Liberal Christians like to hang onto Jesus. Some even call themselves Jesusians. Jesus is our lifesaver when we swim in problematic Biblical waters. There may be awful depictions of God in the Bible, the church’s book, but at the end of the day we have Jesus to count on. If some part of the Bible does not match up to the revelation of Jesus we can chunk that revelation.
Biblical scholars, however, remind us the search for the historical Jesus is not an easy one with a settled answer. We have four canonical gospels that present contrasting views of Jesus. There are materials within the gospels that appear to be the re-interpretation of the Jesus tradition from a particular community/location/time. The text is a living text, including the character of Jesus.
Marcella Althaus-Ried rains on our Jesusian parade even more. She confronts us with our bankrupt epistemologies and challenges us to “construct a Christ who will go beyond the limitations of Jesus’ historical consciousness.” (From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology, p. 92) An example of Jesus’ limited historical conscious is the mite-giving widow in the temple. “The problem is that, in fact, Christ did not stop the widow from sacrificing herself. Christ is presented in the narratives as compassionate, but it is not what we could call a revolutionary compassion, transforming women’s oppression by an awareness of the patriarchal epistemology of his time.” (p. 92)
Epistemologies, theologies, faith practices which are constructed based on the Bible or based on Jesus are bankrupt. They are never enough. The truth of the matter is all sources for our theology and faith practice are problematic. All of them!
The faith to which we are called is a living faith. It is faith, not certainty. Not a faith without content, but not a faith with settled answers. And for those of us who have tried both a settled faith and an unsettled faith, we know an unsettled faith is much harder.
May God give us communities, wisdom, endurance, and courage for such a journey.