Tuesday 20 March 2018

On being unable to explain What Exactly Jesus Did

I know that Jesus was essential. I know that when he was born into this world, somehow everything in the universe changed.

I also know that this was not primarily a matter of sin - it really wasn't: that is a narrow and partial misunderstanding of 'saviour'.

Christ was a transformation of possibility - so great that I can't summarise it.

I can't do much more than perceive an outline in a blurry fashion... Or rather, I perceive it all but blurred and stretching into a distance, such that I know there are more vital details beyond my clear vision, but can't distinguish them.

Christ did so much. And that continues. It is by Christ that we continue to experience meaning, purpose, miracles - that we rest upon love - that we know that creation is good, and that we are part of it and can participate in it.

All this happened because of Jesus and could not otherwise have happened.

The reason (or reasons) why Jesus is essential are very difficult to comprehend and express - and yet that knowledge is so strong and sure... it is only the failure to explain it that threatens the knowledge itself.

You ask why Jesus is absolutely and uniquely essential - I fail to provide a satisfactory answer (I am not happy with the answer, you are not happy with the answer) - My failure is seen as falsifying the assertion...

If Jesus was subtracted from history, so that he never was, and never was going-to-be... If he had never been part of the plan... If life and the universe had been made only by God the creator and nothing else... then life would have been futile.

Life would have gone nowhere, achieved nothing: it would not have been worthwhile.

Life would, indeed, have been A Bad Idea.

It is Christ which/ who made and makes it All worthwhile.

Somehow the scope and scale of the reality of What Jesus Did has been missed, has been metaphysically denied, has been wrongly-explained. We've explained it to ourselves (for 2000 years) in various partial and distorted ways... and then we have been trapped-by our own limited explanations...

We cannot communicate it, not even to ourselves - yet we insist on the primacy of communication, and insist on living-by that which can be communicated... The tail is wagging the dog. 

There was creation - ongoing; and there was Jesus Christ - ongoing. The first made everything possible; the second made it worthwhile.

But ask me to say why and how in a few comprehensible words - or say it in many incomprehensible words - and I cannot say anything that does not grossly misrepresent the fact and its meaning.

We cannot even explain the reality of one single person to another single person. Is it surprising we cannot provide a general explanation of Jesus Christ suitable for humanity?

But we can get-to-know a person. 


David Balfour said...

I find it interesting that if you read William Arkles 'Letter from a father' that he presents (what I personally find to be) one of the most convincing and mature conceptualisations of how we as individual, created souls, potentially stand in relation to created reality and the creator. The overall structure of a developmental and relational foundation for loving relationships with oneself, others and the divine. It seems easy to imagine that this is enough, that one can imagine living earnestly on the basis of a firm belief in a loving God and the meaningful relationship that we stand in relation to to the divine. But then Jesus Christ is only really mentioned quite a bit later, or not at all, in a lot of what William Arkle writes. This is not to say that he personally was not a Christ-centred Christian, but it does stike me that his theology seems to be quite different and (as the letter by the same name suggests) parent-centred and esoteric rather than Jesus-Christ Centred (which of course is unmistakable with the evangelical denominations). One is left with the impression that perhaps the message of Jesus Christ is important but not essential or obligatory. This seems especially so when one considers his belief in reincarnation - If one is not a Christian in one life, and perhaps a Hindu or Muslim, then it does not seem to matter. Perhaps in another life and its lessons of self-sacrificing love will bring a soul into contact with the Christian message by another means. The 'educational' or 'developmental' flavour of his theology appears to be much less dogmatic and black and white about spiritual development than practically every stripe or colour of organised religious Christianity I have ever encountered and in that sense it seems much more approachable, loving and forgiving of the misadventures of spiritual childhood. I would struggle to say this about most other organised churches except perhaps the ones that I know you would regard as being particularly corrupt. Certainly I have never encountered an organised Christian Church that would map well onto Arkles theology. If there was one I would love to visit. He seems to have been quite unique in his theology. I wonder though if there was a church of this type whether Christ would be more like a spiritual brother within a divine family structure, a good example leading as the 'light and the way' extending an invitation to human beings to join in a loving spiritual family, but something quite distinctly different to anything that has gone before.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Arkle does discuss Jesus in some places - such as the coments on his paintings in The Great Gift, and also in Geography of Consciousness. He regards Jesus as the Son 'containing' the daughter - which as you may realise doesn't make sense to me. He regards Jesus as our God in this world, here and now; and/ but with the ultimate goal of preparing us for the direct relationship with The Father (and Mother) such as he already has... which is perhaps not all that far from more mainstream interpretations as it at first seems.

However, I have not found Arkle all that helpful in specifcially understanding Jesus's Doing - as I have not found any of the Mainstream traditions very helpful either (indeed, often a hindrance).

At present I am trying to understand the Fourth Gospel 'in isolation' as a first hand witness of what Jesus said and did and wanted.

Much of that is directed specifically at the disciples - and I am not yet very clear on how this was intended to relate to the rest of the world.

I'm not clear that we can assume that what Jesus said to the disciples (his 'commandments' - which are mainly about the necessity of loving himself, the Father, and one another) was intended to apply directly to everybody else - although clearly the disciples were intended to witness the reality of Christ (his having been sent by God) to others.

The prescence Holy Ghost/ Comforter was core to this, and seems to be described as actually Jesus himself after ascension; the Holy Ghost as a direct and personal universal presence (or, at least, universal among the disciples) - and a complete and sufficient form of guidance.

As far as I can see - in my reading so far - Jesus's teaching in the Fourth Gospel doesn't seem directed at building a new religion, or any kind of social structure. It is about a change in reality, about the new possibility of 'everlasting life'.

Bruce Charlton said...

Comment from Terry Lindblad:

You write... "But ask me to say why and how in a few comprehensible words - or say it in many incomprehensible words - and I cannot say anything that does not grossly misrepresent the fact and its meaning."

What an honest shame. We learn of Christ from the King James Bible. I can allow it to sum up what Christ did for sinful man in a single verse. Any Christian ought to be able to do the same.

Romans 5:8... "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Christ hung on the cross in my place. Death is the penalty for sin. He paid the price I owed. Accept the free gift and be saved for all eternity.