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A Crisis of Faith Question

Q&A with Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

Question & Answer


Q: By A Reader

How can Christians get a firm foundation with scripture that has been influenced by the spirit of political influence by Kings and Popes and transcriptionists who were influenced by governments? A bit of a crisis of faith here. Can there still be a Divine Jesus without true historical knowledge of Him?

A: By Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox


Dear Reader,

I would substitute for your words “without true historical knowledge of Him” the words “with only partial historical knowledge of him.”  What we know historically about Jesus is not nothing.  Indeed, in our lifetimes many Biblical scholars (along with anthropologists and others) have worked hard to separate the words and teachings we can be certain about from Jesus’ mouth from those that seem to have been added after he died.  The gospel writers did not hesitate to put words into his mouth but that is not entirely a negative thing.  It tells us what he triggered in his followers and it tells us how he lit a fire in them that resulted in a lot of creativity.  Isn’t this how history works even in our day?  A speaker excites people and they tell others about it and invariably misquote and make up things and project their feelings and stories into the picture they are relaying to another?  As a teacher, that is very much my experience.  Often people will quote me but misquote me; or cite someone I cited and get it wrong. But enthusiasm is not always a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a good thing—a sign of life and spirit therefore.  But exactness is not always part of the big picture.

What all this tells me is the truth of what we call the incarnation of divinity in Jesus.  That he was a full and real-life human being with all that entails in terms of limits and making of friends and betrayal by friends and making of enemies and being misquoted while he lived and afterwards.  All these imperfect realities match our life experiences also, they are all part and parcel of the vulnerability Jesus represents: Not only did God become human–God became vulnerable to an imperfect world.  Like us.

So the fact that Scripture is “influenced by Kings and popes and transcriptionists and translators and imperfect and mistaken human beings” is an invitation to look deeper than the literal to the stories and teachings that instruct us in how to live and why. 

It is also an invitation to look at some of the contemporary Biblical scholars that are discovering many dimensions to the background surrounding the Scriptures.  For example, just this week I received a new book by New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton on a fellow and dynasty that played a big role in the life and death of Jesus.  The book is called The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of Succession.  As one commentator puts it, “the Herodian policies and intrigue shaped the worlds of early Judaism and Christianity.”  And another, “the relevance for Jesus and the origins of the Christian Church can hardly be exaggerated.” 

Keep studying; keep asking good questions; learn to hunt and gather for meaningful answers and interpretations and trustworthy scholars and mentors and ever deeper questions. 

~ Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox


This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox holds a doctorate in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has authored 35 books on spirituality and contemporary culture that have been translated into 74 languages. Fox has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship (called The Cosmic Mass). His work is inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and has awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. He has helped to rediscover Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas. Among his books are A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality JourneyMeister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our TimesHildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our TimesStations of the Cosmic Christ; Order of the Sacred EarthThe Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times; and Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – And Beyond. To encourage a passionate response to the news of climate change advancing so rapidly, Fox started Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox.

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