What do you think about Jesus? Some people believe that Jesus was just a human legend, another good guy. Jesus could not work miracles nor tell the future and did not have divine power. Others have underplayed the humanity of Jesus, emphasizing his divinity with all its powers. In the minds of many, Jesus and God are one and the same. The emphasis of one or the other aspect of Jesus can be a detriment to a true understandable belief in Jesus Christ. The traditional Christian teaching has been that Jesus is truly human and truly divine at the same time. Jesus Christ is the full authentic expression of the divinity in an individual human. The object of Christian faith is Jesus Christ. We find the authentic expression of Jesus Christ in Scripture. The interpretation of Jesus Christ can be found in a Christian Church, since there have been various interpretations about Jesus Christ’s saving role.
No man is an island. We exist in a society, in a community. We grow up in a family, in a community of people. As a Christian, we must live in a Christian community. The Christian religious experience is always lived within a community. Individual spirituality leads to a commitment not merely as an individual, but to the larger community of Christian believers. Even the hermits understood that they shared in the larger Christian community. Just as there is no religious practice without a religion, there cannot be any Christian belief except within a Christian community, a Christian Church. An individual and communal faith goes hand in hand, not face to face. God created us out of love, so faith is within a community. If faith is not communal it is not complete. Nevertheless, nearly half of American Christian believers are not affiliated with a church, because we live in a highly individualist country. There is a certain hypocrisy that allows each of us to define our morality as what we would like to do. We have lost the sense of personal and social responsibility for the common good as “me” and my individual personal experience becomes more important. We are social by nature and need the common experience of worship.
We experience God in our community in the celebration of the story of Jesus Christ. The coherent story of Jesus overcomes self-deception. Jesus showed us how to be faithful to others and provides a model for constancy. The Jesus narrative story transforms and empowers us. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the anointed one, the suffering servant. For many the scandal of death by crucifixion was too much. Christ’s resurrection defies scientific verification. This is not just about Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus, the Lord and Savior. Jesus speaks to our hearts and minds. Jesus lives on with his Holy Spirit in our community when we gather together. There is a personal and social transformation that continually takes place with a deeper and richer understanding of the human person and authentic community. We all have a personal development of our faith. We live our discipleship of Jesus in justice, love and healing as our faith springs into action.
Christian faith is a gift from God. We do not earn it. However, we can refuse this gift. We must accept this gift with our mind, our heart, and our will. Our whole person believes in Jesus Christ. My mind believes that it is true. My heart says I trust. I will love and have a concern for others. The initial Christian faith is a gentle longing, a search for meaning. For some it comes in a blinding flash, like the apostle Paul. Dorothy Day (1897-1980) found it working with the poor, while others see it in the presence of a priest or minister who witnesses to goodness, or at the time of a tragedy or death. Still others grow up within a cultural community of Christians that grows with them throughout their life. My faith in Jesus Christ is a continuous growing mysterious reality.
The Christian tradition believes in a monotheistic personal God who has had a unique presence in Jesus Christ. We truly care to live with the mysterious life of God who has an impact on our lives. The God of Israel was Yahweh, whom the Christians consider God the Father. There is also the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Yahweh, that is present in our lives. Jesus is the Son of God, the Father.
Deism sees the transcendent God as starting the world and leaving it alone. This was a common belief in the late 17th and 18th century. God got things started and then left humans alone to take care of things. Some of the American founding fathers had this kind of belief in God.
Pantheism is close to polytheism, but goes one step further. Pantheists proclaim that the transcendent God is imminent in everything. Everything is divine, since there is no separation between all reality and God. God is everywhere and in everything. This is a long way from the monotheism mentioned earlier.