Saturday, 26 December 2020

Jesus as a divine person

Something that comes to me with increasing force, is that plenty of people - including self-identified Christians - don't really want what Jesus offers; at least not what he offers in the Fourth Gospel, as I understand it

I have concluded that theism (belief in the reality of god/s - whether explicit or implicit) is just essential to be a functional human being; it is almost a biological requirement. Because, since humans have evolved in a religious context, to subtract religion from a life is for that life to be in a pathological state. 

Biologically, this is most often seen in the chosen sub-fertility of aethists in atheist societies, and the adoption of values that reject family - even as an ideal; both of which are covert forms of personal and species suicide. 

(I am, of course, generalising - there are exceptions; but these exceptions are exceptional, i.e. rare.)


But most theists are not Christians, the motivations associated with theism are various - and only some (few?) theists are Christians.

To be a Christian is both personal - about Jesus as a person; and associated with a positive attitude to The Body - regarding incarnation or embodiment as the ideal state to be, forever. 


Jesus in mortal life was a person, an embodied Man; and in eternal life he remains a person and an embodied Man. 

Jesus's offer is aimed at those people who want for themselves (and hope for those they love) eternity as embodied persons: that is what resurrection means. 


So, although Jesus is here-and-now as a spirit (i.e. the Holy Ghost) - this is not Jesus's full nature nor his offer for life everlasting. 

Jesus is not a spirit, nor an abstraction; not a force, nor a field; not a vibrational-level, nor a frequency. Jesus the person is not everywhere equally at all times - not present in all things...

Instead Jesus is actually a physically embodied divine Man, actually present in some place at a particular time - no matter that his spirit is everywhere available: a person who is also a fully-creative god. And Jesus's offer is for those who want to join him in such a life.


Therefore, it does not surprise me when not everybody wishes to be a Christian. Because it seems clear that not everybody wants what Jesus offers. 

But plenty of people do not know what Jesus is offering. Plenty!

Some people have changed their concept of Jesus to correspond with what they do want. But this is not to be a Christian, but to be something else that does require God but does not require Jesus. Such people are, in effect, re-naming their deity as Jesus


This is a mistake in naming, but it may not be a mistake in terms of what they want. I think many self-styled Christians - now and in the past - do not like mortal incarnate life, and they regard it as a mistake, a misfortune, merely a time of trial...

And they want to live as bodiless spirits in an eternal, unchanging, bliss - without any awareness of the self - ceasing to be a person. In effect they want to be re-absorbed back-into God. As if incarnate mortal life had never been...


But the real offer of Jesus was simple and child-like: Jesus (the person, the divine person) says 'follow me' (and to follow him requires trust, faith, love)... Follow me and I will lead you to resurrected life in Heaven. 

And this Heaven will consist of other people who also want this. 

It is an offer so simple, child-like and clear that it is almost incomprehensible! 

But an offer that does not appeal to all - and perhaps does not appeal to many... 

But there it is. 


edwin faust said...

How "mortal incarnate life" can be transformed into immortal incarnate life is no small problem. Life in the body is orientated toward sense perception and contact with the physical world, which is either pleasurable or painful. The resurrected body is presumably not subject to mortal pleasures and pains, which can only mean it is not a body as we presently understand it. So the term "body" is equivocal. When I was a child I believed (as did most other Christians then), that life in Heaven would be something like life on Earth minus the pains of hunger, disease, discomfort, death, etc. In short, Heaven was an Earthly paradise with improved physical bodies. It was difficult to imagine and we seldom considered what we might do in Heaven, which was described as the Beatific Vision. Did we stand around, content to "see" God, and how was our new body involved in this seeing? It may be that those who don't want resurrected life have difficulty understanding what it could possibly be. It's hard to want something you can't clearly conceive, let alone to make such a desire the focus of one's life. In most Christian teaching in the past, Hell featured more prominently than Heaven, for we know what suffering in the body is all about: we are no strangers to pain and do not have to exercise our imaginations to conceive of extended torments. But Heaven? Occasional experiences of beauty and love are the closest we get here and they are marred by imperfection and impermanence and, quite often, incommunicability. I know you believe in a Mama-Papa God - a married couple with bodies of some sort. This seems to me to be not only far removed from Christianity as it has been handed down to us, but to be also fraught with problems of its own.

Bruce Charlton said...

@edwin - "The resurrected body is presumably not subject to mortal pleasures and pains"

Well, I disagree! - in the sense that obviously not 'mortal' pleasures and pains - but certainly pains as well as pleasures.

All this is beautifull expressed by Mormon theology - but I am resigned to the fact that nobody else (not even most Mormons! - who are primarily focused on the church authorities and the way of life) is interested in the subject. Nonethleless there is a superbly well written and accessible account of the Mormon idea of God (aimed at non-Mormons, mostly) in The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens.

"This seems to me to be not only far removed from Christianity as it has been handed down to us, but to be also fraught with problems of its own. "

Well, that is the reason for the Mormon prophets and their revelations starting from 190 years ago! These are necessary exactly because (for various reasons) there are distortions and omissions from Christianity as handed down to us. And it is in the work of people like Terryl Givens, Sterling McMurrin and Blake Ostler that these 'problems' are mostly dealt with (although I have also worked out some things for myself - .

Francis Berger said...

I'm not well-versed in Mormon theology, but the Jesus appearing to Thomas in the Fourth Gospel makes the case for "physically embodied divine man" as clear as day as far as I'm concerned. Also, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus emphatically draws attention to his resurrection as flesh-and-bone divine person and not a ghost. Matthew and Mark are more vague, but the essence of divine physical embodiment is still discernible.

Francis Berger said...

As to the question of why Christians do not want what Jesus offers (presuming they understand in the first place), I believe much of it has to do with the ingrained perception of the physical body as a source of sin and evil. Barring that, much can be attributed to perception of the physical body as a source of suffering and pain. Or perhaps it could simply be a matter of believing the resurrected body would be inferior to the detached, resurrected spirit (perhaps because of the errant belief that divine physical embodiment would not be immune to death). Whatever the case, it does indeed appear that many Christians struggle with or outright reject the offer of divine physical embodiment. Full disclosure: despite its simplicity, it took me a long time to wrap my head around what Jesus offers, and even longer to embrace it.

Kopronymos said...

I suppose my question would be, why isn't eternally-embodied life already the default? If What Is to Come is what is to come, why does it require the intercession of a Jesus at all?

Bruce Charlton said...

@K - I agree, that is indeed a key question. But I don't think it is well answered anywhere that I have located (although Mormonism does the best job IMO), so I have had to work it out for myself, partly, from first principles. (Most of it is in the Lazarus Writes online book.)

Part of the answer is that God (the primery creator) is Not omnipotent; and that Jesus was indeed necessary for eternally-embodied life to be possible.

Also that Jesus himself needed to be born and die in order to become fully And immortally divine. So Jesus was first fully divine as a mortal Man (as described in the Gospels), meaning he was the only mortal Man ever fully-aligned with God's purposes (i.e. free from sin). Thus Jesus had divine powers during mortal life, but only after he had been through death could he become immortal. (Jesus did not need a guide to become resurrected, because he was already divine).

There must be a two-stage process - first a mortal body, then after death the surviving spirit can be transformed with an immortal body. Birth and death are necessary if full eternal divinity is to be attained.

For Men to be able to become immortal gods; it was necessary that Jesus go through the experience, and be present to guide others through this transformation. Following Jesus means (mostly) following Jesus through the transformation that is resurrection - he is a necessary guide/ part of the process.

The other big question remaining (not about Jesus, specifically - although he is our helper in this as the Holy Ghost) is; Why do we need mortal 'living', in between birth and death?

The answer must take into account that most humans do Not do this, but die soon after conception, in the womb or around birth. Others live for varying periods up to about 85 years.

My understanding of this, is that firstly all Men are different from each other, innately, having different needs from life - hence different lifespans and different lived-lives.

And mortal living is about providing us with experiences from which we can learn. This learning is directed at our eternal lives - what will be valuable 'in Heaven'.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - It is indeed a difficult one! Part of the difficulty is that Christianity was very early fitted-into a Greek-Roman Platonic philosophy that saw the bodyt as evil, changeable, corruptible; and envisaged truth, reality, eternity in terms of unchanging, perfect spirit.

We need to develop a different set of metaphysical assumptions/ intuitions to realise that the Fourth Gospel (indeed nearly all of the Gospels and New Testament generally) is written from a totally different basis, of life as 'being'; developing, evolving - a process, going through phases and stages.

Christianity happens in-time, in-history. That is its reality, and trying to 'square' this with ideas such as an amnipotent, omniscient, unchanging God - without emotions etc - are what has led to 2000 years of intractable paradox (or evasion and confusion, as it seems to many!).

The most basic of these is that there is God the creator and there is Jesus; for Christians Jesus is fully divine - so how many Gods are there? The obvious answer of 'at least Two Gods' was unacceptable to early Christian theologians, and led to the first schisms, persecutions, and inter-Christians wars.

But if we simply accept 'at least Two Gods' as the true answer; then we can see that there is alternative 'evolutionary' (or more accurately 'developmental') theology; which fits very comfortably all the most-important aspects of Christianity (such as the necessity of Jesus - see above, the operations of free will, the need for mortal life, the presence of evil and sufering in mortal life etc.).

But the philosophical theologians with their One God who captured Christianity; and it took until after 1830 before any Christian could begin to see a way out.

BSRK Aditya said...

It's a mistake to see "reabsorption back into God" as something static and without growth. Rather it is a different organizational principle (either kindness/compassion or helpfulness/providence as contrasted with friendship/love). Now, it is definitely more restful. That so, even here there is growth. It is fueled by a clash in perspectives, that is resolved by the application of kindness/compassion or helpfulness/providence.