Who is Jesus? What did he do? How does a Naturalistic Pantheist view him? Last week I wrote about my journey away from Christianity and now I want to explain how I see the man at the centre of that religion and who’s teachings guided my life for a decade.
Lets start with how I think his original followers would have viewed him. It is a fact that Jesus never actually claimed to be God. The closest he came was suggesting he was chosen by God. He consistently called himself the Son of Man and now and again Son of God. The fact is that Jesus was a Jewish man and to claim to be God would have caused even his followers to consider him a blasphemer. If you read the book of Acts it records that the disciples saw Jesus as “a man chosen and exalted by God.” He is a human being chosen by God to die and then rise again. He is chosen to rule over the universe until the end of time when he hands it all back to God. He is seen as a mediator (the role Mary currently takes in Catholicism) and is worthy of veneration and praying to, but he is not portrayed as God. Verses teaching the Trinity like Matthew 28 are not found in the oldest records of the Bible.
Over the past century, as people have finally been able to express their religious views more freely and question orthodoxy, there has arisen a movement called the Jesus Seminar. This
Jesus seminar includes brilliant historians like Albert Schweitzer, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman & John Dominic Crossan. These men were key influences in changing how I viewed Jesus. The Jesus Seminar looks for the historical Jesus, it attempts to tear away the fantasy and later additions to find the truth that lurks behind the stories. It looks at the historical and cultural situation at the time he lived and tries to view him through similar eyes. There have been various theories put forward for what he was – a political and economic revolutionary, a wandering faith healer, an apocalyptic teacher and so on. I believe he was probably a bit of all these things – he was socially and economically revolutionary – believing in establishing a kingdom of god on earth which was egalitarian, peaceful and inclusive. He undoubtedly believed that the world as they knew it was about to change significantly and end. He had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker, he taught in parables and paradoxical statements and he was executed for causing a disturbance at the temple during Passover. I think he believed that he had come to change things, to help create a new society where the poor weren’t treated badly but he would do it non-violently. His teaching was good but hardly original as many of his sayings can be traced back to others before his time, and there is at least one account where he refers to people of another race as “dogs” so we should be careful about viewing him as some kind of super nice-guy. He was human not divine and I think it’s unlikely that he performed any miracles unless they are similar to the fake tricks of today’s so-called miracle healers.
He is undoubtedly a massively influential guy. More has been written about him than probably any other human in history. He has influenced art, culture, law, religion, social action and so much more for the past 2000 years. He continues to influence the world through his followers today. For all these reasons he is a person worthy of respect and reverence, but as for the claim that he is a god….I think even he would disagree with that one.
There is a concept in Druidry of venerating ancestors. This includes not just ancestors of our blood lines but all who lived in the same place as we currently inhabit or, in this case, influenced our culture or lives. Jesus has had such a big influence on western culture and the history of our nation, he has had such an influence on my own life and the lives of many of my blood ancestors, that I wonder whether giving him a place on my altar might be a good idea, to show respect and reverence for the influence he has had. What do you think?