Welcome to Week 3, with an introduction and overview to Christianity. This week, we will discuss the tradition of Christianity, which is one that has over two billion adherence with immense variety and diversity, culturally, ethnically and theologically. There are, as you can see some three major branches of Christianity, namely, Catholics, who number over a billion people, Protestants over 800 million and Orthodox Christians with over 260 million members. In our conference at Harvard in 1997, on Christianity and Ecology, we included representatives from all these branches. The literature that has emerged in the last 20 years, illustrates that ecological theology and environmental ethics are robust and engaged with current problems. This literature also reflects theologies that are differentiated and yet complementary. The hope in this literature and among theologians, is to open the doors of Christian churches so as to enter into this important ecological dialogue. Indeed, the scale of the problems and their urgent need for attention and solution is awakening the churches to a new ecumenism that may assist in overcoming the differences that have divided them in the past. Ecumenical dialogue and meetings between the various branches of Christianity, have increased steadily over the past 50 years. Indeed, the ecumenical movement was sparked in part by the work of the Protestant World Council of Churches in Geneva who continues that into the present. As well as the Roman Catholic, the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Profound changes occurred in this council leading now to an encyclical, a teaching document from Pope Francis on the environment as a moral concern. The Vatican and the World Council of Churches, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Orthodox churches are engaging in theological rethinking and ethical reform regarding the environment. Indeed, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken of human degradation of nature as ecological sin and crimes against creation. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches are speaking out on behalf of the poor, who are suffering from climate change and pollution of water, air and soil. In this lecture, John will describe the varied theological positions regarding the central figure of Christianity. There is not one understanding of Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure, as this discussion will illustrate. Indeed, we have the image of Jesus on the left and the cosmic Christ on the right. So rather as one understanding of Christ, rather throughout history, there's been robust debate about the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. In this regard, the personal Jesus as revealed in the gospels is still being interpreted by theologians. At the same time, an acknowledgement of a luminous, cosmic Christ, infusing all of nature is also present in the tradition from the early scriptures. Both the historical Jesus and the cosmic Christ have implications for our current ecological challenges. >> Any discussion of Christianity, necessarily opens with attention to the person of the historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith. We know of the historical Jesus largely through the scriptures, namely the New Testament and the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke pictured here and John. These evangelists then are figures who stand in relationship to the Gospels themselves and stand in place of communities. So each of these figures we should think of as associated with communities. Among these 27 books of the New Testament then, are the four gospels attributed to the evangelist that give us the earliest sayings and the teachings of Jesus. Mark is considered the first gospel, written in Greek around 70 of the current era and linked to a non Jewish or Gentile Christian community. Matthew's Gospel and Luke's Gospel, have the fullest accounts of the birth of Jesus and are associated with mixed Jewish and gentile Christian communities. John is considered the last gospel and was written after 90 of the current era. As Christians were differentiating themselves from Jewish synagogue communities. Mark's Gospel then is generally seen as the model for Matthew and Luke's Gospels. These three gospels are called synoptics because of their shared presentation and view of Jesus as having been born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth. And largely an unknown figure until he began his public teaching career at 30 years of age, rather than biographical documents. Then we now understand the gospels as documents associated with early Christian communities with varied religious interests and regional concerns. These Christian communities were clearly embedded in local landscapes and biodiversity, which is reflected in the newly emerging religious consciousness. These gospels then draw a natural images as elements of symbolic consciousness for expressing religious ecologies. Moreover, Jewish doctrines of creation and Greek philosophical thought, disposed these communities to think of their faith in relation to the larger universe, namely as a religious cosmology. While these Christian communities were differentiated, what drew them together were their personal encounters with the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Mark's Gospel identifies Jesus as messiah, a term for an expected religious leader and savior that is found in the earlier prophetic literature of Judaism. This gospel also set a definite tone in understanding the historical Jesus as an eschatological figure, namely a religious leader at the end of times. Thus Jesus is associated with such terms as Son of God, Son of Man, Kingdom of God and The Day of the Lord. These are all terms borrowed from the prophetic tradition of Judaism that warn of a cataclysmic end of the world if the Jewish people broke their covenantal relationship with God. Jesus is also seen as a religious reformer. This is evident from his first encounter with John the Baptist, whose teachings Jesus seems to have taken up with the words repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Here we see John the Baptist portrayed in the role of the reformer who has come in this baptizing mode purifying mode, Bringing people into a new understanding of a reflection upon community and self. Jesus is also presented as a healer and miracle worker, such as in the story of the healing of the lepers. His love and compassion for others is exemplified in a major teaching given in the sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Whatever the historical reasons, and however, He might have understood his life, Jesus was eventually found subversive of the political order by both Roman and Jewish authorities. This led to his death by crucifixion, a form of punishment that the Roman authorities reserved for political prisoners. After a period of time, the followers of Jesus reinterpreted his crucifixion in light of his reported resurrection from the dead. Thus, we see that the Jesus of history was understood and mediated by those who believed in Him. The understanding of the Jesus of history as an savior speaking about the end of time has been tempered in recent decades by scholarly work that locates Jesus in the social challenges of his day. Much of this work then emphasizes not simply the end of time, but the many roles of Jesus as a charismatic healer, a wisdom teacher, a prophetic personality and a founder of a revitalization movement. In these roles as social reform or revitalization movement that Jesus of history draws on symbols of nature to articulate his transformative vision. The richness of these symbols is seen in the parables, stories that teach lessons in a vibrant and accessible manner. For example, we see here the teaching parable of the good shepherd and then this parable of Jesus, it describes his insights into the guidance and care of the shepherd for his sheep as ways in which the charismatic healer attends to others. Parables describe the sagely wisdom that Jesus draws out from agricultural practices, in which seed falls on different types of soil we see here the fertile soil and the rocky soil and the bird covered soil. This is a descriptive then, of personal acceptance of the word of God. Similarly, another parable reflects his prophetic role, namely that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that miraculous almost grows in a garden becoming a tree in which birds nest. Finally, Jesus as social reformer decries excessive anxieties regarding what we shall eat and put on, by pointing out the glorious beauty of the lilies of the field whose care is in God's hands. These many nature images associated with the teachings of Jesus illustrate how the regional landscape illustrates the moral reform and spiritual inspiration of early Christianity. They set the basis for an emerging religious ecology. Thus, while the Jesus of history may be difficult to locate with specificity of statement indeed. What is reported in the new testament documents emphasizes his interactions with his social and natural worlds as interrelated. In these images, then we see not only Jesus embedded in his concerns for the imminent and earthly kingdom of God, but also the Cosmic Christ of faith who emerged in the Christian communities that followed him. This image of the Cosmic Christ that we see here became a major religious art form in early Christianity and was further developed in Orthodox Christianity. The Cosmic Christ appears in diverse forms in the new testament. This Cosmic Christ indicates the powerful presence of the divine in all reality. The incarnation that of Jesus is manifest not only in the historical Jesus, but also in the cosmos itself, namely divine presence as a luminous reality, as a unified body and as an inner ordering principle of the cosmos. These three expressions provide insights in two ways in which Christian communities and theologians formulated this religious cosmology. First, let's consider in Matthew's Gospel. There is the expression of the ongoing presence of Christ as the living God. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus asks Peter, who do men say the son of man is?, and Peter responds spontaneously. You are the Christ the son of the living God. Immediately, Jesus acknowledges the divine source of Peter's revelation and marks him as the rock upon which he will found his church. This expression then of the response to the question and the establishment of governance in the church is a remarkable moment. It presents in this passage one of the oldest images of the Christ of faith, namely the living presence of the divine and Peter as the rock, the foundation of the institutional church. The Cosmic Christ is a religious cosmology than presenting Christ as a force within the whole universe as well as an intimate presence that nurtures life human and more than human. This striking phrase describing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, occurs at a time when Jesus ministry was expanding. In this statement, Christ acknowledges and understanding that he will live on beyond his death. This sense of a vibrant dynamic presence endures in the community and in the universe itself. This insight is also transmitted in the epistle to the Hebrews. This sense of the Cosmic Christ is so evident in this altarpiece, with its luminous presentation of both they crucified and resurrected Christ. So the sense of the Cosmic Christ is transmitted so palpably in this image and it corresponds so closely. to this statement in the epistle to the Hebrews which says, he is the radiant light of God's glory and the perfect copy of his nature sustaining the universe by his powerful command. It's similar to the epistle to the Colossians which reads, there is only one Christ. He is everything and he is in everything. Our second expression of the cosmic Christ is based on the image of the body. This is found in many of the epistles of Paul. Paul is a Jew trained as a Pharisee who led persecutions against followers of Christ. On the road to Damascus pictured here, he had a dramatic conversion experience and he became an apostle to the gentiles. Jewish Christian leadership in Jerusalem reacted to Paul's work with a sense that gentiles had to follow the covenantal code. But Paul responded to this obligation in a negative way. A Jewish Christian leadership in Jerusalem then proposed that gentiles who converted should not be obligated to follow Jewish covenantal laws. His first letter to Corinth addresses confusion and dissent in this community regarding the relationship of different spiritual powers and talents such as wisdom, faith, knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy and speaking in tongues. Paul's effort is to both affirm these gifts as well as to provide an overarching image of the cosmic Christ as a unifying presence. Paul directly associates Christ with spirit that is his continuing presence among his followers. Paul writes for just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body. So it is with Christ, for by one spirit, we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one spirit. Paul is drawing on Hellenic philosophy which is infused with cosmological imagery of the body. Following Plato's use of the metaphor in his Timaeus. However, Paul's usage brings that cosmological symbol into relationship with the Christ of faith. Thus, just as all parts of the human body are interdependent, no body part can claim a higher status than any other. So also all parts of a community cohere to form one body. Again, Paul writes, for the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot should say, because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts yet one body. Now you are the body of christ and individually members of it. This body imagery of the Christ of faith finds a culminating expression in the epistle to the Colossians. There, the body image with Christ as its head is developed into a more robust religious cosmology. Here, Paul writes, he Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities. These are references to celestial presences in the mythic understanding of that time. And Paul continues all things were created through him and for him, he is before all things and in him, all things hold together. Speaking again of the cosmic Christ, he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. This body imagery brought the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history into consonance with the religious ecology that affirmed the particularity of all creation. Moreover, a cosmic understanding of Christ validated that religious ecology embodied in the churches. Through these teachings, Christianity embraced a fuller union of an Hebraic sense of creative transcendence with and Hellenic sense of pervasive order in the cosmos. A third expression of the cosmic Christ appears at the opening of John's Gospel, which is the pictured a page here, a lovely illuminated manuscript. And in John's Gospel we find this powerful opening, in the beginning was the word namely logos. Significantly, this turn towards the cosmic Christ as the word echoes the very creative act of breath in the genesis creation story embedded in all creation. This word for Christians became flesh in Jesus. Moreover, the community of John's Gospel believed that the encounter with this presence was fostered in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. This continues to the present, especially in the catholic and orthodox traditions. No other Gospel explores the mystery of the person of Jesus in such a cosmological context as John's Gospel. Jesus as Christ is likened to the logos or word concept in Hellenic thought, namely the principle of order or pattern in the universe. This Gospel presents the person of Jesus Christ as pre-existent with the divine creator. The Gospel then opens as we've said in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God, he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made, in him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This creative turn in Christianity reflects a conjunction of religious ecology and religious cosmology. Just as all creation flows from the Christ word. And is in that sense, deeply related throughout. So also the coherence of the cosmos is presented as a Christ logos reality. What's fascinating to note is that the cosmic Christ opening does not remain abstract in the Gospel, but is embedded in this Gospel stories of a loving healing personality namely Jesus. What gives John's Gospel, it's special force is that the stories of Jesus told, they're increasingly bring the community into a deep affection for the abiding presence of the logos word through the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, especially in John Chapter six and 9, we find the image of Jesus feeding the hungry and giving sight to the blind. All of these miraculous deeds are presented as signs of a heavenly reality and they're marked in the Gospel, sometimes by the voice of the divine. They signal the religious understanding of sacraments as ordinary material, which ritually transmits a spiritual connection. John draws on such familiar Christian imagery as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This a combination then of sacramental and sacrificial imagery accords with the religious cosmology of the opening verses and with the core wisdom teachings of love at the heart of John's Gospel. As this Gospel expresses that love a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another by this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. In these ways, early Christianity was shaped by theological concepts and teachings that acknowledged the diverse regional churches. The appreciation for creation, evident in rich images of nature, was affirmed, preserving a key connection with the Hebrew bible. At the same time, the incarnation will, and sacramental dynamics of Christianity made manifest cosmic dimensions of the Christ figure.