My Review of Theology
Written by: Robert D. Brinsmead
At the end of the l980’s, it started to dawn on me that Jesus was not God, and never thought of himself as God, but had a vision of what it meant to be human as human was meant to be. I had just written, Farewell to Religion – that is especially, religion based on the divinity of Jesus which was all falling apart as far as I could see. The consequences of this was so overwhelming that to proceed on this path appeared to be more radical than my final break with Adventism a decade before. Somehow I felt what Albert Schweitzer seemed to feel after he had written his thesis on the historical Jesus. It was so shattering a discovery to Schweitzer that he gave up the pursuit of theological studies altogether and decided to do something of use to humanity, like becoming a doctor and then a medical missionary to Africa. For me to say anything further about a theological tradition that was now emptied of all meaning by the total humanity of Jesus – so I said nothing for about ten years until Wendell contacted me to find out if I had run off with my secretary or some such aberration. To another who reached me in my cave of hibernation from theological discussion I scrawled something like this in handwriting:
I am through and through an anti-orthodox, anti-establishment rebel, but I am all this in the spirit of fun and laughter. I was not an angry young man back then nor am I bitter old man now, because through it all my inspiration has been that eating and drinking man who lampooned the establishment and the traditional wisdom and pieties of his day by telling outrageous stories. But he did it with a big smile on his face… (That statement in full got published by someone… I have lost it, but I think it was something I wrote to Ellen and she passed it on. Anyhow, it was in this frame of mind that I wrote a ten-part series called The Scandal of Joshua ben Adam.
I would say that the main thing I have added since my review of theology at the turn of the century is my understanding that the historical Jesus rejected any suggestion that he was the messiah – and did not endorse this false hope of a messianic hero figure. That whole religious expectation was repugnant to him. He had a clear vision that the entire expectation of the eventual dominion of the righteous/Israel/the elect was based on a total misunderstanding of the servanthood of God. This old vision was so established in the thinking of his friends (disciples? No!) that they could not get rid of this wretched religious triumphalism and the expectation that the expected dominion would come through their messiah. The vision of Jesus was a rejection of the traditional view of worship. Nothing has led to more bloodshed and inhumanity than ideas about worshipping God, such as who to worship, how to worship, or even the Adventists and Jews, when to worship. In this framework, it is imagined that nothing is more desired or necessary than the constant adulation, adoration, and endless praise and flattery of OUR God who is little more than a projection of the human ego and its animal craving for domination. Jesus tried to teach something about the servanthood of God, and to this we might add the silence of God, the humility of God, and the absence of God. But in persisting with their old wineskins, the followers of Jesus recast his image as the Messiah¸ higher and higher until he became God Almighty with total dominion which he eventually shares with the righteous believers. No wonder this too led to a lot of bloodshed. This view of the dominion of God, the dominion of Christ and the eventual dominion of the Church is what Jesus identified as a Gentile and Pagan view of dominion. Jesus came to teach us something about the servanthood of God and the servanthood of the son of man that is so contrary to what is taught in Daniel 7 – certainly not its fulfilment. The church enthroned what Jesus intended to dethrone.