Thomas Sheehan's book The First Coming is full of interesting ideas. While I might not agree 100% with everything he says, I find that his provocative notions about turning away from a religion about Jesus and returning to the religion of Jesus resonate with my own theology. And, as a self-described heretic, I like what he has to say about heresy. In his book, he writes:
In the broadest sense, heresy (from the Gree hairesis: taking, choosing, taking sides) is an essential contituent of all hermeneutics (in Greek hermeneia: interpretation, taking something as something). The history of Christianity through the centuries is, in fact, a history of its hermeneutical heresies, not just the heresies that the church has condemned and excluded, but also, and above all, the orthodox heresies, the acceptable takes/mis-takes that have come to constitute mainstream Christianity. Thus, over against the heresy that is Christianity I propose another, one that consists in understanding the message of the kingdom of God without Christ and without Jesus: (1) "without Christ," that is, without interpretations that equate the kingdom of God with Christ's salvific acts (functional christology) and ultimately with his divine person (ontological christology); (2) "without Jesus", that is, not dismissing the prophet, but also not turning him into an idol. "Without Jesus" means without attributing to him any power beyond the natural, human power everyone has: that of being a culturally determined, historically relative interpreter of one's world and one's own life. This means that for all the natural gifts and talents he once displayed, and regardless of whether one chooses to take him as a model for enacting the kingdom, Jesus is ultimately dispensable. He is not irreplaceable--in fact, he demands to be displaced so that one can get to what he is about. Jesus is not the object of the message he preached. The proclaimer of the kingdom gives way to the reality he proclaimed.In my previous posting, I discussed the subject of re-imagining Jesus. But perhaps even more important that re-imagining Jesus is the task of re-imagining the kingdom of God that Jesus preached about.
"The kingdom of God" is a language, an interpretation of human existence that was preached and lived by Jesus in the past and that can be reinterpreted and lived out by people today. (p.224; emphasis added).