Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Several years ago, I wrote an article called The Coming of Christ.  In that article, I was barely beginning to question traditional dogma on the second coming of Christ, and my sense of awe and wonder at the historical Jesus who became the Christ has only increased since that time.  So I get excited when I hear wisdom like the following, which was expressed by Richard Rohr during a panel discussion from Evolutionary Christianity on The Heavens and Earth Declare Gods Glory:
"I think the reason that it even comes up [the Jesus question, the Christ question] is that we haven’t distinguished between the two.  Jesus is the man we love and believe in who was born two thousand years ago.  As Colossians, Ephesians, the prologue to the gospel of John make clear, the Christ existed from all eternity.  And that, that just has to be taught.  It seems to me when I speak it in so many groups, it’s an utter surprise.   And because we haven’t made that clear distinction – that Jesus is the human personification of the eternal Christ – we’ve come up with all of these problems that we can’t tie our religion to cosmology, to what’s happening in all of creation.  So for me, the Christ mystery is precisely the unity, the inherent unity between matter and spirit.  And as soon as God decided to manifest God’s self, we have the birth of the Christ.   I mean, we call it the big bang.  Now, that’s my Franciscan understanding of the Cosmic Christ.  And once that’s made clear, which it’s very clear in Scripture, but we didn’t have the eyes to see it, and maybe we didn’t have the world eyes to see it.  But it’s amazing how many of these problems are quietly resolved for us.  And we find that our Christ is not in any way a competitive religion with what is happening in the universe.  That in fact, He has named what is happening in the universe…

The other question is that famous line from John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  You know, it’s asked in so many conferences I speak at, and I come at it different ways, but maybe this will help here.   We have clearly, in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is constantly presented as inclusive.  Here he is a Jew, but he’s always including the Gentiles, the outsiders, foreigners, prostitutes, drunkards, the tax collectors, the Roman centurion, the Syrophoenician woman.  So it’s very hard to think that this Jesus, who in his human life, is so consistently inclusive, would then create a religion in his name that was exclusive, or exclusionary.  That was never his pattern.  And so it forces us to interpret that line, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” in a different way than “My religion is better than your religion,” or “I have the only true religion.” Now, one way I think it could well mean that is, again, if we understand the Christ as this eternal mystery of the co-existence of matter and spirit – which we call the mystery of the incarnation – that’s Christianity’s trump card.  That’s what differentiates us from the other religions of the world – the belief in incarnation.  So Jesus is saying, as the Christ, which is usually the one speaking in John’s gospel, This way, the way of the Christ, it’s the way of the universe, it’s the truth of the universe, it’s the life of the universe.  Then I think it’s brilliant.  That’s what I would agree with, and I would ask that people from other religions, at a more mature level, could also agree with.  My disappointment is a lot of Christians, nominal Christians, or civil-religion Christians, don’t seem to believe in that.   So they took an inclusive Jesus and made an exclusionary religion out of it."
You can listen to the entire discussion here.  Scroll down to the January 29 panel discussion.

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