Something that’s bugged me on and off for a few years now is a theological question upon which I’d like to receive Jane input . . .
What is the appropriate name/label for someone who generally believes in the teachings of Jesus and tries his best to follow them, but who cannot for the life of himself buy into the physics of the literal Resurrection? Someone who can’t bring themselves to believe in the joint divinity/humanity of Jesus, and who thinks the Holy Ghost concept is strictly symbolic?
Since the early followers of Jesus were simply Jews who followed an eccentric Gallilean preacher and the Gnostics (an early Christian sect) thought that God’s divinity shone within us all, is it possible to have a modern interpretation of Christianity that does not involve the divinity of or the literal physical resurrection of Jesus?
I’ve asked this question of intelligent people over the years who are well-educated in at least one Christian denomination (some in several). The interesting answers I’ve received over the years include:
I don’t know what to call him, but he’s not Christian. Jesus is nothing if not the Son of God.
The whole point to being a Christian is that your path to Salvation is given, not earned. To profess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus was born in the flesh died on the Cross and, most importantly, rose from the dead to ascend to Heaven to take the right seat next to the Father is Salvation. No man may enter Heaven but by accepting Christ as their Savior, and any other interpretation is disinformation.
We’d probably call him an Episcopalian. 😉 Seriously, such a person technically still wouldn’t be any sort of Christian. Belief in the Resurrection of Christ as a historical event is an entry requirement. He’d be closer to some Jewish splinters than a Christian of any sort. If you want big-tent Christianity as a warm fuzzy blanket of humanism and optional belief in the tricky bits, go US Episcopalian, not Anglican.
A secular theological scholar.
Anyone interpreting the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the Bible as simply some sort of New Age-y handbook of how to be a good person or some Ghandi-esqu guru instruction manual about being nice to your fellow man is dramatically misinterpreting the larger point of the Bible. There is no Salvation without the Resurrection. They go hand-in-hand.
There’s always been a healthy amount of room in certain parts of the Church for people who don’t eat the dogma right up without a side of crow. I firmly believe that God loves nothing more than a doubter, and it’s documented all throughout the Old and New Testaments — from Job to Doubting Thomas. This is probably where we inherited our very human need to say, “I told you so!”
The very nature of Christianity involves the fact that no other religion has a “risen” Saviour. It is not a “works” based message — You can’t do anything to Save yourself. Only faith in Jesus Christ, who, through the power of God, was raised from the dead, can you be Saved.
I believe there is a higher power that we mere mortals will never understand, but if such power exists, why would it care whether we worship it or not? I do know darn well that whether I am happy / sad / rich / poor has nothing
to do with God.
As you can see, there’s a dramatic variance among American Christians (not all do to sectarianism) as to the answer to the root of my above question:
Is it possible to have a modern interpretation of Christianity that does not involve the divinity of or the literal physical resurrection of Jesus?
I’d welcome your interpretations, thoughts, comments, and discussion.