Friday, May 21, 2010

Brilliant article about Jesus

I'm no Christian scholar, but I think that I have read more than your average person about Jesus. But nothing I have read has dealt directly with all the apparent contradictions in Jesus' character in the Gospels. You typically either find fanatical atheists waving their arms and saying, "See! It doesn't make sense! How can you believe in a God who is contradictory and ambiguous!?" Then they go on to point out how the Gospels are merely human productions, made decades after Christ's death. Or you get the fanatical Christians who have to reconcile every detail in the Bible to be literally true, they go to great lengths to explain away confusing lines and apparent contradictions. Sometimes their explanations require such great stretches of logic, and leaps of faith, that I can't help but internally cringe. Producing complex scholarly explanations I'm sure were not the intentions of son from a peasant carpenter who hung out with fishermen and street people.

Adam Gopnik lays out the conundrum of Christ in a way that is refreshingly delightful and offers readers the idea that such an elusive mystery is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Jesus' legacy. Jesus' message cannot be nailed down, simplified, or made dogmatic. It cannot be easily written off by historical context, or even after 2,000 years of debate be put to rest as at least understood with some finality. For these reasons, Jesus is alive and well, not just among Christians, but in academic circles, in the media, and in the collective consciousness of America in particular, but also the West at large. His message is still being debated today, which means people still find Jesus interesting, relevant, and worthy of discussion, even in such circles as subscribers to The New Yorker.
The argument is the reality, and the absence of certainty the certainty. Authority and fear can circumscribe the argument, or congeal it, but can't end it... The impulse of orthodoxy has always been to suppress the wrangling as a sign of weakness; the impulse of more modern theology is to embrace it as a sign of life. The deeper question is whether the uncertainty at the center mimics the plurality of possibilities essential to liberal debate, as the more open-minded theologians like to believe, or is an antique mystery in a story open only as the tomb is open, with a mystery left inside, never to be entirely explored or explained.

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