Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

From the time I was a young boy and all the way through my education at the nation's largest Baptist seminary, I was told that the way to have "eternal life" was to accept Jesus as my saviour, invite him into my heart, and believe that he was the son of God who died for my sins. If I did those things, they told me, I would go to heaven (what is heaven, by the way?).

All well and good, but once again I find myself with more questions than answers. I am supposed to accept everything "by faith", yet I really doubt that blind faith in church teachings is what God desires or intends for us. "Seek and you shall find" is what I read from him. So my questions begin... precisely what does it mean to accept Jesus as my saviour, and exactly what is he saving me from? Traditionally, the answer to the latter question is that he is saving me from an eternal damnation in a fiery hell of torture and torment. To accept him as my saviour ostensibly meant that I pray a prayer to God asking him to forgive me, I recognize and admit that Jesus was born from a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was killed on a cross, then to be raised again. All well and good, but scriptures also say that even the demons believe this factual information, and words asking for forgiveness can be cheap. Is that really all there is to it? Would I have eternal security that no man or angel or principality could take away if only I did those few things? Au contraire! I think that is a bastardization of the gospels. It's a ritual - meaningless words and repetitions that make some church happy because they can boast about their successful conversion rate and increased attendance, social programs, and offering receipts.

Jesus himself said that if his disciples loved him they would keep his commands, they would do as he did, and they would "Feed {his} sheep" by loving others more than they loved themselves. So my question then became, regardless of the recitation of words that we prayed in some confessional prayer time, can we truly claim to have any salvation in Jesus if we do not do the aforementioned things? I think not. Jesus went on to say that if any man does not "eat his flesh and drink his blood" he would not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was stating that his disciples, quite literally, needed to become Jesus. To wear him in spirit and in truth. To have their actions look like his actions and to have their motivations be his motivations. He was stating that he needed to become an integral part of their being even down to the cellular level (which is what is fed by ingesting food) for them to have salvation. So his clarion call wasn't a works-based approach, but a call to literally change who you are and what you've become - what you've accepted to be truth.

When I watch the show The Matrix I see that Neo found a form of salvation when he began to accept that the world that existed around him was not truly real and so it was his choice as to whether or not to let that world affect him. Even down to simple rules of physics that could be broken or manipulated, simply because they did not need to apply. How often we saw this with Jesus! Walking on water, raising people from the dead, turning water into wine. And lest we think that Jesus was the only one who saw beyond our own real-life version of the Matrix, reference the prophets Elijah and Elisha or Moses whose actions indicate that they were also able to see beyond the "limitations" of the physical constraints that didn't need to apply. Indeed, I believe that the "salvation" that Jesus talks about has little if anything to do with the avoidance of a fiery hell. It has everything to do with the fact that, from the time we trust him fully and completely, we "see" everything for what it truly is. The truth is revealed. And that is when we are free from needing "stuff" (or even other people) to provide us with happiness, affirmation, or security. That is when there ceases to be any obstacle to block the flow of God's love through us in any manner of expression that he wishes to use. And that is why salvation can start on earth, and not in death. Because how can you take the truth away from someone once they have sought it, seen it, and believed it? His message, given by his example of complete surrender, is to trust God completely and to give up your own aspirations of achievement for him. Because after all, what are you achieving? The world as we know it doesn't truly least it doesn't after we know the truth.

Speaking of believing it, if someone claims to believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, then trusting him is not an issue. If it is an issue, then they do not believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Period. They may have surrendered part of their being to God, but if they don't surrender all of it, they simply don't have the full salvation of Jesus Christ.

Next Post: Was Dante right? What is heaven?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jesus who?

One of the biggest things I had to do when I was reading the scriptures for Truth (rather than listening to the preachings and teaching of the "established church" was to confront everything about my faith from as neutral of a perspective as was possible. In order to accomplish this, I had to approach my long held beliefs as though none of them were true, and then proceed to see if they really made sense in light of what I was reading and (as Buddha said) what my common sense was telling me.

Jesus is central to the Christian faith, yet so much about him has always remained enigmatic. I don't think that God calls us to a blind faith, so here are some of the questions I grappled with. "Jesus is the Son of God"
Okay, what does that mean? The Muslims don't believe that God has any children - "Neither born nor does He beget", they say. The Mormons believe that God had sex with Mary. So what does "son" of God mean? Unless you believe the Mormons, "son" in the context of God means something different than what it means to you and me as parents of our own offspring. To take that even further, the Bible never says God only has one son, it says he has only one "begotten" son. Or to use modern day language, one "born" son. The rest were fashioned with his hands (Adam and Eve) or adopted (the rest of us - but I'm getting ahead of myself here).
The creation account in Genesis says that Adam was created in the Image of God. An image is an exact picture or a reflection of the original. Without question, the Bible is saying that Adam was created to exactly reflect the attributes of God. Sound familiar? Yeah, Jesus said that "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father," and that he only does what he sees the Father doing. Sounds like a reflection to me. Adam, however, chose to sin and thus no longer reflected God perfectly. I believe that Adam was a son of God. Just not a "begotten" son. He was fashioned by God, looked just like God, and was given tasks to perform and a charge by God to accomplish (he was told to "subdue the earth" - a whole different discussion altogether) and the breath of God gave him life. Sounds pretty much like a Father/son relationship to me.
The scriptural concept of the Trinity is questionable. It's not directly found anywhere in the Bible, it is only implied by church doctrine. Furthermore, the Bible never implies that we should pray to Jesus. Jesus himself tells us not to pray to him, but to "our Father in heaven" (not just his father,, implying multiple "children"). Jesus was a son of God in much the same way that Adam was a son of God. Before the fall, Adam reflected God perfectly. Jesus was born from the seed of God, but never fell. He saw through the lies of the enemy much like Neo the character in the movie "The Matrix" did. Would we then pray to Adam the same way we pray to Jesus? Of course we would not! But why not? Because we mistakenly have accepted thousands of years of church doctrine in lieu of Biblical truth. "But wait a minute," you say, "Doesn't the Bible say that Jesus was there from the beginning?" Yes, because Jesus was a perfect reflection of God in character, the spirit of God that existed in him was unblemished and indeed part of God that has always been there from the beginning of time. But the same could have been said of Adam, had Adam chosen not to sin. God created mankind perfect, in his image, born with his spirit. Our imperfections don't change that. We are his pure spirit. Unlike Jesus, however, we've taken His pure spirit and made it unclean on the outside by rolling around in the dirt.

Next Post: The Way the Truth and the Life?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


About four years ago something happened in our lives that has dramatically affected me more than anything else I've ever done. We started reading the scriptures, everyday. About a chapter or two each day.

I graduated from a Christian college, I grew up attending Christian churches, and I went to a Christian seminary for graduate studies. So I knew the Bible. But this time was different.

A few months after we started reading the scriptures every day, I started a blog just for fun. The purpose of my blog was not to prosyletize or convert, it was just to get to know other people. Somehow in that process I ended up meeting people of many different backgrounds and faiths. If there was one thing that was a foundational belief of my Christian faith, it was that we were the only ones that would ever see God in the afterlife. After all, Jesus said that he was "the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through" him. I figured that as I started making friends with these people, I might befriend some of them and even lead someone to the Lord. What a great way to live life - to make new friends and simultanelously to lead them into the truth that I knew so well already!

Concurrant with these happenings, I had been to a Christian prophecy meeting where someone had prophesied over me that I would be learning more about God during that upcoming year than I had ever known before. They went on to say that I would be able to discern between what is of God and what is not of God and that my heart would be open to learning these things.

As I started making new friends, I found a lot of what I used to find on the internet. Many people who were shallow and content to leave things the way they are. While they might have been looking for fulfillment and some even were looking for knowledge, most didn't appear to be actively seeking truth. I did, however, find a few seekers out there. And they didn't much fit the profile of what I thought they'd look like.

Among those people I met who devoutly sought to worship a Supreme and divine God of the Universe were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, American Indians, and yes, a few Christians. After I came to know some of them on a fairly deep level, I realized something that shook my life and my faith to the core.

There would be more than just Christians in Heaven.

Next post "Jesus who?"