that it happens only in the subconscious. But when it comes to God, He has told us something.
    No one comes to Jesus, that is believes He is the Son of God, unless the Father draws him. We are aware that we are unaware how this happens, Yes it seems to be the subconscious and most likely moved by spirit.
    The Bible records that Peter believed that Jesus was the Son because the Father had revealed it to him. Peter didn’t leave his brain at the door to come to this conclusion but neither did he discern it through knowledge and wisdom.
    That is all nice and tidy, and I think (hope) supports John’s premise, if indeed a person believes the Bible to be God’s words. Despite the mountain of evidence to validate the Bible, to accept it as truth is to dare to believe.

  • Al Cruise

    This is straight up Calvinism.

  • Bones

    I wasn’t aware that we were engaging in theological debate over the divinity of Jesus.

    I could do that but I think it’s pretty pointless.

  • But the thing is, that isn’t the way belief works. To believe something, you have to be convinced of it. You can’t just “choose” or “dare” to believe. You have to give full assent to it.

    I doubt that Jesus was God, did miracles, and rose from the dead not because I’m afraid of appearing foolish (I generally appear that way anyway, especially on the internet). I just can’t see how I could believe it responsibly. How can you gather enough evidence to make that sort of jump with any kind of conviction? How does one believe that something impossible happened?

    I’m not being rhetorical, I’m asking. I believe that it’s morally essential that one not believe wrong things. No, seriously — beliefs are the basic foundation of action, and if your beliefs aren’t correct, then how can you act in a moral way?

    Also, the idea that God communicates with us using out subconscious minds — where did you get that? My subconscious mind is full of anxiety and depression, so I don’t really see what’s in there as being from God.

  • Paulo Anselmo

    how can anyone follow Jesus, no believing His words?

  • Ishvara, unencumbered by karma. Knower, known and knowing.

    Avatar. Incarnation of God. Because we need it to resolve our doubt.

    Pole star of the soul.

  • When you contemplate the nature of God, what faculties do you engage for the best results?

  • Given a limited (or at least so it seems), amount of time, what do you want to invest it in?

    Moths and rust are great teachers. But once the lesson is learned, what next?

  • JT Rager

    Came here to say something like this. Belief isn’t a choice. You can’t just will yourself into believing something. No matter how I try, I find myself incapable of believing that I am actually a unicorn and that I’m being bathed in coconut oil by 17-year old blondes in bikinis. If I could, that might be quite enjoyable. The problem is, I don’t even know how to begin to try and believe something like that.

    I have the same problem with Jesus’ divinity and any miracles within the Bible.

  • kzarley

    If you commentators are interested in viewing a substantial refutation from the Bible of the theme of this post, that Jesus is God, from me, an evangelical Christian, see today’s (April 20, 2014) post at my Kermit Zarley Blog here at patheos.com in the Evangelical blog channel.

  • ortcutt

    Senses, statistics, reason, etc…. The usuals.

  • Bones

    Hmmm. You seem to be playing around with the text. Something that JWs do.

    “Jesus was exactly like God”

    1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος. 2 Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.

    “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and God was the Logos. He was in the beginning with God.”

    Then having to ignore verses 3-5 where all creation, including light itself, is attributed to the Logos.

  • In a very real way, you make John’s point for him. You approach the bible as if it can be dissembled and studied to find some correct answer; you pretend the canon can contain and reveal the Truth of God.

    But belief IS a choice. It does take faith. It is based on something more profound than scripture.

    Whether or not Jesus was/is God makes for meaty contemplation, but it irrelevant to the gospel. The same holds true for salvation theory. Most Christians choose to believe that a profession of faith is required for eternal life, but that’s simply not entirely supported by scripture – in fact, there’s a strong case to be made that salvation is earned through works.

    By your way of thinking, there’s a strong case to be made that Jesus wasn’t human at all.

    Choose to believe, don’t choose to believe – it’s no skin off my back either way. But don’t pretend that belief is not a choice based on extra-scriptural experience.

  • Jill

    I went to Unitarian Easter services on Saturday and UCC Easter services on Sunday. I’m nothing if not thorough.

  • Statistics is new to me in this context. It would be interesting to see some examples of it’s application.

    Can I assume that “etc…. The usuals.” includes imagination, inspiration, intuition, hopes, dreams, love, etc.?

  • BeaverTales

    I’ve been an atheist for 25+ years. I find it interesting that Christians have to “fight” their own unbelief? I wasn’t aware of this. I would personally find it more of a struggle to be a believer.

    Perspective, I guess.

    I have no problem with your fight, as long as it’s a personal fight…and not a fight against those of us who “surrendered” to our unbelief, and have much more happy, fulfilling lives as a result.

  • When it comes to God, humans are all over the place when it comes to belief. For most it needs to make some sort of sense, even it is complete kaka to someone else. Not everyone needs or wants nice and neat little packages. Not everyone needs or wants religious texts or theologies to have beautiful and real beliefs in God. Not everyone is going to look at the Bible as having the same value and importance.

    Here’s the thing, when it comes to belief in God, there is no one size fits all. There’s certainly not a one size fits all when it comes to humanity, so why should all humanity fit belief into one tiny concept, especially when God is too expansive, too indescribable, to unscrutiable for us to grasp, much less try to make fit into a one size fits all ideal of our making?

    God is not neat and tidy, all wrapped up with a bow. God is not going to begin to fit in the Bible, and the Bible doesn’t begin to address all there is about God, it just barely scratches the surface. What all of us believe…all humanity put together, believe about God, barely scratches the surface of just who and what God is.

    At least that is what I think.

  • And then of course, the advanced list; being, self, and awareness.

  • ” Therefore, Jesus is no more divine than you or I and he did not intend for us to believe that we are any less divine than he was. With this in mind, if you are still going to claim that Jesus is God, then you would have to claim that we ALL are God, or at least a part of Him.

    God is All. Therefor what you say starts to be true. But I find it unsatisfactory.

    I would go further. There is only one Self. The I AM. What we experience as ourselves (complete with hopes, fears, desires, sorrows, genetic lineage, history, birth and death) is the echo of that primordial awareness of being. Fractalized infinitely within it’s own self.

    God is us. But then what?

    Christ is the knowing it to be so. No ownership, no separation.

    Certainly not pretending to divinity.

  • My excessively idealized notion is that religion would bring humanity closer together, not divide us so bitterly.

    I think that there is no getting around the individual journey of it all. It is nice to have others with whom to share the snapshots with, but ultimately we are alone. As is God. As was Jesus on the cross.

    And yet… aloneness is the whole story. Once ego is seen for what it is.

  • Jill

    True, but I guess it doesn’t satisfactorily explain to me why the journey of self, the journey of ego, must so markedly lean toward the harsh and malicious.

    Why does ego = cruel? People can understand the separateness/oneness without having to beat up on each other over it.

    So if, then, the journey of a solitary being must be smattered with harshness, then why the existence of such depth of heart and soul to abhor it? I’m not shaken to my core that lions eat antelopes, I accept this as part of the reality of the physical world. But a friend’s in hospital right now and I’m frightened for her.

    Why does having a conscience and consciousness have to hurt this much when this is the plain fact of what life is? (rhetorical question–musing aloud)

  • Jill

    I guess I resist the aloneness aspect of the story, simply because I know too many stories of lives irreparably altered by the aloneness caused by the nature and placement of their birth. Abused children are alone. LGBTQ kids, rejected by their families, are alone. I intellectualize all this plenty just to cope, and then the visceral reality slaps me around.

    Sorry, I just need a nap.

  • bmrckay – I so enjoy your perspectives!

    On a related but different note, I recently heard an interview with Avivah Zornberg – an expert on midrashic tradition. She interpreted “I am who I am” from the Hebrew as “I will be who I will be”.

    She then goes on to comment that God is “the very principle of becoming – of allowing the possible to happen.”

    I love that rendering of God; and it fits somewhere in this whole conversation about the divinity of Christ.

  • I like that rendering as well. It makes sense on so many levels.

  • Lance Schmidt

    Unbelief and doubt are part and parcel of a healthy Christian experience. They are the back drop for the arena where faith is fully operational. The trap for many believers is when they begin to equate faith with (absolute) knowledge.

    I think what most atheists actually oppose is not so much belief in a god or Gods but rather fundamental thought, claims of absolute knowledge and interference in other peoples’ lives. In these cases it is metaphorically appropriate for atheists to oppose Christianity. It is also appropriate for other Christians to oppose this type of Christianity. I have been in both positions of opposition to my own background of fundamental Christianity first as an atheist and now as a believer.

    I believe that there are many paths to a happy, fulfilled life. Atheism for me was initially a very liberating path from fundamental thought, but at this stage in my life it’s been radical, liberal Christianity as a matter of the heart and a way of life that has brought me more peace, joy and serenity than I’ve ever experienced.

  • I wish I had an easy answer for all this. The great mystery at the heart of all this is how anyone who claims to follow Jesus could ever reject their LGBTQ children when those are the very ones that Jesus would have gathered to his breast like a mother hen. And lets face it religion is most common reason that parents give for rejecting their LGBTQ children. Sadly it is also often the justification for child abuse as if “Spare the rod and spoil the child” were the greatest commandment. Sometimes it seems that the world is too much with us and I cling to the hope we are not alone because Christ will be with us even to end of the age.

  • BeaverTales

    “what most atheists actually oppose is not so much belief in a god or Gods but rather fundamental thought, claims of absolute knowledge and interference in other peoples’ lives”

    “I believe that there are many paths to a happy, fulfilled life.”

    I completely agree with both of these statements, in describing those atheists who are also humanists. Not all atheists are, of course…but probably most are.

    As a secular humanist as well as an atheist, I believe anyone should be free to find peace and fulfillment on any spiritual path they choose. I’m also happy to see that progressive Christians are in agreement with us on this. I wish your voices were louder in the public sphere.

  • Various forms of inertia?

    Competition, predation. dominance and submission?

    Karma ripening?

    Otherness in general?

    Gain and loss?

    I am often afraid.

    But who is it that suffers? Who dies?

    Who am I? Who is it that asks the question?

    I am grateful for the times that I’m not so much a part of the problem, and hope to get better at it. But even that is ego, speculating on it’s virtues.

    What a great wonder True Awakening must be!

    I hope your friend is ok no matter what.

  • There is the absolute and there is the relative version of aloneness to consider.

    The relative type is by it’s nature, suffering. This is our cross.

    The absolute singularity, has no other. It is Love.

  • Amen.

  • Jill

    Thank you for your crystal clear insights, brmckay. They mean a lot to me.

  • Jill

    Sometimes it just feels like anger is blinding and there isn’t an end in sight. Far too many people prefer being horrid than kind. I wish I knew an answer as well. I just keep fighting as best as I can. Peace to you, James. 🙂

  • Kevin Osborne

    I only wish I spoke your language, whatever it is.

  • Kevin Osborne

    The universe is neutral. This is in regard to the entire place, and it is built on a large scale. Looking at smaller sections one sees imbalance which is disconcerting. Jesus had the idea, as have many many many many many many, need I go on, others, that seeing from a greater perspective is useful in pain relief.
    In the big picture, no one dies, no one suffers, no one is subject to unseen victimization.
    Anyone can see that big picture, if desired.
    Whether seen or not, things will change. That is also part of the picture. Never worry, either love or move along the road, or wait till the train arrives. It is always on the way.

  • Tim Wilcox

    “You are an aperture through which the Universe looks at and experiences Itself.” – Alan Watts

  • Tim Wilcox

    When you quote from the Book of John, the Logos in that reference is the Universal Christ – this is a power and function of God, which is the I AM and the Creative Force through which all things come into being. Logos is also another word for Christ. Jesus was called The Christ, a title that was given to him. However, he was still a human, not God. When he spoke from the point of view of Christ (He who believes in “Me”) he was identifying with the Logos/Christ because he displayed the qualities of character that are present in one who comes from this higher consciousness. He was One with it, thus One with God. Jesus, however, always referred to God as a separate entity to whom he was subservient. In consciousness, he was One with the Father, whose qualities and expressions of love shown through Jesus as if they were one and the same. So when he says, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” this is what he means.

    A lost concept that is not known to many Christians, or anyone for that matter, is consciousness. This is more than just an awareness of things, it is a state of being. The Christ Consciousness is a state of being that is an awareness of oneness with all things. It’s a state of being that is in complete openness to God’s love shining through you in every thought, word, and action. A person that comes from this level of consciousness does not sin because the ignorance and sense of separation and lacking that come with lower forms of consciousness simply isn’t present. There is a feeling and awareness that you are one with everything, therefore you lack nothing. You are whole and complete. When one lacks for nothing, they need for nothing. They only seek to spread the love to others who they observe are lacking in this awareness and sense of being that they have. This is why Jesus was not simply content to sit around and just be happy. He grieved for the lost souls of this world and was fully driven to bring the light that he had to others who were in darkness. When a person of lowly consciousness comes in contact with a person who is centered on a higher consciousness, they will either fall down and worship them, or they will try to hide and possibly kill them because that person’s inner light reveals a sense of shame in those who do not have it. This is the reason why Jesus was crucified. It is also the reason why many, many other prophets and teachers have been murdered throughout the ages.

  • Bones

    Nice try but no cigar especially with the following verses in John 1, that Jesus was the light which John came to bear witness to.

    Now if Jesus wasn’t divine, why the need for a virgin birth?

  • Ah, Brother Watts. Thanks.

  • Tim Wilcox

    Anyone who is of the Christ Consciousness is the Light, because they are One with the Light. John came to bear witness to the Light, whom he recognized to be fully present in his cousin, Jesus. This is the pure, unconditional love of God. To be near Jesus would be a weight lifted off one’s shoulders (“He takes away the sins of the world”). I didn’t say Jesus wasn’t divine, he was very much so. But he also desired this for all people, not just for himself. As children of God, we are ALL divine, however most of us are just not aware of this because we are not of the higher consciousness. Jesus was aware of it and he asked for us to pray for one another so that our consciousness would be raised and we would one day come to this same awareness. Pray for your enemies, for you are one with them. If they are not whole, you are not whole. All is One (when you do this to the least of my brothers, you do it to me). Jesus was like an elder brother, a guide to show the way. Speaking as Christ, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” He was teaching that through the Christ Consciousness, we would find our way back to God. Eternal life is not referring to life after death, but Eternity is a concept beyond time. It has no beginning, nor end. It is only Now. Jesus desired for us all to find life in the Now. As for the virgin birth, it is up to you whether you want to believe that was a literal event. I myself am not sure about that, but I personally do not believe it matters and I don’t criticize those who believe either way. It is up to the individual. What I do believe about Christ’s birth is that it is symbolic of God’s love being born into a world of darkness. Each Christmas I invite Christ to be born again in me. Each Easter I pray that my lower consciousness dies and is resurrected into a higher form that is more in line with Christ. Although I admit, I have very far to go.

  • James Walker

    that’s a very “new age” -ish view of the person and role of Jesus. it’s not one I’m antagonistic to, but I think there’s very little actual scriptural support for this viewpoint without a whole regimen of mental gymnastics and casting passages in a light that ignores their historical and cultural context.

  • Jeannie Boen

    “…dare to step into that magical, trusting, childlike subconscious place where you allow yourself to believe that he was”. I just love that.

  • Gtf’s Son

    Exodus 20:5,6: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the
    iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth
    generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to
    those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
    People joining together and choosing is possible in elections, but…not for God, God is always God! He is beyond space and time.
    We were supposed to be saved, after his death if he was sacrificed to himself as he is God? but we are still dying. A worse death day by day, AIDS… which was not heard is now common?

  • JD

    You say up above that if Jesus was not God then he couldnt preform any works’ But Jesus says in john 14:10 that the FATHER IN ME DOES THE WORKS. NOT THAT HE IS THE FATHER. SO HE CANT BE GOD EITHER