Rejoice! The End Is Near.

Love’s narchy

Monday, January 30, 2012

Losing Orthodoxy

I never meant to be a heretic. Quite the opposite, in fact. I thought there was plenty of room to be creative and original within the context of broadly accepted Christian doctrine. I knew, of course, when I started writing Love’s Anarchy that it would stray from the evangelical party line, but anarchy is not necessarily the same as heresy. Nevertheless, by following the peculiar logic of my writing process I ended up leaving many of the major tenets of orthodoxy abjectly in the dust. It reminds me of the time I attended a court-ordered alcohol awareness program in college: One of the couselors there told me he was being “kind” by saying I was in the “early stages” of “alcoholism.” Likewise, it would now be “kind” to call me “unorthodox.” I’m a heretic. I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, but I can no longer subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is more or less the touchstone of midwestern evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox orthodoxy.

It’s been said that a little knowledge is dangerous, and I have but little knowledge of the Council of Nicaea convened by the emperor Constantine, and that but recently, but that knowledge has convinced me that the Nicene Creed is a purely political document and that orthodoxy itself is ill-advised. The Arian heresy that the creed was created to counter is simply the belief that the the Son is not coeternal with the Father—that there was a time when the Father existed and the Son did not. Arius, the heresy’s namesake, did believe that the Son existed before Jesus was born (in accordance with the Gospel of John, which states in the first chapter that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14 NRSV)), but he believed there was a time when God the Father existed alone, before he spoke the Word that was his Son. Many a conservative theologian will insist that belief in the coeternal nature of Jesus is absolutely crucial to a proper understanding of the Christian faith, but I say (with a hint of a British accent), “Bosh.”

For one thing, such a fact is unknowable. Obviously. For another, the doctrine exists largely to defend against the charge of polytheism. God is One, say those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, so you can’t worship Jesus the Son and God the Father without worshiping a plurality of gods. Christianity answered by proclaiming the Father and Son to be of a single essence and by more-or-less inventing the identity of a third person of equal essence who proceeds from one or both of the other two-in-one. It’s patently absurd. And I say that as someone who once considered it a true and beautiful mystery. I still agree that it’s an elegant solution to a number of thorny problems in Scripture, but I also now believe it to be pure crap.

The Holy Spirit is God. Full stop. Not two persons with one essence, but one and the same, without distinction of any kind. The Bible states that “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). The Holy Spirit of God is just that: God’s holy spirit. Jesus ascended into heaven in order to send us the entirety of God to be our paraclete, our helper, comforter and friend. Jesus himself is God’s son, begotten by God on the day he was baptised by his cousin John. To believe anything more than that is to take John the gospel-writer a bit too literally.

“In the beginning was the Word” and “the Word became flesh.” This is high-level theology, and I don’t question it’s truthfulness as such, but if the baby Jesus was in any sense God, no matter how emptied, the baby qua baby becomes nonsensical. How can a baby be God in any meaningful way? Was God not capable beforehand of so fully identifying with any human child that there was no aspect of being a baby with which he was not already intimately familiar? I say thee nay.

I suspect Jesus’ father was not Joseph but some other human male, and while I can hope that the relationship was between two star-crossed lovers, I further suspect that it was forced. I would go so far as to assume that his father was a Roman soldier, and that the experience of being impregnated was not pleasant for young Mary. For anyone incapable of reading between the lines (and, if the comments section of various websites are any indication, there are always a few), I’m talking about rape, and when I say “not pleasant,” I mean, “painful and horrifically traumatic.”

I also believe that Jesus was and is the Messiah, the Chosen One, anointed by God to redeem the whole of creation. I believe that his literal resurrection is the sine qua non of humanity’s escape from the fires of hell.

Are you confused? Well, so am I, a little bit, and I don’t presume to believe that I am actually correct in all my beliefs, even if I honestly believe I am correct in some of them, even (or perhaps especially) the heretical ones. Call it speculation, intuition or the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, but I believe that I have been given special knowledge of various facts that have remained hidden from the time of Adam. Not that I think I’m the only one to whom they’ve been revealed. It’s just that a thing may remain hidden even after it’s been found. It’s highly unlikely, for instance, that enough people will read my conjectures that my discoveries will no longer be hidden even now.

The revelation started when I was going through Genesis, offering my thoughts on the various stories contained therein. When I reached the bit about Abraham’s nephew Lot hiding out in a cave after the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah, I found that I couldn’t accept the idea that Lot’s daughters, concerned about who would continue their father’s line, decided to get him drunk in order to sleep with him. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a bald-faced, and even an obvious, lie. Lot got drunk and raped his teenaged daughters. They got pregnant at a place and time when there was no one else around to blame, so he blamed them. I trust this is not an unfamiliar story.

The fundamentalists are correct in at least one assertion: to question the absolute authority of the Bible at any one point is to call the entirety of scripture into question. If Genesis 1 is false, then so is Revelation 22. By pulling one weak thread out of Genesis, I ended up unraveling my whole Bible. Is there anyone who can help me weave it back together?