November 4, 2014:
The question of a Bible-less Christianity is bearing down on me this morning. Is it possible? Is it desirable? Is it part of God’s long-term plan?
For me this issue has to do with the difference between a ‘biblical worldview’ and a ‘cosmic worldview’ (as sketched by current theories in physics, biology, cosmology, etc.), and a biblical timeline versus a cosmic timeline.
The Old Testament is a record of a historical people’s struggle with their god and a record of the signs and early tremors of the coming of their messiah. Personally, I’m no more interested in the history or religion of the Hebrews than I am in that of any other ethnic group – from an anthropological perspective. I am not particularly interested in the particulars of their culture. That Jesus was born in their line of descent makes them special, true, but I’m more interested in the context of Jesus’s coming in a cosmic timeline – extending billions of years before the Jews and potentially billions of years after. The Jewish milieu of Christ’s incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth is unique and important but constitutes the tiniest sliver of time.
Moreover, I am not as interested in the creation account of the Hebrews as I am in the cosmological account available today. I am not as interested in the political and religious history of the Hebrews as I am in the cosmological evolution of all things, including all people groups past, present, and future. And I am not as interested in the myths, laws, stories, songs, proverbs, and prophecies of the Jews as I am in the evolutionary conditions that gave rise to language, logic, music, mythology, etc. in the first place, in all humanity. The tiny sliver of time Christ was incarnating himself among the Jewish people is just the pointed tip of an arrowhead on the arrow of Christ’s incarnation through all of evolutionary unfolding. I respect the final point, but I am most interested in the whole process. So that’s the Old Testament…
The New Testament, then, begins with a climactic human embodiment of the Cosmic Christ [by which I mean the blueprint of whatever the human or superhuman or trans-human or post-human end of evolution will be] in an individual male Jew born in the village of Bethlehem in the line of king David. From a traditional Christian perspective, this milieu of the incarnation retroactively valorizes the Old Testament as the religious, cultural, and political origin of Jesus Christ. But this only finds its full strength within a biblical worldview and so is circular in reasoning.
Jesus’s coming as a Jewish man not only valorizes the Jewish people and their sacred writings – no, for that alone would be anachronistic and ethno- and anthropocentric. Jesus’s coming as a member of the mammalian species Homo sapiens sapiens – a species originating from and interconnected with the whole cosmos – valorizes not only the Jews and their religion, but also all ethnic groups, all religions, all cultures, all human knowing and being worldwide.
Not only that: it valorizes ALL FLESH, from the evolutionary spear-tip that is humanity all the way back through the foregoing myriad species of living creatures, through all the pre-living inorganic elements, all the way back to the Beginning.
The Big Beginning (whether a ‘bang’ or otherwise) was the start of the incarnation of the Christ – the Anointed One.
This is looking back from Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Cosmic Christ in human form, is crucial to God’s coming-to-be in the cosmos, but even he was not the final revelation. He inaugurated a new era of evolution, to be sure. He identified with suffering humanity and then subverted and transcended evil and death [entropy]. That victorious Spirit of his was then made available to the Church (the ‘body’ of Christ), and the rest of the New Testament is the record of that Spirit – the spirit of Jesus – at work in and through the early Christians.
It is interesting and important to be able to read about the beginning movements in this new evolutionary era. We get front-row seats to how the spirit of the resurrected Christ goes to work in particular cultural, historical, religious, philosophical, and social contexts: the Roman Empire, Hellenic language and culture, etc. We can learn a lot from that time period, from the people who actually knew Jesus in person.
Again, I personally am less interested in the particulars of the New Testament. For just as the Old Testament recounts the foreshadowing of Jesus in a particular context, the New Testament recounts the ‘after-shadowing’ of the same events. But it does so only from within the timescale and worldview of the New Testament authors themselves. To adopt their view of their past, present, and future as our view of their and our past, present, and future (the so-called ‘biblical’ worldview) is grossly anachronistic and therefore bound to distort our perspective.
And so I am less interested in the particulars of the Spirit’s self-embodying in the New Testament’s historical context as I am in its self-embodying since then, in the present, and in the indefinite future – in all matter and energy: human and beyond.
What I envision, then, by a ‘Bibleless Christianity’, is not one that forgets or rejects the Bible, but one that situates it properly in cosmic perspective, the result of which would not be a Christianity that is a ‘religion of the Book’, but a religion of the Cosmos! One day in the future, the Bible may be seen as just one of the first [and many] foundational documents telling an ancient and wonderful cosmic story.