Introduction to Jesus
No approach toward responsible theology can be examined in the Western world without addressing the life and ideals of Jesus. Today's Christian theology has placed so much emphasis on Jesus the "Divine," and Jesus the "Savior," that we can no longer recognize the other roles which Jesus played. Writing in "Psychology and Alchemy" the Psychiatrist Carl Jung states:
Cases are not unknown where the rigorous exercises and proselytizing of the Catholics, and certain type of Protestant education that is always sniffing out sin, have brought about psychic damage that leads not to the Kingdom of God but to the consulting room of a doctor.
(Volume 12, Collected Works, translated by R.F.C. Hull, Princeton University Press, ã1993 by Bollington Foundation, pg20)
Worship has become the focal point of human salvation, with one's faith in Jesus as a messiah as the paradigm of that worship. The words and lessons of Jesus are often made secondary to the words of other men, as if the message of Jesus in the Gospels was somehow unclear or incomplete.
It easily happens therefore, that a Christian WHO BELIEVES in all the SACRED FIGURES, is still UNDERDEVELOPED and unchanged in his innermost soul because he has "all the God OUTSIDE" and DOES NOT EXPERIENCE HIM IN THE SOUL!
(ibid., page 11)
But, these concepts of salvation and worship become irresponsible of Churches because Jesus didn't seem to find them important, and these religious interpretations often distract from Jesus' message. In fact, in regards to our paying him tribute, Jesus himself said:
When you have lifted up the Son of man, you will know that I am what I am. I DO NOTHING ON MY OWN AUTHORITY, but in all that I say, I HAVE BEEN TAUGHT BY MY FATHER. He who sent me is present with me, and has not left me alone; for I ALWAYS DO WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE TO HIM.
In these words, we have an assertion that Jesus is not the authority, but one who has been picked by God because he always does what is acceptable to Him. He claims the presence of God within, but the degree of that presence is not elaborated upon. He is stating here theologically, that when we do what is acceptable to God, God will not abandon us. In many other areas of the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that the motivation of "love" is what makes our actions acceptable to God.
A little later in the same chapter after Jesus is accused of being possessed, he says:
I am not possessed. I am honoring my Father, but you dishonor me. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT MY OWN GLORY; there is one who does care, AND HE IS JUDGE. In very truth, I tell you, IF ANYONE OBEYS MY TEACHINGS, he shall never know what it is to die.
And in Matthew 25 when talking about heaven and judgment, Jesus never mentions faith, or worship, or himself as being necessary for our salvation. His descriptions of heaven become dependent upon one's uses of the gifts God has entrusted to them. His description of judgment, like heaven, does not include faith, worship, or himself as Savior; but instead, he proclaims that our judgment is based upon our treatment of one another. The significance of this has been stated in this text before, but it is well worth repeating here. If faith, worship, rituals, creeds, or belief in Jesus as the messiah; were in fact necessary at the time of judgment, wouldn't one think Jesus might have mentioned that when discussing judgment?
This is why so much of the present day theology becomes irresponsible in its teachings, because it makes secondary to the teachings of Jesus - manmade decrees and interpretations - of which Jesus had to say:
This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me; their worship of me is in vain, for THEY TEACH AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN. (Matthew 15:9)
This people pays me lip service, but their heart is far from me; their worship of me is in vain, for they teach as doctrines the commandments of men. YOU NEGLECT THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD, IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THE TRADITIONS OF MEN. (Luke 7:9-10)
The manmade, and complicated, dogmatic doctrines of so much of present theology overshadow the pure and simple philosophy that Jesus lived and taught ¾ which was: loving God through loving humanity! Jesus taught a theology which seen God dwelling within all men. And he presented a psychology that is based upon the premise that we will reap what we sow.
It seems that the present theological assertions lead people to an almost idolizing worship of Jesus, this as a replacement for the wonderful theology of love that Jesus left us with. Again, Dr. Jung tells us:
The great events of our modern world as planned and executed by man do not breathe the Spirit of Christianity, but rather of unadorned paganism.
(Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, page 11)
And a little later on page 13 he says:
It is high time we realize that it is POINTLESS TO PRAISE THE LIGHT AND PREACH IT, IF NOBODY CAN SEE IT. It is much more needful to TEACH PEOPLE THE ART OF SEEING.
It seems you can't turn on a radio or a television without someone proselytizing about Jesus, and hundreds of millions testify to his Divinity, but there is little evidence of the actualization of his teachings in the reality of our society. Yet, over and over, in the words of Jesus as well as in the way he conducted his personal life, he declares loving one another and taking care of each others' needs as the focal point of God's Kingdom --- both in heaven and on earth. We have so deified the nature of Jesus in Western Christendom that we have completely lost sight of the human nature of the man. We seem to overlook the fact that Jesus did not make his appearance on earth as a God, even if he were God. Jesus made his appearance as a man, and this becomes a Jesus we can know about and understand. This is a Jesus who set a human example of Divine Love and its potential.
The Gospel of John tells us:
So the word became flesh; he came to dwell among us; and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father's only son, full of grace and truth.
To many of the orthodox thinkers, this is a proclamation of the Divinity of Christ. And while this may be true, the Jesus we meet in the gospels is a man, for that is the way God chose to reveal his "Word".
We cannot understand Jesus as God as human beings; but we can understand Jesus the man. Emphasizing the human nature of Jesus can lead us to an alternative interpretation of John 1:14, one that makes little difference on how we view the nature of Jesus ¾ for the revelation of Jesus comes in the form of a human being. What is most important to see is that God's will becomes manifested in Jesus, regardless if he has a Divine nature or not. We need to emphasize the "WORD MADE FLESH" is a life lived as God intended human beings to live. If this is the case, than our emulation of Jesus the man is of much more importance than our "faith in" or "worship of" him as God. Jesus becomes the "Word Incarnate", the "Savior" because his life is a life of God's love. If Christians emulated Jesus as much as they preached about him, or worship him; the state of our world would change dramatically.
Seeing Jesus as the living of God's word changes one's whole approach toward salvation --- however salvation is defined. In recognizing this important truth, faith does not become the focal point of one's salvation; but rather action ¾ a striving to emulate Jesus in a practical manner in our daily living. As with any myth, to emulate the hero of the story (Jesus) does not mean that we must live life exactly as he lived it. Emulation requires that we strive to use the principles, priorities, and values that he demonstrated, adapting them to the situations of our modern daily life and the way we experience it.
Faith, in the early scriptural sense of the word, is not indicative of a belief; but rather, it is to "trust", putting our confidence in the person, we have faith in. Jesus did say:
I am the way; I am the truth and I am life; no one comes to the Father except by me!
But what is Jesus really saying here? Many Christian believers proclaim that this is confirmation that we must believe in Jesus as a redeemer to be saved. But believing Jesus as the savior does not make sense in terms of motivating our actions. One can believe without acting. Instead, one needs to interpret the word faith, as it was understood in its original scriptural meaning; that is, as "trust"!
Jesus never once told us to worship him, but he did instruct us to love one another. Jesus didn't instruct his followers to preach the word so much as spreading it by the living of it! So realistically in light of Jesus’ other teachings, one might offer this interpretation to Jesus' phrase above: 'My way of living is God's way, my truths to you are God's truth, and my life is lived as God intended to be. If you follow my example, if you accept my truth, and you strive to live your life the way I have lived mine; you too will be God's child.' In such an alternative interpretation to these words of Jesus, they make much more sense in practical and common everyday realities. What theologians often tend to forget is that Jesus did not speak to theologians or to scholars, his words were meant for the common man, his message was simple, and his intent was unselfish.
While responsible theology will recognize the messiah ship of Jesus (albeit, an alternative from what is commonly accepted now) it needs to emphasize the other roles that the life of Jesus played in the Gospels. To centralize one's theological speculation on Jesus the man, is not to blaspheme; rather, it is a responsible approach toward theology based on the teachings of Jesus himself.
As the title of this chapter indicates, we will explore in depth some of the human roles that Jesus played and what their implication should be in our every day human affairs. Any theology that professes that Jesus is God, the Son of God, or serves the role of Messiah; must give the teachings and ideals and the example of Jesus the highest of priorities in their speculations and opinions. If one is to place their faith in Jesus as God Incarnate, than what Jesus had to say becomes more important than any other source!
In this chapter, we will explore many of the traditional concepts about Jesus, examining how he might feel about them, and offering some practical interpretations that can be applied in our modern world. In addition, we will explore some non-traditional roles, such as, Jesus as a theologian, as a philosopher, and as a psychologist.
In this introduction, we wish to establish the basis on which we come to recognize these other roles.
Jesus becomes a theologian because he labored to redefine the image of God as it was understood by the people of his time. Whenever anyone offers insight into the nature of God, they are offering theological speculation. Jesus added a new dimension to the Divine force that many people of the time viewed as a punitive and vengeful God; redefining that image as one of love, mercy, kindness, and concern. The problem that people often have in viewing Jesus as a theologian, is that his theology is free from all the complexities of other theologies. Jesus recognizes that God in His/Her pure state is an unknowable, and making up for that lack of ability he points us to the Essence of God to which we can relate and share.
To briefly state Jesus' theology: God is love, God is part of us, God cares for us ¾ that God is pleased when we do for one another in love (just as He/She created out of love), and that God is offended when we neglect and exploit each other. The theology of Jesus tends to make one's self-responsible for the criterion that establishes their judgment, as opposed to so much of the current thinking. The theology of Jesus places our salvation, places are attainment of heaven and our fulfillment, in our interactions with each other ¾ in our willingness to live in love.
Jesus can also be viewed as a philosopher, for through his teaching, his parables and the living of his life, he presents a philosophy that gives meaning and purpose to life, one which can be applied to anyone's life regardless of what they believe about Jesus. Even if one could never relate to Jesus as God, they surely would have to admit that the philosophy of Jesus would not harm our human condition. People could apply the ethics that Jesus taught and practiced without any religious belief whatsoever.
And, this chapter will seek to demonstrate that Jesus also played the role of a psychologist in a world that knew nothing of psychology. When one studies what he had to say, one could find so much practical psychological advice that it is hard to imagine better from any practicing counselor. Like so much of the revelations that are present in myth and scriptures, the words of Jesus contained practical psychological advice that leads to a healthy mind and spirit. It is a psychology, that if put into practice, could ease our daily living and improve the quality of life throughout our societies.
The truth is, that Jesus' teachings become meaningless and our faith in him hypocrisy if his teachings are absent from our everyday living in the world of which we are a part. No doctrine, no matter how well it is thought out or presented, is useful if it cannot motivate us to elevate our spiritual state in their reality of our physical presence. For two millennia, we have interpreted the image of Jesus as filtered through the eyes of Paul and the theologians who followed him. And while this may have served the church well, it doesn't seem to suit Jesus very well.
It would logically seem to be most responsible, when any church claiming its foundation in Jesus, would put the teachings of Jesus far above any other, especially when his teachings are so direct and clear. In simple truth the Christian theology of today is much more Pauline, then it is Christian (Christianity defined here as based upon the teachings of the Jesus we claim to be Christ, not upon a declaration of faith in his divinity).
It is not the intent of the author to discourage a faith in Jesus as God. On the contrary, the intent is to renew the Christian message using the teachings of Jesus as they are recorded in the four Gospels and some of the writings of the earliest Christians. The simplistic truth in Jesus' words strips any need of looking for deep theological conjecture. Some of the miracles may represent metaphors, but the actual teachings of Jesus are quite plain and simple. Here we have a reverse of revelation, for Jesus' inspiration is so pure and so simple that he had little need to talk in symbol and metaphor, except where he used parables to describe that which cannot be described (such as heaven) or convey messages to the contemporaries of his time.
While there are many inspirations and revelations, the gospels can provide the basis for any responsible theology --- independent of anything else. The Jesus conveyed in those gospels understood God's love; he grasped the true meaning and fullness to life; and he offers to us a trinity of theology, philosophy, and psychology that is both simple and beautiful ¾ both spiritual and corporal. In combining these three schools of thought, Jesus lies the foundation for a religion that meets the needs of everyday living weather it was his intent or not. In his teaching, there is only one ultimate truth from which all others proceed; that truth is, LOVE!
Some of the opinions expressed in this chapter have been referred to before in some of the other topics contained in this work. In some cases, this redundancy is necessary because a responsible approach toward Christian theology requires a foundation in the basic and simple teachings of Jesus, who is the first and foremost of Christian theologians. To look at the gospels, is to look at a redundancy of the same message of love expressed in a wide variety of ways.
And finally, reflecting upon the words of Leo Tolstoy:
There is nothing but the assertions of the churches to show that God, or Christ, founded anything resembling what the churchmen understand as church.
(Tolstoy, "THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU"1905)
In fact, in the teachings of Jesus we find an opposite view of what we have come to know as church with its hierarchy, riches and words. His teachings specifically state that we can only lead when we serve; we can only be first when we are last; and that true wealth has nothing to do with money.
Jesus did not establish a church. Instead, he came to bring the fruition of a
This people pay me lip service, but their hearts are far from me; their worship of me is in vain, FOR THEY TEACH AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.
(Matthew 15:9 - repeated in Mark 7-7)
And when the Pharisees asked him: when will the
You cannot tell by observation when the
And in the apocryphal Gospel According to Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1947 we seem to have a much clearer insight into this statement. It reads:
His disciples questioned: "When will the Kingdom come?"
Jesus answered: It will never come if you are expecting it. Nobody will say, "look here!" or "look there!". Yet the Kingdom of the Father is spread throughout the earth, AND NO MAN SEES IT!
(The Gospel According to Thomas, logian 113)
(edited by: Raghavan Iyer, Concord Grove Press, ã1983 by The Pythagoren Sangha)
It is time that a responsible theology work toward a goal
of opening men's eyes so they may perceive the
It is clear to scholars and religious men alike that Jesus believed he was to deliver the Kingdom of God to men, but an intense and logical study of his words show that he did not define that Kingdom in terms of a church --- in fact, his Kingdom was not of this earth! Rather his Kingdom was in the human heart, and we as individuals can be the manifestation of that Kingdom no matter what our theology.
Until theology recognizes the true presence of God in the
human heart, it will fail in any constructive attempt to use the words of
Jesus. God is not outside --- He/she is
not locked in the tabernacle of some church.
Our redemption is not external, nor is the
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