Forgetting Jesus–a Christmas resolution

Forgetting Jesus–a Christmas resolution December 17, 2013

A few years ago, 10 perhaps, I was at an academic conference that featured a debate of sorts on the resurrection of Christ between N. T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan, well-known scholar of early Christianity.

I say “debate of sorts” because I think the evening was billed to be a dual between Wright and the Dark Lord Crossan, one of the founders of the Jesus Seminar, but I remember very little heat.

What I do remember is two things Crossan said.

First, Crossan talked for a few minutes about Matt 27:52-53–that truly odd verse about tombs of saints opening up at Jesus’ resurrection and the formally dead but now apparently alive saints walking about Jerusalem as if it’s just what you do under the circumstances.

I never really thought about that before then–probably because I kept stuffing the idea into the back of my mind. But that day, something about Crossan’s clarity struck me, and I knew enough about Jewish midrash, and Matthew’s love for it, to see what was going on: this didn’t happen, but is part of Matthew’s crafting of the Jesus story to symbolize that God’s kingdom has invaded the empire.

Second, Crossan said something that I’m sure is tucked away in a book of his somewhere, but being Christmas and all, and behind in my shopping and grading, I don’t feel like finding it.

But I remember it–at least the general flow–and it’s stuck with me all these years, has helped me see Jesus differently, and is something I think about especially around this time of year when stupid versions of Jesus seem to be the order of the day (like saying he was white).

Anyway, Crossan said that if you took someone who knew nothing of Jesus, but did understand that religious-political powder keg of 1st century Palestine–tensions between various Jewish groups with different ideas about God and how to live in their own land under Roman rule, and tensions between Jewish and Greco-Roman customs, now centuries old–and then handed that person the Gospel of Mark, he wouldn’t be far into it before he would ask, “Who is this Jesus?” and “When is he going to be killed?”

I like being reminded of this Rebel Jesus, the one Jackson Browne wrote about (and if you don’t own “The Bells of Dublin” you should be banned from Christmas).

Forgetting the Jesus who behaves, looks like he would fit right in at church, who acts as expected, colors between the lines, and never wanders off the beach blanket,

and remembering instead the rebel Jesus–the countercultural, sometimes snarky, sometimes funny, uncompromisingly in-you-face-against-hypocrital-gatekeepers, ueber-compassionate toward outsiders, challenger of the status quo, total mensch Jesus,

that’s where I’d rather be this Christmas.


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  • Tim


    This may be tangential, but I never did understand the case for Matthew 27:52-53 being Midrash. Besides the obvious historical unlikelihood of the event of course, but fantastical stories that seem to be genuinely believed to have occurred are pervasive in that era that no one takes seriously as history today. I see no reason why Matthew 27:52-53 cannot number among them. Or is there something else there? The apocalyptic language or theme perhaps? Again, to me that wouldn’t necessarily point to a non-literal midrashic embellishment as the whole Gospel story is situated in an apocalyptic moment, more or less. So what is the argument here that to you seems clear?

    • peteenns

      Yes, Tim. I think you’re way of putting it is better. I was using “midrash” in a very loose sense of “literary creation for theological purposes.”

      • Tim

        Yes, but was this a literary creation on the part of the author of Matthew for theological purposes? Or was it a part of the mosaic of oral and written stories pertaining to Jesus that was drawn from and incorporated into the Gospel of Matthew? Granted, again it seems likely non-historical. But what warrant do we have to suggest that the author of Matthew thought it was? Or any who may have held it as part of their oral or written tradition before him?

        • Andrew Dowling

          If I may cut in, I think the evidence points to the story being a Matthewan creation (there are no mentions of it anywhere else in any 1st century Christian literature) and not something that came down from earlier oral tradition. And as the author of a story (which I would call a mixture of history, midrash, and yes, some of what could be fairly called myth) , Matthew, along with the other Gospel writers, made decisions to insert things in order to make/hammer home something bigger-that’s what good writers do.

          It seems like they are several interpretations as to why Matthew added that piece which could suffice, but for whatever reason, I see it as deliberate for/to the larger narrative..

          • Tim

            I don’t know…this seems to fit into just evidence for the resurrection of the dead as signpost to the inauguration of the new kingdom to me. Evidence such as Paul’s 500 witnesses, which also may have been part of some oral tradition for all we know. And we don’t hear about that anywhere else either. Not everything in the NT is echoed elsewhere, and that fact alone doesn’t qualify something as Midrash. Besides, wasn’t Midrash usually something that filled in the gaps? Like Abraham’s childhood, for instance? It seems to me that the Birth Narratives and stories of Jesus as a boy are much more likely to be Midrash. But that’s a whole separate issue entirely.

    • pliable gospel

      If we are willing to accept that, then can’t we also say that the resurrection itself is a midrash or “literary creation for theological purposes”? How do we effectively draw the line?

    • I think it is related to epistemological issues I mentioned in a comment above.

      I am certainly open to the possibility that weird things happen in our universe, so it might be that all these tales might be based on real strange events.

  • Mary was told that what began quietly would end loudly:

    “and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:;35 NASB

    And this is still happening today.

    • Hello Mike.

      What is the relation of your comment to the topic of this post?

      • The thrust of Peter’s post was that while Jesus is widely associated with the irenic, pastoral, and beatific motifs of the Christmas season, He was in fact a figure who evoked great passions – even negative ones (Crossan: “When is he going to be killed?”; Browne: “the rebel Jesus”). This reminded me of Simeon’s words to Mary about the infant Jesus as He was to be circumcised, to the effect that she was holding someone who would become a very polarizing figure. In retrospect, I wish I had included verse 34 which helps paint the juxtaposing images of vulnerability and polarizing power.

        In short, I sought to amplify Peter’s point. Sorry that it came across cryptic or enigmatic.

  • JL Schafer

    Pete, I ordinarily love your columns. But on this one I had a slight allergic reaction to your final sentence. It reminds me of those who would reject the spineless, sissified, effeminate Jesus in favor of the macho cage-fightin’ Jesus. Somehow, I think that Jesus is equally at home (or is equally willing to make his home) among the countercultural Rebs and among the domesticates who never wander off the reservation. I think that, no matter who we are, Jesus simultaneously affirms us and challenges us at the deepest level. This is part of the incarnational mystery and paradox that never goes away.

    • peteenns

      You’re right, JL. Truthfully, I was about to add a few sentences about how what I am saying is NOT Mark Driscoll’s Jesus (rebel is not macho), but I just wanted to end it. I would argue that the rebel Jesus and the one you describe are not at all opposites–in fact, the fact that Jesus was equally at home with all types is part of his rebel/countercultural vibe.

      • JL Schafer

        Thanks for the clarification. Happy shoppin’ and gradin’. And keep up the good fight to put the chi back in Xmas.

  • Clarke Morledge

    Pete: Are you familiar with Mike Licona’s dustup with Norman Geisler over this Matthew “zombie” passage? In Licona’s _The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach_, he briefly treats in a paragraph that passage in much the same way you do. Norman Geisler was not too thrilled with that paragraph and has sought to take away Licona’s “inerrancy” card. Mike Licona wants to keep his “inerrancy” card.

    From your OT perspective (in between your grading, etc), does this passage fit in with apocalyptic genre, or some other genre type , to accomplish Matthew’s theological purpose?

    • Before I read your comment, I already posted one about Mike and the zombie incident 🙂

  • Hello Peter,

    It is truly depressing that Mike Licona (who is a conservative Evangelical) was fired for having proposed that Mattew made up this story.

    Professor Randal Rauser exposed the utter immorality of this decision.

    That said I find it very problematic that Mike largely adopts the same methodology as the Skeptics: God’s action in the world is always very unlikely expect if we have no other ways to explain a state of affairs, historical or otherwise (God of the gaps).
    He (at least unwittingly) accepts the principle “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence”.

    I have explained at length why I think that we are not compelled to accept this.

    I think that Mike Licona performed very poorly in a debate with Barth Ehrman because as he was asked if he believed in the miracles of other religions, he always denied them instead of remaining agnostic.
    But if we have grounds for believing they did not occur, we certainly have grounds for thinking that the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not happen as well.

    It seems to me that many non-conservative Evangelicals face a fork towards two directions: liberalism denying the supernatural, and a progressive theology open to the possibility of God in the world.

    I don’t reject this story due to his supernatural character, but because it is impossible that an army of zombies would have invaded Jerusalem without inciting people to report of this incredible event.
    I am open to the possibility that a very limited number of saints temporarily rose from the dead and visited their former relatives.

    But in the end I have to confess I just don’t know.

    What are your own thoughts on this?

    • Lars

      Definitely one of the stranger events in either Testament! I’ve always wondered, what then? Did they just ‘appear’ then hop back into their graves or did they resume their previous lives as if nothing had ever happened? What exactly does ‘appear’ even mean?? Were they restored to some prior recognition or was this an unseemly prequel to ‘Thriller’. And what of the other events such as the rending of the veil (from the top), the earthquakes, the splitting rocks – were these embellishments as well? Probably, but the writer calls into question the entire veracity of his account as a result. Is a ‘resurrection’ exceedingly rare or is everybody doing it?? Like I said, bizarre….

      • I do not know. If there really was an earthquake, would we expect to find reports of it? What about the rending of the wall?

    • Muff Potter

      I agree with much of what you have to say. In general I think that our present day thought processes are very much products of the Enlightenment. So much so that over time we have come to demand an almost iron-clad Euclidean proof for everything written in the Bible. This I find very perplexing because two of the intellectual titans of the Enlightenment, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, had no problem with the supernatural power of the Almighty.

      • Yes, and I think that God does not have to break the laws of physics for bringing about wonders.

  • dangjin1

    What I find interesting is that people like Peter Enns would believe a non-believer like Crossan (who was not present in those days)and not believe Matthew who was inspired by God, a disciple of Jesus and who was there when this event took place.

    What evidence does Crossan or any doubter have that proves Matthew made this up? What evidence does Crossan or any doubter have that this did not happen? Then who is Crossan or Enns to say that the event didn’t happen? Are they God? Sorry but to dismiss something because you do not like it or cannot accept it is not correct bible study or exegesis.

    • Klasie Kraalogies

      Given your standard line of comments, and the fact that you do not respond to replies, it is a bit of a mystery why you even come here?

    • Bryan

      There is no greek manuscript with the title “Matthew” as the cover for the book. This is quite distinct from a modern novel. As for the “event” happening or not, can you demonstrate that it did happen? And if so, how? I must say, I am in agreement with Klasie Kraalogies. Why do you never reply or for that matter even come here?

    • I think you should make an effort to really interact with people here.

      It is okay to have a very conservative opinion and expressing it.
      But using such a tone makes it unlikely someone will take your concerns seriously.

    • Mark

      Who are you to determine Crossan is a non-believer? And there is by no means a consensus on who wrote the gospel of Matthew. Crossan has done a lot more study on this than you have. I think his views should at least not be rejected out of hand, because you “do not like them or cannot accept they are ot correct bible study or exegesis.”

      • Seraphim

        Crossan believes that the body of Jesus was thrown into a common grave and eaten by dogs. If he can still be a “believer” while believing that, then words have no meaning.

  • Lise

    For years I thought Jackson Browne was the Messiah – or at least a prophet…

    • ChrisB.

      At this very moment my ten year old is listening to Jackson Browne. And he’s probably only third to Jesus and (hopefully) me in importance in her life.

      • Lise

        Chris – That is absolutely awesome! I started listening to Jackson Browne when I was around ten. My dad would make listen to the lyrics. He’d repeat them word for word and then exclaim, “It’s poetry! It’s poetry!” (I come from a really weird family). Van Morrison was the other prophet playing in the house.

  • Jim V

    While I appreciate your desire to move beyond a saccharin portrayal of Jesus, choosing Crossan as your scholarly inspiration is a little bizarre. At least Wright, while acknowledging Jesus’ rebellious nature, still believes (and makes a good argument for) Jesus being divine. To Crossan, a rebel is all Jesus was – any divine attributes were later additions to his story. You written admiring posts about Crossan a couple times on this blog, without ever mentioning this very important fact. Is it too “Evangelical” to even defend the concept of Jesus’ divinity now? Is that too apologetic? How much must we as Christians accept of the “others” like Crossan not to be categorized as intellectual ignoramuses in Dr. Enn’s world, I wonder. The seminar you went to may not have had fireworks, but Wright has been severe in his criticisms of Crossan in his writings (or as severe as an Anglican bishop can get). Does this make Wright an apologist too? Anyone who admires Crossan and his adamant denial of all things divine about Jesus (excuse me, other than what is “divine in all of us”) has clearly given up on orthodox Christian belief (not just “Evangelical”, but Catholic, Orthodox and conservative Anglican as well). There are other scholars who make the exact same points regarding Jesus as a rebel in his times (especially versus the other variants of Judaism at the time), without denying Jesus’ divinity. Wright is just one of many. Well, maybe your just captivated by the accent. Nah, I give you about two more years at the outset before you go full Bart Ehrman on us. Remember, I didn’t say this because your views on Adam or acceptance of evolution or any such thing – but one can tell by the tone of your posts towards evangelicals in general and the scholars you repeatedly refer to without one iota of criticism (versus the ones you do criticize for any defense of the orthodox faith). At least you’ll make Tim happy.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Instead of addressing or seeking to engage any of Crossan’s points (and not only is your caricature of his belief about God inaccurate, but Peter simply quoted the man, the post wasn’t about Crossan), all I see is hysteria in building up a wall against anyone who would challenge your preconceived ideas. Which is the mark of someone not very confident in their ideas at all.

      • Jim V

        Andrew – first, amateur psychoanalysis does not make you appear more intelligent. Spare me your notions of whether I am confident in my ideas or not. What evidence do you have other than one post in the comments section of this blog that I’m “hysterical” or “building up a wall,” or even better “not very confident” in my ideas. Please – you don’t know me and your arrogant dismissal of my points is laughably hypocritical. Your rush to judgment is in fact in stark contrast to the point I was making with regards to Dr, Enn’s use of Crossan as a positive example of a biblical scholar – he’s done it several times in past posts with no mention of Crossan’s disbelief in the divinity of Christ. An odd thing to do for someone who is convinced that Jesus was, and in fact is, divine. You see, I base my comments on repeated observations, that in my opinion demonstrate a predictable evolution. You take one quote and determine I’m in hysteria and apparently need counseling.
        Second, my portrayal of Crossan is spot on. While there are of course nuances to his various positions, he clearly does not believe in the divinity of Jesus. His books say it, he says it in interviews and he is known for it among NT scholars of all stripes. He believes and argues that notions of divinity are later additions to the Jesus story. You don’t even have to read the man’s books to know that (but I would recommend that you do in order to correct your incorrect conclusion about his beliefs)- just google any article about or by him. As to why I didn’t engage any of Crossan’s points – because Dr. Enns didn’t put forth any points that Crossan was making at this event with which I disagree. Of course, that was not MY point, if you had read carefully. Dr. Enns was clearly portraying Crossan in the light of a scholar unfairly labeled (i.e., the “Dark Lord”). Except, he isn’t unfairly labeled – at least not if you believe that Crossan is wrong about Jesus’ divinity and that his arguments for his position are erroneous. You see, there are plenty of scholars who believe that Jesus was a rebel, but they also believe that he was divine. If Dr. Enns also believes that he was divine, then why repeatedly go to Crossan if all these scholars to make the point about Jesus being a rebel? And paint the man in a particularly sympathetic light (poor Dominic Crossan, unfairly labeled as a Dark Lord of evil) unless you are sympathetic to those positions that actually cause more conservative Christians (and not just evangelicals) to label him as such (which is hyperbole in and of itself – I’ve never heard evangelical scholars label Crossan as a “Dark Lord” – sometimes I wonder who Dr. Enns actually hangs out with). So, I stand “confidently” behind my point, my question and my prediction. Thank you.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Yes, your insecurity is screaming out since you apparently believe you can’t quote an insightful point someone else makes (even if you don’t agree with everything else they say) unless they are on the ‘right’ side of whatever walls you construct for your conception of orthodoxy, The post wasn’t about Crossan, but your hissy fit at Peter even having the audacity to cite him as having made a good point in a debate speaks for itself.

          • Jim V

            Andrew, again, I don’t have time for your amateur psychoanalysis. I pointed out that this was just one of several instances where Peter paints Crossan in a sympathetic light vis-à-vis conservative critics while quoting him approvingly, I said that I didn’t have a problem with anything Crossan said in this context, the problem with Dr. Enns is what most writers know as “tone.” His “tone” is consistently dismissive and antagonistic towards more conservative scholars while quoting and referring to Crossan, Do you think Wright doesn’t believe that Jesus was a rebel in contrast with both Roman and Jewish cultures and religions of the time? Yet, Wright and Crossan were there to debate something! Wright doesn’t believe that Jesus’ divinity was simply a label – he has stated that he believes that Jesus was an incarnation of God. I am criticizing a pattern of Dr, Enns’ penchant for wanting to straddle remaining a “conservative” scholar (note I didn’t say “Evangelical” – I don’t think he would claim that label anymore) while seemingly embracing scholars (without criticism) that deny the most fundamental aspect of a more orthodox faith – belief in the divinity of Christ. Perhaps my wording was too strong – but your no stranger to that habit in these blog posts, my friend. I would submit that we have all had “hissy fits” on this blog before. I suppose it’s pointless to go on with this discussion – call yourself the more “intelligent” and “learned” and be done with it.

          • Raymond

            Apparently you DO have the time to address his amateur psychoanalysis.

    • MarcusBorg

      To enter this conversation: I agree with Peter. That may not be a plus for your reputation among your critics. As a friend and colleague of Dom Crossan and co-author of three books,with him, I add that he does not deny the divinity of Jesus. Rather, he correctly points out that there were competing divinities in the first-century world of Jesus and his early followers and the New Testament. Within Roman imperial theology, the emperor (from Augustus onward) was divine. he was the Son of God, Lord, and the Savior who had brought peace on earth. Indeed, even his conception was the product of a divine-human interaction. So when the followers of Jesus proclaimed Jesus to be divine, the Son of God, Lord, and the Savior whose passion was to bring peace on earth, they were proclaiming that in Jesus we see the true revelation of God – and not in the power and domination and violence of Rome and its emperors.

      Finally, I pose a question to Jim and others who affirm his position. What do you mean when you affirm that Jesus was divine? What does that statement mean to you? Is “divinity” something that Jesus was from his birth, so that he was intrinsically divine, even if nobody had ever recognized that? Or is his divinity – his status as the decisive revelation of God – the testimony of his followers in a world of competing divinities and loyalties?

      • Jim V

        Dr. Borg, I am certainly not qualified to debate you on this topic in detail, but I respectfully submit that what you are describing is not my definition of “actual” divinity. While I will never deny that many figures at that time were thought to be divine – the emperor among them. Yet, none of us thinks they were “actually” divine – an emanation or “incarnation” of the real and present being we call God. The position you and Dr. Crossan seem to take is that Jesus’ followers thought of him in the same manner of divinity (i.e., Son of God, Lord and Savior) as Roman citizens thought of their emperor – again, that may be true. The question is – were the followers of Jesus as incorrect in the reality of the divinity of Jesus as the Roman citizens were with respect to their emperor? Was Jesus a “man” who simply, as a created being (not incarnated, but created) in the same way you and I are created, just the best of all men in representing the true revelation of God (especially in light of the culture and world he lived) – or was he more? Was he an expression – an actual incarnation – of God. l think, given what I know – which admittedly far less you – I would argue for an intrinsically divine Jesus. But we can’t say that nobody thought that – you and Dr. Crossan argue that this was the very thing that his followers did say, just as the citizens of Rome said it of their emperor. Romans (not all, but probably most) thought their emperor was a god. I think the followers of Jesus, especially after the event that we call the resurrection (even if we believe it didn’t physically happen) thought he was in some way divine. The question then becomes – were they both wrong about the intrinsic nature of these men.

        • Sean Garrigan

          I don’t think I will ever understand the need so many have to maintain “the divinity of Christ” — understood in some “orthodox” manner. It isn’t so much the defining characteristic of the post-biblical Church as it is it’s defining obsession, which sometimes inspires a myopia that’s downright breathtaking (I’m not saying that applies to you). As one example, I once listened to a discussion between N.T. Wright and James D.G. Dunn that took the form of a “Chat”, during which these two brilliant men discussed Jesus for about an hour, then Paul for about an hour. After each discussion there was a Q&A, and the very first question after *both* sessions had to do with the deity of Christ!

          As for Jesus and Caesar, the question wasn’t (and isn’t) whether our guy is really “divine” and yours is not; the question is whether our guy really is our messianic Lord, i.e. the who truly has God’s authority to rule over mankind as his appointed King until that time when all authority will be handed back to God so that He will be all and all.

      • Seraphim

        Sure, Dr. Borg, and I don’t think any educated Christian would disagree that Jesus’ divine identity conflicted directly with Roman political ideology. But if you reduce “divine identity” to something that is not actually true, then it ceases to be a critique of Roman imperial ideology. “Caesar is not lord because Jesus is” ceases to have any force when Jesus is not, in fact, lord.

    • Derek

      Great points Jim. I too agree that Dr. Enns is on a trajectory that will lead him to full blown agnosticism or atheism. He is already a liberal “Christian” in my mind, and many others.

      It almost seems as if Dr. Enns is maintaining the Christian label for the sole purpose of attempting to annoy those who believe his apostasy lurks around the corner.

      Maybe it’s time he starts formally debating some of those silly apologists, like Dr. William Lane Craig, for example.

    • Seraphim

      Absolutely true. I accept evolution, I reject Biblical inerrancy, and I am not a Protestant, much less an evangelical. Enns’ ideas seem to consist, at this point, of the following:

      1. Israel’s story is nearly entirely made up.
      2. What they made up is evil.
      3. If you disagree then you are a fundamentalist.

      I don’t think anybody who has been following Enns for the past few months doubted that this would soon pierce the New Testament story as well. How long before the resurrection becomes a cute metaphor that reflects a primitive worldview that needs to be bypassed? The funny thing is that Enns doesn’t seem to be in that deep dialogue with scholarship anymore either. I remember a relatively recent post where he referred to Psalm 82 without realizing that it was a reference to the divine council- something anybody acquainted with scholarship nowadays knows. Michael Heiser (did his dissertation on the divine council at Qumran and believes that Israelite monotheism is native to Israel’s religion- guess that makes him an anti-intellectual) came in and educated him.

      Unfortunately, since Enns lost his job at Westminster, he’s become a bit deranged. He used to have some pretty good insights (I enjoyed his book on Biblical inspiration) but nowadays it’s pretty standard liberal Christian tripe- together with the “I think I’m really unique but don’t realize that I’m part of a bigger choir than evangelicalism” tone. Very sad.

      • Mark

        I really don’t care whether Jesus was divine or not. To me, Jesus was the best representation of God on earth I can ever hope to know. I don’t do a very good job of following him, but I want to get better at it.

        I believe all the stories are inspired, but not handed down by God. And, although I only have a passing familiarity with most of the religious tenets, I have no reason to believe Christianity is the “only way” or even a better way than many other religions. I am as convinced as I can be that, had I been born a Jew, I would be practicing Judaism. Had I been born Arabic, I would most likely practice Islam. We think Christianity is the way and the truth, because it has been force fed to us all our lives. We are generally not required to study other religions, so we accept what we are fed. And I’ve about had enough macaroni and cheese.

        • Seraphim

          1. What does it mean when one says that Jesus is the only way? Does it mean that everybody who does not make an explicit confession of faith is going to burn in a big fiery torture pit? This question is all the more poignant for me, given that I am Eastern Orthodox and believe that the Orthodox Church is the sole expression of the Church of Christ. In short, the answer is “no.” St. Silouan said that he expects the vast majority of people to be swept in by the love of God on the Final Day, while there will probably be a few holdouts who will spend eternity resisting God. This is why I despise the “fundamentalism vs. liberalism” dichotomy- it acts as if there is no such thing as theologically conservative subtlety.

          2. I believe God works in other religions, and I have studied other religions. While I was born with one Christian parent and generally raised Evangelical, I have since taken quite a journey to a different tradition, that of Orthodoxy, even as I respect and love my Evangelical roots.

          3. Even if the only reason I practiced Christianity (and it most certainly is not) is because one of my parents practices it, your argument would still be a genetic fallacy.

          4. With all respect, why does it matter if you think that Jesus was the best representation of God on Earth? All you’ve done is picked an image of God that you like and decided that you will accept that- without, of course, all of the “organized religion” stuff that is so icky to the modern Western world. When I talk to Muslims, the first thing they try to do is convince me that Islam doesn’t necessarily promote terrorism. For what it’s worth, I agree with them on that point. But my response is always the same: I don’t care if Islam promotes terrorism or not. I care whether it is true. If the God of all creation wants me to be a terrorist, then give me a bomb. I do not have the ability to assume confidently that God is going to be exactly what I want Him to be.

          • Kennyd23

            The Church is not denominations its people.
            and Christ is the head of that church.
            Jesus spoke against the religious gate keepers of his day.
            Paul preached against Division.
            The New Covenant has 2 Commandments
            Believe on Jesus and Love your neighbor.
            Keep it simple Jesus Loves Childern

        • Kennyd23

          You should care! Forever is a long time to be sepperated from God;

          • Mark

            Agreed. But all we KNOW we have is this life. Right here, right now. We need to go about the business of “loving our neighbor” and “doing for the least of these.” And Jesus said we will be OK if we do that. And he didn’t say the Hindus and the Jews would not be OK. He said “whatsoever you do for the least of these you do for me.” He said that to EVERYONE. So I’m not worried about being separated from God. If God is all loving, God loves me better than my mom loves me, and I gotta tell you, that’s a whole hell of a lot. My mom would never disown me, even though we have some pretty strong disagreements at times; therefore, God, who is more loving than my mom, will never disown me, even though I – like everyone else on this planet – don’t completely understand God and never will. I am loved, and I am not afraid. Can you say that about your relationship with God?

    • MarcusBorg

      A brief response to those who have raised the question whether Jesus was “really divine,” “actually divine,” in contrast to Caesar not being really or actually divine.

      A respectful question: what do you mean when you say Jesus was “actually” and really divine? Does that mean really biologically conceived by God – whereas the story of Augustus’s divine conception is fiction? Do you mean that Jesus had a divine mind and divine powers like no human being has ever had? Or what do you mean?

      One more comment: is the conflict between Jesus and Caesar a conflict about “our guy is really divine and your guy isn’t”? Or is it a conflict about where to see the decisive revelation of God, the Word become flesh and embodied in a human life? Do we see that revelation, that Word, that embodiment in Jesus? Or in the powers that killed him? We can debate the sense in which Jesus was or was not actually divine, But isn’t the more important question – or at least equally important question the competing visions that we see in Jesus as decisive revelation of God and in Caesar/empire/domination as the decisive revelation of God?

      • Kennyd23

        Nobody Killed Him he gave his spirit at the appointed time of His Choosing. A normal man would have bled out and died at the scourging.
        If you choose not to accept His sacrifice on your behalf Amen

  • Anna

    Jesus opened himself to the divine, and allowed the divine to pass through him. He pointed the way. Jesus never claimed to be God. He became the son of God. He could have refused. And, so can we. Perhaps, the universe already knew that he would not refuse, and so angels attended his birth. Jesus may have been incarnated here on planet earth from some higher civilization that IS in communion with the living God within themselves and within one another. Maybe we are not all incarnated here from some higher realm, but Jesus showed us that we can follow him and his example, and attain life, an eternal life. We are in the process of throwing away the gift of life on earth right now, right here on our own shared planet, (mostly for profits that destroy the natural world heritage of resources, and the best in our own humanity while doing it). If we are willing to throw away this life, and trample our natural world and one another, then it should not be so surprising that we also throw away a higher life in the next world.

    The divine is accessible to a human being who opens their hearts, souls, and bodies to the sacred presence of God. Jesus was not so much divine as he became divine as he permitted God entrance into his being. But, so could we if we woke up. We open or close the door to God within. But, closing the door to God is keeping all of humanity and human civilization stuck in a devolving spiral that is counter productive to human and earthly advancement. We are our own worst enemy when we reject God within our own selves. As a humanity we are still rejecting God but it won’t serve any one of us or certainly serve human civilization. We stand in our own way from reaching higher consciousness. We could just step aside and allow God to work through us. There is a lot more wonderment and possibility in the universe that is open to God. And, it is the only way to save our real treasure – which is earth, life on earth, only kept alive and capable of continued life with peace on earth.

    • Kennyd23

      Anna; Jesus is divine
      The Way the Truth the Life
      No one gets to the one true God without Him.
      He does not need you to believe this .
      He suffered for you dont let your pride keep you out of Heaven