If we are created in the image of God, and if, metaphorically, our bite from the apple of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was just an intended and natural part of our awakening and growing up as humans, then there really was no utterly damning fall of humanity and there is no such thing as blanket original sin. Ergo, there is no universal need for atonement – least of all blood atonement, the topic for another day. But popular Christianity has made that the whole point of Jesus and the Bible. So if not that, then what? Who is Jesus?
This is just plain painful. There is so much clutter in American Christianity. Jesus, in the current culture, is more likely to be associated with the right to carry a gun than he is with the feeding of the five thousand and certainly than he is with the elevation of women or social outcasts and religious minorities (the lepers and Samaritans in his day). There are hot air balloons in the shape of Jesus and portraits of Jesus that have changed to fit popular perceptions and religious movements of all kinds, from tough guy to Jesus freak. “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus . . . .” WWJD indeed!
Son of God? The common title for a king. Son of Man? The common title for what? Second person of the Trinity? An entirely human concept created by a council to satisfy certain theological and political needs.
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” You will recall that, word for word, the same was said of Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam several thousand years before Christ. What does it mean?
Let’s keep it simple. The net effect of getting rid of the fall and focusing on our creation in the image of God is that it elevates the view of humanity – something up from worm to more, say, human. Jesus himself, over and over, said that when we act like children of God, we are children of God. And the people that he recognizes as brothers and sisters are not the ones that say to him, “Lord, Lord.” They are the ones that breathe the breath of God, that choose willingness over willfulness, that have become in action and spirit the instruments of peace and healing that they were created to be.
And when we strip away the clutter we have piled on Jesus, he is, surprise surprise, a child of God. Hmmm. . . . Jesus a child of God. You and I, children of God. Have I just demeaned Jesus? Have I just blasphemed by making us into little gods? From the age old perspective of the fall and blood atonement – the perspective that can only see the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – indeed I have. But sit with this for a little, and listen to the voice of Jesus without the static of the ages. Consider honoring the poor man by just, for once, honoring his call to grow up and, as he chose so consistently, to do the will of God. Be the brother or sister this good man suggested you are.
What does it mean to be the way, the truth and the life? Let me suggest that it simply means to be the path that leads from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to the Tree of Life. It means to shine a light of truth and recognition on the shock and fear, attachments and repulsions of our awakening to the experience, possibilities and limitations of our humanity. And then it means to extend the call and to offer to walk side-by-side on the path that leads away from the temptation and delusion of willful control over these things, and toward willing and active participation in the eternal creative goodness for which we were intended.
Jesus is, indeed, the way, the truth and the life. So are you and I when we choose to join the path before us to the Tree of Life. Who is divine? Who is a human? Those are questions of the judging realm of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is neither elevation nor diminution under the Tree of Life. There is only openness and action in the spirit of willingness. Follow the path. Be the path.
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Keep stripping away all the clutter.
Entangled by phony religion abounding on all sides, few I think get who Jesus really is.
I shared with the Journey people this week something I had seen early in the week in the NY Times. A Methodist preacher–whom I know, it turns out–is facing a canonical trial for presiding at the same-sex marriage involving his son. He is quoted as follows: I really gave no thought as to running afoul of church rules, nor to civil disobedience. My mind was trained on just this–the joy and fulfillment of my son and his partner…
What a Pentecost moment. Brought tears to my eyes. Set free from the trappings of conventional religion, the “clutter of American Christianity” as you put it, this brother dared to opt for the promptings of the Spirit–with Jesus in the heart, for love and justice.
No clutter there.
Thank you, Frank.
He also said that we are gods. That’s a little bit different than children of God.
Interesting. I am not recalling the reference, but would like to know. Good to hear from you.
A verse universally passed by! I would guess few want to touch it today anymore than his accusers did then. Thanks. JK
Your right about nobody wanting to touch John 10:34. I’ve NEVER heard anybody quote that verse. It kind of discredits Church dogma.
There is a second context to Psalm 82, which bears mentioning: There is, in this Psalm, an element of anger. It comes through most clearly in the King James version. Here is the entire Psalm:
1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty;
he judgeth among the gods.
2 How long will ye judge unjustly,
and accept the persons of the wicked?
3 Defend the poor and fatherless:
do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy:
rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand;
they walk on in darkness:
all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
6 I have said, Ye are gods; Joh. 10.34
and all of you are children of the Most High.
7 But ye shall die like men,
and fall like one of the princes.
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth:
for thou shalt inherit all nations.
The Psalmist is saying, in effect, “God has raised you up, but he can also cut you down, and he WILL if you don’t take care of the poor and needy.”
Now Jesus, in John’s hands, is not quite this compassionate, He is NOT saying, “I will cut you down if you fail to serve the poor and needy.” He is saying, “I will cut you down if you fail to acknowledge my divinity.”
Both the Psalm and the words of Jesus have a angry quality, but the anger of the Psalmist is rooted in compassion, whereas the anger of Jesus is in the service of his gigantic ego.
Thanks, Patrick, for all of this information and your observations. Very interesting and much appreciated. Sometimes the search for truth results, legitimately in “not this, not this, not this.” If more than that, where have you found it and what do you find?
Exactly right. John actually borrowed the words from Psalm.
Absolutely brilliant, Jerry. From my own studies and insights, I believe that the only way to clear Christianity of all of its judgments, hostilities, and focus on sin/atonement, etc., is to really LOOK at what Jesus said, actually said and modeled, and LIVE that. We are children of God. And as such, we are, in our own inevitable legacy, gods in our own right. When we forget that or refuse to acknowledge that, or simply have no awareness of that, mostly terrible things ensue. I also believe that we have been asked for the last 2,000 years to get with the program and grow up into our god nature. That means we create sustainable relationships, communities, and lifestyles. That means we support the flourishing of life. That means we honor each other and the possibilities and potentials in each other. That means we love one another, same as Jesus did, and taught us to do. When we step up into our god nature, we can do these things, and more.
Many thanks, Gloria (who, by the way, has many interesting and insightful things to say at http://www.livingfromyouressence.com). God, whether capital or small “g” is another label that triggers lots of feelings and reactions for folks — all good for observation and reflection. I find, for myself, some risk in using the term because of the status judgments I move toward when I apply it to our present human condition. I suppose I duck and run by sticking with just being without labeling, in hopes of right action without judgment.
From the beginning, among the followers of Jesus, there were two viewpoints, that of Thomas and that of John. They can be summarized this way:
Thomas: The kingdom of heaven is within.
John: I am the way, the truth, and the light. Nobody comes to the father but through me.
The Thomas view leads to a religion of EXPERIENCE, the John view to a religion of FAITH. The Thomas view maintains that EVERYONE has god within, and that Jesus was an ordinary man who achieved a spiritual awareness that we are all capable of achieving. The John view maintains that Jesus was unique, special, all powerful, indestructible, capable of walking on water, raising the dead, and changing water into wine, and that ordinary people must seek his intervention because they are worthless without him.
The two views existed side-by-side for hundreds of years, and it wasn’t until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire that the John view was proclaimed Truth and the Thomas view proclaimed Heresy, but it is the Thomas view that is at the core of all true religions.
Thanks for your thoughts, Patrick. Very helpful.
Absolutely right. As a result, Christianity will never accept the truth of what your saying.
All the the Gospels are propaganda, but the Gospel of John is especially egregious. In line after line, it pounds away with its message–Jesus is god, Jesus is special, Jesus works miracles, if you don’t accept Jesus there is something wrong with you–and when seen in the proper context, John 10:34 is no different..
In John 10:34, Jesus is quoting Psalm 82, verse 6,, which reads as follows:
“You are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Nevertheless you will die like men
And fall like any one of the princes.”
Note the context of the Psalm. It is meant to be ironic with its basic message being, “You might be hot shots now, but eventually you will to die like all men.” Jesus goes on to contrast this unhappy predicament with what HE has to offer, which is eternal life. In short, he is STILL asserting his specialness. Indeed, he is doing it more bombastically than ever. “All men die, but worship me and you’ll have eternal life.” The real Jesus, of course, probably never made such claims. They are words that John, the relentless propagandist, has put into his mouth.