On Not Inventing Your Own Jesus

Most Christians, myself included, do not experience Jesus primarily as a historical figure.  We experience him as a daily presence and an object of worship.  Moreover, we did not get drawn to faith by doing historical research.  We were drawn to faith because relating to Jesus as a daily presence and object of worship– plus being a part of the community of believers– helped us untangle our tangled lives and gave us hope, purpose, and a way of making sense of life.

I would argue that this is entirely legitimate as long as inescapable facts and reality do not falsify our faith.  I understand why a lot of Christians have little patience for the search for the historical Jesus.

Nevertheless, I think there is a danger of finding an inward Christ, who has nothing to do with the Christ of history, the Christ of the first century witnesses.  Finding Christ or God inwardly makes a perfect religion for a narcissist.  You want to worship yourself anyway, and a totally inward religion gives you the perfect rational.

This is why one still hears the KJV mistranslation of  Luke 17:21 cited as though it justified inward religion.  In the KJV the verse reads:, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”   First of all, the last half of the verse is all that gets cited.  The first half points to the apocalyptic context of the saying.  But the context is ignored.  Second, the “you” is to be understood as plural.  So we are not talking about the kingdom being within the individual.  Today, the verse usually gets translated something like this: “Nor shall they say,  Lo here, or, Lo there; for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”  The kingdom of God was among them in the person of Jesus.

I will illustrate the danger I see in inventing your own Jesus from my own experience.  I was once in a congregation where a large young adult Sunday School class was very much into studying  A Course in Miracles.  I make no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of new age or new consciousness thinking.  But that is not my point here.  The content of A Course in Miracles seems to be a mishmash of pop-Hinduism, pop-Psychology, and watered down Christian Science.  There are any number of books with similar themes.  But Helen Shucman, who wrote tha book, claimed that it was revealed or channeled to her by Jesus speaking to her as an inner voice.

A search for the historical Jesus using the first century witnesses is going to find a Jesus very different from, in fact at odds with, the Jesus of A Course in Miracles.  So, in a sense, we have to say that, even though we have cotemporary experience of Jesus in our spiritual and church lives, the historical Jesus points us to the real Jesus.  There is always the danger that we will make up our own Jesus divorced from the historical reality.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Church, historical Jesus, Spirituality, Theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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