November 9, 2006
One thing that troubles me about my own theological thoughts is the way I think about Jesus. As long as I can remember, “Jesus” has bothered me. Not his life or atonement or anything like that—it has just bothered me that people talk about him and to him so much. I’ve always been more comfortable praying to “God” and not Jesus. It makes me uncomfortable when people make reference to Jesus in their everyday speech. I understand that in Christian theology, Jesus plays an important role—he is God. He is the way and the truth and the life, but why just him? More recently, this has been what has troubled me. There are so many people who do not know Jesus and will never know Jesus, but who earnestly seek God through their own cultures and religions. Is their sincerity and piety worthless? Perhaps what is important is recognizing our need for God (which is where Jesus comes in), and regardless of culture it is this recognition (and the resulting lifestyle change) that God is interested in. I am just uncomfortable with Jesus.
Another thing that has been troubling to me is the idea that Jesus is God. I essentially reject the trinity as a definition for God. Why must only those three be “God”—why not the other manifestations of God throughout the Bible? Also, the definition of God is too neatly defined. How do we know who begot whom and what substance each has? The Bible is not that explicit about any of it. And what good does the idea of the trinity do, anyway? Historically, it was used to fend off heresy, but I’m not sure that coming up with a human definition of God is a very good idea…. This was verified to me when my theology professor admitted that the idea of the trinity is essentially a hedge around the truth about God, and it is not the truth itself. To bring this back to Jesus, my professor in Johannine Writings has reaffirmed my thinking by showing us that Jesus is not necessarily understood as God anywhere in Johannine literature (or anywhere else in the New Testament). Yes, Jesus was divine, but his exact metaphysical relation to the Father is not laid out. What is his nature? How is he human and divine? The Bible doesn’t say, and early Christians didn’t know. Exactly how it works is not clear, so it should be okay if it is unclear for me….
But I am still left with the difficulty I have with Jesus. I don’t know what I think, but I know that I tend to avoid him, except when it comes to atonement. And that is unfair—I can’t pick and choose when I want Jesus and when I don’t. I just don’t know what to think. I am interested to see what Bonhoeffer does with Jesus (especially in the LLP). It makes me uncomfortable that Barth and Bonhoeffer are so Christologically focused, but maybe they can show me how to reconcile Jesus, God, and the real world I live in.