“Some Quaker FAQs” Continued-What About Jesus?
A Series For New & Curious Friends
Q. What About Jesus?
What does New Covenant Temple believe about Jesus?** Again, here’s what it says on their website:
** For more about New Covenant Temple, and why we use them as a reference point, click here.
Jesus Christ: We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who gave his life on a cross as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins. He arose from the grave to show his power over sin and death. He ascended into heaven and will return to earth again to rule as King of all kings.
Okay, there’s a lot in this to talk about. And it’s similar to what many other Christian churches believe, including the evangelical Friends churches.
Some Quakers, especially liberal/Progressive ones, have come from such churches. Many others are not very familiar with it, though they may have heard pieces of it here and there. Liberal/Progressive Quakers often shy away from even talking about all that; which is too bad.
Avoiding it won’t help much when your friends start asking you those questions, or when political leaders start crusading about “reclaiming” the country “for Christ.” And you may have questions of your own about it.
There are plenty of churches out there which will lay out all the answers (their answers) for you, and then all you have to do is to agree and follow along.
Among Progressive Quakers, it works differently. You can learn a lot from seeking and study, for instance by reading the Bible, and the books of Faith & Practice that the Yearly Meetings issue. But the bottom line answers come from you and the Inner Light.
So, what about Jesus? Let’s see if we can take this one piece at a time.
Q. What Does “The Son of God” Mean?
Was Jesus the “Son of God”?
This idea turns up in stories told about Jesus in the Bible – though these stories don’t all agree. What it seems to come down to, though, is that God sort of “cloned” himself (yes, this God was “male”), and then about 2000 years ago, put the God-clone into the womb of a woman named Mary, from which he emerged in human form (like a “son”), and thus sent him down to earth to live among people for 33 years, as the person Jesus.
(In many of the creeds about Jesus, Mary is said to have been a virgin when this all happened, so it was the “Virgin Birth.”)
BTW – when stories about Jesus were first being told, there were other religions with somewhat similar tales; so the “son-of-God-living-with-people-awhile” idea didn’t sound as strange to people then as it does to many today. (And come to think of it, this tale is no weirder than a lot of those you can see on movie screens today.)
This God-son’s life started, of course, with the Christmas story: born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, angels singing, three kings a-visiting, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. All of that – except that the last two are not in the Bible.
Q. Do we have to talk about “God”?
No, we don’t “have to,” and some Friends prefer not to. For that matter, “God” has been defined many ways. But I’m going to use “God” here, without trying to sort it out or define it, beyond pointing out that “God” appears to be the main character of Biblical stories and religion, and that, like it or not, both “God” and the Bible were very important to Quakers for most of our history. So both of these will be big parts of the discussion here. You’re free to define “God” as you wish, or substitute something else.
Q. What About “Sin”?
And why did God take human form? The answers at New Covenant and similar churches are based on a belief that we humans have all “sinned” – that is, we’ve made a hopeless mess of life and the world, ever since the beginning. We made such a big terrible mess that we can’t possibly fix it by ourselves.
That’s all of us, by the way, including you and me. Plus everyone who has yet to be born too. Trapped in this mess, can’t fix it. So God finally stepped in, in the form of Jesus, and fixed it for us.
Here’s another way to think about it, through a story, a parable:
Q. More About Sin: Were You ever Stuck In A Deep Hole?
Suppose you were walking by yourself one day and fell into a deep hole. You weren’t hurt, but the sides of the hole were very steep and slippery, so that you couldn’t climb out. You were stuck there, alone and hungry, maybe cold and wet too.
Then, finally, someone came along and found you, and put down a ladder, and you were able to climb out of the hole. You were rescued, or “saved.”
That’s where New Covenant Temple folks believe we all are: trapped in a pit of “sin.” Can’t get out by our human efforts. So God then offered to pull us all out of this bottomless “hole” of sin and evil. God acted to rescue, or “save” us, every one.
How? God essentially put a ladder down into this hole. Jesus was the “ladder.” By grabbing the “ladder” named Jesus, we can climb out and be “saved.” (Many churches will say there are other ladders being dangled into the “hole” of sin – but all these others are fakes. More on that later.)
In the Bible stories, Jesus grew up and became a traveling teacher and preacher. He lived to be about thirty-three. Stories about him healing sick people and doing other miracles were collected in the Bible, along with some of his teachings.
But for New Covenant Temple folks, and most other Christian churches, it’s not what Jesus taught that made the rescue possible, as much as one thing he did. That was the most important.
Next Time: More About Sin, Jesus & Salvation
Part 3 of this series here.
This post is adapted from the booklet, Some Quaker FAQs, by Chuck Fager. More information about it is here.