Mormons and the Puzzle of Christ

Christian J, asked an important question regarding the Bible.  How do we know we are not being deceived by spirituality or by “spiritual” books?

I think it is actually a very deep an important question about whether spirituality is bound to deceive us. What is superstition and what is not? I don’t think there is an easy or reasonable way to get rid of superstition. But sometimes superstitions point to the Truth, even though they look a like mere superstitions. The pragmatic conclusion is that words, books, or traditions are true when they point to true facts.

Myth and Spirituality open our minds to God. 

Our imaginations can conjure up any god, and conjure up sacrifice that this god requires of us to be made whole, to pass this test of life. We learn to look at our lives with our imaginations. We try to make sense of the drives inside us, and the rules we are required to live by in order to survive and thrive. Our imagination plus our innate understanding is our conscience.

Mormonism is based on the proposition that a person who is following his own god can be alerted to the presence and love of God through spiritual experience. This unquestionably the case. How I would convert people to Mormonism was not much more than telling them to to imagine God, and imagine how he loves us. Once they were still, and felt this powerful loving feeling, they were ready to tacitly accept nearly anything else I told them about God.

This phenomena can be chalked up to the thrill that comes with theism — in meeting God for the first time — that shakes up the consciousness. Mormons are pointing to God as our Father, which is the same God Jesus spoke of. God is real because he we feel that He shows up when we imagine his love. Mormonism is practically about continually seeking the presence of this God through spiritual communion. All of the rituals and beliefs are simply myth that allows people to open their minds to God.

Mormons take the myth of the Fatherhood of God more literally than reason allows.

Where Mormonism goes a bit off is that, although they clearly point to the Holy Ghost, they don’t clearly point to Christ, and they don’t make absolutely explicit that the Father is not literally our father, but only spiritually (Bultmann would say “mythically”) our Father. As God, the source of all things, it is impossible to imagine this mystery as necessarily human in form, or even material at all. It takes a lot of belief to see god this way. It takes a lot less belief and faith to see God as something mysterious and absolute outside of the universe.

The Fatherhood of God is a critical part of Christianity, for those who have experienced the unconditional love of a Father, Christianity shows us how Christian leaders are to behave toward their followers, it shows us how God should love us. If our father’s did not give us unconditional love, this myth might actually go haywire and hide the true face of God.

But, if we don’t see Fatherhood as a myth or allegory, we won’t recognize that God is most simply the source of ALL things, good, evil, pain, joy, etc. When we understand that God, as source of all, is indifferent to our forms of right and wrong, justice and injustice, we start to see what the love of God must mean, i.e. that it means that even though there are actually living ideals of right and wrong, good and evil, we are saved from these ideals unconditionally. This is what relentless love is all about. We cannot be saved from the Good or the Evil. There needs to be some fact that transcends them. This is Christ.

Seeing Christ is a puzzle for human psychology.

Anybody can understand that “the greatest of these is love” and that we should seek after “whatever is praiseworthy” but it is difficult to understand what Paul was saying about Christ. I think explaining Christ is similar to explaining how to solve a Rubik’s cube (something that I have never learned to do.)

Some people can solve the Rubik’s cube intuitively (many who you would not expect), some people need specific directions, some people need some education before they even understand the directions, some people can’t do it at all. I think that if there was a powerful educational push in America, we could probably get about 60% of our kids to solve the cube. But if we didn’t explain the instructions at all, we would probably only have like 10-20% success.

Mormon-Style instructions are creative, and help people and tell us about how to solve all kinds of other puzzles, but they are not that clear on solving the Rubik’s cube. Evangelical-style instructions are those of Paul which were focused 100% on the simple solution to this puzzle, even though they don’t provide as clear direction on what to do after you solve the puzzle.  This was Joseph Smith’s knock on Christianity, in a much more intellectual way, it was also Nietzsche’s.

Christ is not a Spiritual Fact

Christ is not a spiritual fact, it is a fact of the logic of the love of God. If you accept the fact of God, i.e. one ultimate source of everything. I don’t think it makes sense at all to accept the myth that “God loves humanity” without also accepting that there must be a Christ. This is the fact that allows the man who kills his brother in anger to see clearly that, although he is guilty, his live is actually worth living and that the source of the universe accepts him. This is also a fact that can in reality melt all contention between spouses that is caused by competing theories of justice, if they both focus on it at the same time.

The spirituality that happens after people feel the love of God spiritually (i.e. psychologically), or recognize Christ intuitively, is confusing, because it is the same sort of spirituality that pagans had before Christ.  It is not necessarily any more evil than anything else in the fallen world, but it is not Christ.  Thus, Christians will be driven to other mythic gods merely because of their human psychology, and honoring these myths is not necessarily evil or bad, unless it distracts us from the fact of Christ.  It turns out, that it is not so easy to remember that you are saved, and our spirituality will get in the way of the enormous advantage that the knowledge of salvation is.



36 thoughts on “Mormons and the Puzzle of Christ

  1. Jared, do you think Christ is anything more than spirituality and/or a psychological reaction to some submission to God?

    I guess I am asking what you think about Christ in a more specific, tangible way? I have heard you talk about your conversion, but what/who do you think Christ is?

  2. Again, I think that is a difficult question to answer. Here’s one definition: Christ is what makes the first last and the last first.

    Christ is the fact that causes a certain spirituality.

  3. Jesus is God Incarnate, one with the Father in virtually everyway except that He is not the Father. Jesus came to earth to suffer as a man and die for our sins so that we may be offered a way to eternal life. Jesus justifies us before the Father, and sent His spirit out upon us so that we may know Him.

    Now, why do you find it so difficult to answer?

  4. Because I am not sure that what you said is the definition of Christ. I think that Christ and Jesus are separate in some sense.

  5. Do you think it is possible the Jews were wrong? What is it that keeps you from acknowledging Jesus as Messiah?

    Do you think Jesus is God Incarnate?

  6. So, by inference from your answer about why they may be separable and your lack of a direct answer, can I assume that you think orthodox Christians are or could be wrong concerning Jesus?

  7. “We are MORE spiritual than God is.”

    That was the title of the last sermon my pastor gave a few weeks ago before he went on vacation.

    The point? We are really good at conjuring up all sorts of ideas and feelings about God.

    God on the other hand came to us in a real person (Jesus). And continues to come to us in real, tangible elements of earth…such as the water of Baptism. And the bread and wine (the body and blood of Christ) in the Lord’s Supper. And in the actual sound waves that hit our hears when the gospel is peached and Christ is taught.

    All designed (by God) to give us assurance that He is for us, and not against us, and that we belong to Him…totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think. It all revolves around what He has done, is doing, and will yet do…for us.

    Great topic. Thanks, very much.

  8. Slowcowboy,

    I suppose I don’t know the exercise here. I think that Christ is logically separate from Jesus the man, i.e. a Christ is not necessarily Jesus. But I think that, in fact, Jesus is the Christ. The post is basically a riff on my take on what Christ is, apart from the humanity of Jesus. My guess is that you think that Jesus had a single nature, or that his humanity was part of his divinity, or that Christ is inseparable from Jesus. I am not taking any position on these questions. From my experience, the more I think I know about these things, the more confused I get.

    I’d be happy to hear if you think the nature of Christ is different than the nature of Jesus as a human or the same, but I guess I don’t understand the discussion in terms of orthodoxy. I don’t think the decision to choose one side or the other is critical.

  9. Steve,

    I am really seeing the Lutheran position clearer and clearer, and it is fascinating to me. A lot of things fall into place when we view Christ in the non-spiritual way.

  10. Slowcowboy,

    To better answer your questions, I think that the Christ is not necessarily the same thing as Jesus the man, this is why the Jews did not immediately recognize him as Christ. How God could be a man is a mystery to me. Jesus is a mystery, and how he could be the Christ is also a mystery. If you think that there is no difference between Christ and Jesus, and that they are the same nature or whatever, I won’t argue with you. I really couldn’t begin to know how to answer that question definitively.

  11. Jared, I am trying to get you to take a position, to be honest. You skirt the edges and your definition of ‘Christian’ is far broader than I think is healthy. My position is not new nor is it controversial. Orthodoxy has been a quality of Christianity from its beginning.

    On “Christ”: Christ is a label referring to Messiah. Jews were/are looking for more of a political sort of person to lead them, and there may be more than one “Christ” in this sense. However, Christians recognize Jesus as the ultimate savior/leader as long predicted in the OT. Christians therefore recognize only one Christ: the person of Jesus.

    This means that that nature of Christ is the same as the nature of Jesus.

    But the identification of Jesus as the Christ and as God Incarnate is crucial to orthodox Christianity.

  12. As the great Lutheran theologian James A. Nestingen says, “In the same way a mother expresses her milk to nourish her baby…the God expressed Himself in Jesus. And continues to express Himself (to actually give Himself) in the preaching and teaching of Jesus…and in the free gift of Himself in Baptism and in The Supper”

  13. Jared, I did not address the question of a dual nature between humanity and deity. I was discussing the label “Christ”, wherein I feel Jesus fully is the nature of the Christ. Jesus was indeed fully man just as he was fully God. I have no arguments with that.

  14. I was talking about the label above in my post where you say I don’t follow the creed. Christ is a label. In Hebrew, it basically means anointed, messiah, its a title given to someone. Its actually very interesting to look into.

    Now, for Jesus to be the Christ, do think it necessary he have a particular nature?

  15. OK. It is hard for us to get it, sure. Some things, many even, we take on faith. I can’t prove to you that Jesus is also fully divine, though I could give the reasons why it makes sense to conclude that Jesus is God Incarnate. I am sure you have heard these reasons, though.

    And Jared, if I may, do read the New Testament much?

  16. Jared:

    1. I may be ADD, but I still don’t understand how Jesus as Messiah is a fact. I need you to explain it in 2 sentences or less for me to see what you’re saying. I’ll certainly read the Barth article.

    2. From Matthew 16:16,17: How did the Father in Heaven reveal to Peter that Jesus is the Christ? It sounds like your answer is – logic?!

    3. What happened at Pentecost and what did the people mean when they said they were “cut to the heart”? What’s the purpose of sending The Holy Spirit as “divided tongues as of fire”?

    4. Of what value is the Holy Spirit – 1/3 of the Trinity or Godhead – to us?

  17. The love of god is that there is relief from divine justice. Christ is the love of god. This is independent of Jesus being the christ. I would expect a myth of Christ to be part of monotheism. Mormonism could use a clearer myth that would point the mind to christ better.

    I’ll answer more later. .

  18. Jared, or I could conclude that there is no God. That would logically explain this terribly depraved world as well. It seems to me you have to start spiritually – at some point.

  19. 2. From Matthew 16:16,17: How did the Father in Heaven reveal to Peter that Jesus is the Christ? It sounds like your answer is – logic?!

    I think this vision, and all spiritual experiences like this, exist as apologetics for the fact that Christ has come. I think a vision was certainly a good way of convincing Peter of this fact, few expected Christ to come in the form of a man like Jesus.

    I think the fact of Christ can be deduced pretty easily from simple monotheism and the existence of love, the fact that Jesus was the Christ is a matter of faith, but I think the argument is strong as well from an historical point of view. I think the existence of love is also a sort of faith in itself, but I think there is evidence for it, even if “true” love is not easy to explain or detect.

    If you believe in God, and you equate God with love you must believe in some sort of Christ, because relief from justice is what allows love. Believers still expect Christ to balance all of the scales, not just the ones in our hearts, I think this is a faith. Some believers expect Christianity to redeem the world politically. But I don’t think you have to believe in a particular view of the eschaton in order to accept that there is a Christ.

    3. What happened at Pentecost and what did the people mean when they said they were “cut to the heart”? What’s the purpose of sending The Holy Spirit as “divided tongues as of fire”?

    I think these were spiritual (psychological) reactions to Christ. I think the the fact of the Holy Spirit is what happens to people when they see the Light of Christ. Words cause a vision of God in some and cut other to the heart, the right words matter. This is why I am very inclined toward orthodoxy.

    4. Of what value is the Holy Spirit – 1/3 of the Trinity or Godhead – to us?

    The value of the Holy Spirit is that it helps lead our way while in Christian freedom. i.e. it is a guide to spiritual sanity.

  20. I am moving these questions from the other thread:

    Is believing Jesus is the savior is the same as believing Jesus is the Christ?

    Is believing Jesus is God the same as believing Jesus is Christ?

    Is “Christ” the the same as saying “God”?

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