Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

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Enoch
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Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Enoch » 19 Feb 2011, 20:06

My wife asked me to "bear my testimony about Jesus" for her primary class tomorrow. I hesitated, but think I can figure out a way to word it. Then a friend in my "facebook ward" asked me for my thoughts on Jesus, so I wrote this up. I thought I would share with you guys too.


I am trying to verbalize my thoughts on Jesus and the Atonement. I love the *idea* of Jesus as Atoning Son. My biggest hangup is that I am skeptical about the need for the Atonement. Yes we are flawed, selfish and lazy; but are sin, mercy, and justice really cosmic forces that need to be overcome by the death of a God? I know change is difficult, but people do it all the time. Is there really some cosmic road block preventing us from overcoming our mistakes on our own, damning us to our frailties and faults without the intervention of a crucified stranger?

I love the idea of Jesus as Atoning Savior. I love the idea of an actualized perfected, loving God Brother who choose of his own will to take upon himself everything in us short of perfection. I love the idea of One Being who gives us all strength, who after working an Atonement out of time lives all of our lives and deaths. I love the idea of this Dying and Rising God who binds us all together through blood, love, and covenants. I love the idea that our strength is both ours and his. We are all one Being, and he unites us. I love the idea of a perfectly compassionate Savior, someone who literally understands everything anyone has ever gone through.

I love the idea of allowing our old selves to die and our new selves to live. I am grateful for peace and transformation that can come from pondering these ideas.

And I love the man Jesus. I love his courage to "live as if the Kingdom has already come". I admire him for restructuring society into a new Family, for teaching that the best way to live a life of holiness is to love God and care for each other.

But all this for me is symbol and myth. Myth and symbol so precious and powerful. I really do love it. But I do not know if the individual Jesus called Christ is really our Savior and God. All this for me is a focus point for us to strive to be gentle with ourselves, to let go of guilt, to seek the best within ourselves, better than we believed we had and were. I believe in the Christs within us. I believe in Emanuel--God is with us. God is within us.

doug
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by doug » 19 Feb 2011, 22:13

I like that. I've been struggling with this very thing for a while and can't quite get to a point where I can make sense of it all one day and it will still make sense the next. At some point I wonder why we bother making a distinction between reality and myth. Perhaps if I could come to grips with that, I'd be much better prepared to come to some kind of longer-term peace about Jesus.

That ain't gonna fly in primary, though.
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. -- Mark Twain

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cwald
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by cwald » 19 Feb 2011, 22:37

doug wrote:I like that. I've been struggling with this very thing for a while and can't quite get to a point where I can make sense of it all one day and it will still make sense the next. At some point I wonder why we bother making a distinction between reality and myth. Perhaps if I could come to grips with that, I'd be much better prepared to come to some kind of longer-term peace about Jesus.

That ain't gonna fly in primary, though.
Yes. I guess it doesn't matter to me right now, but I certainly would never expect primary kids to understand it.

Anytime I think through these things, I always go back to the Santa Claus example. Could you get kids to understand the difference? No way in hell.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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Tom Haws
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Tom Haws » 19 Feb 2011, 22:55

If somebody asked me to bear my testimony of Jesus, I would share my fervent conviction of the power that is in the Sermon on the Mount and all his teachings on ungrasping and non-resistance.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 20 Feb 2011, 01:42

Yes, and yes - because of the first yes. :smile:

I love the symbolism (as you will see in the talk I just posted), even if I have no idea whatsoever if there is any literal aspect to it. In church, I generally don't draw the distinction. I figure, in this case particularly, "Let she who has ears to hear . . ."
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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bridget_night
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by bridget_night » 20 Feb 2011, 12:57

Ever since I saw the movie the 'Passion', I have pondered the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

When I was about 8 and saw movies of the crucifixion I would cry and wonder why the most innocent man in the world would have to have the crap beaten out of them for something I or others did. It made no sense to me. I thought, "Why can't I just repent and then it's over with."
When I went through childbirth the first time, it felt like a crucifixion on the cross.

Then I had children and God blessed me with one of his most rebellious daughters. We went through hell with her. She was bi-polar and had a baby at 16 out of wedlock. She got evicted from one of the apartments she lived in for wild parties at 17. Eventually, she did learn and grew up but no one wanted to rent to her because of her bad credit and evictions without a co-signer. She begged us to co-sign and we told her we would give her one more chance. We made an agreement that we would co-sign for her but she had to obey our rules. That meant no drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, or wild parties in the apartment. That we would have a key and could come by anytime to check on her. Since we would be responsible for any damage to the apartment which she could not pay, we had the right to set the rules. That's when it suddenly hit me about the atonement. As a parent we often atone or pay the price for our kids mistakes that they can in no way pay for. My daughter, now has two boys of her own and one is just like her and she sends me the most wonderful cards that shows she understands what hell she put us through. She knows we were willing to suffer and pay the price for her serious mistakes so that she could get through these difficult trials of life without totally messing up her life. We did this because of our great love for her. God knows that many children will be born in to homes where they are beaten and treated horribly. Why would any parent allow their child to be put in a home where they knew their child would be sexually abused, beaten, etc? It is because He knew the damage could be reversed. Through the atonement we have the resurrection and will not lay in the grave forever. But, for paying the uttermost price for our mistakes God expects us to follow His rules.

Because of my love for my children I am willing to give my life for them and go through the valley of the shadow of death. If I, as a mere mortal, am willing to suffer for my children and do almost anything to save them from getting into sin, how much greater must our Heavenly Father's love be for us.

I don't fully understand how and why the atonement works, but apparently it is necessary and I thank my Heavenly Father daily for sending His Son, Jesus Christ to try and save me from my sins.

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Enoch
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Enoch » 20 Feb 2011, 19:58

That was beautiful Bridget; thank you for sharing. I really appreciated your words. My question is whether our mistakes really need to be "paid for" in some cosmic sense or whether our mistakes just have the obvious consequences we see here.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 20 Feb 2011, 22:01

I think our mistakes need to be "paid for" in some sense. I really do. I just don't know exactly what that sense is and if it involves a literal transfer of guilt and pain - or if the symbolism of the transfer is what matters.

At the most basic, fundamental level, I honestly don't care. I accept the possibility of the literal while leaning intellectually toward the symbolic - since I really care much more for the actual effect the belief in either causes than for the ultimate mechanics. Whatever produces good fruit in each individal, so to speak, is fine with me - even if it varies radically in conceptual detail among the LDS membership, the religious of all faiths and denominations and even the agnostics and atheists.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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jamison
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by jamison » 20 Feb 2011, 23:36

I believe he is both. Every symbol of Christ's messianic role and reign had been fulfilled or will be fulfilled. I just think that because we are not Israelites in the literal sense of ancient Israel as it relates to the Old Testament, we miss a lot of the imagery. For instance, just what is "living water" and who in our day really gives a crap. But, in the context of ancient Israel living water was the only way one who was a leper could be ritualistically cleansed (Leviticus 14:5). Living water was also the only way that one who was defiled by the dead could be ritualistically cleansed as well (Numbers 19:17). We can't understand Christ and his mission fully without understanding the Law of Moses and how Christ fulfilled it. Mormonism/Christianity is Judaism's fulfillment. For Jesus cleansed lepers who no one else wanted to touch or be in proximity to (Jesus is the living water here). Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead as well as Lazarus who was entombed for four days (Jesus again was the living water here as well). His resurrection that gives us all immortality again ties into "death-that makes us all unclean" and Christ is the "living water" that cleanses us ritualistically from such state by giving us rebirth literally as a resurrected being someday.

I have a lot of holy envy for the Jews who hold Moses in such high esteem. On a bad day, when I am feeling really lousy about life in general, or am super critical of the church, I ask myself, "No wonder the Jews love Moses so much." His law was paramount since we have failed as a society in general; people all around bear false witness, commit adultery, steal, break the sabbath, etc. As a society as a whole we cannot even live the basic ten commandments, so hasn't Christianity failed. Then I have to go full circle to the mercy of Christ, yes and that is why we have to have Christ since none of us foolish mortals can live all of those laws completely. Today, I left church depressed thinking how dishonest I am and yet honesty was the gospel doctrine lesson." Yet, I am honest to acknowledge that I need Christ because without him I am a vile sinner that should go to hell in a hand basket. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
"Ignorance, fear, and conflict are the basic elements of everyday consciousness" Marvin Harris -- Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches.

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Enoch
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Re: Jesus: Symbol or Savior?

Post by Enoch » 21 Feb 2011, 12:16

Ray, I am sure both of us are aware that our approaches are very close indeed if not nearly identical. Have you posted your nuanced testimony any where?

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