|Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar|
Towards a New Theology Part SIX
In the next part of the narrative, we find Magi from the east visiting. It is likely that they arrived when Jesus was about 2 years old, as Herod, upon seeing the Magi, and learning what they had come for, ordered that all infants under the age of 2 were to be slaughtered. They would have found him in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. From the time I was old enough to understand who the Magi were, it puzzled me as to why they were there.
This is possibly the most controversial part of the narrative. You see, the Magi were what we would today refer to as Muslims. Not just any Muslims, but Muslim religious leaders and mystics. Why were Muslims celebrating the birth of Christ?
Well, a Muslim would say it’s because they recognise him as one of their greatest prophets. But the Christian in me would say it’s because it shows the complete Lordship of God over all religions. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He is the embodiment of all Gods. The ultimate truth of all religions. All religions point to God, and come under God’s Lordship. At the birth of Christ, all faiths and religions are reconciled together as one. At the birth of Christ, we have representatives of three of the largest religions in the world today – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The Apostles, in spreading the Good News around the known world, had no problem in likening this Good News to the existing religions at the time. Paul in Athens is only one example of this. Others used the legend of Beowulf to spread the message, and others used the religions and gods of the cultures they were in to spread the Good News. Many of our traditions in Christianity are directly related to Pagan rituals, and steeped in Paganism.
For me, by reading the scripture as an ancient document, putting it in the context of other documents at the time, drawing upon archaeological evidence etc, brings the Bible out of the realm of fiction, and into the world of reality. It forms the foundation for a faith that speaks directly to the reality of human life. It becomes a faith that I can relate to. The exercise we have just engaged in is a fairly ‘safe’ exercise. It doesn’t alter the existing Theology too radically. When we apply this same method to other passages in the Bible, then we begin to see radical changes to our Theology. But this needs to happen if we want to present a gospel that is founded in truth and reality. That speaks to the reality of human life. Anything else is just a made up, fantasy religion that has little to no truth, based on a made up document, written in a made up language that never existed. Taking the step towards a new, perhaps more liberal, Theology, is a step towards a faith based in truth and reality. A faith that speaks to people of all ages, in all times, in all cultures.
At the start of this new year, when we consider things anew, and reflect on our past, why don’t we also reflect on our faith anew, and read the Bible as though we have
never read it before, reading it as though it was only just discovered, and apply modern understandings of ancient language and culture to what we read? It will be earth shattering to say the least. Do you dare?