Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Universal and the Particular

Last week I finished the first draft of the second five-page chapter for my next book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things Every Christian Needs to Know Now. (In spite of suggestions that the title, and even the content, be changed, I am sticking with the original plan, at least for the time being.)

The second chapter is "The Better We Know God, the Broader and Deeper will be Our Understanding of the Universe and Everything in It," and it follows "#1 God is Greater Than We Think, or Even Can Think." At this point I am calling the third chapter "God is Fully Revealed in Jesus, but the Christ is not Limited to Jesus." This topic is related to the difficult subject of the relationship of the particular to the universal.

Christianity has long had to wrestle with what is called "the scandal of particularity," and many have spurned Christianity because of what was considered an unacceptable particularity. Part of the appeal of some New Age religion, which in many ways is a recycling of "old age" religious beliefs of India, is its universality or all-inclusiveness. Although they total less than ten pages, the first two chapters of my new book is about the greatness of God, which is another way of speaking about the universality or all-inclusiveness of God.

But how is God to be known? The first chapter of John deals with that matter. As you know, John 1 begins by talking about the Word, expressed in Greek as logos. That term has the same basic meaning as the tao (or dao) in the religious tradition of China and dharma in the religious tradition of India. And Philo, the Jewish philosopher who was a contemporary of Jesus, linked the Torah with logos.

Thus logos, the Word, is a fundamental concept of the ancient religious traditions of the world. But in a way not seen in China or India and in a way rejected by most of the Jewish people of Jesus' day, the Gospel of John goes on to declare that "the Word became flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14). That is the stupendous claim of Christianity that sets it apart from other religious faiths. The universal was revealed in the particular, in a single Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth.

But along with this particularity--but not in place of it--there also needs to be a recognition of the universality of God's revelation. It is for that reason I am writing that God is fully revealed in Jesus, but the Christ is not limited to Jesus. I will need to explain more what I am thinking about that in a future posting.

1 comment:

  1. While you pause to explain "Christ is not limited to Jesus," let me pause to say "Thank you!" Thank you for leading us on this pilgrimage through our faith.