Jesus through other lenses
If you compare Jesus to Buddha, Abraham or to Mohammed, Jesus doesn’t seem like the same kind of figure or person. Because the very specific choice of Jesus was not as a prophet or not as the father of a people as Abraham and certainly not as Buddha who helped people move towards enlightenment, all of which are great religious functions. But the fact that Jesus became human, was killed and raised from the dead, makes Jesus absolutely unique.
—Dan Martensen, Ecumenical Research Fellow with the Washington Theological consortium, Rockville, Md., author and editor
Today many people have been searching for a long time, have gone through one or the other awakening movement and want to find a personal relationship in some way with God. New Age thinking often brings people to a very ancient heresy, the heresy of syncretism, where one truth is equally as good and as valid as any other truth.
Jesus was true God and true man, the most awesome mystery imaginable: that the high, wonderful God in the Hebrew scriptures, [he’s so wonderful that you can’t even say the name God except as “Yahweh”]—this God would give himself to us in Jesus Christ as his son and our savior. So for me Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Jesus is what Jesus says he is, through the scriptures in a number of “I am” statements. “I am the way, the truth, the life,” he says. “To see me is to see the Father.”
—Susan Muto, Executive director and co-founder of the Epiphany Association,www.epiphanyassociation.org Pittsburgh, Pa., author.
Jesus was a man who lived in Palestine 20 centuries ago. He was a man who was somehow the fullness of God in our midst. And yet somehow God took himself and his spirit and poured himself into that man—God with us. And yet he is fully and in every sense of the word still a man. He’s got human limits like all of us.
—Steve Dintaman, Interim professor of theology, at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, pastor, Harrisonburg, Va.
The other side is he’s not just a historical person. The living Christ is still with us. He is still as powerfully present and alive as he was back in the historical record. Both sides of the picture need to be kept alive: a man with a history and a story that we have to read and study, and a living presence that we can know now.
The New Testament recognizes consciousness of God in other religions. The writer/apostle Paul acknowledged religious awareness of the rural, pagan, Gentiles at Lystra (Acts 14:8-19). Even if they were worshippers of Zeus and Hermes, they could observe the witness of God in creation and the cycles of nature. At Athens (Acts 17:16-34), in a more sophisticated, religious-philosophical environment, Paul both affirmed and connects with their religious sensitivity.
Belief in the uniqueness of Jesus should not make us arrogant, for the finality of Christ is a judgment upon Christianity as well as upon other religions. The practice of Christian religion is too often distorted and blind. So while we believe in the triumph of Christ, this should not make us triumphalistic. Nor should we discount the claims of Christ. They were made by him or concerning him; we did not devise them. (“Who do you say that I am?” Gospel Herald, September 8, 1992)
—Calvin E. Shenk, Professor of Religion, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.