Apr 11, 2009

Good Friday's Provocative Food For Thought

In Singapore, it can be dangerous to blog about religion. However, one safe way must be by reproducing an excerpt from a book which the authorities have already approved for sale in this country.

If they think that it's okay, they can't then think it's not okay, right?

So today I share with you a thought-provoking passage from The Third Jesus, a book by one of my favourite authors, Deepak Chopra. The book is available in all the usual places, like MPH, Times, Borders etc:
Jesus is in trouble. When people worship him today - or even speak his name - the object of their devotion is unlikely to be who they think he is. A mythical Jesus has grown up over time. He has served to divide peoples and nations. He has led to destructive wars in the name of religious fantasies. The legacy of love found in the New Testament has been tainted with the worst sort of intolerance and prejudice that would have appalled Jesus in life. Most troubling of all, his teachings have been hijacked by people who hate in the name of love.

"Sometimes I feel this social pressure to return to my faith," a lapsed Catholic told me recently, "but I'm too bitter. Can I love a religion that calls gays sinners but hides paedophiles in its clergy? Yesterday while I was driving to work, I heard a rock song that went, "Jesus walked on water when he should have surfed," and you know what? I burst out laughing. I would never have done that when I was younger. Now I feel only the smallest twinge of guilt."

No matter where you look, a cloud of confusion hangs over the message of Jesus. To cut through it we have to be specific about who we mean when we refer to Jesus. One Jesus is historical, and we know next to nothing about him. Another Jesus is the one appropriated by Christianity. He was created by the Church to fulfill its agenda. The third Jesus, the one this book is about, is as yet so unknown that even the most devout Christians don't suspect that he exists. Yet he is the Christ we cannot - and must not - ignore.

The first Jesus was a rabbi who wandered the shores of northern Galilee many centuries ago. This Jesus still feels close enough to touch. He appears in our mind's eye dressed in homespun but haloed in glory. He was kind, serene, peaceful, loving, and yet he was the keeper of deep mysteries.

The historical Jesus has been lost, however, swept away by history. He still lingers like a ghost, a projection of all the ideal qualities we wish for ourselves but so painfully lack. Why couldn't there be one person who was perfectly loving, perfectly compassionate, and perfectly humble? There can be if we call him Jesus and remove him to a time thousands of years in the past. (If you live in the East, his name might be Buddha, but the man is equally mythical and equally a projection of our own lack.)

The first Jesus is less than consistent, as a closer reading of the gospels will show. If Jesus was perfectly peaceful, why did he declare, 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"? (Matthew 10:34). If he was perfectly loving, why did he say, "Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"? (Matthew 25:30) (Sometimes the translation is even harsher, and Jesus commands "the worthless slave" to be consigned to hell.) If Jesus was humble, why did he claim to rule the earth beyond the power of any king? At the very least, the living Jesus was a man of baffling contradictions.

And yet the more contradictions we unearth, the less mythical this Jesus becomes. The flesh-and-blood man who is lost to history must have been extraordinarily human. To be divine, one must be rich in every human quality first. As one famous Indian spiritual teacher once said, "The measure of enlightenment is how comfortable you feel with your own contradictions."

Millions of people worship another Jesus, however, who never existed, who doesn't even lay claim to the fleeting substance of the first Jesus. This is the Jesus built up over thousands of years by theologians and other scholars. He is the Holy Ghost, the Three-in-One Christ, the source of sacraments and prayers that were unknown to the rabbi Jesus when he walked the earth. He is also the Prince of Peace over whom bloody wars have been fought. This second Jesus cannot be embraced without embracing theology first. Theology shifts with the tide of human affairs. Metaphysics itself is so complex that it contradicts the simplicity of Jesus's words. Would he have argued with learned divines over the meaning of the Eucharist? Would he have espoused a doctrine declaring that babies are damned until they are baptized?

The second Jesus leads us into the wilderness without a clear path out. He became the foundation of a religion that has proliferated into some twenty thousand sects. They argue endlessly over every thread in the garments of a ghost. But can any authority, however exalted, really inform us about what Jesus would have thought? Isn't it a direct contradiction to hold that Jesus was a unique creation - the one and only incarnation of God - while at the same time claiming to be able to read his mind on current affairs? Yet in his name Christianity pronounces on homosexuality, birth control and abortion ....


Natalie said...

Where is the Third Jesus that we cannot ignore?

Anonymous said...

wheres the rest?

kf said...

Yes please continue!

Jon said...

Belief is a strange and wonderful/dangerous thing. It clouds the mind and drugs the intellect.

Dis-belief is also a strange and wonderful/dangerous thing. It dismisses all, refutes all, and negates all.

To refute someone's belief or disbelief in a matter that is built on something that escapes measurement / observation (by definition), borders on intellectual suicide.

Attempts to (dis)prove the authenticity of events millenniums old are quite amusing (however intellectually sound) as any forensic scientist will tell, time is an incredible leveler.

Learn to appreciate each others religion, rather than subject it to intellectual scorn. For from such scorn comes much pain and heartache, discord and wars.

At a person's proper time,
He may hear a call,
Of God's voice calling him home?
Of nature's reclaiming its own?

As the world fade away,
As the limbs grow cold,
The wisdom of a person's choice,
Shall then be known.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the lack of lively religious debate in Singapore renders it civil society impoverished. In Western countries atheists and theists are waging intellectual war, whereas in Singapore such questions of ultimate truth are swept under the carpet for fear of upsetting social harmony.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you, Mr Wang that there is too many distractions out there motivated by human agenda. However not everyone will possess the enlightenment required to unveil these facade. Sometimes it is just more convenient and comforting to believe in what is put on your platter. It is human nature to be inclined towards what fit their own ideologies the best instead of questioning it.

Fox said...

I should point out that the New Testament does not really say anything about homosexuality, birth control or abortion.

Anonymous said...

I like to recommend readers the following book...which talks about this third Jesus, the not 3-in-one type.

The Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, And Islam Similarities & Contrasts by Jerald F. Dirks

Anonymous said...

Dear Wang,

LOL. I wouldn't read Deepak Chopra if I wanted to find out anything meaningful about Jesus.


Anonymous said...

you would have to buy the book and find out. haha.

Karen K said...

As soon as I read the phrase, "historical Jesus", I know I'm dealing with a modernist.

The Jesus Who walked the earth, Who taught, Who was crucified, and yes, Who rose from the dead and destroyed the power of death is one and the same.

The problem is that His followers are human beings.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't read any books written by people from within the Christian community if I wanted to find out anything meaningful about Jesus. Too biased .. :D

Anonymous said...

Why use the Bible to guide humanity? It is a book compiled from various sources spread over many centuries and in the days when humans were groping in ignorance, they saw it as enlightening partly because of its poetic beauty here and there. But beautiful poetry can also mean nonsense or false knowledge.

The influence of such ideological teachings has been so deep on certain sections of humanity that it will probably take another century before human kind will realize completely how harmful, how useless they actually are, that they have been the tools of trade of scammers, conmen and dictators.

On analysis, the only real help that people experience in these religions is actually the group or community force and support if any. The diety that speaks of is as real as the horn of rooster.

Why do I qualify it as an ideological teaching instead of just teaching. This is because it belongs to the category of teachings that cannot prove what they say like the existent of its diety and that all the world's troubles is all due to disobeying that diety.

But there are non-ideological teachings that do not depend on such unproven beliefs. They can point to you the forces that they speak of right here and now and have translated this understanding into medicine, social philosophy and ethics, so forth. These are naturalistic teachings.

The only difference is that such naturalistic teachings have never gone around evangelising and packaging them with modern marketing techniques and technology like the subject theistic teaching in question do. Partly because of this, people even from the same culture are not knowledgeable about them and might even despise them.

Still the practical proven wisdom of these naturalistic teachings have long been absorbed into their racial cultures and translated into practical knowledges, practices and a way of life that may be taken for granted. Now no one except the fundamentalist equates these practices - medicine, ethics, health exercises, strategic thinking ... - with a religion.

So remember I am not talking about another religion but a naturalistic understanding, a science that have made headway long long ago in providing very practical help to mankind.

I found treasures in these naturalistic teachings because they offer real deep understanding and effective ways to healthcare, proper relationship between people and even strategic secrets in doing career and business development, just to name some.

Anonymous said...

If anyone's interested in the book, you can borrow from NLB.

Kaffein said...

Jesus has always been a central figure of controversies; he is very absolute about his words and claims. And his claims has time and again not only divided people in his days, but also at this present time.

I have never seen so much discussions in these days scrutinising Buddha or Vishnu, or other religion as much as Jesus' claims of himself. And it has not only divided Christians, non-Christians, atheists and others too.

In spite of disagreements in lithurgy, worship, disciplines, Christian living, orthodox Christians do not dispute Jesus' claims of himself, ie He is the Son of God, He came down to die for our sins, He rose again on the third day and ascended to heaven seated on the right hand of the Father.

We can disagree on baptism, on the gifts of the Spirit, the kinds of acceptable worship but we do not deny Jesus' claims.

However if one approaches Jesus (who is also the word of God) with a theological mindset, you will get a theological answer. Likewise if you approach Him for answer in life. Even during his time when the Pharisees saw him as a rabbi, a moral teacher. The people believed him to be prophet and the Messiah.

All these couldn't save them unfortunately. Because that wasn't Jesus' claim of himself.

None saw him as the Son of God, or the Christ. When Jesus asked Simon who he says Jesus is - Simon replied, "The Son of God." And Jesus answer was even more astounding - "No one revealed that to you, except by my Father."

In book of Hebrews, it says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." And how can we see God who is unseen? Jesus claims that if you know him, you will know God; see him and you will see God. So put it together, how can one believe God if you don't even believe that Jesus comes from God? And to believe God exist is to say Jesus existed and came from God with a purpose to save us because we cannot help ourselves.

And it takes faith to believe that. If you can believe that, I'm very sure you are a Christian.

In my opinion, all other matters (eg historical, moral teacher, or prophetic) pales in comparison of who Jesus said he is.

So I'd wouldn't take any writers's opinion of Jesus unless he has first scrutinised what Jesus claimed for himself first and respond to them. To write about the 'kinds' of Jesus is to do a great injustice based on his own understanding.

Have a wonderful Easter break, readers.


Alan Wong said...

There is nothing really wrong when a person believes in any particular religion.

But when the interpretation of one's religion is taken over by mortals of a lesser kind, all kinds of human agenda sets in when they try to promote themselves.

So for God's sake, can those religious fundamentalists not impose their beliefs on others when they do not like other believers to likewise impose upon themselves. To continue to do so would only make themselves the greatest bunch of hypocrites that God has created.

Trebuchet said...

Well, I recommend that anyone interested in answering Chopra's thesis (either for or against) first have a look at Philip Yancey's 'The Jesus I Never Knew'. It's a good examination of the original text by a Christian who seems he really wants to know.


Anonymous said...

The idle pope in vatican always has silly messages for the world. no abortion, no condoms.
Cant't this guy donate his throne in vatican to help women that were raped?

He reminds me of our own Prataman. Looks good when taking photos but empty.

Anonymous said...

Seriously Wang. "Spread the word" can mean to just tell every person you meet "I am a Christian." and that's that. What is ruffling feathers is the interpretation that this statement means to make everyone else believe in what you believe.

The years this interpretation has made wars. Wars amongst Catholics and the Protestants. Wars among Christianity and Islam.

Wars brought under the guise of Christianity for conquest and pillage. The rape of Africa, Indian kingdoms, south east asia, Indo China, China, etc

It is not the religion or the words of the holy text. But a whole bunch of buggers who chose to believe the interpretation of violence and obssession in the innocent texts.

Jimmy Mun said...

I am extremely unhappy the way Mr Wang had choose to be so extremely insensitive to my feelings and choosing to insult my religion especially during this time of the year, when we only just celebrated........

April's Fools ;)

In order to cater to the lowest common denominator, most of Christianity oversimplified the message to make it easily digestable. There is intellectual depth to explore but 99% of the Catholics (cant speak for other sects) would not venture beyond the bare superficial. Most Catholics just want to believe they need to join the club, attend the club meetings every Sunday and they will be guaranteed entry to the clubhouse when they die.

Most Christians think the Bible "is" history and makes no distinction. Almost none would have heard of the historian Josephus and his role in documenting possibly the only historical account of Jesus.

As a Catholic baptised since infancy and spent years attending Sunday school, I am appalled in retrospect, of the poor quality control of the catechists (the Sunday school teachers), and the kind of nonsense they propagate.

That said, many non-Catholics would be surprised that even the seemingly monolithic Catholic church has liberal and conservative schools of thought. It's my humble opinion that the current and the previous popes belong to the conservative wing trying to undo a lot of liberal progress made by their predecessors (who had very very short reign but made radical changes. Conspiracy theories from Godfather III, anybody? ;)

Had the current pope been any less an ideological clone of JP2, the Church would have made bolder steps in topics like homosexuality and the use of condom. Instead, we have Benny16 taking baby steps, like exploring the use of condoms for married couples, to prevent transmission of disease, not as a contraceptive.

(That said, I generally support Benny16's call that condom does not prevent AIDS. Yes, condoms lowers the probability of infection dramatically, but in doing so, it's also an enabler for extra-marital sex, and eliminating that would be more effective in fighting AIDS, dont you think? Too idealistic perhaps? But religion is about ideals, not compromises)

The other complaint I have of Christians in general, is that we dont read the Bible enough. We read and re-read selected "soundbites" a lot, but few bother to read the context behind the popular quotes.

The Bible has no vivid description about the afterlife, no pearly gates, no Dante's inferno. If one takes a small step back away from christian tradition, the Bible has no fundamental disagreement with the Buddhist concepts of Karma and reincarnation. The idea of detachment from the material world. While JP2 had declared that Catholicism and Buddhism fundamentally incompatible, Brother Michael Broughton, someone whom Mr Wang should be very familiar with, had called that a typical Roman misunderstanding of Eastern philosophies.

Anyway, somewhat coincidentally, I chose to watch "The Man from Earth" during the long weekend, and the movie does cover some interesting topics raised here. As low budget independent film, you are not likely to be able to find it in stores in Singapore, but the producer had came out to thank people who bittorrent the movie, and make a small donation at http://themanfromearth.com if you enjoy the film.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Is this in response to what is happening in Aware?

han said...

Deepak Chopra is one of your favourite authors. haha, that's a good one.

Wait, you're serious?

Anonymous said...

Christianity pronounces on homosexuality, birth control and abortion .... for its followers. What is wrong with that? Other than it is not very successful at that.

Mr Wang promotes yoga and other spiritual beliefs.
Buddhists promotes Buddhism.
Christians try to spread the good news. Too successfully. Is that the problem?

IMH Patient #007

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if I have this right, when Constantine conquered both Eastern and Western Roman Empire and embraces christianity as state religon, he faced a huge problem.
There are many christian sects using different scriptures. So he commanded the top management of the religious sects and ask them to compile all these scriptures into a book, which is the bible today. Because there are many volumes around, the bibles have to omit some which these scholars think that are irrelevant. some which they think its too harsh. Some which protraits the negatives of god.

For example, more than one people wrote the book of relvelation not just Luke.

Anonymous said...

Deepak's point is quite clear.

The Church has plenty of views about homosexuality, birth control and abortion etc. Deepak simply reminds us that Jesus himself had expressed NO views on any of these topics. This is a verifiable fact - simply read the Bible.

Deepak also suggests that it is very presumptuous of the modern Church, to pretend that it can read the mind of Jesus, and know what Jesus would have said about any current affairs.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

It is news to me that I promote yoga. Could someone tell me more about this, please? LOL.

Anonymous said...

More interesting books about Jesus:



Anonymous said...

Actually the World is too complicated. Putting differences between diff religions aside, even within religions itself there are schisms that cannot be ignored. Some Christians are staunch in their beliefs and adhere to the Bible closely while some are prepared to be more liberal in their intepretation and approach towards Christianity.

Whatever it is, everyone has a right to their own beliefs, as long as

1) They do not impose it upon others

2) They do not cause harm to others.

2) They do not mislead others

"Love thy neighbour" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" are 2 fundamental principles which should underlie our convictions.


Anonymous said...

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

I would like the waiter to bring me a steak. Therefore I bring the waiter a steak.

Makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

The only people who know for sure if there is a god is dead people. So deepak chopra doesn't apply. Neither do you.. or me.

Ned Stark said...

I would concur with Jimmy... as an adherent of the Catholic Faith I am quite disquieted with the fact that Christians of all denominations are content to lap up the "simplified message" rather than challenge themselves to see if the "simplified message" is truly the Word of God. Unfortunately people rather have the easy way out; all they want is someone to tell them to do A B C and D rather than make any attempt at self discovery.

With regards to Brother Michael Broughton, I have heard that he once said of the deities of all the religions - "it is all the same God". Unfortunately that did not go down well with some participants in the seminar and they left.

Anonymous said...

If you really try to practise what is claimed in the new testament what a man named Jesus taught, you may eventually find that many of those teachings are wrong, don't work as they claim.

It may take a lifetime to find out but some actually never do.

In Singapore where you are facing a modern feudalism that is seeking to make slaves of you and your children, if you believe too much in those teachings, you might end up in deep trouble because you might be depending too much in divine intervention when you should be actively seeking for practical solutions.

What are those teachings that are wrong?

Take the so-called 2 great laws :

Love God(whatever that means) more than you love yourself and love your fellowman as yourself.

Nobody is capable of doing this except the greatest of fools. If you really mean it, just loving your fellowman as yourself means you got to share 50% your money with someone who needs it.

But clever clergy will say this is not the way to interpret it. When it does'nt make sense they always find a way to wriggle out of it. This why there are so many interpretations and sects around.

Well those are not the only wrong teachings. There are many more. But this is not a place to discuss this because it will take a book and some I think might have already done that.

I just ask believers to be careful for their wellbeing and those of that loved ones. Just because Jesus sounded so authorative and absolulte does'nt mean he was right.

Some of the most angry individuals I have ssen are those from this religious order. Why? Probably because they spent a lifetime practising the teachings only to be disappointed time and again even if they were just seeking for mental and emotional solace.

The greatest scams in human history are extremely hard to expose because they has been weaved into a complex web of ideas that mean different things to different people. Hence you have countless sects and lorry loads of theology and sermons that are sometimes diametrically opposed to each other even.

If Jesus really cared about people he would not have left his followers in the lurch to be persecuted by authorities violently including being crucified or fed to the lions, happenings which are fairly historical. He would not have started this religion knowing what the result are given his prescience demonstrated as claimed in the biblical records.

The benefit of the doubt I can think of is that he was sincere but sincerely misguided by his own self development which had released certain psychic abilities within him resulting in his belief he was supreme.

Be careful, very careful with religion for all their innocuous appearance. Much of the world's troubles can be laid on the feet of such theistic religions.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I will close comments for this thread by this afternoon. It seems to be getting a little too provocative.

Everyone has a final opportunity, until this afternoon, to get a few final comments in.

Anonymous said...

It's good to see that discussion on religions is well and alive in Singapore. =)

Kaffein said...

To Anon4:41 PM,
Kaffein> Your presumption on how the bible came about is pretty wrong. Do check your facts.

You wrote: "For example, more than one people wrote the book of relvelation not just Luke."

Kaffein> This itself is wrong for the book of Revelation is written by John, not Luke. In Revelations, the author referred to himself John four times. Most scholars agree that it is John the disciple whom Jesus loved.

To Anon10:19 AM,
"If you really try to practise what is claimed in the new testament what a man named Jesus taught, you may eventually find that many of those teachings are wrong, don't work as they claim."

Kaffein> Not really. It is as applicable as it was 2000 years ago. But I don't think we want this article to blow into a theological debate. It has never been Jesus in question. It has always been whether you believed what he had claimed about himself. Legend, Lunatic, Liar, or Lord and GOD?

Kaffein> I'd suggest you read http://www.whoisjesus-really.com/english/claims.htm

"It may take a lifetime to find out but some actually never do."

Kaffein> Very very true. Let me clarify even further. It's not some actually never do. The truth is "None can ever do it".

Kaffein> Hence we need a Saviour because we can never do what is expected of us by God.

"Take the so-called 2 great laws: Love God(whatever that means) more than you love yourself and love your fellowman as yourself. "

Kaffein> That's why Jesus came. To fulfil the Laws because man can never fulfil them in his lifetime. The high standard of God is this: If you break one, you have broken all (James 2:10). Pray tell me, who can fulfil such a high calling?

Kaffein> So the question begging is Why would God give it in the first place since we can't achieve it? As long as there is self-effort involved, God can never step in to save a person. As long as person is struggling while drowning, the life-saver can never help him. Until the person has no more strength left, then the life-saver will step in.

Kaffein> In Christianity we recognise that we are at an end of ourselves and we need a Saviour. Jesus said, "It is the sick that need a doctor, it is the unrighteous that need a Saviour." Until we do so and give up our self-effort, we will never we need a Saviour to reach God.

Kaffein> However Once believe this, you will understand Christianity. And by faith we believe.

Kaffein> Anyway, the bible is all about Jesus (to continue from a previous post).

Kaffein> In Luke24:25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Kaffein> Jesus explained the bible concerning himself. It's all about him. He is the central theme in the bible, both the new and old testaments. I'm sorry if many think it's otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Kaffein all you have is a belief, like your belief that there is a God such as described in the Bible.

It is just a belief, that's all, but you seem to speak so absolutely.

Have you ever considered that you have been completely fooled?

Ned Stark said...

In response to anon 10:19,

the teachings are considered wrong not because they are wrong per se but because they are deemed impractical. In fact, it is a misunderstanding of the teachings of Christ that can lead to people leaving the faith. Sadly many of us, myself included, do fall into the trap of thinking that religion is the panacea for all ills, that once one professes his Faith then worldly success (As, moneys etc) will follow. However that is patently not true. The early history of Christianity has shown that following the faith can lead to persecution and death. In fact the tenets of the Christian faith are an exhortation to forsake the easy path, or sometimes the more practical path, for the ideal path.

In fact, this is a simple example of a clash between idealism and pragmatism. History is also full of people who have given their lives for ideals (Yue Fei, Zhuge Liang, JBJ).

chengguan said...

"If Jesus was humble, why did he claim to rule the earth beyond the power of any king? At the very least, the living Jesus was a man of baffling contradictions."

What He did was simply stating the truth. The fact that He washes His deciphers' feet demonstrates how humble He can be. There is no contradiction at all.