November 25, 2006

christology/scripture (david)

I cast down the gauntlet so to speak. So here goes.

I became a Christian in November of 1982. At the time and for some time following I found it very important to direct my prayer toward the God of Jesus. I remained agnostic on Christ's divinity -- not because I doubted but because I felt my call clearly to be to the God Jesus revealed and to Christ as his revealer. Overtime I have become more explicitly Trinitarian (Tri-unitarian) mostly by osmosis. I'm mean Trinitarian is the default position of Christianity and without strong reasons/incentives otherwise that's where a Christian ends up.

Then I ran into ran into Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1: The Doctrine of the Word of God. Instead of trying to reason his way into faith through what is called Natural Theology or Philosophical Theology he starts with the core fact God's self-revelation in Christ Jesus. His Christology is logically prior to his doctrine of reconciliation. You have to have studied Protestant theology to know how truly radical that move is. He starts with revelation qua revelation even before the content of that revelation. And suddenly this troublesome notion of God, three persons in one Godhead which I sort of embraced knowing full well that it was utterly incoherent -- suddenly it made sense to me.


What I have is a Quaker peculiarity. I hold to what church types call a "high christology". As Barth would say, Christ Jesus was fully human, fully God, and fully God-man. Now my friend Larry is squirming in his boots. Because everytime I affirm the divinity of Christ he feels a need to qualify it. Yes Jesus is divine, but so are we all. They taught us at AVP everything before a "but" is a lie.

Like Larry I affirm that doctrine all but lost to Protestantism, theosis. We're all on the God-track. Salvation doesn't just mean escaping the horny guys with pitchforks -- it means becoming divine. And that offer that opportunity and that reality is available to all of us. So we both affirm universal theosis. And maybe just maybe this theosis extends to the universe itself and not just everybody in it.

But in the meantime, I know I'm not quite there yet. I'm not even fully human let alone fully divine. And that goes for anyone I know or have heard of including those I love most in this world. So while we're all human and divine, Christ Jesus is human and divine in a different way I cannot fully articulate -- only that this difference remains important for me to affirm.
I'm going through a time of foment right now. Not sure where its taking me. The name(s) I call God in prayer and in public suddenly aren't working for me any longer.
Time will tell where it takes me. Maybe I'll pack it all in and become a cyber-Daoist.


If my christology is high my doctrine of scripture is low. The bible is a collection of ANETs: Ancient Near Eastern Texts. What marks it a different from other ANETs is simply that it is held to be scripture by a fluid cluster of interrelated sects calling themselves Christian.

I do not deny the spiritual validity or utility of other scriptures -- Daodejing, Quran, Torah, Analects. But I also note these are not my scriptures. I come to them as an outsider. I'm presently a practitioner of the Christian path and I can only read other people's scriptures in light of that practice. Reading is always done form within a tradition or set of (often conflicting) traditions.

I also affirm with Karl Barth (and early Quakers), that our scriptures, are faithful witnesses to the Word of God. I also affirm with Karl Barth, that when reading them in faith, seeking the Word they bear witness to, they become the word of God to/for us. I have experienced it. But for me it is not the Bible but the Word that has the authority and power. And faith has to be there prior to the reading.


At 9:26 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

As I expected, we agree on a lot. Except that I'd been raised an atheist and didn't come to God along a Christian route; in my day and place we learned about God by taking drugs on the street like nature intended :>} plus Philip K Dick & Kurt Vonnegut & the I Ching & Ramakrishna & the inescapable Heinlein influence, Richard McKenna's story 'Fiddler's Green', the Incredible String Band providing background music.

I knew Jesus was important but I figured Christians were straight bizarre. I could tell that Jesus was a Unitarian (& Jewish at that!) but the Trinity notion made sense as a metaphor.

What you call "theosis" was part of the atmosphere we breathed back in those bad old days. Some of us expected it would be happening to everyone, any day now--but that was before The Revolution was cancelled for re-runs of Lyndon Johnson in uglier & uglier incarnations. I ran into a prophet who told me it was "time for some of God's children to grow up," and that was a little too much; God's shoes seemed much too big to try to wear. People would talk about God-consciousness, one of those Hindu concepts... and that sounded like a major chunk of what Jesus was about--but how to fit "all this" into one little human mind?---Hmmmmmm!

Anyway, yes, God is self-revealing--but his text is the whole world, our entire lives.

"Not yet fully human let alone fully divine." These are not things we attain; they are what we are. Our ego is necessarily less than human, but as you said there are things that extend far beyond our egos. Even if all we see of them are the tracks, they are part of God, part of us.

Names for God--if they are stand-ins for a particular narrow view of God--get stale. God goes on, being all you thought but far more.

At 9:33 a.m., Blogger david said...

Names for God--if they are stand-ins for a particular narrow view of God--get stale. God goes on, being all you thought but far more.

Yes. I agree. But my prayer sis still partially linguistic in nature and a name or other form of address can thus be helpful. Difficulty is I'm even running aground on the word "God" (as you may have noticed with all that HaShem stuff earlier).

At 1:29 p.m., Blogger crystal said...


I'm getting to know a little about Barth by visiting a blog that's written by Barth-ites :-). One of the latest posts was about a meeting of the Barth Society where two scholars argued with Davvid Hart about "the analogy of being". I didn't really understand it, except that it touched on what you said here - that Barth thought Jesus was the only revelation of God ... interesting!

II'm with you on Jesus being fully human and fully divine. Having done a spiritual exercises type of retreat, I can't ignore the importance of Jesus ... I talk ro God, the Father, but my relationship with Jesus is both complicated and compleeing.

For me, the jury is still out on theosis.

I feel (mostly) that scripture is secondary to religious experience.

And I really like Heinlein and PK Dick :-)

At 3:25 p.m., Blogger david said...

I prefer Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

At 3:52 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Good post and good comments. David gave a great confession here. I feel called to offer my own:

Raised in a parsonage, I rebelled as a teenager, became a deist, fought in two wars, and at age 30 prayed for some enlightenment (maybe my first really honest prayer). It came forewith: God is my father; he loves me personally.

With a degree in natural science this was obviously an entirely different world. I soon entered seminary, then Methodist ministry, then Quakerism in 1983.

My enlightenment led me to love God as my father, and the need to extravagantly express my thanks led to everything else.

But Christ? In seminary I didn't know who Christ was: I couldn't (and can't) accept rationally the idea that he is God in some special sense. I only knew that Jesus was the one who told us God is our loving Heavenly father.

I still pray entirely to the father. I have a lot of sceptism re the Trinity, which seems to me an eccesiastical concord rather than a revelation.

However I can see Jesus as God in a purely metaphoric (poetic) sense, and me too. I think that was his intention.

Fully human? of course not, but I'm pressing on to the goal. Jesus was the only one I know who was fully human.

Well that's enough.

BTW (especially for David): I find that scripture work has dropped to a lower priority than it was.

On the main burner now is globalization. It's the shape of the future, and I feel the need to learn all its ins and outs to know where we all are in God's plan for us.


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