Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Misinterpretations within Orthodox Christianity

Our society’s extreme faith in money is reinforced theologically by an interpretation of the Gospel story written exclusively to strengthen the hierarchical Roman imperial government. The Council of Nicaea 325 A.D., twelve years after Emperor Constantine’s conversion, decreed that Jesus is “both fully man and fully God.”* Theologically, this interpretation is expressed by the predominant faith in Christian churches in the historically inerrant Bible. The film Zeitgeist, despite its coming to the wrong conclusion among its other shortcomings, does a satisfactory job in deconstructing the doctrine of historical inerrancy.

As Carl Jung discovered in his analysis of psychic symbols, the idea that Jesus is “both fully man and fully God” misrepresents Jesus. The Gospels present Jesus as sinless and incorporate elements from Greek and Persian saviour myths, specifically regarding his birth and resurrection. The Jesus presented in the Gospels, according to Jung, is “more God than man.”*

The acceptance of the Nicaean interpretation leads to a one-sided attitude towards society, in which the existing political authorities or ideologies are given too much credence. If Jesus the historical man indeed singularly achieved full integration with God 2000 years ago, then what is left for our communities to achieve, other than to wait for the End of Days? Community life loses its direction. What’s the point of sustaining morality through the community? It is easier to impose morality either through strong central authorities or through the order imposed by market forces. Jesus and Jesus only can achieve integration with God, and any further attempt to try, by this view, is heretical spiritual arrogance.

Contrast this orientation with the one that follows from Jung’s interpretation of the Gospels that Jesus is “more God than man.” The story of Jesus, in Jung’s view, is a partial manifestation of the Christ archetype. Communities ought to figure out better ways to sustain morality, because an Incarnation experience more fully rooted in empirical history is achievable.

The Jesus of the Gospels is a merger of history with Persian and Greek religious stories. The Gospels are Holy because of their psychological relevance, which provide a well-refined, yet still partial, image of the pattern of Incarnation--the synthesis of human and Divine, conscious and unconscious. As a culture, we must try to improve our communities so they are more psychologically nurturing and so they promote the growth of moral, egalitarian relationships. The greed we witness in the economic arena is reinforced by our misunderstanding of our culture’s most impactful psychological symbol. We misinterpret the story of Jesus as the End Goal of spiritual life rather than as a pattern which can learn from, but also improve upon by seeking a manifestation of Christ more concretely rooted in empirical history than is the story of Jesus.

Archibald Robertson makes the same point in his excellent book The Origins of Christianity.

Orthodoxy accepts at their face value the books of the New Testament, despite their contradictions. It is thus committed to a creed according to which God, without ceasing to be God, became man in the person of Jesus Christ, suffered death under a Roman governor of Judaea in the first century, rose again, founded the Catholic Church, and will return hereafter to judge the living and the dead. ...

The more radical reject an historical founder and regard Jesus as a mystery-god pure and simple. ...The Pauline Epistles refer to a mystery cult among Greek-speaking Jews of the diaspora, whose Christ Jesus was no leader of flesh and blood but a god by whom its initiates were to be redeemed from this evil world, and which attracted rich as well as poor converts.
- from http://www.ditext.com/robertson/oc8.html#s11

Also, from Jerry Wright's article Christ, a Symbol of the Self:

This distinction between the historical and the symbolical is essential if the Christian symbols are to retain their power to touch the inner depths of the modern person...

The Jewish rabbi and reformer, Jesus, lived a personal, concrete, historical life. However, it was the archetypal image of a Redeemer slumbering, so to speak, in the collective unconscious, which became attached to that unique life. This powerful collective image made itself visible, so to speak, in the man Jesus, so that seeing him people glimpsed the greater personality which seeks conscious realization in each person...

Briefly stated, at an early stage Jesus became the collective figure whom the unconscious of his contemporaries expected to appear and Jesus took on those projections. In this way, Jesus’ life exemplifies the archetype of the Christ, or in Jung’s psychological language, the Self, which is a more inclusive word for the inner image of god, the imago Dei, which resides in every person.


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