In my company Lesley Fellows can be sure to impress as a Christian believer. Already I have been criticised with the question that if I am no longer an Anglican, then why comment on the Church of England and Anglicanism. Of course I'm no longer Anglican because I do not subscribe to basic minimums of being Christian. Perhaps I might try to examine what they are.
I am aware that many Unitarians call themselves Christian, and I don't want to attempt to remove such self-labelling so my definition of Christian ought to respect their label as well as something more ontological.
It seems to me that to be a Christian Jesus needs to be the supreme and sufficient exemplar of one's religious and moral outlook, and that this must relate directly to your own concept of God. This may or may not involve the Bible and concepts in it up to and including the messianic.
This allows for a purely human Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus may have additional divinity than the rest of us, if not the whole divinity of God. That would be a sort of Reformation Arianism. A more classical Arianism would use John's Gospel and say that in the beginning was the Word (as opposed to in eternity) with other subsidiary divine statements in that gospel and elsewhere and include the 'economic Trinity' too at a push.
And of course Jesus may be the third person of the Trinity, an extra-biblical doctrine towards which the Bible may and may not point, as with the 'economic Trinity' in the acceleration of titles being given to Jesus in the early Christian communities.
Now it seems to me that if you go for the purely human route, as I do, then you are in the realms of the demands of history and the production of some sort of ethical and moral league table. The information is simply not available as regarding Jesus's moral and ethical conduct. Furthermore, he is likely to have been a sacrificer of animals at the temple and there are dubious messages regarding animals taking on demons etc.. So there is a moral issue here. And his attitude towards women was progressive at the time, but could be more so. Also he was clearly tribal: it took a Paul to unversalise his message, and Jesus was a Jew for Jews. Jesus was also wrong about the world ending and a coming of a messianic figure. Now in terms of bringing himself to Jerusalem and getting arrested, I am sceptical indeed about the gospel accounts but also there is a question of ego regarding the whole matter - putting himself in harms way in order to bring about the beginning of the kingdom - which is not morally clear self-sacrifice but a conundrum of martyrdom. The business with Judas is also more than likely ahistorical, but if not then it follows a scripture and if Jesus was in on it then it looks like a sham.
All that be as it may, the effect is not only don't I accept his divinity, but nor do I accept the notion of supreme humanity. I go with Francis Newman who preached against the moral superiority of Jesus.
As for God, I think this has more to do with our highest values and deepest wants. God language may be useful as a shortcut regarding reflection and contemplation, in developing a human spirituality. Buddhists used to tell me that this is misleading, and meditation ought to be godless in intention. I am though interested in what Matthew Collings called The Beauty of Equations, and that is the elegant mathematics that opens out our physical and environmental reality, the fact that we live in chaos but also within systems. If this is a form of transcendence then I accept it, but what it isn't is a God who intervenes. It is simplicity that leads to intelligence and consciousness and not intelligence that creates simplicity.
I know all about the notion of an intelligence that creates evolving systems from simplicity in order to create intelligences nearer to God that have freedom too, but that's just to fit in with the conundrums of the biblical theory (where it is so coherent). But it is worthy of awe that simplicity can fire off patterns: that a simple equation with a virtual number iterated can produce fantastic shapes and existences that are themselves productive. Of course such an awe is about something dynamic, and again some might call this Holy Spirit but it follows that this is misleading.
I think we ritualise because we are tribal. We ritualise in all our doings: exchange brings us together, but we further ritualise at a more abstract level because that has an overall binding impact - it makes us more collective rather than just a bunch of individuals. This is research backed and exists with a whole variety of forms. It is consistent with our evolved origins with collective altruism as forms and habits, interchange as sophistication and choice grows along with levels of consciousness. So religion is a kind of oversight.
I've done an MA in Theology and I am aware of many of the arguments. I did a lot of reading for the Ph.D as well. I keep up with these, even if it sometimes feels like a visit to the museum or some past life. So I know something about the liberalisms, the postmodernisms, all the literary devices, all the preaching strategies, and the way theology allows you to appear to say one thing while actually writing another. Much more interesting is to grapple with art, with science, with maths, with technology and in social science ask how these change our theoretical everyday thinking and more important our practical thinking - our plausibility structures we might say. The religious issue is in them and not in trying to uphold an old specific orthodoxy or being a bit heterodox about it.
So any Christian sceptic can have a chat with me and they'll either discover that, actually, they are comparatively quite securely orthodox or, in reality, they really agree with me and all they have is a surface appearance for one motive or another.
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