Thursday, May 25, 2006 - Charles Adler - Code critics served up humble pie - Charles Adler - Code critics served up humble pie

This column appeared in yesterday's Sun newspapers, and it highlights one of the arguments about the da Vinci Code, and Jesus in general from 'mainstream' Christians, that has always mystified me. Adler details very articulately the traditional Christian view of Jesus as pure and non-sinner … it is this purity that allows Jesus' death on the cross to somehow release the rest of us sinners from our sin. As Adler puts it … "If Jesus was exclusively human, that would have made him a sinner like the rest of us. And his death would not have brought the hope of everlasting life to the rest of us sinners."

I've always struggled with the logic in play here. Adler goes on to try and explain it further … "Christians have talked in the past about loving the sinner while hating the sin. Could they still love Jesus if he was only human? Of course they could. But they could never have a personal relationship with a man who was merely mortal." And yet, part of Jesus' fundamental power is that He is made flesh.

The traditional church sees this … a divine Jesus who's only purpose in 'life' is to die on the cross for our sins, who does not sacrifice human flesh, cannot reverberate with us. God gave us his Son in flesh for a reason … so that flesh would die for our sins. But its vital in church philosophy that Jesus is flesh and blood, and not some divine being … on the one hand, it seems Jesus must be flesh to what he needs, but on the other he must be pure beyond flesh. Its a problem I've always run into when contemplating the traditional view of Jesus.

But if you accept Jesus as flesh, as just human being who had remarkable strength of courage, to me it all changes. Adler thinks Chrostians can't have a personal relationship with someone who was merely mortal, and perhaps that, in a nutshell, is why I am not 'Christian'… that he was merely mortal is, to me, what gives him his supreme power.

As with the Buddha, Jesus laid out an example to live by. Both in life and death, he chose to give of himself to others, rather than take from others for himself. In life, he chose to learn and teach, and to travel around ministering to those less fortunate. In death, he provides an example of honesty and courage in the face of unspeakeable evil. And ultimately, that's the irony … in my view of things, Jesus REALLY did die on the cross for all our sins, in a very real way, albeit a real symbolic way.

A human Jesus ended up on the cross through his own choices. At any one of dozens of points in the story, a human Jesus could have backtracked, softened his stance, changed his tune, laid low for awhile. He could have fomented revolution, or plotted assassination to try and stave off his ultimate demise. He did none of these things. In fact, many point to this as proof of his divinity … no mere mortal could act as selflessly as Jesus is portrayed in the stories. But that's part of my point too … If a mortal Jesus made these choices, he proves beyond a doubt that we are all capable of choosing right over self-interest. As a divine creature, Jesus can't be an 'example' for us in that sense, but viewed as just one of us, who still made the decisions he did, he tales on far greater power to me. He shows us we can all choose to be better than we are, and he reminds us that it always comes down to choosing how we act … we never control the actions of other, but Jesus reminds us that no matter how bad those actions get, we ALWAYS control our own response to them.

There are many people who agree with Alder here, and traditional Christianity, that Jesus' divinity and purity is somehow necessary for him to have died for our sins, that his mortality taints that in some fundamental way. I've never been able to wrap my head around that frankly. For me, Jesus provided an example to live by … a demonstration that mere flesh and blood can rise above the petty concerns of flesh of blood. He died for our sins, without a doubt … and it is because he so clearly demonstrates what a moral man can choose to do. Without his humanity, without starting as flesh like you and me, making that choice isn't so remarkable. But if Jesus was just like you and me, then its very remarkable to me … and it shows that we, as mere mortals, have the ability to choose to act rightly, regardless of outside pressure.

I guess that makes a pretty clear split between 'traditional Christianity' and me but the irony is we still end in the same place on the ground. Ultimately, to me its not so much about what you believe, its about what you do … if you "Love thy neighbour" then, in general, yer gonna be OK regardless of the specifics of what you believe.


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