Jesus, the Christ, and I

May 26, 2017 § 4 Comments

Why a thread on Jesus, the Christ, and I?

This series is my testimony regarding Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ, what I know from my own experience, what I choose as a matter of experimental faith, and how I choose to act in my religious life based on my experience. I separate Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ because for me they are separate. I have experienced them differently and thus I think of them differently.

I have been struggling with these relationships since my freshmen year at college in 1965. My struggle has both intensified and clarified since I started writing this blog. Writing has always been an integral and dominant aspect of my spiritual life: I find myself writing about what’s going on for me spiritually and I find myself turned back toward the Light by what it reveals as I write.

More specifically, though, in this blog I find that almost every thread I follow leads me in to the Christ. Almost every Quaker problem or concern I consider seems to have our relationship with the Christ at its heart, or at least, as a radiating epicenter of pressing unanswered questions. I have come to believe that, for liberal, post-Christian Friends, at least, these relationships—with Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ—deserve a level of attention, discernment, and integrity that we do not give them, and that this negligence has become a stumbling block.

Maybe I’m just projecting. I know that I need to sort these relationships out, so here I am in this blog. I feel this need because I believe that the Religious Society of Friends is a Christian movement, and I am not a Christian by any of the five definitions I’ve felt compelled to identify, save perhaps one. So what am I doing here?

As a matter of integrity, I feel I must conduct myself as a guest in the house that Christ built. I am so grateful that I have a place here, but I am clear that Christ belongs in the master bedroom, not out on the living room couch, or in some outbuilding, where so many meetings have put him.

I feel we are a Christian movement for a lot of reasons—historical, demographic, in terms of Quaker discernment—which I won’t go into here. But the most important reason is that, according to the testimony of Friends who were there, we were gathered as a people of God by Jesus Christ. I cannot in good faith, or with integrity, gainsay their testimony. For me, that changes everything. I accept their testimony as truth.

So I feel led to offer my own testimony.

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§ 4 Responses to Jesus, the Christ, and I

  • Forrest Curo says:

    There’s one chair-there in dark or light, sat-in or looked-at or crashed-into — all the various ways of experiencing and thinking about it.

    We can sort such differences fairly easily in the case of physical things.

    With the transcendent realities we can only grope through Grace and metaphor, still the urge gets overwhelming to wrestle those metaphors into coherence. & sometimes, as with simple mathematics, we can identify some of the problems with this as solved, not-solveable, or dunno types.

    I really want to know what you’ll come up with, but it may just be ‘best-approximation-for-us’ — and utterly requires the Grace in working things out. Practical question: How much do we need to re-sort in the interest of keeping us-Friends honest?

  • I’m not really sure you know who my crowd is, William.

    But who says I can’t listen with my heart AND think with my brain? I’m not saying this is what you’re saying, but I have encountered quite often a subtle (and often not so subtle) anti-intellectualism among Friends, which seems to think that the life of the mind cannot be a dimension of the life of the spirit, even though many of the great mystics in history have been writers, as well.

    This impulse seems akin to the one that is eager to claim that we have no creed, by which some Friends seem to mean that we have no doctrine (a word that, like discipline, has only four letters, it seems). We do, in fact, have something to say (doctrine); we just don’t make a belief system a condition of membership, which is the function of a creed, or have a formally codified set of beliefs, which is the content of a creed. Our non-creedalism is a matter of practice, not of faith.

    But I am a Quaker theologian, unapologetically. And thus definitions matter to me. I’m not trying to force my definitions on anyone else. But I do feel led to share them, sometimes. Moreover, I try very hard to ground my definitions in my experience rather than in some legacy belief system or even on scripture. My definition of God, for instance, is the Mystery Reality behind our religious experience, whatever that experience is.

    I do appreciate your reminder to stay centered in the heart, though. This whole thread will be a revealing of my heart.

  • Thank you for this, Steve! May His light guide your explorations and make them helpful to many of your readers, including, I hope, myself.

    Just yesterday I found a copy of Maurice A. Creasey’s 1956 doctoral dissertation, _Early Quaker Christology, with Special Reference to the Teaching and Significance of Isaac Penington, 1616-1679_, where I found an early Quaker statement that just stopped me cold. George Bishop, writing in 1665 about the Light of Christ in our conscience that shows us our “fallen” (ignorant, selfish passion-driven, unforgiving, fearful, sin-prone) state, argues that it can’t be part of our own natural reason, because “…Nor can nature that is in the fall, shew nature that is in the fall…. For darkness cannot shew darkness.”

    I would add: Neither can this guilt-wracked soul persuade itself that its sins are forgiven, and that it has been healed of what drove it to sin in the first place. I can, of course, call it my Higher Power, or the Buddha-mind, that saw my darkness and washed me clean, but _why not_ Christ Jesus?

  • Steven: you hang out with a very cerebral crowd. My advice; stop worrying about definitions, and listen more to the witness of your heart!!

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