Commenter "schari" raised some points that had enough meat in them that I thought I'd respond in a separate posting.
Thanks for the response, @schari. Unfortunately we're going to have to agree to disagree about some fundamental points.
The inherent riskiness of revelation
I can't help but notice your greater concern is more about what people think or perceive as apposed to what GOD or JESUS said & is the truth. That should settle it. Christianity is not a democracy, and truth is not subjective but objective. May you have a revelation of the love of Christ, that God came in the flesh to set you free to perfect relationship with Him. ...
When people claim that we can distinguish between "what people think or perceive as apposed [sic] to what GOD or JESUS said & is the truth," they risk wallowing in wishful thinking — which is a form of idolatry that violates the First Commandment. That's because, given that people aren't God, it's impossible to separate what God or Jesus might have said, on the one hand, from what people think or perceive they said.
Even assuming, as you and I both do, that there is such as thing as objective truth, it seems inescapable that every single person — bar none — perceives it through the distorting lenses of his or her own biases, experiences, and physical- and intellectual limitations.
Moreover, when someone claims that God said X or that Jesus said Y, my immediate response is Favorite Theological Question # 1: And how, exactly, do you know that?
(See also my recent post, Too bad there was no Twitter in 33 AD.)
Still another favorite theological question is: Why should I accept Christian 'revelation' on this issue, as opposed to that of the Jews, or the Muslims, or the Hindus, or the Buddhists, or even the atheists? What privileges the intuition of Christians about how things are, to exalt them over the intuitions of other people? It's not as though Christians can demonstrate that their intuitions are a better fit with reality in ways not shared by any other belief system.
Christianity wasn't supposed to be a new religion
@schari writes: "Christianity has ONE focul [sic] point. JESUS."
I see it differently. As I read the New Testament and the writings of the early church, it seems clear to me that Jesus wanted our focal point to be God. I think he would have been horrified to learn that his later followers had begun focusing on him, and had started worshiping him as though he were God.
(See also my posting from a few years ago, The Apostles' Teaching Didn't Seem to Include a Divine Jesus.)
Jesus-worshipers don't own the name "Christian"
@schari writes: "Take the CHRIST out of christianity and u have insanity. Otherwise look for a another name for your religion to express your views."
Um, check your spelling on that. Seriously, though, the New Testament writings make it clear that Christianity was not supposed to be a new religion: it was supposed to be God-worship for all, not just for Jews.
(See my recent posting Goyim for God: A reformed Judaism, open to gentiles, like Paul wanted in the first place.)
Orthodox- and evangelical Christians are certainly entitled to their opinions about Jesus. But they're not entitled to claim the name Christian exclusively for themselves, any more than Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken can reserve the term "American" exclusively for people who agree with them.
"But," you might say, "the term 'Christian' is based on 'Christ,' which implicitly refers to God Incarnate." No: The Greek word christos, used in the New Testament, corresponding to maschiach or messiah in Hebrew, means simply "anointed one," someone tapped by God to carry out a particular mission. Cyrus of Persia is referred to in the OT as a maschiach.
(You yourself are probably a christos — see Are You a "Christ"? Quite Possibly.)
In order to emulate and follow Jesus, one doesn't need to believe he was THE Christ, nor that he was God Incarnate; his followers who actually knew him in life didn't seem to.
(See also What Did "Messiah" Mean to the Apostles?)
@schari, I do appreciate your having taken the time to comment, and wish you all the best.
I think often the answer to the first question, "How do you know that?", is that, frankly, we don't. I have a very strong belief in God, and I don't really know how I know that God exists. I know better than to try to prove the existence of God to anyone else. I accept on an intellectual level that I could be mistaken, but I have no expectation that I will ever be proven wrong. My belief has evolved over time as I have come to understand concepts like ineffability, but that God exists is the surest thing I know.
If I can believe something so strongly despite any logical proof, I can see how others might have more extensive beliefs, held just as strongly. What gets worrying is when such beliefs are in conflict with one another, leading to your second question.
I'm in a bit of an awkward place right now; for a number of reasons I feel drawn toward Christianity in general (and Anglicanism in particular), but I don't seem to be able to shoehorn Jesus into my belief system. I'd just walk away, but I tried that before and was very unhappy. Christianity itches, for some reason.
I just don't know what the reason is.
Posted by: Song in my Heart | March 03, 2009 at 07:01 AM
@Song, don't throw the Jesus baby out with the bathwater. Just because he wasn't God [IMHO] doesn't mean he isn't worth emulating and following, along with many others.
Neither Jesus nor Paul seems to have wanted to found a new religion, but simply to bring people to God.
Posted by: D. C. Toedt III | March 04, 2009 at 01:31 PM