John 1:1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (CEB)
Scientists tell us that we are the universe’s capacity for self-reflection. Teilhard de Chardin suggests that evolution proceeds by becoming more complex, culminating in the emergence of consciousness. We human beings have been tasked with the search for meaning. The directional arrow for that search has been inextricably tied to the search for god/gods/God. With the evolution of human consciousness came the emergence of the concept of God.
We have learned that the creative process holds complexity in tension with entropy. Complexity is the developmental process of order. Entropy is the reversing of complexity, the process of dying. Since the advent of consciousness human beings have been searching for God by exploring the tension between complexity and entropy. In order to avoid or at least lessen the impact of crop failures, damage from wind / rain / extreme temperatures, disease, and other threats to life, the gods were presented with gifts (rituals, prayers, sacrifices) to appease their anger (that is, to lessen entropy). Because complexity seems to win in the short term, it appeared as if prayers are answered. Prayers and other ritual activities are deemed successful and therefore powerful. We favor complexity by creating religious practices, building shrines and cathedrals, developing rituals and liturgies, and forming elaborate theologies. Since entropy seems to win in the long run (all life ends in death, the universe will run down), religion and its hand-maiden, theology, prosper in the meantime as coping and/or anesthetizing agents.
Enter Yeshua*, a poor carpenter from Nazareth, who had a very different understanding of the human search for meaning and purpose. Yes, meaning is to be understood as shaped by the name of God. No, God is not some other-worldly king-like being that “rules” all of life with an iron hand. Yes, the true meaning of life is centered on people. No, that meaning does not depend on political power, social status, economic means, religious sophistication, or wisely crafted belief systems. Yes, life has meaning and that meaning is ultimately found when the human playing field is leveled for all participants and “justice roll[s] down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
Yeshua* made an audacious claim about himself — namely, that he was the true Human Being (“son of man”) who was living out all those claims made previously in the name of God. If God is to “rule” it will be in the hearts and minds of those who become true Human Beings. Not only would Yeshua* preside over healings and offer forgiveness, so would others who accepted and lived into the mantle of Human Being. Many have called Yeshua* the Messiah (Christ). He seemed content, however, with the title “the Human Being.” And he did not assume that it was a title only he could inhabit. His invitation was to all the inhabitants of the Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem to become genuine, whole human beings. His mission took him into Gentile lands with the same message. His followers have taken that message to the ends of the earth.
That message, however, has been changed along the way — changed from the challenge of becoming truly human and bearing God within one’s heart and mind to the dictate of worshiping Yeshua* as the unique (divine) one who was able to be and do what we could never be or do. Hence, as the divine Son of God, he can fix our salvation, since we are broken. On the one hand, Yeshua* seemed to promote a messianic process accessible within each human being, wherein we each could “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) — that is become genuine Human Beings, characterized by the integrated wholeness of compassion, peace, and justice. On the other hand, the message has become that Messiah (Christ) does that work for us. We only have to believe.
The original message of Yeshua* seems something like the “religionless Christianity” favored by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I suspect that, at some far distant point in time, religionless Christianity will morph into God-less Christianity — that is a way of faithful engagement with life in its deepest forms without resorting to some external existent reality that bears the name of God. Instead, we will have arrived at the realization that being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) means that the responsibility for life — our own, each other’s, the planet’s — belongs to us and cannot be foisted off on to some external, supernatural entity.
Re-working John 1:1-5 Along with the emergence of human consciousness came a search for meaning and the name “God” was attached to that search. When meaning was found, it was associated with the name of God. Everything meaningful was attributed to the name of God. In fact, the very nature of meaning was named God. Meaning illumined life for all people. The struggle with meaninglessness has not been able to extinguish the light produced in the name of God.