Something just dawned on me, as clear as day. At the root of the way modeled by Jesus Christ is the certainty and security about our relationship with our good heavenly father, carried into eternity. At the root of religious fundamentalism is the ever-present good old fear of death – and at its core, that fear of death is unmitigated even by the cross of Calvary. These two streams flow within the larger nominal framework of Christianity. They may employ the same terminology and the same sacred texts, but the difference is truly night and day.
Here’s what brought it to light for me. During these past few years, I’ve read theological books on a variety of subjects, and from a variety of perspectives. I’ve read much material on the subject of atonement. I’ve read entire books on some of the views, in addition to reading background material on all of the currently and historical popular views. I came away with a renewed understanding of the complexity of the issue. What’s important – awareness of those perspectives, coupled with my own in-depth research and analysis, gave me many tools to help me construct my own understanding of the meaning of the atonement.
I did very similar kind of research with the issues of “hell”, “heaven”, “theodicy” (goodness of God vs. evil that’s in the world), “end times”, and many others. Again – my awareness of those perspectives, coupled with my own in-depth research and analysis, empowered me to construct my own understanding of the meaning of the “hell”, “heaven”, “theodicy”, “end times”, etc. My understanding of these and many other subjects became much more textured, much deeper, much more internally coherent, much more resonant with the Scriptures in their historical and cultural context – and as the result, often very different from the commonly circulated pop-theology teachings.
This might be fiction, or this might be what really happened. And I ain’t telling which one that is …
MY ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
I heard a gentle whisper in my ear: “Come, follow me”. I turned around, but there was no one in the room. But I knew what I heard was real.
“Who are you?”, I asked, in childlike awe and wonder.
“I am Jesus, who you have been reading and hearing about.”
When Jesus was speaking, his lips weren’t moving at all, for whatever reason. I heard and understood everything he was saying, though.
“Follow you? Follow you where?”
“Wherever I call you to”.
This didn’t seem scary at all. Rather, an intoxicating sense of excitement and fascination welled up in me, sending shivers through my entire body. Finally, I was starting to get a sense that all my searches have led me to the One.
Plus, there’s only so low you can fall. And for a while, I have really felt like I hit rock bottom.
Learning to operate the kingdom of God calls for a fundamentally different epistemology (a theory of acquiring reliable knowledge). In this physical world, we learn to rely on our bodies, which translate the stimuli of the surroundings through the 5 senses into electromagnetic impulses, which are in turn deciphered and interpreted by the brain as representing reality.
I should note here that we don’t ever directly perceive anything in this physical world, although it might appear that way. For instance, when I “see” a car, light is reflected off of the car’s body and onto the cornea, through the pupil onto the lens, and eventually onto the retina of my eye. So when my eye “sees” the car, it sees it upside down. At this point, “I” still haven’t seen the car. The image needs to travel further than my eyeball. It needs to get compressed into a message that is then sent through the optic nerve up to the brain, where it’s deciphered, and then “I” am finally able to “see” the car, right side up.
Similar mechanisms works for all of our other senses.