In the New Testament there appear to be two persons bearing name Jesus. One is a World Teacher who proposes a way of life we ought to consider and perhaps follow. This way is rewarding in itself. The other is a Jesus who favors one disciple over another, who proposes his death and resurrection and who is the center of a creedal religion. The way of this Jesus is “eternal life”.“Beyond Creed” seeks to hammer out a preamble to a theology for the Third Millennium.
13. New Testament Dualism
Dualism, division, the opposition of sides — these emerge in the Gospels themselves when we consider these two Jesus figures.
Jesus is presented as the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God but by him. His name has almost magical properties.
Jesus emerges as the teacher by the Galilean lake, as the iconoclast who says it’s more important to heal someone than go to church.
And it seems one must choose. But can we?
Even if scholarship finds ways of editing out the messianic elements in the New Testament, it is we who must go with the statement attributed to Jesus that a house divided cannot stand.
This statement precludes messianism unless it is radically interpreted to remove from itself all of its deleterious elements.
Even then, such formidable problems are left that the choice presented below becomes only way to arrive at a hermeneutic capable of dealing with the New Testament’s contradictory testimony.
Here it is necessary only to underline what the choice is:
The choice is between
1. A holistic (integral) understanding that is universal in every respect and thus affirming of all individual selves and
2. A messianic understanding which requires the displacement of self and obeisance to a messiah figure.
In the most simple terms, it is the choice between believing the apocalypse of Jesus, which is based on responsibility for serving the least of humankind (Matthew 25), and accepting the institutional-messianic declension of reality:
If you are not “in Christ Jesus”. you shall not be “saved”, here or in the world to come.
Jesus came walking from the mountain and said that his father Abba is near and if we repent and believe, it is very good news for us and our world.
Two statements, one an ethical summons, the other a creedal declaration, may be said to define the tension within the various remnants of Christendom today.
The ‘Jesus saves’ emphasis may be said to dominate the evangelical wings of the various churches.
The ethical call to care for the “least of these” has at least some hearing within all churches as well.
At no point in this essay should it be assumed that a wholesale judgment is being made regarding the degree to which messianism holds sway from one precinct to another.
The point is that when it does it diverts and deludes with resulting harm to the basic thrust of the gospel, which Jesus preached and embodied.
Greg Koukl – Was Jesus just a great teacher?
This is a succinct refutation of much of what I’ve written. To which my response is: The creedal elements in the New Testament were (or may have been) overlays — creating the basis for a messianic religion which evolved into the church which became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In other words Biblical literalism and even inerrancy is the precondition for creedal messianism.
Hear Excerpts from Beyond Creed and Other Podcasts
The ground-breaking book Beyond Creed: From Religion to Spirituality can be bought from any major online bookseller and also from iUniverse in paperback and ebook formats. Also, I will gladly send it to anyone who asks as a Word document.