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that stood between me and the holy anger of a righteous and wrathful God, who ... being born and hung on the cross if Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, but also God .... I sit outside the door longing to go in…lingering, shuffling my feet, eyes.



Who is This Jesus Who Became the Christ David Grinstead Atlantic University June 1998 (Revised December 2016)

Author Note David Grinstead, Transpersonal Studies Department, Atlantic University David Grinstead is now at Department of Continuing Education, Alamance Community College. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Grinstead, Department of Continuing Education, Alamance Community College, PO. Box 8000, Graham, NC 27253-8000. Contact: [email protected] More information regarding the author is available at


2 Overview

At times I feel burdened and hounded by the enigma of the Jesus (who became the Christ), that I encountered early in life and continue to experience in varying ways. This question continuously perplexes me—who are you Jesus? There is the historical in the flesh Spirit-filled man, there is the cosmic experience, and between these two extremes is the ever unfolding unbalanced Jesus myth that is out of touch with basic Biblical realities. Equally the immanence and transcendence of Spirit continues to be a challenge for me. I need to better understand and know the human Jesus because in understanding him, I am better able to grasp my own humanity. In spite of almost fifty years of intense personal seeking, this Jesus, who became the Christ, remains an enigma to me. The post-Easter, or Cosmic Christ, as being one and of the same in essence with the Godhead, I can’t begin to understand or grasp rationally, but through experience I accept it as potentially so. In many ways I will always be a doubting Thomas for at best I am a Christian agnostic. All I can really say is that I remain a seeker after the way of Jesus who became the Christ.



What I can primarily remember of Jesus from my early childhood through early adolescence is contained in the portraits of a very White and very European Jesus accompanied either by children or sheep or hanging on a cross. These portraits of Jesus were painted with broad strokes from the Bible-belt version of Southern Baptist and United Methodist Jesus mythology. From about the age of fifteen through my early years of college, I was dogged by revivalist camp-style Christian fundamentalism. The crucified and risen post-Easter Christ is all that stood between me and the holy anger of a righteous and wrathful God, who needed a gobetween in order to forgive and forget my sinfulness, making my personal worth equal to that of a pile of dirty rags…per the many fundamentalist ministers that paraded through my life. Without this forgiveness I and everyone else were destined to spend the balance of eternity in the unquenchable flames of hell. Spirit (I prefer this to the word God) will leverage to its advantage any partial truth. Let the slightest bit of light reach the human psyche and Spirit will eventually fling open wide the doors to the soul. At the age of seventeen, after multiple experiences of conviction and walking the aisle to the alter, I gave my heart and life to Jesus and acknowledged my call into the Christian ministry. Starry eyed, I began my journey of soul-development handicapped by the baggage of secondhand religion grounded in blind faith. What I didn’t know was that the particular version of the Christian religion which I had grown up with was culturally tainted. I was well into my second year of college in 1970 when I gained a clearer understanding of how “religions in general (including Christianity)…were manifestly cultural products.” I came to see “how their



readily identifiable psychological and social functions served human needs and cultural ends.” (Borg 13) Though I had an original faith of my own it was in an embryonic state. Up until that time my religion was primarily a secondhand religion: “Secondhand religion is a way of being religious based on believing what one has heard from others. It consists of thinking that the Christian life is about believing what the Bible says or what the doctrines of the church say.” (Borg 87-88) Those were the years of the counter-culture, Vietnam, and civil rights; and there was much social and political unrest inside and outside of the United Methodist Church. I was a ministerial student, youth director and a soon to be student associate pastor of a local United Methodist church. Inwardly I was a quagmire of conflicting emotions, ideals, and beliefs. I wrestled back and forth until I felt that I was being torn apart by forces I didn’t understand. What modern theology and psychology stated stood in opposition to my secondhand religion of childhood. My secondhand Christianity presented me with a Christ image that was so unlike me or any one that I knew. He was so other than basic humanity. Why had God bothered with Jesus being born and hung on the cross if Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, but also God in the sky or heaven? It seemed so ridiculous for God to split God and then for God to pray to God. This was absurdity! And even more puzzling to me were the laity who swallowed this hook line and sinker without any hesitation. They even expected me to feed this pseudo-religious belief back to them whenever I taught or preached.



The essence of this secondhand Christianity, which I call pseudo-Docetism, is a modern version of the very old Christian heresy known as Docetism, which states that “Jesus was totally divine and his humanity just an appearance…his suffering on the cross was simply a divine charade, and his sacrifice (which is the core of what Christianity is all about) was an illusion, a celestial sham.” (Peck, The Different Drum, 242) “The leading-indeed, traditional-heresy of the day is… pseudo-Docetism. It is this predominant heresy that intellectually allows the Church to fail to teach its followers to follow Jesus.” (Peck, The Different Drum, 297) The vast majority of Christians have been schooled in the paradoxical Christian doctrine that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. What I mean by pseudo-Docetism is that, in spite of this clear teaching, most everyone puts: “99.5 percent of their money on his divinity and 0.5 percent on his humanity. It puts Jesus way up there in the clouds, seated at the right hand of the Father, in all his glory, 99.5 percent divine, and it leaves us way down here on earth scratching out a very ordinary existence according to worldly rules, 99.5 percent human.” (Peck, The Different Drum, 297) From earliest childhood I had a knowing of the post-Easter Christ that stood in the shadows of my early adulthood secondhand religion. At the age of three I knew that in some way I was different from others for I felt Spirit’s presence and I loved going to Church. Just prior to my eleventh birthday I made my first public profession of faith (no one else in my family was actively religious) and that Easter I was baptized by immersion. My quest to excel at the religious life drove me to near exhaustion and I was placed on Valium my senior year of high school due to stress and anxiety. My then to be fiancée, Lucy, (a

JESUS WHO BECAME THE CHRIST future high school valedictorian, American Presidential Scholar, and Christian Education graduate) was a musician who worked relentlessly with me to organize and conduct local revivals, youth outreach program, e.g. The summer after graduation from high school, while alone at home with Lucy, I had my first full blown panic attack which resulted in my first transpersonal experience with the post-Easter Christ. Several years later, as I reflected back on that experience and other related incidents, I wrote these thoughts: A Dirty Black Toad A toad did live down by the river. He was a toad that wanted to see life as it really was so he tied his knapsack to his back and sped for the jagged mountain peaks. He found his load too heavy, for many cliffs stood straight and tall. He asked for a fair young maiden for a boost. She asked, “What kind of a boost?” He replied, “A kiss that I may turn into a handsome prince and use my hands as well as my feet.” She replied, “No” with a shriek! She did not want to soil her pure sweet lips. A Mocking Bird A mocking bird cries for help for it is drowning in a lake. It did not ask to drink of the water, only what made the water so rough. It saw the waves tossed about by the uneasiness of the deep. It heard the cries of the sinking times and said, “Beckon a little louder and perhaps I will help.” The sinking times beckoned again and again hoping that the bird would seek, for in him they saw hope of smoothness of waves. Head long he




plunged into the uneasy deep hoping to help and now—holding his head just above the rough waves—he too beckons for help. Now I realize that what I went through was a “journey of spiritual development” (Grof 1) that resulted in a full blown spiritual emergency. But there was no one who understood what was happening to me much less how to help me. Close friends and the campus chaplain tried, but to no avail and the Church shut me out. The local mental health department diagnosed me as neurotic and borderline schizophrenic and treated me as an outpatient for six months without any noticeable benefit. The end results were: (1) I ended my two year relationship with Lucy (2) I married a woman that I barely knew and eighteen months later separated and eventually divorced (3) I lost what faith I had, cursed God for allowing my declining state of health and mind, resigned the ministry, and became an agnostic (4) my life was without purpose so I lived on the edge associating with members of a local chapter of a national outlaw motorcycle club, partying, drinking, smoking pot, and hoping that my life would come to a quick and painless end. Several unsolicited transpersonal experiences of the risen post-Easter Christ along with a twelve-step recovery program restored purpose, direction, and balance to my life. The essence of these experiences is reflected in my feelings and thoughts as expressed here: At the Master’s Table I sit outside the door longing to go in…lingering, shuffling my feet, eyes fixed to the ground. I wonder how I will be greeted. Oh what the hell! I am hungry. My soul cries for nourishment. A slow agonizing death I face so to the door I go. The table is spread—a banquet fit for a kin—a feast such my eyes have never beheld! I sit. Though I am dirty and disheveled



the Master awaits me, his gaze fixed upon me. I don’t know, I don’t understand! He waits on me first never once showing discontent or displeasure with my disheveled appearance. Never have I experienced such total undemanding presence of mind. I want to dine with him forever. I long, I must stay at the table with him forever. Just to be there—my mind, my thoughts, my desires—they are different! I have been changed! As he is, I now become. Accompanying the healing of my psyche and emotions was the elimination of my insomnia, stomach ulcer and heart palpitations. I am only one of many who have experienced such results from encounters with the postEaster Christ. There is a single theme which unifies these otherwise diverse Christ encounters: In virtually every case, the Christ figure expresses profound love for the person he meets. The way this love affects the person seems to depend on his or her needs at the time. For instance,…if a person is ill, the Christ encounter can promote actual physical healing or facilitate the graceful acceptance of the sickness or dying…the same intercessory process promotes mental and emotional healing. In a span of moments, the Christ encounter can lift a person out of emotional turmoil, freeing him from paralyzing emotions and empowering him to undertake new directions in life. The healing seems to take place as the witness recognizes that she is loved and accepted by a radiant Being who know her completely and who



points to a relationship with himself as a completely sufficient refuge for the “poor in heart.” (Sparrow, I Am With You Always, 77) Because of these experiences and the accompanying spiritual growth, three intolerable burdens were lifted from my shoulders and replaced with unspeakable joy, peace and love. According the New Testament record such was the same experience essence for the first Christians. Just as they had experienced release from guilt, fear and self, resulting in a rebirth so had I? The only power that can effect transformation of the order we have described is love. If we too felt loved, not abstractly or in principle but vividly and personally, by one who unites all power and perfection, the experience could melt our fear, guilt, and self-concern permanently. God’s love is precisely what the first Christians did feel. They had experienced Jesus’ love and had become convinced…” (Smith 333-335) All of this was wonderful and I was so grateful to my higher power for having healed me, but I was burdened and hounded by the enigma of Jesus that I encountered then and continue to experience in varying ways even now. This question still perplexes me—who are you Jesus? There is the historical in the flesh Spirit-filled man, there is the cosmic experience, and between these two extremes is the ever unfolding unbalanced Jesus myth that is out of touch with basic Biblical realities. The immanence and transcendence of Spirit was and continues to be a problem for me. I need to better understand and know the human Jesus because in understanding him, I am better able to grasp my own humanity. The post-Easter, or Cosmic Christ, as being one and of the



same in essence with the Godhead, I can’t begin to understand or grasp rationally, but through experience I accept it is so. A poem written by Carl Sandburg helped open my eyes to the difference between the secondhand religion of my childhood and the firsthand religion that had resulted from my relationship with the Cosmic Christ. It introduced me to Jesus’ humanity that was filled with Spirit’s essence. To A Contemporary Bunkshooter You come along…tearing your shirt…yelling about Jesus. Where do you get that stuff? What do you know about Jesus? Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem everybody liked to have this Jesus around because he never made any fake passes and everything he said went and he helped the sick and gave the people hope. I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I know how much you know about Jesus. He never came near clean people or dirty but they felt cleaner because he came along. This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands wherever he passed along. I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers and lawyers of Jerusalem got



their sluggers and murders to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn’t play their game. He didn’t sit in with the big thieves. I ask you to come through and show me where you’re pouring out the blood of your life. I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is straight it was real blood ran from His hands and the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth. -When asked if I am a Christian I prefer to reply, “No! I am a seeker after the way of Jesus who became the Christ.” When I first began my journey to a personal faith, I did not read anything for a period of one year. I stopped all analytical enquiries and immersed myself in meditation, prayer and other contemplative practices. I yearned to listen and hear the still small voice of Spirit and to have it direct my way. My secondhand religion’s quest for salvation became a non-issue because I considered it to be an erroneous theological concept. What I learned from my experiences with the postEaster Christ was that Spirit: …is exploding with Life and love—even sexuality of a sort…is gentle and tender and nurturing and maternal as any woman could ever be. Nonetheless…I experience His reality as more masculine than feminine. While He nurtures us, He also desires to penetrate us, and while we more often than not flee from His love like a reluctant virgin, He chases after us



with vigor in the hunt that we most typically associate with males.” (Peck, People of the Lie, 12) Therefore, I knew that: “If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will accuse God’s chosen people? God Himself declares them not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus…Who, then can separate us from the love of trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love…” (Romans 8:31, 33-38) I understood what Carl Jung meant when he stated: “I could not say that I believe. I know! I had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God.” (Grof 231-232) This was my higher power which provided me with answers and inspiration, guidance and strength, protection and assistance. Spirit had become eminent and within me, it became an important and necessary part of my daily experience. This was not enough, I still felt unbalanced! It was all right brain stuff and I needed to get my arms around a model, an example of how to manifest in some practical way these spiritual truths which I now knew intuitively. It was time to do some analytical inquiry and formulate a means of implementation. Gradually I returned to limited scripture reading and focused exclusively on the Synoptic Gospels which for me contained the purest essence of the pre-Easter Jesus and his humanity. I stayed away from the other books of the New Testament for



they burdened me and clouded my mind with the early Church’s experience of the post-Easter Christ and its attempts to understand and explain. Those were paths which I no longer needed to walk. The reality of the Jesus that I found in the Synoptic Gospels was: “quite different from the popular image of Jesus, the Jesus many of us have met before. His own self-understanding did not include thinking and speaking of himself as the Son of God, whose historical intention or purpose was to die for the sins of the world, and his message was not about believing in him. Rather, he was a spirit person, subversive sage, social prophet, and movement founder who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew, and into a community whose social vision was shaped by the core vision of compassion.” (Borg 119) My experience of the post-Easter Christ and my desires to connect them in some meaningful manner with the pre-Easter Jesus may be likened in some ways to the path chosen by Francis of Assisi: From the document of the life of Francis, which have been subjected to meticulous study, it is evident that his transformation was not one single moment of blinding incandescence, but a gradual movement away from his old manner of life to a new understanding of himself and of his mission in the world. It is no less evident that at the center of this transformation was the person of the historical Jesus as the Divine and



Human model. At prayer one day, Francis beheld the figure of the crucified Christ, and the vision stayed with him all his life. (Pelikan 134). The Franciscan order points to Jesus as the “Divine and Human Model” which is an “alternative to the smugness of conventional religion.” (Pelikan 42) Francis has become the patron saint to: that growing number in the modern world who become more devoted to Jesus as they become more alienated from the church, who find an irreconcilable conflict between ecclesiastical Christianity and the permanently relevant teaching of the Gospels-or, as they have often phrased, it between the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus. (Pelikan 42) In the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus prior to his crucifixion little is disclosed in the way of firm historical facts. Far more important is the clarity of the impact that his personhood and humanity had upon his associates. The Synoptic Gospels in particular show that during his lifetime the pre-Easter Jesus was experienced by his associates in much the same manner as the post-Easter Christ. Though not clearly defined during his lifetime, there was strong momentum building that Jesus was in some way or manner “God in human form.” What “they saw Jesus do, what they heard him say, and what they sensed him to be” convinced “those who knew him best that here was a man in who the human ego had disappeared, leaving his life so completely under the will of God that it was transparent to that will. It came to the point where they felt that as they looked at Jesus they were looking at something resembling God in human form.” (Smith 323, 328-329)



Given humanity’s grasping need for some sort of physical representation of invisible Spirit, such as in the form of idols, and that the vast majority of us are extroverts who rely on outer direction; maybe the incarnation of Jesus is Spirit’s way of fulfilling this need to reach out and touch the Divine via the realm of the senses. By manifesting through a specific man, Jesus of Nazareth, Spirit’s reality if found fully and deeply. (Kelsey 137) In his full humanity coupled with total Divine self-revelation, I was able to have a balanced, yet basic, understanding of the full nature of Spirit. Jesus is the man-the activity, the mind, the relationships that He bore to others. Yea, He was mindful of friends, He was sociable, He was loving, He was kind, He was gentle. He grew faint, He grew weak, and yet gained that strength which He had promised in becoming the Christ, by fulfilling and overcoming the world. Ye are made strong in body, in mind, in soul and purpose by that power in Christ. The power, then, is in the Christ. The pattern is in Jesus. (Furst 196) In spite of more almost fifty years of intense personal seeking, this Jesus, who became the Christ, remains an enigma to me. All that I can really say is that I will probably remain a seeker after the way of the Lord for the balance of my life. In many ways I will always be a doubting Thomas for at best I am a Christian agnostic. My sentiments are well represented by these words: …let me first state my own unshaken belief that compared with all other men he stood, and stands, in a unique relationship with God that he was and is truly human, and in one sense the most knowable and loveable of



men, and yet the word “human,” as we usually use it, is not adequate to carry the heavy cargo of qualities which his words and deeds revealed. We use the word “divine” because the word “human” is not big enough. He is so much more like God than any other. But the word “divine” is really only an expression of Christian agnosticism. I am quite ready to say that I believe in the divinity of Christ, but I do not know what it means, nor can I find anyone who can explain what it means, least of all some of the theologians from Paul onwards. I sincerely believe that he is the Savior of the World, and if I am immediately challenged about what he save men from, my answer is that he saves men from the utter despair which would fall upon a thoughtful man, who, conscious of high aims and immense possibilities within himself, was condemned to try to achieve them without any aid save his own, and the purely human help of his fellows. Seneca said that what men needed most of all was a hand let down from heaven to lift them up. God, I believe, came to man’s rescue in Christ. (Weatherhead 94) The twentieth-century icon, Albert Schweitzer, represents the finest qualities of divine Spirit manifesting as the ultimate that humanity can offer. He not only sought to understand the mystery behind Jesus in his book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, he lived out that mystery in the fullness of his selfless service to humanity. I conclude with his take on Jesus who became the Christ: He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old by the lakeside


He came to those who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word, ‘Follow thou Me,’ and set us to the task which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is. (Weatherhead 141)



18 Glossary

Apocalypse: a revelation or vision of a great world upheaval or cataclysm Christ: the English form of the Greek word Christos, meaning “Anointed One”; its equivalent in Hebrew is mashiach, from which the word “Messiah” is drawn; in the writings of Paul, the term applies to Jesus either as a surname or a prefix or as a substitute for his proper name Deism: belief in God on the evidence of reason and nature, and without accepting any particular religion; the belief that God exists entirely apart from our world and does not influence the lives of human beings. Doctrine: what is taught as the belief of a church or a group of persons; a belief or principle Ecumenical: representing the whole Christian Church; promoting unity among all Christians Ekklesia: all those who have accepted the call to God’s service Gospel: comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word, “godspell”, meaning “God story” or “narrative of God,” used in the New Testament to translate the Greek word for “good tidings” or “good news”; in the Bible refers to the message which Jesus and his apostles preached Holy: belonging to God, set apart for God’s service; declared sacred by religions use and authority Icon: a picture or image of Christ or a saint venerated as sacred in the Eastern Orthodox Church; a picture, image, figure, or statue Incarnation: a clothing, or state of being clothed, with flesh; the term applied to the appearance of the second person of the Godhead in a human form; in other words, God the Son coming to earth as a man Protestant Principle: do not absolutize the relative because God is beyond nature and history, and while God is not removed from these, neither can God be equated with either or any of their parts because the world is finite, but God is infinite; be on guard against idolatry because God transcends all the limitations and distortions of finite existence, so every human claim to absolute truth or finality must be rejected Rabbi: literally, “my great one,” a term used by the Jews of religious leaders Resurrection: a restoration to life; revivification of a dead body; it is associated with a Day of Judgment and the Pharisees were the chief representative of those who believed in a resurrection; the central theme in early Christian preaching of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day after this crucifixion



Sabbath: derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to cease, abstain, or desist;” refers to the last day of a seven-day week which, in the Jesus religion, is a day on which one rests from normal activity, devoting himself to God Sacrament: a solemn religious ceremony of the Christian Church. In Roman Catholic and Eastern Churches there are seven and Protestants usually have two. Sadducee: a religious party of the Jews, mentioned prominently in the New Testament; the old priestly party intent on protecting their conservative interest against the innovations of the Pharisees; they insisted that all doctrine receive its support directly from the written law Sanhedrin: the supreme council and highest religious and legal authority of the ancient Jewish nation, consisting of 70 members; a lower court of justice, of 23 members, with lessor or local jurisdiction Theophany: an appearance of God to man Transubstantiation: the changing of the bread and wine of the Eucharist into the substance of the body of Christ, only the appearance of the bread and wind remain Trinity (doctrine of): the union of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in one divine nature; the triple person, separate but united, composed of these three persons Zealot: a member of a strict, militant Jewish sect who fiercely resisted the Romans in Palestine until Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70


20 References

Borg, M. J. (1995). Meeting Jesus again for the first time: the historical Jesus and the heart of contemporary faith. New York, NY: Harper Collins. Furst, J. (1968). Edgar Cayce’s Story of Jesus. New York, NY: Berkley American Bible Society. (1971). Good news bible: today’s English version. Grof, C. & Grof, S. (1990). The stormy search for the self: a guide to personal growth through transpersonal crisis. New York, NY: Putnam. Kelsey, M. T. (1976). The other side of silence: a guide to Christian meditation. New York, NY: Paulist. Peck, M. S. (1983). People of the lie: the hope for healing human evil. New York, NY: Touchstone. Peck, M. S. (1987). The different drum: community making and peace. New York, NY: Touchstone. Pelikan, J. (1999). Jesus through the centuries: his place in the history of culture. Smith, H. (1989). The religions of man. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Sparrow, G. S. (1995). I am with you always: true stories of encounters with Jesus. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Weatherhead, L. D. (1965). The Christian agnostic. Nashville, TN: Abingdon