Summary: John argues against a "download the parts you like" Jesus. Jesus is divine and human. He is real, we cannot decide who he is, we can only discover who he is.
1 John Series September 10, 2006
When Pam and I were first married, we had an extended honeymoon traveling in the west of Canada. When we were in Vancouver we heard about the Stein Valley Festival, which was this 3 day rock and roll, environmentalist, native rights festival to save the Stein Valley. It looked amazing, so Pam and I took the city bus as far as it would take us north, and then hitch-hiked up to the festival. We were picked up almost immediately by this woman driving a beat up old Toyota, she of course was wearing Birkenstocks, hemp clothing and beads. She was great; we became fast friends and camped together at the festival. I remember one morning as she shared a cup of coffee with us, she remarked that if Jesus were alive today, he’d be right here with us, doing what he could to save the Stein Valley. I have to admit that I laughed and said that I think there are a lot of people who think that Jesus would be doing exactly what they are doing! We all think that He would be really into what ever cause is consuming our lives.
It is a strange thing in our culture that we think that we can decide who Jesus really is. We think that if we believe that something is true, it is true for us, other people might believe something very different is true, and that is “true for them.” In this way of thinking, something is true if you believe it, not “I believe it because it is true.” When you apply this thinking to Jesus, he is what ever I want to believe he is!
Flash through images of Jesus
You would think that since this way of thinking is so individualistic that we would have thousands of possible “Jesus”s out there in the thoughts of people. What I have encountered can be placed (I think) into two different steams.
1 – Jesus is just a man – good teacher, like a 1st century Dr. Phil or if He is more Mystical, like a Jewish Buddha. People might say that he was human like us, but just more in touch with the divine within all of us.
This sort of thinking is very popular; it comes out in places like the Da Vinci Code that would have us believe that everything that we believe about Jesus is false, including his divinity.
People who create this “Jesus” in their minds are usually pretty free to pick and choose which of Jesus’ teaching that they will live by, and they will even add a fee themselves
2 - Jesus is only divine. This one is a little more rare, but I think that it exists and is becoming more popular in Tom Harpur’s books.
– possibly did not exist at all, but the stories & the teaching have a divine Spark. Harpur If I’m getting this right) teaches that the early Christians took ancient divine stories and applied them to Jesus of Nazareth. They were never meant to be taken literally, but were Spiritual stories that would teach us of the divine spark that is in all of us.
People have been calling these trains of thought “neo-gnosticism.” That might not matter much to you, except that when John wrote his letters, he wrote to a church community that had been struggling with what some scholars called Pre-gnosticism.
The Gnostics were a group of people in the 2nd century on who borrowed from different religions and philosophies to make their own diverse religion/philosophy. They had the original Ipod spirituality. They only downloaded the parts of religions that they liked. They had a very dualistic view of reality. The main dualism being that matter was bad, but Spirit was good. Thus, Jesus could not be divine, because “how could the pure spirit divine have anything to do with the base evil fleshly body?”
You are saved, not by God come in flesh, but by receiving a special knowledge (knowledge – gnosis – gnosticism) that ignites the divine spark in you. After you die, that divine spark is purged of all things material and fleshly, and you live eternally with the original God.
Gnostics would say one of two about Jesus.
1 – he was human like the rest of us, except that the divine “Christ” came upon him after his baptism, and left him just before his death. It was the Christ who taught us and will lead us to discover the divine spark within
0r, 2 – Jesus only appeared to be human, but he was the divine Christ who disguised himself to give us the secret knowledge that save us.
Can you imagine having people like this in your church? It would be like having ¼ of the church reading the Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood Holy Grail and saying “right that’s what it is really all about!” and trying to convince you that Jesus was just human and we got it all wrong! And it would be like another ¼ read The Pagan Christ and said “wow, I don’t think Jesus ever really existed, but that doesn’t mean the stories are false, they are spiritual stories that give us a secret knowledge that is going to save us! And they spend every conversation with you trying to prove that Tom is right.