Humanize the Other, because That’s the Gospel

It’s long been my contention that core to the ministry of Jesus was that he re-humanized those who had been dehumanized by the religious forces of his day. It was not only unseemly but forbidden for a Judean to touch a leper or a menstruating woman, to share water with a Samaritan woman, to heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus did all these things, and he did them with such force and courage that the Gospel writers repeatedly tell us that the crowds were astonished (thaumazo, which means amazed, with a tinge of fear) at the power of his teaching and healing.

Always and everywhere, human beings are tempted to dehumanize other human beings. It was prevalent in the ancient world of Jesus, and it’s prevalent today. Recently, Rachel wrote, You don’t hate me, you hate my brand. Some were upset, saying that Rachel shouldn’t allow herself to become a brand, hoping that she would be more authentic so that her blog and her person would be one-and-the-same. Of course, Rachel is one of the most authentic and honest bloggers around, but nevertheless, she’s a brand. And that is so because 99% of her blog readers don’t know her. That is, they don’t know her in the flesh-and-blood sense.

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The Resurrected Jesus Did Not Go Somewhere. He Went Somewhen. [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity comes from Jason, and it’s a doozy:

Hello Tony, I’ve been reading your Questions that Haunt Series for a while now and I thought I’d submit my own. If I’ve understood what you’ve written correctly, you, like me, are a largely materialist Christian. “Souls” probably don’t exist, metaphysics is largely unfounded speculation, and heaven and hell seem more and more like abstract concepts than real places.

But also, like me, you seem to still affirm the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as most, if not all, of his other miracles. I feel a strong pull in this direction but I don’t know how I can honestly live there. It feels like straddling the fence to affirm the miraculous and yet denounce all the metaphysics around it.

Of all of the issues this might raise though, the one I keep getting hung up on is Jesus’ resurrection. If his resurrection was bodily and we believe that, yet we don’t believe in other “planes” of existence (a heaven where spirits and angels float around like glowing light bulbs) then where did the resurrected Jesus go? I suppose a similar problem crops up with all of his miracles but for whatever reason they don’t bother me as much. I suppose it is because I hold the resurrection so dearly that the idea of denying Jesus anywhere to lay his resurrected head bothers me the most. Thanks I really enjoy your work, -Jason

You responded in the comments. Thanks.

Especially with what’s gone on this week on the blog, answering this question is intimidating. Let me start by giving a couple caveats: 1) I had honestly never really considered this question before Jason’s question came in. Probably, I should have, but I haven’t. So my answer will be provisional, a first crack at a vexing question. And 2), as such, it will likely be disappointing to some of you. It seems that the pressure is higher than normal this week, since I have again professed how central I consider the material resurrection to be.

Jason, you’ve asked the question in exactly the right way, I think. I, too, am troubled by my own predisposition to accept Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection, yet harbor my own suspicions about all metaphysics. It seems inconsistent, even unfair to do so. Yet that’s where I currently sit.

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Dear Marcus Borg: Please Reconsider the Resurrection

Marcus Borg has joined Patheos as a blogger, which I think is great. He has put out some of the most solid biblical scholarship around over the past few decades. His more popular work I’m less fond of, in which I think he tries too hard to disabuse people of some important aspects of Christianity. Nevertheless, I consider him a very important voice, and I heartily recommend his work to people.

Last week, in my QTH answer, I referred to Borg in passing, writing,

When I read Marcus Borg arguing that Jesus’ resurrection only happens in the believer’s heart or Reza Aslan saying that it’s shocking to discover that Jesus didn’t really grow up in Nazareth or Bart Ehrman revealing that Jesus didn’t think that he was God, I honestly yawn.

I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. I was just honestly stating that those who take the historical Jesus to be significantly less than the Gospels portray him to be are not interesting to me. But Borg took exception to what I wrote, stating that I have thrice misrepresented his views:

I have never said or written anything remotely like that…

…I do not understand why Jones misrepresents my understanding of the resurrection. Perhaps it’s because the only two options he has considered are that it either happened in a physical bodily way or else it happened only “in the believer’s heart.”

Borg writes that I have also misrepresented him in a book. Here’s what I wrote about Borg in The New Christians:

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Where Did the Resurrected Jesus Go? [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity comes from Jason, and I love it so, so much:

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