The Jesus Theology Series

Arthur's Journal on God & Politics
What Does It Mean to be Christian in America?
A God of War
Apocalypse & End Times
Biblical Literalism
Christ Path
Conformity & Orthodoxy
Fear, Shame & Guilt
God & Politics
Goodness, Morality & Sin
Heresy & Heretics
History, Mystery & Doubt
Kindergarten Religion
Mental Spiritual Constructs
Mystical Christianity
Mythical Proportions
Passion of The Christ ...
Someone Else's Magic

The Religion OF Jesus - not ABOUT Jesus: Toward the theology OF Jesus


Just what is the official Christian theology?

Does it truly reflect the theology of Jesus himself or does it more accurately represent a theology created around that which evolved afterward? Jesus’ life and words were based on his apparent objective of teaching that God the Father and humanity are one - that “before Abraham was, I am.” Jewish theology would not permit this and a case can be made that this was the primary reason for Jesus’ referring to himself as the Son of Man.

The early followers of Jesus were first and foremost Jewish. Jesus himself had come to an understanding of humanity’s truly mystical relationship to God and knew the difficulty of reconciling that relationship to the scriptural foundation and societal worship of a God in that highly monotheistic and monarchical framework. Those who survived the times around Jesus’ death and ascension and lived on to spread the Good News would likewise have had the daunting task of absorbing a new and mystical understanding within a context of existing Jewish cultural assumptions about God.

Is it no wonder that instead of following Jesus they found it more logical in their cultural context to worship him as a more viable alternative to tossing aside the literal and legal assumptions that were part and parcel of their own society?

That the society had killed their Master for declaring the very personal epiphany and evoking that same mystical epiphany in them had to have been the most immediate concern around their own physical survival and the survival of their Christ-born epiphany. Alan Watts stated that they worshipped Jesus because “they still felt that for anyone except Jesus it would be pride, presumption and insubordination for a mere creature to be one with the Creator.” Watts continued:

“Christians dare not believe that, as St. John says, they have been given power to 'become the sons of God,’ remembering that the expression ‘sons of’ means 'of the nature of.’ The dubious uniqueness of the monarchical religions is that they overstress the difference between Creator and creature and, by making virtues of feeling guilty and frightened, inculcate a very special terror of death – which Jesus saw as a source of life.

…… From this point of view it would seem that the Church has rendered the Gospel ineffective by setting Jesus on a pedestal of excessive reverence and making him so unique that he is virtually isolated from the human condition. By setting itself apart from the worldwide traditions of mystical religion, Christianity appears, not as unique, but as an anomalous oddity with imperious claims.

Thus the religion OF Jesus became the religion ABOUT Jesus, lost its essence and appeared more and more ridiculously aggressive as the context of world religion came into view. Inspiring and worshipful as the character of Jesus may be, it was not what inspired Jesus himself, for he was what he was because he knew of himself that ‘I and the Father are one,’ and not – obviously – because he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.

But from the beginning, institutional Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the Gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way and to the same degree as Jesus himself. On the contrary, one who says, with Eckhart, that ‘the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me’ is condemned as a heretic. In the context of monarchical monotheism to say, ‘I am God,’ doesn’t seem to carry the implication, ‘and so are you,’ because it has the same ring as saying, 'I’m the boss around here.’

Within this context the mystic is always in danger of that spiritual megalomania which Jung called ‘psychic inflation’ in which one takes one’s ego for God instead of God for one’s ego – and Christianity has maneuvered Jesus into just that position. Can Christianity abandon the monarchical image of God and still be Christianity?

Why should this be of concern? For which is more important – to be a Christian or to be at one with God? Must religion be Christian, Islamic, or Hindu, or could it simply be religion? Certainly there must be the same variety of style in religion as there is culture, but the concern to preserve, validate and propagate Christianity as such is a disastrous confusion of religious style with religion. Indeed, this sectarian fanaticism (shared alike by Judaism and Islam)is all of a piece with the monarchical image and its necessary imperialism.”

Is there any difference between the monarchical autocratic God of religious authoritarians and the God of mystical experience referred to repeatedly by Jesus? Do most modern Christians worship Jesus’ God of compassion and mystery or do they work out their salvation in fear and trembling before, as Watts writes, “a precisely-defined autocrat?”

This article is the first in a series of articles offering an alternative to the existing “traditional” Christian liturgical and protestant theology based on the worship of a monarchical version of Jesus and of God as Father.

Of an acceptance of the Bible as an inerrant absolute by Jesus there is no evidence, except by self-serving historical inference on the part of early Catholic fathers and later Protestant reformers who had been culturally programmed to accept the idea of an inerrant and absolute Bible. Such an idea reduces scripture to that of mere divine legislation – simultaneously obscuring the mystical relationship with God that is found there.

Yet with a conscious intent to resist the cultural programming to see the Bible only as authoritarian, the words of Jesus seem to leap off the page in an epiphany of understanding that perhaps He was not the Incarnation of a divine and precisely defined autocrat, but the Incarnation of something much more.

A gospel of monarchical laws, ordinances and obedience was not Jesus’ good news. Jesus’ good news was His, and our, innately mortal theology. It is a theology of relationship rather than worship, edified and communicated by ordinances and ritual which formed the basis of symbolism leading to a mystical, epiphanic and on-going relationship with the God of experience.

A mystical God of compassion is as much our right to encounter as we are impelled by tradition and dogma to attempt a fearful relationship with an autocrat who has been always been more imprecisely defined than precisely portrayed.

To see what Jesus saw, to feel what Jesus felt, and to know what Jesus knew is far more precise than to try to extrapolate in our own lives, the conformity-ridden chestnut of “what would Jesus do?”

Jesus on God, Man and The Spirit-Part One

“My views o/ the Christian religion are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense He wanted anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every HUMAN excellence; and believing He never claimed any other.” Thomas Jefferson, as quoted by Stephen Mitchell in THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS, 1991, HarperPerennial Edition

If you are to proceed with me in exploring a New Christianity you must recognize and identify the spiritual assumptions by which you live. These assumptions may be culturally inherited – many usually are – or may be the result of your own personal labors in pursuit or construction of a spiritual inner system by which you view the outer world. You must understand the source of your assumptions and based on that source, determine if your assumptions and definitions of reality are yours or someone else’s magic.

Whoever defines your reality dominates your perception of every aspect of reality. We are all experts on Jesus. His impact on our lives is a spiritual impact and spiritual impact is felt within – it is a life of inner spiritual experience.

We do not require formal study in Christian doctrine to experience the influence of Jesus in our lives. We do not require input from those who have formal study or those who have made a lifetime of informal study. We can profit from such folks only to the degree that we are allowed to reach our own conclusions, have our own experiences and define them for ourselves. There is no outside expert on Jesus who is needed by us to define what happens inside when we endeavor to emulate Jesus.

Essentially, all we need to do is follow his quite famous advice that is both simple and powerful:

Ask, seek and knock.

You shall be given, you shall find and when you knock it will be opened for you.

Note that Jesus said nothing about asking righteously or worthily, seeking righteously or worthily or knocking righteously or worthily.

Jesus did not say you have to pass some muster of orthodoxy before the Father will hear your asking, notice your seeking or open to your knocking. If Isaiah says that the Father’s thoughts are not our thoughts, he does not say that we cannot know the Father’s thoughts. He does not say we cannot come to understand and think the Father’s thoughts.

Begin then this exploration with an inner prayer to know what God knows, see what God sees and understand the intent God has in creating life. These are the only important queries in a quest for a vitalizing and vivifying personal inner spirituality based on the pattern of Jesus. I cannot tell you what that might look like for you. It is not mine to know. I cannot insist that my own experience is what you will have – again because I do not define your reality. I can only declare that if we take ownership of our personal definition of reality, what happens when we seek further light and knowledge about ourselves is ours to receive.

I have stated in another article that reason, which is so much more than simply applied logic, includes an intuitive way of thinking and knowing. One does not get a sense of one’s self through pure logic and one cannot get a handle on how one really feels by someone else’s definitions – someone else’s magic.

Reason applied spiritually is prayerful – prayer in its purest sense. Reason is reflection of one's own experience and, integrated with intuition, is the means by which the inner soul speaks in a voice sufficiently loud to be heard by the outer consciousness. This is where one senses, feels and hears God whispering. If one cannot sense one’s inner soul, hearing that voice divine is impossible. One cannot find answers to spiritual questions from written sources. But one can find answers and meaning in sensing the wisdom of that part of us that never sleeps.

The most important compilation of personal knowledge and wisdom is stored there and nowhere else. Ignoring inner knowledge and feelings during life’s moments of pause and reflection – focusing merely on external collective values in measuring one’s own current state and status is truly giving away the ability to grow while making needful course corrections in our path of life.

I will be presenting to you my own thoughts for consideration. As I have tried to follow for myself a path around the points already expressed in this article, understand that I am only sharing and not attempting to instruct.

I believe that the purest form of a Christ-like life is not for public display by a presentation of piety, righteousness and evangelizing. It is for that reason that I began this article with a quote from Thomas Jefferson. Spirituality is not a matter of public practice to be seen by all.

Jesus asserted this many times in his words, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. In moving from this point into what Jesus had to say about The Father, The Spirit and Human Beings, I’ll close Part One with another passage from Stephen Mitchell in his marvelous book, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS:

“ For me, then, Jesus’ words are authentic when scholarship indicates that they probably or possibly originated from him and when at the same time they speak with the voice that I hear in the essential sayings. This may seem like circular reasoning. But it isn’t reasoning at all; it is a mode of listening. No careful reader of the Gospels can fail to be struck by the difference between the large heartedness of such passages and the bitter, badgering tone of some of the passages added by the early church. It is not only the polemical element in the Gospels, the belief in devils, the flashy miracles, and the resurrection itself that readers like Jefferson, Tolstoy and Gandhi have felt are unworthy of Jesus, but most of all, the direct antitheses to the authentic teaching that were put into “Jesus’” mouth – doctrines and attitudes so offensive that they ‘have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust.’ Jesus teaches us, in his sayings and by his actions, not to judge (in the sense of not to condemn), but to keep our hearts open to all people. The later “Jesus” is the archetypal judge, who will float down terribly on the clouds for the world’s final rewards and condemnations. Jesus cautions against anger and teaches the love of enemies. “Jesus” calls his enemies “children of the Devil” and attacks them with the utmost vituperation and contempt. Jesus talks of God as a loving father, even to the wicked. “Jesus” preaches a God who will cast the disobedient into everlasting flames. "Jesus" includes all people when he calls God “your Father in heaven.” “Jesus” says “MY father in heaven.” Jesus teaches that all those who make peace, and all those who love their enemies are sons of God. “Jesus” refers to himself as “THE Son of God.” Jesus isn’t interested in defining who he is (except for one passing reference to himself as a prophet). “Jesus” talks on and on about himself. Jesus teaches God’s absolute forgiveness. “Jesus” utters the horrifying statement that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of eternal sin.” The epitome of this narrow-hearted, sectarian consciousness is a saying, which a second-century Christian scribe put into the mouth of the resurrected Savior at the end of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be damned.” No wonder Jefferson said, with barely contained indignation: ‘Among the saying and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.’
End of Part One

Jesus On God: Part II

One of the most powerful aspects of linkage between the soul and the mind lies in our power of imagination. Imagination expresses the visual aspect of inner creativity. Imagination, as we are all aware, is not something “spiritual” in the sense of being something “religious”.

Yet, imagination is an action of the spirit from within. Things “imagined” from outside sources are products of those sources, for example, a frightening suspense story where “what might happen” to the hero or heroine roosts solidly imaged in our minds. Plot and well-crafted words of the story trigger our imagination and hold our interest. As we are captured by the story and anxiously turn page after page, it is not the words themselves that drive us, but the images they evoke – images we create from within as prompted by something outside ourselves.

Experiment with me for a moment. Read the following passage, pausing after each sentence. Look inward and take a moment to truly see and appreciate the image in your mind that each sentence has conveyed:

1. A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

2. And by chance a certain priest was going down that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

3. And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.

4 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.

5. and came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on (them) oil and wine.

6. and he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

7. And on the morrow he took out two shillings, and gave them to the host, and said, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come back again, will repay thee.

As you read each sentence and paused to “see”, did you see words ….. or images?

If you felt an emotional reaction as you read, did words cause your reaction or was it caused by images?

Ask yourself if Jesus moved crowds by mere words? For without images are words themselves sufficient to move the heart and evoke in the soul a desire for action or change?

The nature of Jesus’s relationship to the Father was not driven by mere words or written scriptural verses. Yet it seems that most of us try to relate to Jesus thru blind reliance on mere words.

How can we ever emulate Jesus if we attempt to place so much trust on mere wordage? Are we not attempting to live as if Jesus’s words were nothing more than a recipe from which all creative thinking has been banned? Do we assume we can only make the bread of life by strictly measuring out for ourselves ingredients that have already been measured and prepared by others – ingredients that have been held in airtight containers of fixed orthodoxy?

Are we not then attempting to emulate Jesus by starting out with an end-product – orthodoxy – rather than by gathering our own ingredients where they are found free and untouched by someone else’s ownership. If we plant grain, nourish it, watch over it and harvest it ourselves, then the flour we grind is flour that is the fruit of our own labor. If we then use spices from our own garden, fresh water collected in our own jar and leavening we have acquired through our own efforts, will not the bread we make truly be the bread of our own life?

Is that not what Jesus had so say?

As you read the previous sentences of this paragraph did you not see images? What Jesus had to say and how he related to the Father can only be understood thru the imagery evoked by His words and acts.

As you enter into the gospels of the New Testament, paying attention to Jesus – his words and actions – what voice do you hear? As Stephen Mitchell wrote:

A Jesus who teaches us not to judge or the “Jesus” who will come in clouds to judge, reward and punish?

A Jesus who cautions against anger and teaches love of enemies or the “Jesus” who calls his enemies “children of the Devil” and attacks them with contempt?

Jesus who talks of God as a loving father, even to the wicked or a “Jesus” who preaches a God who will cast the disobedient into everlasting flames?

A Jesus who teaches God’s absolute forgiveness or a “Jesus” who suggests that God won’t forgive and will carry a grudge by mouthing the horrifying statement that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of eternal sin?”

There is no controversy about the fact that the Bible is a spiritual document. There is controversy about whether or not every word in the Bible was written with clear purpose, pure intent and without guile. We have 2000 years of history in which much from the Bible has been used by “authorities” with deliberately unclear purposes, seriously lacking in purity of intent and totally with guile.

The images created in our minds as we read of the actions taken in the name of God by religious officers over all of these 2000 years will more powerfully evoke feelings than the mere words in historical accounts. Whether we speak of crusades, inquisitions and witch trials, as contrasted by martyrdoms, incredible acts of faith and sacrifice, of love and devotion, it is the images that provoke feeling.

Hollywood movies with images from the life of Jesus or Moses touch us more thoroughly than does film dialogue. Television images of being touched by angels contrasts mightily with news stories of betrayal and hypocrisy at the hands of abusive priests or scandalized evangelists.

Words of themselves do nothing. The Spirit does not move one feather because of a word. However, if the word evokes an image, the spirit can then move feelings.

Then how can the theology of Jesus truly be perceived and understood? One of the strongest manifestations of Jesus’ theology of God and God’s relationship to humanity is reflected in the following words. As you read them, do it slowly, paying attention to each and every image evoked by the words. Explore each image and ponder your feelng.

Ask yourself why you feel that way. Moresoe, ask yourself whether or not there is something from your own life history that fits every circumstance described. Then again ask yourself whether or not there is someone - or perhaps even you yourself - that you recognize in each character mentioned in the story. Images will lead to feeling.

Feeling will lead to an awareness of spirit. Awareness of spirit will lead to awareness of the Father. There will be no need to cite written authority for the vividness of spiritual experience. You will have discovered God the Father as Jesus knew and related to Him. ENJOY:

And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of (thy) substance that falleth to me.

And he divided unto them his living.

And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want.

And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his field to feed swine.

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

But when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perished here with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father.

But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, (and) kill it, and let us eat, and make merry for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

And they began to be merry.

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.

And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these things might be.

And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

But he was angry, and would not go in: and his father came out, and entreated him.

But he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and (yet) thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but when this thy son came, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf.

And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine.

But it was meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive (again); and (was) lost, and is found.

JESUS AS MORTAL MAN: How Did He Define Himself?

How do we come to perceive ourselves spiritually?

Many Christian faiths make much of authority, applying tradition and requiring education in order for priests and preachers to actually minister to our needs. How did Jesus define himself in that regard? Do we have record that his “education” was necessary in order for him to minister?

We know he was educated formally in the traditional ways of his culture. We also know that in his race and culture, actual priesthood authority – the authority to perform the ritual and ordinance of the specifics of Judaism – was lineal. Jesus was not a Levite and his works were not the works of priesthood ordinance. Yet Jesus spoke of his calling and role often.

Whence came that calling and role? We often speak of ourselves as hearing the call and needing to move into a role that is in harmony with that calling. It seems that in traditional churches a blending arises in which priesthood necessary to perform ordinances like baptism and marriages are interlocked with duties around preaching and sermonizing. In many Christian churches those who hear the call then move into formal preparation and study designed to achieve authoritative and credentialed authorization as ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet that seems not to be the path taken by Jesus himself and we are left pondering how Jesus saw himself and his path?

There’s an interesting clue found in the 4th chapter of Luke in which Jesus returns to his hometown and endeavors to qualify himself to those who knew him as a child. This is an interesting moment in the record of Jesus’ ministry because its theme is that of qualification to be recognized as someone of spiritual authority in one’s own community. As recorded in Luke, Jesus declared the following about himself:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Of all the proclamations and declarations made by Jesus in the Gospels regarding whom He is/was, this is the most personal and the most powerfully self-defining. This declaration rises above the rhetoric and orthodoxy of other New Testament passages where there appears to be evidence of historical evolution from what Jesus actually said to what became traditional Christian orthodoxy (Catholic and Protestant) with it’s idealized portrayals of Jesus as God-come-to-earth.

There does not seem to have been any need to put orthodoxy into Jesus’ mouth in the 4th chapter of Luke. Why then did Jesus’ quote Isaiah to describe himself? I’d like to propose that an examination of the latter chapters of Isaiah might very well reveal the source of Jesus’ sense of calling and his understanding of the role given him by God.

I’m going to start at the 51st chapter for no other reason than I see at that chapter, the beginning of a prophetic writing that seems to relate over and over to the theme’s of Jesus’ preaching. Again I challenge you to exercise your mind spiritually and let yourselves be caught up in the imagery of scripture – more so than any literal reading of the verses.

If you understand that Jesus was aware of his on-going relationship and communion with the Father, Isaiah 51 becomes very personally relatable as a direct inspiration to the reader. It is, in a way, the Father introducing or reminding the reader who the Father is. The entire chapter is to be read, as all verses are relatable.

Chapter 52 in its entirety is a what-to-say text in which the Father declares that which He wills for humanity.

Chapter 53 in its entirety is an advance presentation of what will happen if Jesus accepts his calling and role.

Chapter 54 in its entirety is the Father’s personal revealing as a God of Compassion.

Chapter 55 is an incredibly beautiful relating of the Father’s place in our lives as a God of Compassion. Note particularly the marvelous 8th thru 13th verses that not only illustrate the Father’s higher wisdom, but also the suggestion that verses 10 to 13 are echoed in Jesus’ response to temptation in the wilderness.

Chapter 56 provides context for the universality of Jesus’ declarations; including the “outcasts” of Israel, the “sons of the stranger” and a criticism of the unrighteous dominion at the hands of spiritual rulers who are “greedy dogs which can never have enough", and "shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”

Chapter 57 seems to lay out the sins of a populace that has run amok under the very eyes of the formal “shepherds who cannot understand” but then concludes again with a declaration of a loving Father of compassion.

Chapters 58 and 59 have a universality of exhortation to both priests and people as to what is required by the Father as a means to repentance and wholeness. The concluding verses of Chapter 59 are astounding in that Isaiah as the primary basis for Jesus’ scriptural recognition of his role is a distinct possibility. Verse 20 expresses the coming of a Redeemer. Verse 21 seems then to be the very calling of Jesus as that Redeemer.

Having laid scriptural groundwork for ourselves in the previous 9 chapters, in chapter 60 we find a sublime “mysterium tremendum” in the communion between a Heavenly and Eternal Father and His son in mortality - the promised Redeemer. We sense in a very real way how the words of the Father - in a text that was already ancient when Jesus read it - came alive.

With a sense of how scripture is best utilized when personalized, we get a glimpse of how intimately applicable spiritual writing is meant to be. In this regard, the Bible – actually any spiritual writing – comes alive and the idea of a Holy Spirit invigorating human understanding becomes something quite palpable.

In conclusion then, when Jesus’ declares the words from chapter 61 of Isaiah to those for whom He has the least credibility, we sense perhaps that Jesus gave the most difficult challenge of understanding to those who knew him the most intimately before He actually became the Redeemer.

They were dared to move outside the social box in which they lived most of their lives in order to see one of their own in a vastly different light.

Perhaps that is the biggest challenge facing Christianity today. From within our 2000+ years of living in a social box that has proven itself to be as blindly narrow as that of the letter-of-the law society Judaism had become at the time of Jesus, we are challenged to see our long-time Christ in a vastly different light.

Are we judgmental to a fault?

Do we worry so much about conformity and the absoluteness of an inerrant Bible that we have become thoroughly unable to personally discern a spiritual scriptural truth that at first glance goes against traditional Christian “orthodoxy”?

Do we live – even unconsciously – in fear of knowledge that is not approved or in conformity with what we are told by many “shepherds who cannot understand”?

Is our perception of the God of Compassion marred by long-time public perception that a God who cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance implies a judgmental God who keeps score and will eventually get you in the end?

Is that why the exhortation to “fear God” leads us almost subliminally to be in a place where God must be placated by conformity and lip service to an absolute and inerrant Bible?

The calling and awakening of the Redeemer in Jesus that is implied in the latter chapters of Isaiah does not imply that Jesus had need of contemporary authorization in order to teach.

It does in fact clarify that Jesus at no point ever inferred that “I learned of God in my own way, a way not appropriate for you. For you there is only a rigid and inflexible formula of rules and specific beliefs.”

One illness that afflicts contemporary Christianity is the emphasis of form over substance. It is that emphasis that empowers a relative few who then make their living preaching rigid formulaic sermons at the expense of the relative many who continue to live entrapped in a narrow world of what is deemed “orthodox” belief.

In reality, there is no real conforming orthodoxy of belief taught by Jesus. If one examines Isaiah, finding in those chapters themes upon which Jesus himself elaborated, one understands that Jesus taught a gospel of action, not a gospel of what to believe and how to believe it.

If, in fact, the question “What would Jesus do?” is to be fully appreciated, such can only be done if “What did Jesus teach and pattern?” is allowed to rise above the self-appointed authority of those who preach themes limited by orthodoxy and tradition. Jesus’ life and teachings were radical to the society in which he was born.

They must remain radical in our own society as well. The alternative - the contemporary weakness of Christian doctrine and practice, outlook and expectation, rigid morality and judgmental societal thinking – come more and more to resemble that same society in which Jesus was born.

There was a need for Jesus at that time. The nature of that need has not changed. Jesus is as necessary today as He was in his own historical time – and for precisely the same reasons.

Read Isaiah as Jesus read Isaiah.

The American Christian is a journal based in Bay Center, Washington. 
Copyright 2005-2009 The SwanDeer Project
Send all e-mail to aruger at gmail dot com