We often hear that “Jesus saves.” My question is, “How?” What is the exact mechanism by which Jesus saves souls? How did Jesus’ actions here on earth fit into the cosmic order of things? I’ve never heard compelling answers to these questions.
I’m not just picking on Christianity here. Virtually every religion or spiritual path is equally vague on “how’s.” For example, with Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the organization that I’ve been associated with for a long time, a central tenet is that the guru connects the soul of the disciple with spirit, a.k.a. shabd or sound current.
But how? Another central tenet of RSSB is that the soul is a drop of the spiritual ocean. It is of the same essence. Is now, always was, always will be. So how can the soul be connected to spirit when the gurus say that the soul is spirit? Explanations that I’ve read in the RSSB books are, like Biblical passages concerning how Jesus saves, vague and unconvincing.
A friend of mind, Bill Long, has a Divinity master’s degree and a Ph.D. in the history of early Christianity. He told me once that when he was young he used to drive his pastors crazy with his questions, which were along these lines:
So, Jesus died for our sins. Did he have to die on the cross? What if he had died just after being born? Or by stumbling and falling off a cliff? Would mankind still have been saved by this sort of death?
Or was it the shedding of Jesus’ blood that saves? If so, how much blood was necessary? A pint? A quart? What about just a drop? Could Jesus have simply pricked his finger and gotten the same salvation results?
And so on. When Bill talked like this I was struck by how much sense he was making, and how infrequently I’ve heard questions like these raised by Christians. Or, indeed, anybody. What kind of a cosmos is ruled by a God who demands that his Son has to die on a cross in atonement for the sins of humanity? Excuse me, but this is just freaking weird.
If religion or spirituality has any value, it has got to be real. At least, that’s my opinion. I realize that many people embrace a religious belief because it is comforting. Beliefs don’t have to make sense; they just have to be believable.
Jesus saves. The guru connects souls with spirit. Each of these salvationary statements is wonderfully reassuring if you consider that you’re one of the people being saved or connected. Sometimes I wish that I was still able to believe in the absence of evidence like I used to be able to do.
As I wrote in my previous post, quoting Alan Watts, agnostics tend to be more anxious than believers. I certainly worry more about what’s going to happen to me (if there still will be a “me”) after death than I did during my faithful days.
However, as the saying goes, you can’t go back again. I’ve entered a psychological place where a cogent answer to “How?” has to be provided before I can even tentatively accept a theological or mystical proposition.
It’s possible to have faith without having a good idea of how. But this is a faith in mystery and the unknown, not a “faith” (actually, a belief) in an illogical or incomplete metaphysics.
Give me hows or give me mystery. For the moment, I’m embracing mystery.