Saturday 19 May 2018

Why was Jesus necessary, what did he do?

Christians need to be able to explain (mostly to themselves, but if possible to others) why Jesus was necessary - what Jesus did that God the Father could Not do.

Traditional explanations for this have never satisfied me - they seem incoherent, inadequate or orthogonal to the problem. So here is my attempt:

Jesus is what enables us to know - and to know 'as gods'.

Without Jesus, God and Reality are incomprehensible.

Now, it is a fact that some people either do not want to know about God, or else regard the desire to be intrinsically blasphemous - and Christianity Is Not For Them.

Christianity is for those who want to know God, for themselves, by direct personal experience...

Why? Why would or should people want to know God? What is the point?

Because Christianity is about us becoming fully Sons of God - that is, on a parity (not equality, not sameness - but of the same 'kind') with Jesus Christ.

To become Sons of Gods we must grow-up towards becoming 'a god' (because a Son of God is a god - small 'g' indicating the distinction from God who is The Father and Creator); and as part of becoming a god we must know in the same way as a god knows.

(We can't just follow instincts, we can't just obey - we must know, for our-selves.) 

Growing towards divinity is called theosis; but... not everybody wants theosis - and Christianity Is Not For Them.

What about our condition after death? In the first place, the Christian expects to be resurrected after death - to have an immortal body; but that is not an unique selling-point for Christianity.

For Christians there is more. When Jesus talked about Life Everlasting, he made clear that it was qualitatively better-than and different-from this earthly, mortal Life.

In the Fourth Gospel this difference is indicated in multiple comparisons relating to water, wine, bread, flesh/ body, blood and so on. For example, when Jesus explains to the Samaritan woman the difference between water from the well and the 'living water' he offers.

Thus, for Christians, after death they expect to be resurrected and for their state to be qualitatively greater than on earth; and to become gods.

Not everybody wants this - some people want oblivion after death (permanent sleep); others want a life just like this earthly life, but with more of the pleasurable and none of the miserable aspects (i.e. Paradise). Others want to become a spirit - freed from a body. Others want to remain as-children. Others want to rest forever, in bliss - others to be assimilated-into God (Nirvanah). And Christianity Is Not For Them. 

The point I feel I need to take seriously is that Jesus was an incision in reality; Jesus changed 'history'; changed The Universe forever - All things, everywhere, and for every-body after Jesus, are different from how they were before Jesus. He was a transformation.

We first need to understand this, and second to decide whether or not to 'join'.

Because Christianity is an opt-in religion. Unless you have actively-chosen to opt-in, you are Not 'in'.

(Of course this 'choosing' is not a mere matter of conscious psychology, like choosing a cake from a shop! Choosing is an alignment at the deepest level of objective reality. And this is something we need to recognise - that there such a things as real, objective, permanent reality - regardless of our state of mind or knowledge-of-it - and this is the level at which Christianity is operating.)


Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that there is value in pointing out that Jesus gives us an opportunity to love God in a meaningful and personal way.

But it is a mistake to insist that this is all Jesus did. Much of what Jesus did simply cannot be explained in human terms. And accepting this is crucial to really loving Jesus as God.

Freddy Martini said...

Thanks once more for the good work, Bruce. When I think about where else I can find this type of wrestling with faith and ideas and Albion, I say to myself, "Nowhere else can I find such things."

Thanks again.

Bruce B. said...

I guess I always assumed Jesus was necessary because his entire life and death was rather like how the churches describe a sacrament. It was necessary (for us not God) to have a visible, incarnate sign that God loves us. I suppose this enables men to orient their will towards God in way they couldn't without this sign. And it also effects the grace that it symbolizes. So sort of the ultimate sacrament that we are invited to particpate in through belief.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - I personally haven't found the concept of 'sacrament' to be helpful - I am not sufficiently clear what it means (and there is considerable disagreement among authorities).

Also, I feel the need for an understanding of what Jesus did that does not depend upon normal modes of human communication, understanding and memory which are extremely fallible - and yet which requires our personal assent, which is clearly what Jesus demands.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, a sacrament really isn't helpful if you think of it as nothing more than just a symbol.

Just like a promise is not even a promise if you think it is just the parroting of words.

If you don't believe that something real and important, but unseen by present eyes, changes as a result of either, then they are both quite useless.

The same is true of Christ's life. If we think that the only reason it matters is because of what we can find out about it, then that removes what is really important from our consideration. The words of a promise serve as the evidence that the promise is made, so they are not unimportant. But their importance is entirely in the promise itself, which must be more than just the words.

Christ's life was a promise, and a sacrament, and more.