23 March, 2013

Q&A: Jesusism, Growth

Q: What is the relationship of Thomasine philosophy to Jesusism? Is Thomasine philosophy an expression of Jesusism?

A: I don't know that there is a formal link between Jesusism and Thomasine philosophy anymore than there is a formal link between Thomasine philosophy and Humanism. Prof. Owen Flannagan identifies Jesusism as being naturalist and rationalist in nature; Thomasine philosophy is also naturalist and rationalist in nature, and we do place a considerable emphasis on the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Thomas. You could maybe make a credible argument that Thomasine philosophy is a kind of Jesusism.

Q: How does the Thomasine Church grow if it doesn't proselytize?

A: Slowly.

Q: Last year you answered a question about apostolic succession. You indicated that you didn't feel that apostolic succession gave you, and presumably priests you ordain, any special power. So, what's the point of ordaining people?

A: The point of ordination, at least for me, is the public acknowledgement that the ordinand is authorized to teach Thomasine doctrine and officiate Thomasine rites as appropriate to their office. Your experience matters and so does your relationship to what you experience. As to whether or not there is any special or mystical transmission of something numinous during the rite, I would invite you to experience the rite for yourself and form your own thoughts based on your own experience. I've already gone on record as saying that, aside from my irrepressible charm and copious charisma, I have no special power that makes anything I do any more efficacious than anybody else.

Q: What do you think of the Mythicist (e.g. Archarya S. and Richard Carrier) versus Historicist (e.g. Bart Erhman) debate? Do you have a position on the subject?

A: I will be honest: I generally don't think about it. That isn't to say that I've never thought about it, but I don't really think it's an important debate. If Jesus was credibly found to be an entirely mythic construct, it would change nothing for me; the message of The Living Jesus as a character in the Gospel of Thomas still remains. The author of the Gospel of Thomas had some profound insight into his or her own mind.

Similarly, if some archaeologist found a proverbial smoking gun showing that a guy named Jesus really did exist in first century Palestine and he really had 12 disciples and really taught many of the things recorded in the various Gospels, it would change very little.

What do I think? There probably was an itinerant preacher in first century Palestine whose name we translate as Jesus. He probably had some disciples. He may have even had 12 disciples; he may not have had 12 disciples at once. He most likely said things and had ideas. I don't think we will ever know what that guy definitively said or taught. I think The Gospel of Thomas has a closer relationship to what some guy named Jesus might have said than any of the narrative Gospels, but that's not a matter of faith. My world wouldn't be shattered if it turned out that The Gospel of Thomas was written by a guy named Bob while he sat on the toilet during a bad bout of constipation.

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