Tuesday, January 30, 2018

TTT #3 God is Fully Revealed in Jesus, but the Christ is not Limited to Jesus

This third article in the series “Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now” (TTT) presupposes the content of the first two articles, but reading those previous pieces about God are not prerequisite for reading this one.
How Can We Know God?
One of the basic assertions of Christianity, especially in its traditional Protestant understanding, is that knowledge of God is not due primarily to human effort. Rather, our knowledge of God results from God taking the initiative to reveal Godself to us humans.
God’s self-revelation took place primarily through Jesus of Nazareth, Christians claim. This means that the universal (God) is known primarily through the particular (Jesus) – an assertion that is sometimes called "the scandal of particularity."
This in stark contrast to the ancient spirituality of India—or to late 20th century New Age spirituality—which emphasizes that God, or some alternative designation such as the Absolute or the Eternal, is universally available to all persons and which, it is often avowed, exists in all persons.
Is there any way that the emphasis on the particularity of traditional Christianity and the universality of Indian religiosity can be brought together?
Perhaps that is possible by realizing that God is fully revealed in Jesus but that the Christ is not limited to Jesus.
Knowing God through the Logos
The first chapter of the Gospel according to John begins with the affirmation of Jesus as the eternal Word. That term is the English translation of logos, a term pregnant with meaning.  
Greek word logos.

In the Greek world before and during the time of Jesus, logos was considered in somewhat the same way as tao (dao) was in China and dharma in India.
So the first chapter of John begins with this statement of great significance: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
What is most significant, and problematic for many people, is the assertion that follows in verse fourteen: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
From this passage we are told that the universal is known in the particular, the eternal is known in the temporal, and God is made known through a single human being.
Further, John 1:18 states, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” God is fully revealed in Jesus.
Knowing God apart from Jesus
Is the logos, which can be legitimately called the cosmic Christ, limited to Jesus, though? Probably not. Even in the first chapter of John, there are the enigmatic words about the logos being both life and light, the “true light, which enlightens everyone” (v. 9).
Yes, the Word (Christ) became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, but that Word is the eternal logos, understood, for example, as the tao in China and as the dharma in India.
The light of the logos/Word has enabled the Chinese to speak of Heaven, the Asian Indians to speak of Brahman, the Native Americans to speak of the Great Spirit.
If the Word is the true light that enlightens everyone in the world, there must be some (or considerable) knowledge of God which is not directly related to Jesus of Nazareth—although indispensably related to the eternal logos/Christ.

Not only is God greater than we think, or even can think, by means of the logos knowledge of God is also broader than most traditional Christians have thought through the years.

[Click here to read the entire chapter.]

8 comments:

  1. Here are comments from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago, who regularly sends thought-provoking comments for posting here:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments about the differences between Christianity and Hinduism.

    "A few years ago I read Hinduism by Swami Nikhilananda, who was a proponent of Vedanta, one of many versions of Hinduism. He maintained that all of the gods of Hinduism are simply manifestations of the one true God, Brahma. Modern, educated Hindus generally view these manifestations as metaphors for experiences in life.

    "One time Judy and I went to a Hindu wake at the home of some friends. The prayers were virtually identical to what one would hear in a similar, Christian setting, except for one word: Krishna, instead of Christ. A Hindu person once told me that Christ is just another avatar.

    "Although Krishna is the Hindu god of love, compassion, and tenderness, it would be unconvincing to identify Krishna with Christ. The stories of their lives are very different."

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    1. Well stated, Eric. That has been my observation as well from living around Hindu people.

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    2. Thanks for your comments, Eric. It is indeed interesting, and difficult, to interpret the similarities and differences between Christianity and Hinduism.

      It is my understanding that the Hindu deities, including Brahma, are manifestations of Brahman, which/who is the most transcendent deity. Then below Brahman there are the "trinity" of deities: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Then according to many Hindu scholars, it seems, Krishna is worshiped as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu. But then there are those who see Krishna as the supreme God, like a personification of Brahman.

      Many Asian Indians, including some Christians, have referred to Jesus as an avatar. I have a short subsection in my book "The Limits of Liberalism" titled "Is Jesus an Avatar?" (pp. 190-1) and in a footnote I refer to "Jesus the Avatar," a 1930 book by a Hindu convert to Christianity.

      Hrom the orthodox Christian point of view, though, I think that that is not a proper designation for Jesus. It is not surprising, though, that many Indians would use that terminology.

      I also found that there were a number of websites that were more positive than you about seeing the similarities between Krishna and Jesus.

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  2. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky sent me these comments by email:

    "I like that, Leroy. Indeed I published an article based on John 1:9 a number of years ago. Christ speaks as the universal Christ in John. Parallel to that is Peter’s revelation in his exchange with the Centurion Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35: 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.' Of course, those verses aren’t popular with fundamentalists."

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  3. Thinking Friend--and fellow grad student many years ago--Graham Hales in Mississippi also sent the following comments by email:

    "I have traveled to many foreign countries since retirement. I saw millions of people who were not Christians, many of them had never heard of Jesus. To condemn them to hell makes of god, an awful sadist, he creates and then with no other option, condemns them to hell. So far from the Gospel Jesus."

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  4. Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona makes the following comments, which are in disagreement with my blog article:

    "I'm just a simple Missouri Ozark farm boy and this blog was more than I could chew or shallow. It is 'Universalism' pure and simple and oh how I wish Universalism was true! You and my brother were both foreign representatives of our church and I choose to believe that your lives counted for much more than Universalism allows.

    "Jesus taught that He was the only way to God. That seems pretty clear to me. The Scriptures also talk about two ways: the broad way and the narrow way. That implies a choice but most of the world has and is choosing the broad way.

    "I'm not clear on the meaning of John the Revelator's words, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last . . .' Having said that, I share my missionary brother's belief that God has someway made provision for the salvation of the Jewish people. Paul implies that in some of his letters.

    "Well, that my take on this blog, Leroy. Very stimulating and thought-provoking as usual but I'll keep my Ozark farm-boy mentality on this one."

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    1. First of all, Truett, thanks for sharing your views in disagreement with my article. I'm sure there are others who disagree with me but have not been willing to articulate their opposing ideas.

      I must, however, disagree with you that I have espoused universalism. Christian universalism is the view that all human beings will ultimately be restored to a right relationship with God--or will be saved, in the usual evangelical terminology.

      I do believe in the universal love of God and maintain, as I tried to express in my article, that God's love is made plain primarily through Jesus Christ but that it (God's love) is not limited to Jesus of Nazareth.

      This in no way implies, for example, that people in China where God's "logos" is at least partially embodied in the Tao or that people in India where God's "logos" is at least partially embodied in "dharma" will all be saved any more than everyone who lives in Western countries where the preaching about Jesus Christ is ubiquitous will be saved.

      Affirmation of God's universal love and widespread revelation of that love in ways in addition to Jesus of Nazareth in no way implies the universal acceptance of that love.

      I take seriously the words in the first chapter of Romans: "18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened."

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