Part 2, The CHRIST Jesus

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DO NOT let this title scare you away!!  I know some of us will resist this post because we fear getting sucked into a religion or church system. In part one, I shared a similar distaste for the “too small” Jesus that has been presented to us.

Cultural Christianity is synonymous with Jesus. Thus any mention of Christ usually assumes it shares the same particular and narrow expression produced by the modern church: THIS IS NOT THE CASE.

We say at the Living School, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. If you’ve been to church recently then the term Christ has been taught in a limited capacity as the KING, Messiah, or anointed one.  Christ is a title and it was given to Jesus. I think most people get this far.

Jesus was a man who lived 33 years before he was killed by Church and State. The confusion and thus error occurs when we conclude the same is true for the Christ. This error is at the center for turning Christianity into an alternative religion which was never the goal of Jesus. Thus biblical Christianity is not at all the same thing as what I call Churchianity which is widespread.

The term Christ Jesus brings together both universal and particular reality. Christ is a cosmic term, Jesus is the localized person in history. The Christ is cosmic and as such is not limited to what modern people call Christianity. The biblical understanding of Christ is much more far reaching, for example:

Colossians 1:16 pulls out this cosmic reality. “For by him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”  This is a theme Paul expresses in almost all his writings.  Science would call this “invisible power” the Big Bang.

If the Christ is cosmic then it is not restricted to one belief system or religion. Thus the work of Christ has not been limited to only the life and work of Jesus, although Jesus fully embodies the Christ. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 10:4 by pointing out that the Christ was the rock that flowed out water to the Israelites to save them in the desert.

The bible teaches that the Christ is the power behind Judaism. On the mount of transfiguration, Jesus shows three disciples his cosmic connection (Matt 17:1-8). Both Moses and Elijah hid themselves in the cleft of the rock (cave) on Mt. Sinai (Horeb). The Christ saved them from the destructive forces of wind, earthquake and fire (1 Kings 9:9-12). There Moses and Elijah learned the name (particular) Jesus, of the power of their faith.

John explains the cosmic power of Christ as the Logos (The Word). Here the universal Logos puts on the particular (human form) and dwells among us (John 1:14). The logos or power behind the Christ shows up all throughout scripture, particularly seen as feminine through WISDOM in Proverbs 8 &9.

Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job were all completed by God through the Christ. They were not what moderns would call Christians and couldn’t even be called Jews as they predate the law. Yet the Christ completed their work like Moses lifting up the bronze staff which was the Christ saving the Israelites from the fiery serpents in Numbers 21:8.

My point is that scripture reveals The Christ working in our lives regardless of our religion, whether we are pagans, or whether we are modern day church goers. The cosmic Christ of the scripture is NOT the tiny Christ sold by the modern church that only has power for those who pick Jesus’ team. Salvation is cultural more than personal.

Spirituality is the experience of BOTH the universal and the particular. Those who focus on the particular Jesus would do well to learn the scripture and see the Christ as all inclusive. Those who access cosmic power within their own tradition or practice would do well to gain the particular found in Jesus.

Based on the Christ, biblical Christianity cannot be an alternative religion as depicted today. Christianity is that power which completes all religions and practices. Early Christians didn’t abandon Judaism, rather Christ Jesus reframed it in a way that freed them to be true Jews. The religious hated the idea that non-Jews could be saved without conversion. Sound familiar?

This is archetypical of all religions and beliefs because none of them on their own gets us to God (John 14:6). The hybridization of the universal and the particular in Christ Jesus shows us that we don’t get to God through religion because we are already in God. We are all both word and flesh, body and spirit, universal and particular and that’s what it means to be an image bearer (Genesis 1:27). As such we are all little Christ’s or “Christians.

The mission of Jesus was not to create a new religion to compete with others. It was to return people to their deepest source within and build humanity from the inside out. So while the name of Jesus has been ruined by those who use it most, the work of Christ has not stopped renewing people all over the globe.

The particular name for this universal work is now our name. And if you are ready, we are the second coming.

 

 

Part 1: The Ruined Jesus

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If someone brings up Jesus in an ordinary situation, the conversation immediately gets awkward. It seems the only people who want to talk about Jesus are “those people.” At first this seems reasonable, but on a deeper look, this unlocks an unfortunate backstory.

Historically, it’s undeniable that Jesus was a Jewish man who lived and traveled throughout Israel. The bible as well as extra biblical resources account for his lineage, his location, his vocation, and many of his acts and sayings. His humanity is not where people get hung up, and for most it’s not even his claims of divinity.

Just mention the name of Jesus in an ordinary setting and people will immediately get on edge. “Where is this conversation going?” Modern people have associated Jesus with those who are always talking about him. Everyone knows a fundamentalist who condemns everything or a devout believer who has an overly nice exoskeleton. The frameworks that produce such people are usually stuck in low level tribal or traditional consciousness which is below the scientific or postmodern consciousness that make up most of our culture. Sadly, Jesus has been portrayed backward by regressive mindsets that have yet to appreciate the scandal nor scale of his message.

Jesus is most often characterized as the Savior of the World. This is because the mission of the church has become exclusively soteriological (salvation). Instead of restoring and healing the broken world as charged, the church is now engaged in an evacuation strategy. This depiction of Jesus actually has very little power because he is portrayed as a savior who is presently losing the battle in this evil world. Power is deferred until either we die or he comes back at Armageddon with a giant can of whoop-ass on all unbelievers. In this portrait Jesus loses most of humanity because he can’t or won’t save them.

Other common images of Jesus are as an effeminate white guy with perfectly feathered hair who wears a dress and has a halo. Other images appeal to the male ego by depicting a strong carpenter who is a warrior against evil. I call this one comic book Jesus. There is also the tortured carcass Jesus made famous by Hollywood. There is homeless guy Jesus, and countless others.

All of these portraits have their genesis within the pages of scripture, but each also comes attached to a particular theological framework. It’s not a matter of right or wrong so much as it is a matter of particular versus universal. I’ll address this in part two as the tiny Christology.

The weirdness comes out once we overlay any of these images onto Jesus’ claim to deity. Once a particular version of Jesus becomes God then that fundamentally shapes our spiritual framework by exclusion. This is where faith and reason collide and people give up one or the other. If we cannot reconcile the image we are given of Jesus with the notion of God then faith is cut off. For most modern people Jesus is too small, too narrow, too unloving, too elite, or too far off to be known, yet alone worshiped.

This begs the question: “Who is the Jesus being worshipped?”  Far too many believers spout off that Jesus is the Son of God without asking the hard questions behind it. This looks like blind faith to the rest of the world. Furthermore, if Jesus is the son of God, then why is there not a disproportionate amount of transformation in his followers compared to the unbelieving world? 

Each portrayal of Jesus answers these watershed questions differently with it’s own spin and bit of light. For most modern people, the Jesus masquerading as fire insurance is too small. The bait and switch that sucks us into a church or another religion is too small. Jesus as a sin management system is too small. Jesus that makes us happy and prosperous is too small. Jesus as a problem solver, or invisible best friend is too small.

A Jesus that is too small is a ruined Jesus. A ruined Jesus is the one no one wants to talk about. When someone wants to invite us into a “too small” Jesus, we rightly question the bandwidth of the offer and step away.

Unfortunately the result of a ruined Jesus is that too many just avoid the subject. While understandable, neutrality isn’t really possible. Yet this is the source of agnosticism.

Next week I will share the only framework where Jesus could possibly be big enough for everyone. Once we see it, we can never go back, nor would we ever want to. It’s big enough that all of us will want to talk about it.

In fact everyone already is.

What is Sin?

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If we ask the average person this question, most will answer that sin is a bad thing we do. Stealing is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Murder definitely makes the list…oh yeah…isn’t there a list of deadly sins somewhere? (Proverbs 6:16)

Every religion talks about sin but the idea of wrongdoing goes beyond religion. When we play sports, drive, or go to school we follow certain rules of fair play and breaking them diminishes humanity. The concept of sin is universally understood.

Behind sin is the assumption that people “ought” to behave a certain way but they don’t. Once “oughts” or “shoulds” enter the discussion we cross over into ethics. Everyone has ethics.

In religion, sin is always a violation of the playbook. In Hinduism its (Dharma), in Islam (Qur’an), Judaism (Torah), Christianity (Bible) etc.. Atheists hold to morality and while they may not use the term sin, they recognize and live according to a standard of right and wrong which is relative to the individual not a playbook.

All systems understand sin and have a plan for dealing with it.

The majority view sin as a mistake and believe God isn’t concerned with small ones. Most religions teach that wrongdoing is overcome by good deeds in a system of balance. Rituals, prayers, austerities, mantras, all surround and define the purification process. Atheists believe they must do better in the future and move on from previous mistakes or failures. The goal is for good to outnumber the bad.

Christians think they know sin better than most. This is because modern Christianity has capitalized on a sin management system. The storyline is that a punishment for sin had to be paid so God sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of humanity. The modern church has leveraged this into a personal transaction which determines that only believers are forgiven, until they sin again. This creates a feedback loop I call shampoo Christianity: sin, wash, repeat.

What if it’s way bigger and better than these?

My PhD in ethics was on the subject of sin (Hamartiology). In it I ultimately proved that sin is the design of love. Sin is not merely an external thing we do, but the negative space given off by our positive humanity. In short, sin is simply non-faith (Romans 14:23). Sin is the opposite of faith.

Cold does not really exist. It only exists because heat (which can be measured) actually exists. Cold is diminished heat or non-heat. Air conditioners and fridges don’t add “cold”, they remove heat. The same is true for darkness. Darkness is non-light. We can’t add darkness to a room, we can only remove light.  Likewise, badness is non-goodness and now we understand sin.

Sin doesn’t really exist except for the reality of faith. If we agree that we all sin then it is only possible if we are all people of faith. The teachings of Jesus move us beyond the external rules and unfortunately sin is not corrected with good deeds. The bible teaches we can do the right thing the wrong way and it’s sin (Luke 18:11-14), and we can do the wrong thing the right way and it’s not sin (1 John 5:17).

Sin is an inside job. The rule breaking doesn’t make us bad, instead, the bad (non-faith) in us makes us break the rules (Mark 7:21-23, Romans 7:13). External solutions can’t fix internal problems, they only expose them.

The solution then is faith not belief. Religion often equates faith with belief, so if you are Muslim you have to believe Mohammad is the true an final prophet of God and follow the 5 pillars of Islam. If you are Christian you have to believe Jesus is the son of God who died on the cross for your sins and follow the bible. If you are Hindu or Buddhist then you have to believe all is Maya (illusion) and follow the Dharma. Faith goes beyond the institutional framework because it too is an inside job.

After a year of debate, my thesis committee accepted my proof that God is the architect of sin. There is great beauty in a design where the infinite is pleased to dwell in the limited, broken vessel of our humanity (2 Corinthians 4:7). This is depicted so well in Jesus story. The Maker best displays light by shadow. Thus the sin of the world is the work of Love because it is a benevolent reminder making it impossible to go through life and miss God or our purpose. Faith is the non-dual ability to see light and not only shadow. 

Sin remains NOT because there is no God, but because God is infinitely more glorified by our struggle with sin than its removal. May that give us all a moment of pause and a sense of peace and liberty in our humanity.