Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jesus plain and simple

In the preface to his recent book The Meaning of the West: An Apologia for Western Christianity(2008), Donald Cupitt makes this almost off-hand yet remarkable statement:

"The original Jesus remains historically controversial, but there is at least a case for saying that he was a Jewish teacher in the tradition of prophets like Jeremiah. He was critical of organized religion and tradition, and seems to have had little fresh to say either about God, or about sin and redemption. Instead, his chief concern was to convey a utopian vision of what human life could, should, and perhaps soon would, be." (emphasis added)

The bold honesty and simplicity of this observation is just so refreshing and liberating. What a burden the church could set down if it at last admitted that Jesus’ significance was not his theology but his ethics and cultural critique.

We could be done with all the angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin dogmatics, christology and soteriology. We could be done once and for all with anti-Semitism by finally admitting Jesus came from and lived wholly in the Hebrew tradition and worshiped the God of the Hebrews. And we could be done with religious competition and sectarianism by saying Christianity’s contribution and purpose is not the Church as salvation machine, but the gospel as a translation of Hebrew ethical monotheism for the gentile world. The God of Abraham is, in fact, the God of all, who loves all. We are all indeed sisters and brothers.


Anonymous said...


I had to look this up. I don't know if I'll ever learn all the church talk. Maybe I returned to the church just in time.

Don't trow the baby out with the bathwater. Salvation appears to be a real deal. There is an awakening that appears to be common to most who seek it, and even some who don't. There are wordless relevations to deep for words. Whatever it is. Just brain chemistry? Maybe when the brain chemistry is suspended for a moment. David Mc

Doug said...

Not quite sure what you mean by "real deal" David. What I am referring to are all the games both Catholics and Protestants have played over the centuries: God will save you if you belong to our church, take these sacraments, believe these doctrines, have this spiritual experience, etc etc. All of this is predicated on the assumption that Jesus' mission was to dispense salvation, which the church now does on his behalf. Of course, it's not just any church--it has to be the "true" church.

So I am not talking about anyone's religious or spiritual experience, involving brain chemistry or not. I am talking about the notion that Jesus was somehow "deputized" by God to hand out salvation certificates to people who said, did or believed the right things, and that the church has the divine franchise to continue these transactions. I think most people have no interest in such a Jesus or such a God. The church, however, has great reluctance to let go of that role: whatever would it do?

Anonymous said...

I knew we agreed. I meant salvation is real, but also believe there are many ways.

It's much easier when sharing faith in goodness and love with others. There are many ways to do that, but Jesus seems to be one of the best at showing the way to communites. Then again, I know his way best. David Mc