A FAITH FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED? WORKING TOWARDS
A RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION OF
There are many books today about Jesus which demonstrate that there
are conflicting understandings and interpretations of him among
Christian believers. This article presents a challenge to the orthodox
view of Jesus.
A starting-point is to observe (though some dispute this) that John the
Baptist, Jesus and his disciples all believed that the world was about to
end, they expected a major intervention by their God, (if you wish look
up (1) below); it did not happen, the world is still here, they were
mistaken. The cast for this ‘end-time drama’ and its varied ideas came
from the speculative thinking of previous generations who had endured
conquest, exile and rule by foreign powers, and who had longed for
independence again and peace; there might be a time of tribulation, the
arrival of a Messiah and/or a Son of Man, a judgement of the living and
the dead, and then the inauguration by their God of an everlasting
kingdom of peace (2).
Possibly, Jesus came to believe that he would have to endure some of
this supposed end-time tribulation resulting in his death, after which the
new kingdom would come (3). In fact, the most likely reason he died
was because some of the pilgrims in Jerusalem, for Passover, hailed him
as the Messiah; and Pilate saw that by removing him, the excitable
crowds would be quelled.
The disciples’ belief in his resurrection is probably best explained as
arising from a combination of several factors: primarily, their
understanding that his death was a part of this supposed ‘end-time
drama’, which they imagined would be followed by the coming of the
new kingdom in which they would meet him again (4), and some visions
of him induced by their bereavement (5). In fact, no new kingdom ever
arrived, nor did Jesus return as judge and saviour, and the world has
continued on its way. Indeed what reasons, if any, would God have had
to resurrect him? In today’s world would we not question the mental
stability and judgement of people who live daily convinced that their
God is about to end the world and who try to persuade others of their
So, was Jesus a saviour and mediator between God and his people? It
depends on how you interpret the meaning of his death and whether you
think a saviour or mediator is required, which in itself will depend on
your understanding of what a supremely loving God is like. There are
three main objections to the traditional beliefs that Jesus was a mediator
and that by his death he saved humankind: from science, death is a
natural process and not (as traditionally believed) a punishment for sin
and a power needing to be defeated; from ethics, an innocent person
(claimed to be Jesus) should not bear the punishment of the guilty (7);
from theology, to require for the forgiveness/salvation process a human
death and sacrifice suggests divine sadism (8).
With the deepest respect for others and their beliefs, to my mind, Jesus,
and John the Baptist also, were mistaken and misguided ‘end-time’
prophets; Jesus was neither a mediator nor a saviour, neither
super-human nor divine; we need to leave him to his place in history and
move on. Another article will explore the massive implications of what
this challenge to the orthodox view of Jesus might mean for working
towards a radical and revolutionary transformation of Christianity.
The deeply attractive vision of a God of infinite love is, for me, (with all
the problems and paradoxes it raises) part of the great and challenging
mystery of the life we are caught up in. It is this vision that I reach out
towards in a search to transform traditional forms of Christianity. “The
revolutions that count come silently, come first in the heart...
Revolutions of this magnitude do not overturn a system and then shape
it. They reshape thought, and then the system overturns without the
firing of a single cannon. Revolutions such as this dismantle walls
people thought would never fall because no wall, whatever its size, can
contain a people whose minds have long ago scaled and vaulted and
surmounted it.” Joan D. Chissiter.
1. e.g. Luke 3:2-9, Matt.10:23, 19:28, Mark 9:1.
2. e.g. Daniel 7:
9-10,13-14 and 12:1-2, 4, Isaiah 9:6-7, 11: 1-9, and 53: 1-12, Luke 3: 15,
Mark 8: 27-31, 9: 11-13 & ch.13.
3. e.g. Luke 12:49-50, Mark 9:30-32,
10: 45, 14: 25.
4. e.g. 1Thess.1:9-10, 4: 13-17.
5. e.g. Mark 16:9-13,
e.g. Romans 5:12.
7. e.g. Romans chs.5 & 6.
8. e.g. Hebrews 9:11-14.
For more articles