A THEOLOGICAL OVERVIEW OF A CHRISTIAN HUMANISM
What therefore is the result of applying an evidential theology and opting out of the institutional-denominational structures? The results are both theoretical and theology as well as practical and personal.
The universe and all in it appears to have always existed in various forms and processes. The rough consensus of astrophysics and cosmology is there is no evidence for a divine creatio ex nihilo event. The Big Bang and evolution explain as best we can the origins of things.
God becomes a metaphor for the ordering, life-giving powers and forces within and throughout nature and human capacities. Metaphors are not concrete things, nor are they persons. Metaphors can’t hear human supplications or intervene in human or natural affairs.
In this sense, the metaphor of God serves as an orientation and summation of humanity’s highest and best aspirations, values, and aims.
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus is the architectonic symbol – the central icon – for the West’s vision of humanity and divinity. He is the incarnation of humanity’s highest and best sense of self and he expresses those attributes we consider worthy of the label divine. In this sense, we can say as did the early communities that Jesus is Lord.
We know Jesus only through the lens of the Christian tradition – the collective recorded experiences of the ongoing communities dedicated to following in the Way Jesus embodied and taught. Saying Jesus is Lord is a subversive, radical, revolutionary statement in that it means that money, political power, or anything or anyone else is not of ultimate concern.
Is Jesus God? Explain to me what you mean by God and we can have a conversation. If like me, you understand God as metaphor, then I can agree that Jesus embodied in a unique and powerful way the creative, life giving, ordering powers (logos) and lived accordingly.
The Virgin Birth
Claiming Jesus is virgin born is not a statement about Mary’s hymen or sexual relationship with Joseph. The ancient world claimed many great figures, such as emperors, and military leaders as virgin born. To ancient ears, the shock of the statement wasn’t the virgin birth, it was that Jesus, the lowly, subversive Jewish preacher, whom the empire shamed in crucifixion was virgin born. Luke’s entire birth narrative shows this strongly.
The Crucifixion & Resurrection
Jesus was executed by the Romans for being socially disruptive, promoting ideals and behaviors that undermined the Roman Imperium. Such is the meaning of insurrectionist. Whether the Jewish authorities centered around the Temple participated or were simply pleased to have Jesus removed is unclear. His teachings, while emergent from Judaism, also threatened the power structures and raison d’etre of the Jewish authorities.
The gospel narratives of the passion are fictional, theological statements concerning the meaning and manner of his death. He likely never went before Herod or Pilate. He was simply executed among other common criminals and trouble makers.
What are we to make of the resurrection?
His death has been symbolically interpreted in various ways.
Original Sin & Substitutionary Atonement
Eucharist & The Body of Christ
Afterlife & The Return of Jesus
The Example of the Virgin Birth
Christianity emerged in a time and within cultures that thought and spoke mythopoetically. Those same cultures lacked the advantages of science, technology, and global awareness. The Christian writings and early explanations of their own history and experiences were therefore expressed in mythopoetic language that today rankles the modern ear.
Rather than cultivate its own, inherent mythopoetic thinking present in the early Christian communities, even up through the Patristic era, thinkers and theologians allowed themselves to be co opted by the trends that shaped the Enlightenment. If they had done this – adopt evidential reasoning yet explain the symbolism of mythopoetic claims, things would likely be different.
Instead, Christianity largely literalized their myths and symbols, using supernatural arguments, to render theological claims.
Is Christianity served well by its assertions of virgin births, angels, Marian apparitions, exorcism, supernaturally charged jewelry, icons, and artifacts? What do medieval notions of transubstantiation do for us today? Should we really be thinking that the rapture or Jesus returning on the clouds is a serious possibility?
More importantly, are these things true? Can we offer repeatable, reliable evidence for such? And if we want to continue to argue that such things are true – then we must return to broader ways of thinking, and ask true in what sense?
We in our post-Enlightenment world, often forget that there are some truly weird things out in the world, that not everything can be explained, and that mysteries still exist.
In many ways, the pivotal question is why do so many invest so much in Iron Age notions that lack any grounding or evidence in today’s world? And what do holding onto to such things gain us?