What Are We to Make of Jesus, and Why?
Today I’m posting points from my “Progressive Christian Invitation to Mission” that focus on Jesus Christ. (The last post has points one and two.) Number 3 is a pledge and call to really all Christians to read the New Testament in its context and from the viewpoint of its authors and primary, immediate audiences (different for each book). Here we see the high importance, often ignored, of the work of first century followers of Jesus in applying what they either recalled or had heard of his teachings, his character and his miracles. As to miracles, even modern skeptics have to allow that at least some of them are not all that unusual and do not need to be part of a “package” meant to make him divine. (The Gospels vary on how they treat miracles and other “signs” of validation and on the nature of Jesus.)
These early “Christians”–lines between practicing-Jewish followers of Jesus as Messiah and early Christians are tough to draw, though important to recognize–were seeking to find guidelines for how to live in very challenging circumstances, what kind of communities to structure, etc. They were not as interested in abstract theology as we tend to be or think that they were. This has tended to create major problems and distort the initial and primary teachings of Jesus. Thus, as I emphasize in the points below, we have some important back-tracking to do, as it were… And trying to now get it right (or at least more genuine and workable) about Jesus and how to follow him today.
Summary Points of Progressive Christian Invitation (points 3-5)
3. We determine to pay attention to the multi-cultural and social interest aspects of the foundations of Christian faith, screaming at us from “between the lines” of the New Testament. We pledge to apply insights from there to the current state of Christianity for the purpose of peace-making and effective humanitarian actions.
4. We affirm that Jesus can and should remain the central figure of Christian faith (though not the founder of its predominant current form, in our view). At the same time, we admit our views of him reflect at least as much about us as about him and probably more. As Christianity began so it continues, as to processes involved.
5. We believe the sometimes-confusing fictional/historical mix of the Bible, and particularly the Gospels and Acts, is critical to grasp and wrestle with and we have largely avoided it. If we are persuaded of Jesus’ miracles or bodily resurrection, it decidedly does not lead automatically or necessarily to the idea of apostolic authority or a “deposit of faith” which dispensed timeless and clear dogma—a serious diversion from the teachings of Jesus.
(Points 6 & 7 to come)
What reactions do you have to these points? Have your views of Jesus changed much over time? What has prompted those changes?