Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Christ by Any Other Name Would Love as Deep

Advocate, Almighty, Beloved Son, Bread of Life, Chief Cornerstone, Christ Jesus, Deliverer, Door, Elect of God, First and Last, Just One, King of Kings, Lamb of God, Mediator…. and numerous more. I know that many lists claim 100 or more names and titles by which the Savior is known. Not to mention the issue of Yahshua, Iesous, Jesu, Jesus, Joshua and other academic and theological revisions to the name the Christ was given at birth. I’ll get back to this list later; trust me it is not just a non sequitur introduction.

I like to read other blogs which jog my noggin and inspire thought, which means reading blogs I wish I could aspire to, blogs which say things I am deeply touched by, blogs which provoke frustration and make me want to shout at the author… but force me to confront what I believe, blogs which educate on areas far beyond my interests but do so in ways which provoke me to think and acknowledge the vast world beyond the limits of my thoughts. In this browsing, I was reading Anglican Curmudgeon, and dipped my toe in more or less at random to his archives. In doing so, I found a post which has led me to much thought, and I wanted to share that and put it down on paper. These ideas were stirred up in my mind, and have yet to form any solid pattern, they are still motes in the sunlight, jumbled and seeking form, I know not if the final pattern will reveal something amazing, or something I knew all along, but had not seen in this light. I may even find that I reject where the thoughts go, but in exploring I will learn more.

Reading Anglican Curmudgeon, it is quickly clear to me that he has an interest and passionate concern over elements and aspects of the legal and corporate elements of the body of the church which I simply do not share, but he has a mind sharp enough to cut deep into many topics. The tone and emotions of a blog author are often hard to judge, but in reading many of his posts I get a feeling of a frustration, a pent up desire to give someone a good smack, but not of hatred or vitriol for the sake of harm. So, as I was reading random posts, and found one which quoted a statement I could grasp at once his objection to, I expect a tirade or rant on the subject... but I was surprised and provoked to my own deep thoughts.

I’ve danced around what this revelation was long enough; let me quote a couple of excerpts from his post, beginning with the quote that set the ball in motion:

“Consider this interchange between a reporter for Time magazine and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA):

Q Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

A We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”

[Edit: A quote which offends him on the basis of a seeming denial of the Trinity, the Son in the Father.]

And then an amazing paragraph of his response:

“To encounter God spiritually is to encounter Jesus, whether one recognizes the latter as such or not. If what Jesus told us was true (and we can be certain that it was), then there is no God without Jesus, and no Jesus without God. God without Jesus is an intellectual abstraction, a god without love, and of no practical consequence to humans, while Jesus without God is a pointless sacrifice of a good and holy man.”

And another sentence that gives me pause for thought:

“For that same reason, we do not have to worry about being called "exclusive" or "inclusive" -- one who truly believes in God the Holy Trinity cannot be described by those words, because other people's choices are not up to the believer.”

Bam. My mind was blown open and new ideas started to tumble about and clang against each other. I had a sudden moment of understanding the nature of the Trinity in new depth, but that is aside from this mulling. The discussion of casting aside the false delusion of Exclusion/Inclusion resonates strongly with my own leanings to bring in Eastern methods of thought to better know our faith’s Western traditions. I suspect that the Curmudgeon and I might have a few bits of disagreement in our world views and possibly our understanding of Christ’s lessons, but I will say that I do not doubt his dedication to the work of Christ.

So now, that non-sequitur of an opening sentence, I return to the beginning at the end, or some such rot. What I am chewing on now, is simply this; Christ was revealed to us, the students of the Gospel by names beyond our ability to keep track of, how small a box do we build around Christ to claim that those who do not hear the name Jesus have not known the Lord? Look at John 1:12 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Could not one who knows the Advocate without knowing his name on earth was Jesus still believe on his name? If we have to get his mortal name letter perfect, we may all be in serious trouble. I begin to understand more deeply the ideas of good old C.S. Lewis of the ability to have faith in Christ without having received his gospel. I’m not sure where that understanding will lead, or how much I may accept it, but I do see possibilities I did not see before.

I am going to have to do some reading, study and prayer over John. The possibilities and inter play of John 14: 6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and 1 John 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” will take me some time to sort out. I will have to ponder on the idea that if a faith is not Christian in appearance to me, but respects the Two Great Commandments and does not teach that which would cause a follower to deny Christ were they to meet him on their death, then it is possible, if unlikely, that they may know the savior in a way beyond my knowledge, and I should remind myself that judgment belongs to the Lord.

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