Friday, August 17, 2007

Reframing the Historical Jesus

Marc Goodacre summarizing Scot McKnight raises for me the question again - just who do I believe 'in'? I used to think that Historical was the important adjective and it is. I tried to understand the differing flavours of eschatology and apocalpyse - but though all the images of the time as researched by others have led me into a fuller view of the ancient centuries, such a view can never be convincing or unconvincing by itself. I imagine myself in the shoes of a first century character and piece together parts of the history - but how little I know even of my own time let alone the time 2000 years ago.

There is for the record one main reason I 'believe'. It is a passionate reason. So if I were looking for a Historical Jesus, would I see in the well only the image of my own passion? The short answer is no. The reason for the short answer is that I have learned my passion through faith in the death of this man. That faith grew me. I expect I would not have grown otherwise. Like the weaned child of Psalm 131, I am subject to who I am, but I am also subject to a greater than I. That greater than I is one who has taught me to use the agony of Christ to consecrate myself as one who has died in his death. I did not expect any response. But I received a life in return for my death in him.

What then was he - for it is from the Risen Christ that I have this gift - what was he in his human life? Not superman! Like me in all respects, but not like me in some ways - for my energy can be given to violence (note John Hobbin's recent posts on human nature). This risen Human is a new creation - and he is life-giving Spirit. And the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies in the present even as He gave life to the disciples gathered at Pentecost.

The next chapter in Frymer-Kensky is Incarnation - so this little self-revelation is important background.

I have to admit I am not a fan of total-depravity as doctrine. The doctrine of original sin is often misunderstood also. The essay by John Cavadini has a very good summary of Augustine that I should have mentioned in my post on suffering. I am probably more in sympathy with Augustine than I might have thought. I also disagree with Jim West over recent decisions and fears about homosexuality. What I have learned from Christ in the Spirit does not lead me to the blanket condemnations I seem to hear from some quarters.

What is Real to me is the presence of God through the Risen Christ by a Spirit I had not known but by whom I am now known. The experience of new life reframes all my understanding of doctrine. My guide to this state has been largely Paul - particularly Romans, but also all the testimonies I have seen in the Scripture both old and new. In singling out Paul, I honor his priestly service to the Gentiles, gathering us to worship the God of Abraham, the fear of Isaac, who is with Jacob.

I would welcome feedback and criticism - but not with reasonless diatribe - rather with the reason that comes from the experience of the Presence of God in the world today - the Presence that creates the Historical with us.

1 comment:

Beyond Words said...

I usually follow Scot McNight closely, but his post today confused me. I hope it doesn't discourage some from looking beyond the felt board Jesus they learned in Sunday School and the abstract penal substitution transaction they encounter as adults. Please give me the real Jesus!

It was reading N.T. Wright's "The Challenge of Jesus" when I vividly encountered the flesh and blood Incarnation named Jesus who had to realize and accept his vocation with all his human limitations--and grow into his divinity through obedience and suffering unto death. It was accepting death that exalted him and brought him to the other side of it in Resurrection.

When I met this flesh and blood and now Resurrection-glorified Jesus, I fell out of my chair and wept on the floor.

I have rejected the cachectic, gnostic, abstraction I learned in church!

Thanks for the beautiful reference to Psalm 131. I wrote a poem about it some months ago.