All human beings are religious in nature; both ancient days and in modern times, people pay allegiance to some supernatural beings for the spiritual purposes. To Christians, their religious life is entirely centered and molded in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The whole being of Jesus have attracted much debate especially on some of the critical decisions and teaching that forms the epitome of Christianity.
The sensitivity of the matter have drawn the attention of many theologians to add their views and understanding of the events and circumstance of the life of Jesus Christ and his role as the founder o f the largest religion in the world. This essay will review some of the perceptions, teachings, interpretations and understanding of some scholars and theologians on key issues surrounding the life of Christ.
On Mirrors, Mists and Murmurs
Just like in many cultures, the Asia American women were under looked by their male counterparts and they were therefore marginalized in many religious practices and participation. According to Nakashima (87) Asian American women were confined in the caves of silence as they were barred from attending the seminaries and other theological trainings.
However, in 1978, this jinx was broken and women started participation in religion issues and contributed enormously according to their sufferings and daily afflictions (96). These women aspired to fight against oppression and discrimination against race, sex and culture. This was accomplished through enrolment in theology schools and trainings centers.
From their experience the Asian American women oppression and torments helped them understand the suffering of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross not as an image of substitution death but as a symbol of solidarity. Their perception of suffering encouraged them overcome the hardship and discrimination with vigor and much delight.
By them being Buddhists it enhanced their understanding of suffering, to them suffering should be borne in humility and with compassion (88). They taught that individuals should to accept suffering to help them avoid leading alienated life coupled with self-doubt and guilty of not bearing with others.
The understanding of the Asian American women of the theme of suffering is vital in understanding the suffering and compassion of Jesus. Suffering brings an experiential understanding of others predicaments and shortcomings. For that reason, suffering not only instills good morals but also enhance bearing each other’s burdens.
In support of Asian American women perception I believe suffering should motivated by love for others and perceiving others better than ourselves, just as Jesus bore suffering out of love for the fallen human race human race.
The world and all that is therein is controller and directed by divine powers and design. According to Calvin (p.123), the universe is controlled by God’s power, which regulates actions and events of various parts. This idea is hard to comprehend but it requires faith to fully understand everything is designed to work according to God’s power.
Calvin (125) borrows from the bible the assurance given by Abraham to Isaac that “God will provide”. This is an in-depth faith of trusting God even when there is no hope at all. However, this notion is usually challenged by the secular belief that everything happens by chance and not by a predetermined divine plan.
Although God is in control of the universe and other creations, it is vivid that Jesus and God work together with one accord. This being the case, Jesus rules over the universe and therefore makes it to move seamlessly. Jesus confirms that His farther and he are always at work and similar sentiment is share apostle Paul who says, “We live in Christ”. This issue is deep rooted and forms the basic requirements of a Christian believer to entirely rely on God’s provision and guidance.
This theme on God’s provision and guidance is vital and crucial in understanding the God’s omnipotence and His powers. By itself, it helps to understanding the understanding of God’s unfathomable might and intelligence of creation and sustenance. In addition, this understanding helps us in understating that nothing happens by chance or by fate without God’s knowledge. Even, the scientists believe that the world is governed by some supper natural powers that are far and beyond their comprehension.
I believe Christianity is about surrendering everything to God and to entirely looking forward for his provisions and supplies. Christian should to learn to rely upon God and should concentrate solely on him without wavering and seeking other mediums for help. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus calls all believers to seek the kingdom of God first and the rest shall be provided to them. Owing to this solemn promise all Christian should trust God for providence and sustenance.
Philosophy of Theology
The sin problem has been one of the mysterious problems to comprehend and understand its root cause. Philosophers have come up with an interesting suggesting that evil is a problem for believers who believes that a sin is a malfunction of a thing. Further, Hick (77) elaboration argues that the God cannot be all knowing and perfectly loving. Such being the case therefore God cannot be able to able deal with the sin problem. In a different encounter, he argues, “God’s powers are limited” just like the case of other creatures (Hick 77).
A divergent opinion is put forth arguing that God did not create humans who were inclined to sinning. This theme attracts more controversy as some argue God did not create humans since he could have created sin. Agustinian Theodicy adds that if creation was flawless, then they were not able to fall despite having the free will to choose the good and the bad.
From the foregoing argument, the philosophers have therefore resulted to the evolution theory. The theory states the creation theory is a fable and it did not take place. This is in support of the idea that God could not have created perfect beings that had tendencies to sin. However, this idea is sharply criticized by the bible story as well as by majority of the some theologians.
Jesus the heart of God
Major religions have had a central figure through which divine teachings have being given to the human race; Muslims had Muhammad while Buddhists had Buddha. Marcus (80) argues that unlike these religions, Christians had Jesus not as mere God’s messenger but a special revelation of God to human kind-God with us. God reveals himself and His might through Jesus.
In its deep sense, this makes Christianity a unique religion since it has a direct connection with God. This makes the Christianity to be very persuasive although this does not make Christianity any superior to other religions the centrality of God makes it a more realistic and compelling religion.
Throughout the gospel the life and work of Jesus has been recorded using powerful metaphors. In some instances, Jesus is portrayed as being the ‘light of the world’. This means that he came to provide divine enlightenment that saves the world from the evil vices. The other metaphor used is Jesus as the ‘door’ through which the faithful can reach the father.
The other symbolism used to refer to Jesus are; a Jewish mystic, a great physician, social prophet, a movement initiator and wise teacher. The role of metaphors was to add intensity of the Jesus deeds and to create a mental image to people who did not see him nor had a practical experience with him as did the disciples.
The centrality of Jesus in Christianity is out of question and does not attract any controversies. To Christians Jesus presents a perfect figure worth emulation since he represented noble person compassion to others both in actions and in word. Apart from interacting with the humble, he always sought to mingle with rules and point out at their weakness and wrong. He never condoned sins nor feared to rebuke hypocrites.
Although the gospel was written several years after the assertion of Jesus, metaphors used enable its carry the strength and power that Jesus had. Unlike other historical books the gospels were written in a way that makes then interesting and more convincing to the reader. However, some indigenous symbols used are complicated and difficult to understand for non-Jewish readers.
Suffering and Redemption-Feminist Theology
Many a times sufferings challenges human understanding and often blur the reality surrounding such pain. Common knowledge attributes suffering to sin or as a repercussion of violating a given law. Such believe is erroneous and unbiblical but general heresy. In an attempt to unlock the mystery behind innocent sufferings Reuther (96) attributes such to “God’s ways” of manifesting his glory.
She further explains Jobs suffering to God’s way of manifesting his power and will. Reuther reveals that redemption is a sign of God’s acceptance for sinful human race. Moreover, God’s acceptance assumes a vertical relationship and not a horizontal connotation that implies alienation to plagues’ and evils staged by the devil (98).
Female suffering has always been attributed to the guilt of evil that emanates from the sin that was committed by Even in Eden. Jesus suffering because he was faultless and pure has challenged this ideology. The suffering that Jesus bore was on our behalf, this is, in other terms, referred to as redemptive suffering.
From her writings, She (101) asserts that “oppressors hearts are never changed by seeing the suffering of their victims”. To her the cross shows the ultimate risk a person can take to overcome oppression and evil system. However, not all suffering is redemptive in nature since other are staged to oppress individuals due to evil motives and objectives.
Jesus redemption suffering is different and unique in nature from the common suffering that humans bear. To Jesus suffering was a way of revealing to human race the exact cost of sin. In addition, Jesus suffering reveals that he share our weakness and despite all that he went through and therefore by relying on God Christians can as well overcome (102). To me, suffering is not a sign of carrying one cross but its God’s way of doing things and manifesting his power to his subjects.
Sin and Salvation
Repentance is inevitable subject in Christian worship in all denominations. The severity of the sin problem caused Heaven to sacrifice the most valuable being –Jesus the son of God. This was the only way of dealing the sin problem and the only way salvation would be attained.
Although sin is the enemy of redemption, its exact meaning has remained subject of inquiry. Marcus (166) and some theologians have agreed that sin is violation of God’s law or the Ten Commandments. The understanding of sin is mainly done in relation to individual to individuals rather than a collective understanding. Such shallow perception inhibits incorporation of social sin, which affects many people in the society (169).
On the other hand, salvation is yet another word that harbors several meaning derived from divergent understanding presented by theologians. To some salvation is a “reality in heaven” while others asserts that salvation begins in this living and continues to the next world (172).
Other theologians, basing their arguments on Pauline writings, write that not all people will face death, but rather, will be translated into immortal bodies. This implies that salvation will happen in this world and eternity is distinct from the belief of heaven. According to the Biblical teaching salvation begins in this world and continues to the next. However, whatever the understanding that is assumed the underlying understanding salvation is only arrived at when Christians repent their sins sincerely.
The topic of sin and salvation touches the very core of Christianity and its discussion illuminates the exact way of attaining salvation. Regardless of the belief one holds pertaining where salvation begins, eternal life remains at the center of all Christians hope.
Attaining this goal calls believers both at personal level and in society to lead pure and just life. Nevertheless, to my consideration the issues pertaining salvation invokes more questions than answers as to exact what the bible says concerning the fate of Christians; will it be heaven or in this earth?
Death of Jesus
The plan of salvation was accomplished on the cross after execution when he proclaimed it is over. Marcus (94) says that salvation was achieved through the life and action of Jesus. In addition, he believes that salvation is attained by believing in Jesus died on the cross (94). However, the scenario surrounding the cross has drawn numerous interpretation and opinion as to when the actual plan of salvation was finalized.
Some these interpretations are; rejection-and- vindication, the defeat of the Roman power, and Jesus died for our sins among others. The theme addressed at the cross is wide and more spiritual and therefore it should not be taken literally. Literal interpretation would mean God was unable to forgive sin without offering an expensive sacrifice to atone (94). Such assumption inhibit the understanding the cost of sin and the love that God has for human kind.
The death of Jesus at the cross forms the foundation of Christian faith. However, the death of Christ should be taught together with resurrection. As the death of Christ illustrates the victory over sin, the resurrection shows the victory of Jesus over death. The two aspects complete the life of a Christian not only by providing hope but also by providing assurance of victory over sin. The death of Christ on the cross is an important in Christian faith since it captures divine atonement for sins.
On this issue, I beg to differ with the author who denies that Jesus did not die for our sins. Jesus died on our behalf, he was made a sinner because he opted to bare our sin burden and he therefore voluntarily decided to die save us from the sin burden. In other words Jesus death was substitution, he assumed our weakness and bore the penalty of sin on human behalf. In Romans, 3:16, the penalty of sin is death; hence, to atone for sin death was inevitable.
The Gospel Account
Two Biblical readings i.e. Luke 3 and John 18 provide a detailed report of Jesus’ life from birth through death and resurrections. Although Jesus was send by God he led a normal childhood while participating in all Jewish rites such as circumcision and dedication.
However, His mission started upon baptism where a voice declared in Luke 3:22 “You are my beloved Son”. Afterwards, Jesus appointed his disciples and commenced his ministry. It is during this period that he performed numerous miracles such as healing driving out demons and even raising Lazarus. In addition, Jesus demonstrated he had power over nature by calming the wind.
The book of John accounts for the climax of Jesus ministry on the world. At this period, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent persecution and death. However, before that he participated in a last supper with his disciples where he hinted out about his betrayer. Later, he comforted them by promising them about the helper who would comer later. Eventually, Jesus is betrayed, persecuted, tried and later crucified according to his earlier prediction. The grand finale was his triumphant resurrection on the third day.
There are several similarities, which cut across the writings of different authors. Both Nakashima and the bible account concurs that suffering should be borne humility and motivated by love. While the Asian American women sufferings halted the oppressive regime, Jesus suffering in John ends the dominion of sin.
Similarly, Ruether portrays Jesus suffering to be in line with Gods will, this is also evidence in the bible in John 18:11 “ the cup that the God has given him. However, contrary opinion is assumed by source five where sufferings are caused by “unjust evils and inexplicable natural disasters”
The other area of similarity is the use of metaphors. In Luke5:34 Jesus is portrayed as “the bridegroom” while John 14:6 described Jesus as the “the lamb of “way, the truth and the life” later he is portrayed as the “King of the Jewish”. Just as used in source four the Gospel uses Jesus as a great physician and a wonderful teacher. Marcus (86) echoes that Jesus is the Lamb of God, although this metaphor is commonly used in the bible it signifies the humble nature in which Jesus came in.
On the other hard, the book of John 18:11 says Jesus “face the cup that God had given me”. Marcus (96) further denies that Jesus died for our sin. The bible demonstrates strong linkage between the death and the resurrection of the Jesus unlike the way it has been echoed by various authors. Ruether (102) argues that Jesus resurrection was a sign victory over death although the cross was not necessary.
Another contrast that exists is the providence of God verses the role of fate. According to Hick, things happen spontaneous without any divine intervention. However, the Bible suggests that the universe works in accordance with the God divine intervention that is orchestrated by Jesus. Similar opinion is advanced by theologians who have unanimously agreed wit the bible concerning the divine direction and control.
Calvin, Jean. Christian Theology. London: Thomas Tegg Press, 1937. Print.
Hick, John. Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion: Connecticut: Yale University, 1995, Print.
Marcus Borg. The Heart of Christianity, Rediscovering a Life of Faith. San Francisco: Harper, 2004. Print
Nakashima, Brock. On Mirror’s, Mists and Murmurs. San Francisco: Harper, 1989. Print
Reuther, Rosemary. Introducing Redemption. New Jersey: Claremont Press, 2009. Print.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1999