Strange Disconnect Between God and Jesus

In the past, over at De-Conversion blog, I’ve wrestled with God and the issues of pain477px-jacob_wrestling_with_the_angel.jpg and suffering and evil and conflict. I have come away from such discussions believing that the God of the Jewish scriptures is not the same God that Jesus knew or prayed to. Yesterday, I wrote about my affinity for Jesus and what that means for me today, as if Jesus is another being entirely from this God. And I believe he is. I believe he is the ultimate expression of an unknowable entity we call God.

Strangely, the whole of my life as a believer, there’s been this strange disconnect between the Christian concepts and explanations of God and this Jesus of Nazareth. Although Christians emphasize that God and Jesus are One and that this God is the same as He was in times past, I tend to separate them out into a kind of bad cop/good cop scenario. God, for me, has always been that great step-father in the sky, one who is really only looking for ways to fuck up your life, to make it harder to live normally (not that I couldn’t do as good a job myself). Jesus, on the other hand, was kind of like your big brother who protects you from the monster in the house. I’ve never thought much of trying to reconcile the God of Jewish scriptures and His inexplicable behavior because frankly for Christians, it’s pretty clear that the New Testament superseded the Old Covenant. It has too, or well, you might as well convert to Judaism. The Jewish God is far removed from the God of Jesus and Paul. Jesus was accessible. Jesus, I could relate to.

Now I know to other Christians this is weird behavior/belief on my part, but why does anyone believe anything anyway? Because it’s a comfort. Because they want to. They can justify all kinds of strange theology and they have! So when I separate Jesus from the Father, it’s a safety and comfort issue for me. It’s also because I’ve never really believed Christian explanations about how this God acts in the world. His behavior, as Christians tell it, is inconsistent and incoherent, so there must be a reason for it. No wonder non-believers scoff. I would and have scoffed as well! And the reason this God is inconsistent is that the Jewish writers of the scriptures presented God as they saw Him at the time. This image of Him did indeed evolve over the years, just as the Jewish people have evolved. The concept of God as seen through Christian eyes has also evolved over the years. I believe that God is so remote and far removed from the world that He is a being you go to with the monumental things and only then very, very sparingly and with much trepidation. God will not intervene in human affairs. He only did that once in Jesus. There is no guarantee you will be heard or even noticed with this God. Jesus, you can go to anytime, anywhere. It’s kind of like those Catholics who approach God only through Mary, so she can pave the way first, soften the blow. I get around the inconsistencies by knowing that God probably doesn’t hear. That’s Jesus’ job.

Now, I know that some will think this theology is “incorrect” and some will try to “reason” their way to a strange consistency between Jesus and God as the same Being, but I cannot equate the two except in purpose only. Nor do I see any evidence that God intervenes. It would seem that Jesus is God’s last statement to the world. The bible is clear that the tulip-flower.jpgactions of one do not jibe with the actions of the other. In theology, the five points of Calvinism has always suited me because of the concept that God knows the end from the beginning and not only knows it, but wills it completely. It fits in with Deism nicely. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this concept of God’s knowing and willing history from the beginning is accepted, albeit, not in the Calvinistic sense, but in the sense that it is useless to speculate why God would require the sacrifice of His son to appease Himself. It was willed. End of discussion. All other speculations are moot. In other words, all of history was part of God’s program from the get-go. We don’t know why or how and it really doesn’t matter. We just know that it is.

Now reconciling all this with free-will does not concern me much either because I don’t believe free-will exists in any sense of the term that we define it now. There are so many variables at play in scientific terms that no one could logically infer a cause/effect from any set of actions let alone from a specific God-action. It’s far too complex. However, a Being such as God could reconcile it. In a way, this is entirely freeing. Sure, it doesn’t answer why some of us live such hard lives to the point that we feel we are being punished for something, but you can ask “why?” until the cows come home. You’re just not going to get an answer. At some point you have to make peace with the fact that there is no answer in human terms. Why do some people believe and some don’t? Why are some murderers who come from perfectly fine households and some who grow up in hell become saints? Some make peace with these dichotomies by giving up on the question. Some make peace by accepting all that is as a mystery. Still others make peace by continually raging against the machine. I’d like to thank hughvic over at De-conversion blog for not only injecting some fun and humorous dialogue into dreary debates demanding “logic,” (with little humor), but also for throwing a new word my way that has helped me make peace once and for all. The word is “fideism.”

In fideistic thinking, (especially my fondness for Kierkegaard’s way of thinking on faith) no amount of reasoning will get you to God. By the same token, I would posit, that no amount of reasoning will get you to a consistent Christian theology either. There are times when I can see that only individual elements of theology may be true, but taken as a whole they appear ridiculous and irreconcilable. Even I can figure that one out! But the God of the Old Covenant is one of those concepts that just needs to be left alone. Since I’m not an inerrantist, I don’t believe that the bible paints a necessarily accurate picture of God all the time. All it shows us is how the Jewish concept of God has changed through the centuries,stained_glass_pip0_fm08_wy4y_b4h1_ecg9_vph4_e3cs_zq0w_93b6_v79r_8r4n_vvcd_lkra_rhfg_ghj4_548x_j0bh_qvf7_9oto_hfcm.jpg culminating in Jesus’ concept of God. I think a “picture” of God and His ways will always be beyond our ken and our reach and yes, our reason. I’m fine with that. I’m tired of wrestling with a silent angel. This God neither needs my defense against charges of cruelty any more than this God needs to be extolled to the world as an object of worship. Jesus, for me, embodies all I need to know about this God. Jesus, for me, is all I care to know about such a God. The rest can forever remain a mystery because it doesn’t concern me. All I can hope for is the ultimate justice for the wrongs of the world. That’s what I have faith in. The ultimate “righting” of an off kilter world. Isn’t that all anyone hopes for?

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12 thoughts on “Strange Disconnect Between God and Jesus

  1. Aha! Someone else in the world uses the word “ken”. I’ve loved it since I was old enough to fall in love with George MacDonald’s Gibbie. I get a lot of strange looks when I use it in regular conversation though.

    I’m adding fideism to my vocab now.

    I too always made a distinction between God and Jesus, especially since making a clear mental separation between God and religion. Although I believe Jesus lived and was in all likelihood a great prophet, he was not God. In my own spiritual experiences I’ve come to regard God as a gentle fatherly persona. I try to igrnore historical portraits that theologians paint of the powerful, angry deity. I go by what I feel and understand through prayer.

  2. Marge,

    Good way to explain it: “I go by what I feel and understand through prayer.”

    Because really, that’s all we’ve got isn’t it? I think “ken” is highly underused and should be a requirement on all vocab quizzes at school. 🙂

  3. You described Jesus as a big brotherly figure, protecting you from God and as someone who will ultimately right all wrongs. But I got the impression that you were also saying that Jesus acts in the world today. I’d be interested in reading about your current relationship with Jesus. You say you can go to Jesus anytime, but does He respond to you? If you’ve already written about this, could you direct me to it?

    On another subject, the mere concept of fideism sets my brain on fire, and I can’t understand how it can give anyone peace. But I also can’t understand why people can consider spicy foods to be comfort foods, when they set my mouth and stomach on fire. So, fair enough: different people perceive things differently. I’m glad you were able to find peace and humour in what hughvic was saying.

  4. Quester,

    I can’t honestly say what it was about hughvic’s posts that delighted me so much. Perhaps his irreverent humor or his beating of sacred cows. Maybe it was because it irritated the hell out of Thinking Ape, whom I find incredibly officious and nitpicky about phrasing and faith and “proofs.”

    I can’t honestly explain how I feel that Jesus acts in the world or “speaks” to me today, only that at the point of my conversion, which I can tell you the day and hour, it was Jesus I had an “encounter” with. It’s purely subjective and beyond reason, I know, but I always come back to it. God seems very remote, far removed, and only available when he wants to be angry at someone or thing. While I don’t believe in miracles or that Jesus intervenes in history or acts to save some lives and not others, I do believe that the Holy Spirit (i.e. Jesus to me) is a force that is with us to whisper in our inmost being.

    Fideism makes sense to me because, like Kierkegaard, I believe that “faith is characterized by passionate commitment and thus requires a decision or “qualitative leap.”” I’m tired of trying to reason where no reasons exist or convince others where there is nothing convincable but by subjective experience only, which is all any of us have anyway. I suppose it’s a surrender in the face of the inscrutable. DeConversion blog taught me that the same old arguments passed down from time immemorial will convince no one unless they want to be convinced and will not change anyone’s mind unless they were already on the verge of changing.

    I think some of my earlier posts say all this. I’ll have to go searching in the archives to find one. But I will provide it, if it’s there.

  5. Subjective and beyond reason is fine, if that’s what you have. On my own blog, I’ve been presenting many things I can’t intellectually defend. They are simply my experiences, as I understood them, and sometimes a bit of how I understand them today.

    It’s just that if you don’t garner your understanding of who Jesus is from a literal understanding of the Bible or orthodox Christian theology, then I have no idea who you are referring to when you say “Jesus”. If you were to refer to a politician or an author whose views I’d never heard of, I might similarly ask who it is and what those views are; not to challenge you to defend those views, but because I realize I don’t understand much of what else you are saying in reference to this person if I don’t know who this person is. He protects you from God and will ultimately right all wrongs; anything else?

  6. Quester,

    you wrote:
    “It’s just that if you don’t garner your understanding of who Jesus is from a literal understanding of the Bible or orthodox Christian theology, then I have no idea who you are referring to when you say “Jesus”.”

    So be it. I don’t mean “big brother” in the literal sense either. You are taking my words and descriptions much too literally. I was trying to describe how I FEEL about this Jesus and this God that Christianity offers. I am going back to the beginning again. I am also being entirely subjective about the “righting wrongs” comment. Obviously, this hasn’t happened yet. It’s a HOPE not a reality at the moment. As for a literal understanding of the bible or orthodox theology, do any of us need anyone to tell us what to believe about Jesus if the information we base our decision on is available for all to see in a written record? I don’t confine my views to the pages of a “canonical” bible. I can read history, literature, and other works to get an idea on who this Jesus is. Can we not judge what is written about Jesus throughout history on it’s own merits? I encountered Christ the only way I had, through reading and through prayer. I didn’t come to faith through the church or through orthodox channels and I’m certainly not going to start now. I’ve found that church has made me lose my faith in direct proportion that I was implored to adhere to “orthodox” creeds, programs, theology, etc.

    I don’t take the bible literally in every aspect, but I believe Jesus existed and lived and did and said some of the things the writers of the New Testament attribute to him. The early church has put words in his mouth, yes. The early church has imposed doctrines into the text, yes. But a kernel of truth about Jesus having lived and died is still there. I believe that Jesus was perhaps more “God” than the Jewish “God” presented in the Old Testament. Do I have any reasons others can examine and peruse? No. I’m merely describing an ineffable experience that I had and how my thoughts have changed over the years. I don’t expect anyone to believe what I do or to even experience what I have.

  7. All right. I’m getting the feeling I’m being offensive, so I’ll just shut up now. Thanks for your responses.

  8. I fully appreciate your search for a better understanding of God. One of the tennents of your logic however might need some consideration since Jesus’ own words would contadict the separation you seek. John 14:7 says, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

    Jesus says they are one in the same nature. Keep seeking God. He promises in James 4:8, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

    He is not hiding. He wants to be found! God bless you in your search. Bryan

  9. Hi Bryan,

    Oh, I fully realize I need to do a little reconciliation here between the God/Jesus thing. I was merely explaining how I see it and how it bifurcates my faith to such an extent and to seem bizarre! And it does seem bizarre. I just haven’t been able to meld the two together. Maybe it’s because I feel like two people sometimes (as Zoe put it once).

    Thanks for coming over for a chat! 🙂

  10. Quester,

    No, almost but not quite offensive. I understand why you are confused. Hell, I’M confused! I was just merely trying to explain how I’m thinking without sounding too way out there. I don’t think it’s working though. 🙂

  11. MOI,

    **Although Christians emphasize that God and Jesus are One and that this God is the same as He was in times past, **

    I think I’ve always been puzzled as to how people can’t feel this type of disconnection. It is emphasized that God and Jesus are one — and yet I keep reading in the Gospels how Jesus points to ‘Another’ or ‘the Father.’ We follow Jesus to the Father, we see in Jesus a physical manisfestation of a spiritual truth, we have Jesus to look to because it’s very hard to understand the spiritual and so forth.

    And yet even though Jesus points to the Father, it’s also Jesus doing all the actions: preaching, guiding, dying and resurrecting. So that would explain why it’s easier to connect with him, or end with him, while finding the Father/God to be distant, because Jesus is ‘doing’ and the Father is … not, in many ways.

  12. OSS,

    That’s what I keep thinking. I suppose it’s all about me reconciling the fact that Jesus IS God, not that Jesus is separate, because he is. Perhaps also, I can’t connect the two because he’s such a different revelation of God than we are presented with in the entire bible.

    I knew you’d get it! 🙂

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