May 31 2012

Adventures in Christianity

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After spending most of the day swimming in Christianity for my World Religions class, I can safely say that (no offense, but) the Council of Nicea completely fucked Christianity beyond repair.

Getting my head around the ideas of Incarnation (where Jesus is simultaneously 100% God and 100% human, not some of each), Atonement, and the Holy Trinity are enough to give me migraines for days.

I will say, though, that if I was ever forced at gunpoint to choose a branch of Christianity, I think I’d pick Eastern Orthodox.

Long ago, in Baltimore, a crazy homeless man named Hollywood once told me that he was afraid God would be mad at him for keeping his friends to himself, and not sharing them with Him.

In Hollywood’s memory (sort of), I will give you an idea of why my head is spinning:

Let’s start with the idea of

Incarnation

Jesus was God in a human body.

Jesus was God-Man (not to be confused with the comic strip), simultaneously fully God, and fully man. This isn’t necessarily as paradoxical as it seems.

The Council Of Nicea, in 325 AD, decided this policy (among a number of other things responsible for most of Christianity’s weirdness). Keep in mind, that at the time, Roman emperors routinely claimed divinity, so the idea of God-Man wasn’t as far-fetched as it seems now. Where Jesus was different, was in the kind of God that God was, as demonstrated by God’s willingness to assume a human life of the form that Jesus exemplified. That willingness, coupled with the character of Jesus’ life was a new and different understanding of divinity.

In essence, God was concerned enough about humanity to suffer for it on its behalf (more on this under Atonement).

Jesus had to be completely human, and completely God for these reasons:

–To have said that Christ was a man, but not God, would have been to deny that his life was fully normative, and to concede that there might be other “ways” just as good.

–To have said that Christ was God, but NOT man, would have been to deny that his example was fully relevant. It might have been a realistic standard for God, but not for human beings.

(therefore, all men are Socrates).

oh, but wait. It gets better:

Atonement:

–By voluntarily disobeying God’s order not to eat of the forbidden fruit, Adam sinned. As his sin was directed against God, it was of infinite proportions. Sin must be compensated for, otherwise God’s justice would be compromised. An infinite sin requires infinite recompense, and this could only be effected by God’s vicarious assumption of our guilt and payment of the ultimate penalty it required, namely death. God made his payment through the person of Christ, cancelling the debt.

(therefore, all men are Socrates, and the Babel Fish proves God’s existence therefore he doesn’t exist).

Finally, we have

The Trinity:

God is one, and three. Simultaneously.

Lest you think we’re getting into polytheism, we are reminded to think of H2O, which can be ice, water, or steam.

How to we get from Point A to Point Z.5 with this one?

Step One: As full fledged Jews, Jesus’ disciples affirmed YHVH unquestionably.

Step Two: They came to see Jesus as YHVH’s extension into this world, and eventrually began to accord his person a distinct region in the Divine. They could now apprehend God directly, or by way of his Son.

Step Three: (Add one Pentecost, and stir)
In Acts 2:1-4, we’re told that with all the disciples in one place, “suddenly from Heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay, so our secular minds would say that the disciples first reified this experience, turning it into a thing (Holy Spirit), and then personified the reification, thereby generating the third part of the Trinity.

Ha ha ha! You should be so lucky! No, we had to make it even more complex!

The disciples believed they had witnessed the arrival of a third, previously unknown aspect of God. And well, since God is infinite, and all, it must have always been there.

Why?

Well, if God is Love (as we’ve been taught), then:

–Love is a relationship

–Love is incomplete without others to love.

–If, then, love is not just one of God’s attributes, but instead, God’s very essence, at no point could God be God without relationships, a requirement that was met before the foundations of the world through the three persons of the Triune God loving one another.

–The Godhead is a society of three divine persons, knowing and loving each other so entirely that not merely can none exist without the others, but in some mysterious way each is what the other is.

(therefore, all men are Socrates, the Babel Fish proves God’s existence therefore he doesn’t exist, and if she weighs more than a duck, she’s a witch).

So, I’m not making fun of Christianity here. Please don’t think I am. But really, if you have these three things as some of the fundamental tenets of your belief system, it (in my opinion) is no wonder that there have been so many misunderstandings and issues surrounding it as there have been over the last 2000 years. I can barely get my head around some of the logic employed here, and I think I can confidently say that the struggle for most people to get their heads around this little adventure in creative logic has probably been responsible for any number of things.

Naturally, just following his teachings is way too easy.

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