Monday, August 27, 2012

The Infallible Christian

I've recently stumbled upon a nearly universal presumption that lies beneath every Christian claim:  we understand Jesus.  It had never occurred to me that all of us work with an undeniable view of Jesus Christ.  I don't think I've ever heard anyone say:  "I don't understand Jesus" . . . or even "I may have misunderstood Jesus here, but I think I'm right about this . . ."  Indeed, every single one of us believe we get him.  We know perfectly well who he was, what he was trying to do, and what he would think about any given situation.  That's why, whenever we hear someone's different "opinion" about Jesus, we never question ourselves--whether we could be wrong.  Oh no.  We immediately jump to the conclusion (I mean every single one of us--the academic and the nonacademic, the religious and the irreligious, the pious and the profane) that they must be wrong.

And yet, if that is true, then most of us get Jesus wrong.  We've misunderstood him.  We don't know him as well as we thought.  We've deceived ourselves.  And, there's the rub.  None of us are willing to admit we might misunderstand him because all of us must believe we know him.  It's as if Jesus were our intimate, personal best friend.  "He knows me and I know him."  It's astonishing to me how quickly those two worlds collapse into one:  Jesus and me.  "The way I see it is the way Jesus sees it.  His thoughts are my thoughts.  My prejudices are his prejudices.  My ways are his ways."  Because, if we ever came to the place where we were willing to admit otherwise (Jesus doesn't think like me!), then we would feel as though we had lost our best friend.  But, the truth of the matter is, we'd only lose ourselves.

Albert Schweitzer was right:  we all create Jesus in our own image.  When we answer the question Jesus posed to the twelve, "Who do people say that I am?", we're quick to talk about how wrong everyone else could be.  And when we answer the other question, "But who do you say that I am?", we are really talking about ourselves.


JDTapp said...

I don't know that we're all totally rigid in our view of Jesus since I think all of us read through the Gospels and recognize that we don't fully understand the context. I'm still working through your book on the Gospels and learning about Jesus through your eyes/studies. I may argue with you on some points but I don't automatically jump to the conclusion that you're wrong. I suspect others don't either, or else who would buy your books? :-)

Rodney Reeves said...


I'm thinking more in terms of the big picture, i.e., social agenda, religious view, etc.

I think you're right when it comes to the minor "details." We may say, "Huh. I never thought of that. That might be true. I'll need to think about it." But, if someone challenges our theological convictions about Jesus, then we tend to be more dismissive.

Furthermore, I'm not as optimistic as you are that many Christ believers pore over the gospels to learn about Jesus.

Darryl said...

You start saying things like this (more often) when election cycles roll around. Just a thought.

For what it's worth, there are communities who are starting to walk with a bit more epistemological humility. It's refreshing.

And I'll second your comment on believers poring over the gospels, much less anything else in the Scriptures. I think it was you who said recently that Christians don't read the Bible; they consult it, looking for confirmation of what they already "know" about God.

The more I go on, the more I'm convinced that Rich Mullins nailed it: "God alone is right. The rest of us are just guessing."

JDTapp said...

I could be wrong, but I think people who are very strong on the perspicacity of scripture tend to feel that if they have put more hours of study than someone else, then they logically must be more correct in their beliefs than someone else. I suppose that's how everyone feels about most things in life, though.

Mel said...

I for one can't say that I "get" Jesus. I want to...but I must admit that He baffles me by a lot of the way he handled situations as presented in the gospels.