21 October 2009

How do you visualize Christ?

I have moved this post near the top of my stack because a commenter and I have been engaged in a discussion of it that arose some months after it was posted and I thought others might be interested and want to 'jump in.' Please do! JimB

Special thanks to Phil Snyder whose tip showed me how to do this!

A part of the argument between progressive and conservative is a question of how one sees Christ. Is He the one and only way only as some conservatives visualize Him or is it possible to see him in many ways and perhaps find him without ever claiming to be Christian let alone 'born again' as the fundamentalist / evangelicals use the term? In their view of Jesus as the "Way the Truth and the Life" evangelicals insert an entire theology of judgement and exclusion. I think there are other ways to see Him.

I recently commented in part on Telling Secrets:

Christos Victor, the triumphant Christ not the suffering Christ was the dominant image in both art and theology for the early church. The violent concentration on the crucifixion is ill advised.

I find the image in one of the Eucharistic prayers particullarly powerful. "He stretched out His arms and offered..." That is about Christos Victor not crucifixion. And this is arguably traditional.

I make Anglican Rosaries (and on request the occasional RC version.) I use either empty crosses or ones with very ancient Christos Victor images for them. I wont do the head down suffering Christ. There are other ways to see God through Christ than transfixed guilt and human violence.

St. Anslem was wrong on more than he was correct."


Anslem's theology of a violent and horrible substitutionary atonement is responsible I think for much of our obsessive focus on crucifixion and the attendant violence. In Anslem's view Jesus saves by taking on our penalty. That is not the only way to look at atonement and it is one that justifies violence. After all, if God's justice is violent ours can be too.

It is possible to look at the crucifixion through the lenses of the Jesus's triumphant preaching to the departed and resurrection victory. Yes there was violence but it is precisely what Jesus died to defeat not to justify. Jesus leads us not to guilt for his death but rather to joy at His triumph.

That is how I see Jesus -- as triumphant God incarnate who took on violence to transcend and defeat it not to affirm it. How do you see Him?

FWIW
jimB

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one of my faviote gospel songs My Jesus by Tod Agnew speaks to the questions your are asking. The line 'I think he'd prefer Beil st. to the stainded glass crowd' comes to mind.
The deeper question is it essence of how Jesus lived or the essence of how he died that grants salvation? Are they necacarilly opposed, even in the Espicopal Church?

drew

Jim said...

I do not think so, exactly. It is not about where Jesus might prefer to be, but rather about who he was and what he did. Jesus was either the suffering substitute of Anslem of Canterbury or the triumphant conqueror of death the early church proclaimed. I do not think the issue is Beil St. or Fleet St. it is violence and sacrifice or submission and glory.

I am clearly on side B. Jesus made the willing submission to the demands of justice and thereby conquered death, sin, the power of the devil and violence. I am now redeemed and not even killing me can change that. Anslem would have me bound in guilt and validate violence and authoritarianism. I think he was simply wrong.

Thanks so much for the note. I write these things in a sort of vacuum as I seldom get much feedback.


FWIW
jimB

Grandmère Mimi said...

My soteriology is a combination of Abelard, Christus Victor, and what I've put together on my own. What saves us is Jesus' Incarnation, teachings, example, death, and Resurrection, the whole of his divine/human life. The emphasis on the crucifixion over the other events
of the life of Christ is incorrect, IMHO.

I agree with you about Abelard. Jesus made the choice to submit. The God whom I know and love would not will his son to die a horrible death in order for my sins to be forgiven.

That's the short version. :o)

Jim said...

Mimi,

I think in your last sentence you meant Anselm or Canterbury?

It is hard for me to credit the Anselm idea of demanded punishment and 'substitutionary atonement' as our Calvinist cousins propose it. On that point at least I think they simply do not correctly perceive the nature of the creator God.

Thanks for the note.

FWIW
jimB

Grandmère Mimi said...

Yes, indeed, Jim, I meant Anselm in my second statement. Sorry about that.

Jim said...

No pro. I wanted to be sure.

I think Anselm of Canterbury was a dedicated, intellectual, intensely devote and guilt obsessed person. His influence speaks to an amazing person with amazing gifts. His position as the capstone of an age is undeniable -- before Anselm: Christos Victor, after Anselm: substitutionary atonement.

Unfortunately, the fundygelical folks have adopted Anselm or at least his ideas. It is amusing to me that the refer to this as the faith once delivered....


FWIW
jimB

Christal said...

I applaud your visualization of Christ! That is how he should be seen by all!
You summed it up perfectly.

Jim said...

Christal what amazes me is that is exactly how the church did visualize Jesus for the first few centuries. With the coming of German and English converts the whole guilt and
atonement view took over. It is significant that Anselm was archbishop of Canterbury and the first deceased Jesus altar cross in a Church was in what is now Germany.

FWIW
jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

Yes it is very important the we have the correct visualization of Christ in our mind when we are at the Lord's table. For if we do not truly understand what we see on display before our eyes we become guilty of the body and the blood of Christ.
However strange as it may seem it is God's set purpose for each man to be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. So the Lord's table, Eucharist, the Mass, or however the Lord's death is shown it is shown for a snare and and a trap according to God's set purpose for each man too.
For the gift of the righteousness of God is not like the trespass. For by one man's death a sin was placed into the world according to God's set purpose. He became a sin for us, but after he was crucified. For if the true reason for the crucifixion of Christ has been able to have been determined before he was crucified. Crucifying this particular man would not have even happened. But God had kept it a secret in his own mind why Jesus was to be crucified and did not reveal the reason for Jesus' crucifixion until after he was crucified according to God's set purpose for each man too.

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Rom. 2:13

For it is only by Jesus' crucifixion that God made a change of the law so we might become the righteousness of God.

For," the law was added so that the trespass might increase." Rom. 5:20.

God by Jesus' crucifixion made a change to the law by adding a word of law whereby if any man has the faith to obey this law in the Way God demands each man to obey him the man will forgiven of all sins and be born again of God into a new creature created by God,

For God by this immutable oath has said:
"And for your lifeblood, Christ's, I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man, Emanuel."

Regarding that a man can only live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The Lord thy God's command, a law, given through the apostles is the only Way the gift of the righteousness of God is obtained by each man. For the only Way this law can be obeyed is by the faith of confessing directly to God that you are truly sorry Jesus' life was taken by bloodshed. And be baptized into this Way of righteousness to be forgiven of all your sins to receive the promise of God to become created by the power of God's spirit into the new type of man, a man who is one with God. However since it is now the law that you must make this confession known to God with your mouth and be baptized into this Way of faith.
Not obeying God in this Way is a sin of disobedience of a law for which there is no forgiveness. Since there is no more sacrifice by which this sin can enter the world. This is the only visualization of Christ acceptable to God. For every other visualization of Christ is a sin since an articulation of it is a lie.

Jim said...

Mr. Jones,

I think there is much in your post I cannot accept. None-the-less, we agree that we need to attempt to see clearly.

I wish you well on the journey.

FWIW
jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

Afterword please? Jesus has said "Thou preparest a table before Me in the presence of mine enemies."
And this table sits right down front of every Christian church house in existence. And shows by the Lord's death, God's visualization of us.

Jim said...

Two problems.

Jesus did not say the 23rd psalm.

It is hubris, the sin of pride if you like, to suggest that any of us knows the one and only one way to see Jesus, or for that matter the Scriptures. We are simply not gifted with that level of certainty. Blessed Thomas Merton observed, correctly, that faith implies, indeed requires doubt. To claim certain knowledge is to not be faithful.

FWIW
jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

David wrote what he had been inspired by the Holy spirit to write. Jesus' sheep know his voice when they see it and they follow only what he says.
See 1 Cor. 11:26-29. guilt of the Lord's body and blood. Also see Rom. 11:9, 'them' is actually Gentiles by adopting the Passover table. See Ps. 69:22 Doesn't Jesus say if you had believed the Psalms you would also believe him?

Jim said...

David almost certainly wrote no psalms. No where does Jesus say that they are to be considered touchstones as you suggest.

FWIW
jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

See Lk. 20:42&43

Theodore A. Jones said...

RE counter to your cite of Merton. 'If ye continue in My word then ye are my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Jn. 8:31&32
"Ye shall have no other gods beside Me. " but the fool does, does he not?

Jim said...

Mr. Jones,

Lt me tell you why we are so far apart from both a theology and a logical viewpoint.

First, a bit of logic. One cannot prove the claims of a work from inside it. That is, claiming the bible is 'inerrant' cannot stand unless one can prove it from outside the Bible. "For the Bible told me so" simply does not work here. Given that none of the rabbis or bishops who constructed the canons would be able to avoid laughing at the idea, the proof must come from the claimant.

Second a bit of theology. I am, or at least try to be, a critical realism thinker. While I am not sure I actually qualify or do it well, it is my approach of choice.

In that context, the Bible has to be understood in its pre-1438 context. That means it is a series of books about the search of people, mostly but not uniquely Jewish for an understanding of God and of God's efforts to aid them. It is not history per se, nor is it consistent. Like any search there are false starts, wrong turns and mis-perceptions.

"So, hey I found a verse I think over rides you!" simply is not to me convincing.

Now that does not mean that one cannot make preponderance of evidence arguments, nor does it mean the verses (versification and chapterization themselves are a post 1438 revision of the Bible by the way) are not important.

Consider that Jesus might have said "David said" because his hearers thought of the Psalms as Davidic. And in any case, the text does not support your claim that Jesus said we should 'believe' the Psalms. Rather he offered as did I in a much lesser way, a different perspective.

I think my initial essay is very orthodox actually. What I focused on was the singular topic of how we see Jesus. It is not about Biblical literalism (a heresy) but rather on my disagreement with the (I think un-biblical) notion of "substitutionary attonment." In short I am saying not that the Bible is wrong but that St. Anslem and Calvin erred. (Calvin perhaps erred a bit less than St. Anslem and a lot less than his professed followers.)

Thanks for your notes. I appreciate your sending them.

FWIW
jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

Thanks for your concern. But with the measure used to judge whom actually is judged?

Jim said...

I am afraid I do not understand your question. Would you please explain?

Thanks!

jimB

Theodore A. Jones said...

"RE Biblical literalism is heresy
counter
"Man cannot live by live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

I see no point at this time of continuing any discussion with you. It is a waste of time. However when you do get to the other side of the grave you will have no doubt that what I have said to you is true. Have fun on your run.

Jim said...

Again your verse does not support your point.

I am sorry you choose to move on. I wish you well.

FWIW
jimB

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page