Monday, May 31, 2021

Jesus as Source of a Spirituality that Transforms the World

 

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg

Jesus of Nazareth

Source of a Spirituality that Acts to Transform the World

 

--Key Summary Statements: A Bare-bones Description-- 

Introduction 

In this piece, I would like to propose Jesus of Nazareth as a major source of a spirituality that is both rooted in a non-dual/unitive consciousness of reality (everyone and everything as One in God) and acts to transform the world into a better place where “Shalom” is present. I will take “Shalom” to mean: the totality of all good and wholesome things, particularly, benevolence, social justice, peace, inclusivity, compassion, forgiveness, and harmony.

To that end, let me begin by stating that Jesus of Nazareth --acknowledged as “the Christ” (as recoverable by a balanced historical-critical study of the New Testament)-- is supposed to be the heart of Christian faith and spirituality. (This assertion is from Catholic theologian Hans Küng.)

Before going further, let us start by situating the figure of Jesus, his cause, his teaching, and ministry, within the context of the world’s great spiritual-wisdom traditions and the many spiritual masters throughout human history. In this way, we could see both the commonalities and the distinguishing characteristics that Jesus has vis-à-vis other sages and their traditions. Thus, we could also be more aware of both the commonalities that the Christian tradition shares with other wisdom-spiritual paths and the particular characteristics that give it its special character, albeit free of any claim of superiority. Let’s begin then by describing what many spiritual teachers have called “the Perennial Philosophy.”


Part 1 – The Perennial Philosophy

Source for Part 1: Roger Walsh MD, PhD, Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind (Wiley, 1999), pp. 6-9. I have done some minor annotations and revisions to the text. 

#1 [What’s the “Perennial Philosophy”?] Thanks to global communication, for the first time in history, we have all the world's religions, their wisdom and their practices, available to us.  ... What do the different [religious-spiritual] traditions have in common?

Beneath the hundreds of different cultures, claims, and customs, there lies a common core of both wisdom and practice at the heart of each authentic tradition. By "authentic tradition," I mean one capable of offering a direct experience of the sacred, and of fostering true spiritual growth and maturity in its practitioners. 

Many scholars and spiritual practitioners have called the essential common core of religious wisdom "the perennial wisdom" or "perennial philosophy" (PP). Why "perennial"? Because these profound insights into life have endured across centuries and cultures and have been taught by the great sages of all time

Developed over thousands of years, the perennial philosophy is a treasure house of humankind's curated wisdom. Vast in scope, profound in depth, it offers numberless insights into the nature of life and love, health and happiness, suffering and salvation.

At its heart lie four crucial claims--actually observations--since they are based on direct insights by advanced spiritual practitioners about reality and human nature.

For Further Elaboration: Materialist and Spiritual views of reality;

 

#2 [ First Thesis of the PP: There are two realms of reality]

[jkk] In order to avoid sounding too “dualistic,” I would rephrase this to: Reality is bigger than what we can access with our senses and what science can empirically prove at this point.

The first is the everyday realm with which we are all familiar, the world of physical objects and living creatures. This is the realm accessible to us via sight and sound and studied by sciences such as physics and biology.

But beneath these familiar phenomena lies another realm far more subtle and profound: the realm of God, of “the Spirit” (also known as the realm of Consciousness, Mind, the “Ground of Being”, the “Sacred”, Tao [- Japanese, michi – Way] and other names). This dimension cannot be known through the physical senses and only indirectly through the physical instruments of science. Moreover, this realm creates and embraces the physical realm and is its source. This domain is not limited by space or time or physical laws, and hence it is unbounded and infinite, timeless and eternal.

#3 [Second Thesis of the PP: Human beings partake of both realms] 

We are not only physical but also spiritual beings. We have bodies but we also have at the core of our being, in the depths of our minds a centre of transcendent awareness. This centre is described as pure consciousness, mind, spirit or Self and is known by such names as the neshamah of Judaism, the soul or “divine spark” of Christianity, the atman of Hinduism or the "Buddha nature" of Buddhism. This divine spark is intimately related to--some traditions even say inseparable from and identical with--the sacred ground or foundation of all reality. We are not divorced from the sacred but eternally and intimately linked to it.


#4 [Third Thesis of the PP: Human beings can recognize their divine spark and the secret ground that is its source] 

What this implies--this is absolutely crucial--is that the claims of the perennial philosophy do not have to be accepted blindly. Rather each of us can test them for ourselves and decide their validity based on our direct experience.  Although the soul or innermost Self (because it is non-physical) cannot be known by the senses or the instruments of science, it can be known by careful introspection [jkk annotation] and by practicing some essential practices recommended by the world’s religious-spiritual traditions that could awaken heart and mind. (See the link below)

This is not necessarily easy. Although anyone can be graced with spontaneous glimpses, clear sustained vision of our sacred depths usually requires significant practice to clarify awareness sufficiently. This is the purpose of spiritual practice. When the mind is still and clear, we can have a direct experience of our “Self.” This is not a concept of, nor an intellectual theory about, the Self. Rather, it is an immediate knowing, a direct intuition in which one not only sees the divine spark but also identifies with and recognizes that one is the spark. Sages from Judaism and Sufism, from Plato to Buddha, from Meister Eckhart to Lao Tsu have agreed on this. 

Compared to this direct realization of the sacred, mere book learning and theoretical knowledge are very poor substitutes, as far removed from direct experience as a text on human reproduction is from the embrace of a lover. 

  

#5 [Fourth Thesis of the PP: The perennial philosophy's fourth claim is that realizing our spiritual nature is the summum bonum: the highest goal and greatest good of human existence]   

Beside this, all other goals pale; all other delights only partly satisfy. No other experience is so ecstatic, no other attainment so rewarding, no other goal so beneficial to oneself or others.  ... 

Again this is not wild dogma to be accepted merely on the word of others or on blind faith. Rather, it is an expression of the direct experience of those who have tasted these fruits for themselves. Most importantly, it is an invitation to all of us to test and taste for ourselves. 

** [end of excerpt from Walsh’s work] **

 

How does one concretely go about—what the Perennial Tradition calls— realizing “our highest good” or waking up to our spiritual nature? The same Prof. Roger Walsh spent 3 years researching all the major spiritual and religious traditions of the world and he summarized what he calls “essential practices” that all the greatest sages and spiritual practitioners throughout history have engaged in for the purpose of awakening heart and mind. You can read a summary of these essential spiritual practices HERE 

For Further Elaboration: Spiritual Experience; Unitive, Non-Dual Consciousness;  

Let us now proceed to reflect on Jesus of Nazareth, the central distinguishing factor of Christian faith, within the context of spirituality outlined above and how Jesus himself can be the source of a spirituality that acts in order to transform the world into a better reflection of “the Reign (or Kingdom) of God.”

 

Part 2 - Jesus of Nazareth as a Great Contemplative-in-Action

#6 [Jesus as Sage and “Spiritual Master”]

Jesus of Nazareth, believed in as “the Christ” (the anointed one), is often predominantly portrayed as divine in Christianity. That unfortunately obscures the fact that before he was worshipped as God, Jesus as a historical figure, as a flesh-and-blood Jewish person who lived in the First Century CE, was, without doubt, a profound mystical-contemplative “Spirit Person” (cf. Marcus Borg) who let his deep spirituality overflow into powerful action to realize concretely a kind of “order” that he called “the reign of God” (aka, “the Kingdom of God”) in his own concrete place and time. (Notice that the “reign of God” is, first and foremost, supposed to be present in the here and now and not in some otherworldly paradise or heaven.)

In other words, Jesus of Nazareth can very rightly be considered a “contemplative-in-action” or a model of the balance between contemplation and action. He is one of the great sages and spirit persons in human history (such as the Buddha, Lao-Tzu, the Prophet Muhammad, etc.) who were experientially connected to a greater reality and who made that non-dual/unitive experience the vision for transforming the world. By “non-dual/unitive experience” we mean: the experiential knowledge of sages and spiritual practitioners that everyone and everything are all united with “the ONE.” It is clear that these spiritual practitioners and masters are living embodiments of the principles of the perennial philosophy stated above.

For further elaboration: What is the “non-dual” or “unitive” experience or consciousness? How can we cultivate an appropriate spirituality? How to do a Meditation-Mindfulness practice? Lectio Divina? Discernment practices? Roger Walsh’s ‘Seven Essential Practices’ to Awaken Mind and Heart can be an important reference (see link above); Illustrate with a spiritual experience (e.g. Thomas Merton’s).

Consider the Catholic monk Thomas Merton’s “unitive” experience while walking on a city street:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all the time.

(from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966)


#7 [Methodology] 

In order to understand Jesus as a contemplative-in-action, it is helpful, even necessary to study him using a theological method called “Christology from below.” This is a methodology that consists of the following things (at least, at the beginning): Forgetting for a while the question of Jesus’ divinity (especially if one was raised a Christian) and focusing first on Jesus as a first century, Jewish peasant who nevertheless was a deep spiritual master in his own right. Relying on historical and social science research and sometimes even employing educated guesses (i.e., imagination informed by research), one first tries to reconstruct probable reasons how and why he ended up becoming a public teacher (rabbi) and prophet-like figure from a very unlikely peasant background, a role that surprised even his own family members (cf. Mark 3:21). And then one continues to study Jesus’ public career which ended in his being crucified on a Roman cross around 30 CE.

For further elaboration: What does “incarnation” really mean? Do we take Jesus’ humanity seriously or are we “closet Docetists”? (“Docetism” claims that Jesus was purely divine and only “appeared” to be human)

After his death, one examines what happened to his disciples: How they were changed from fearful people to courageous witnesses, proclaiming that Jesus had been raised (by God) from the dead.  

Based on this resurrection faith, we will then study how faith in Jesus developed and grew among the growing and spreading Christian communities. Finally, we will survey how the Christian communities gradually became a more organized institution and how it established the parameters for how Christians ought to regard Jesus Christ as the central truth of the religion and what repercussions that had on Christianity itself. 

For further elaboration: Trace the different stages of how Jesus’ followers thought about Jesus: from [1] considering him as a charismatic rabbi-healer to [2] wondering whether he was the long-promised messiah to [3] acclaiming him more firmly as “the Christ” and as “the Lord” and finally [4] all this led to the official proclamation at the Council of Nicaea (325 CE) that Jesus is one in being with God the Father and is therefore also divine.

The points below are some of the highlights of this preliminary effort.


Part 3 - Jesus: Life, Cause, Showdown, Death & Vindication

 

#8 [Jesus – Origins]

Jesus of Nazareth was a member of the peasant class (as opposed to the elite, rich, and power-wielding classes). He lived most of his life as a craftsperson (often expressed in English as “carpenter”) in the early first century CE in Nazareth, a small, obscure town near a major cosmopolitan center (Sepphoris) in the Galilee region of the Roman province of Judea.

However, he was clearly a deeply spiritual person who had an experiential and intimate relationship with the Divine (the Being known as YaHWeH in the Hebrew Bible) whom he called "Abba" (an intimate Jewish way to call one's father). We can deduce this, among other things, from the “authority” to speak and act in the name of God that people perceived in him when he was engaged in public ministry (cf. Mark 1:22) and from accounts in the gospels of him spending time in prayer and intimate communion with God (e.g. Luke 6:12).

 

#9 [The Reign of God - Shalom] 

From that experiential spiritual relationship with the divine and also from critically drawing on what he understood as the most wholesome parts of his Jewish tradition, Jesus had a vision of God's ideal order for this world. He called that "the reign of God."

It was a vision of a world that would be more perfectly characterized by true SHALOM. This Hebrew word means more than “peace” (as the common translation renders it). It actually refers to a holistic state in which all good things are present. Applied to a particular context, it means: an order characterized by compassion and forgiveness; wholeness, non-discrimination and inclusivity; (distributive) justice, health, peace, and all other good things for everyone.

See for example Luke 6:35-36 (which showcases God's inclusive benevolence and compassion): "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

 

#10 [Unitive or Non-Dual Consciousness]

The Perennial Philosophy and the great majority of spiritual experiences by spiritual practitioners and teachers throughout history show us that the most advanced spirit-persons have experienced that the ‘Sacred Ground of all Being’ (aka God or “the One”) is all-encompassing and all-compassionate. Besides, all persons and things are united in this benevolent reality. Thus, these spiritual masters have a consciousness that is described as “non-dual” or “unitive” because they know experientially that we are all interconnected in God and all persons without exception should be treated with respect and compassion. (This is roughly approximate to the Buddhist concept of “Nothingness.”)

For Elaboration: You can illustrate this with narrations of spiritual experiences (such as those from Thomas Merton, Marcus Borg) and the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh on “Nothingness” as “Interbeing”; 

 

#11 [The Harsh Reality, Then and Now] 

Of course, the reality of Jesus' world was vastly different from his ideal of the Reign of God. He lived in a harsh context of a society ruled oppressively by empire (Rome and its Jewish allies) and by a religious authority (the conventional religious institution of Judaism at the time) that—it can be argued—favored a privileged group at the expense of the many; maintained oppression, marginalization, exclusion, and other forms of suffering (often in the name of religion) for many people. 

To explain further: Oppression under the Roman Empire; The Purity System and conventional Judaism at the time;

The harsh realities of Jesus' world can be compared to the harsh realities of our own world (and of every human context for that matter!) because violence, greed, the lust for power and wealth, injustice and corruption, retributive justice (the logic of EMPIRE) form the normalcy of human civilization. In other words, these shadow-elements form the normal order of human reality rather than SHALOM (especially its distributive and restorative justice component).

For further elaboration: What are the various “oppressions” that characterize your own particular context today? How are they similar to the oppressions in Jesus’ day? What spirituality and action are needed to respond effectively to the challenges in your own context today? ; Postcolonial theory and liberation theology can be important aids in this part.

 

#12[Jesus Takes Up a Public Ministry] 

At a certain point, Jesus felt that he was called to enact the vision of God's reign in his world through a public ministry. Recall that the source of Jesus' actions was his deep and direct spiritual experience of God and reality as non-dual/unitive, inclusive, all-encompassing, benevolent, compassionate, forgiving, and working for distributive and restorative justice (See #10).  Recall Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Thus, Jesus left his hometown and was baptized by John the Baptist at the Jordan river. Jesus' baptism as described in the gospels is symbolic of the deep spirituality and union with God that Jesus had. Shortly after, he himself began a public ministry. (See for example the account of Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1:9-12) 

Jesus' public ministry consisted of teaching, healing (to be understood as “restoring wholeness”), gathering followers (to follow him and form a movement-community), and enacting the reign of God through symbolic actions such as open-table fellowship and the generous welcoming of everyone (regardless of whether they were deemed “pure” or “impure”) who was willing to come to him and his fellowship. Jesus had a predilection for those who were considered marginalized or unacceptable ("sinners", "the impure", etc.) by the religiously respectable people of the time.

For further elaboration: Christians have engaged in various ministries and outreaches throughout history because they follow Jesus who engaged in all these activities in order to transform his world into a reflection of God’s reign. These actions are traditionally known in the Christian Tradition as the “spiritual and corporal works of mercy.” How are we to be faithful to this spirit of Jesus in our own particular contexts?


#13 [Showdown]

Jesus ran into problems with different Jewish authorities because his vision of God's reign and his active effort to realize it, conflicted with and even subverted their ideas about what God's reign (the ideal “order” of the world) was all about. Hence, some of them began to plot against Jesus (e.g. Mark 3:6). Moreover, Jesus' ministry directed especially to people who were considered undesirable and expendable by the political and religious authorities, disrupted the social and religious status quo that they sought to maintain.

For Further Elaboration: The Politics of Purity and the “Oppressions” of Religion in the World of Jesus; The Oppression of Roman Imperial Power in 1st century Palestine;

  

#14 [Jesus’ Passion and Death] 

Thus, the religious authorities succeeded in having Jesus arrested, charged and ultimately crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem around 30 CE. Before his violent death, Jesus was certainly already aware of the danger he faced but, by intentionally going to Jerusalem and not escaping from the city when he could have, he seemed to have accepted this death. Why? We can only speculate (in an educated way) that he probably trusted that his death would mysteriously act as a catalyst that would better bring about the realization of the reign of God that he worked for during his ministry. This was not fully understood by his disciples until after his death.

There are hints in the Hebrew scriptures of a messiah-figure “saving” the people through his suffering (e.g., Isaiah 53). Early Christians later on used these Old Testament passages to explain the redemptive meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus: that is, Jesus “saved us by his suffering.” This became the standard way of explaining the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross. When did that interpretation precisely begin? Did it begin with Jesus himself? That is a modest proposal that—this author thinks—is not totally unreasonable (cf. e.g. NT Wright, The Meaning of Jesus, chap. 6).

At Jesus' arrest, most of his closest male disciples (many female disciples stayed on!) feared for their lives and abandoned Jesus to escape from Jerusalem back to their native Galilee. Jesus was crucified under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the local Roman governor at the time. Jesus’ death on the cross was initially understood by most people (including his followers) as a tragic end to the life and ministry of a promising and charismatic Galilean rabbi’s life. Jesus’ followers were particularly devastated at how such a tragedy (which could even be interpreted from a Jewish perspective as a curse from God, cf. Deut. 21:23) could happen to Jesus who only wanted to establish God’s reign, do good, and struggled on behalf of the underprivileged.

 

#15 [Renewed Faith after Jesus’ Death – The Resurrection] 

Sometime after Jesus' death, the very same disciples who were terrified at the time of Jesus' arrest and fearfully abandoned him, mysteriously regrouped and rebooted the movement and community that Jesus had begun during his ministry. That fact is historical. Why? The logical conclusion is that these disciples must have undergone some kind of experience that transformed them from fearful people to bold witnesses who—it is recorded—proclaimed that Jesus had been raised by God from the dead and that he had been glorified as messiah (in Greek "Christ" meaning “the anointed one”) and as “Lord” (Greek, kū́rios) at the right hand of God (e.g., Phil. 2).

This transformation of those early disciples and their proclamation of Jesus as “the Christ” (Hebrew mashiach, the anointed one) and as Lord (Greek, kū́rios) suggest that some of them had a life-changing experience after his death on the cross. More precisely, the New Testament says that they mysteriously “encountered” the Crucified One as risen from the dead! This is what changed them from fearful, defeated people into courageous witnesses. This is what the Christian Tradition eventually came to call "the resurrection" event. Its original proclaimed form was “Jesus has been raised from the dead (this implies that the action was done by God)” (1 Cor. 15:14). This also became the rallying faith and cry of the rebooted Jesus movement after Jesus’ death on a Roman cross.

For Further Elaboration: “Death and Resurrection” is an “archetypal” pattern in life; When and how have you experienced a “death and rebirth”? “Limit” experiences are ones that bring us to face “limit” in our existence. It can be a catalyst to make us have a new and better consciousness and appreciation of life (e.g. the movie ‘Regarding Henry’);

 

#16 [The Heart of the Disciples’ Proclamation – the Paschal Mystery]

When the disciples of Jesus restarted the movement after their experience of the resurrection, they made Jesus himself as the central factor in their message: They proclaimed his life, teaching, actions and how those led to his death. They courageously affirmed though that everything Jesus stood for was vindicated by God through the resurrection. Hence, they urged people to follow the way of Jesus because, although it may mean suffering and opposition, this way would also be ultimately vindicated by God just as in the case of Jesus. This is—in standard Christian terms—known as “the Paschal Mystery “– one follows the way of Jesus that leads through the cross to the resurrection. This is an archetypal pattern found in many spiritual-wisdom traditions of the world (e.g., from ignorance to awakening in Buddhism) and even in the natural order (from the seeming death of nature in the winter to the new life brought about by spring).

The disciples were also convinced that Jesus was present within the community through—what they referred to as—"the Holy Spirit” to guide and strengthen it until the day when God’s order would be definitively established on earth.

 

Part 4 - The Community that Continues Jesus’ Cause in History

 

#17 [The Origins of the Community of Jesus’ Followers – the Church]

Jesus' disciples formed communities first in Palestine and gradually also in other places throughout the Roman empire and even outside of it. These communities would eventually become a religious tradition separate from Jesus' native Judaism. We now know it as Christianity.

These communities would also be corporately known in time as "the Christian Church." The Church is also called "the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27) because its main mission is to keep alive the presence and the cause of Jesus, "the Christ," in history.

Christianity would eventually put the emphasis on believing certain notions enshrined in "creeds" (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed) as the touchstone for being a Christian. The most important and distinctive of these articles of faith was the idea that Jesus, besides being human, is also “same in essence” with God, the Father. Hence, Jesus is also divine.

 

#18 [What is it - To be a Christian?]

But making doctrinal beliefs the centerpiece of Christian faith is arguably a wrong way to describe the central factor of what being a Christian means. Rather, the essence of being a Christian—I suggest—should be brought back to, [1] first, recognizing more deeply the experience of the Ultimate Ground of Everything (God) that Jesus of Nazareth himself had (the faith of Jesus, Greek pistis Christou cf. Rom. 13:22 and Gal. 2:16); [2] having a similar spiritual experience (by actively cultivating spirituality) and, [3] following Jesus (Latin, Sequela Christi) through action and practice, by likewise committing oneself to realize his vision of “the Reign of God” wherever one is located, in order to change the world for the better. I would even venture to say: the commitment to realize a world truly characterized by shalom (expressed by Jesus as “the coming of God’s reign”) takes the primary place before any other thing, even the traditional western religious activity of getting people to “believe in God or Jesus.” In short, the theme of “God/Jesus” is secondary. 

In more contemporary contemplative language, the above-mentioned spiritual experience consists in a non-dual, unitive consciousness that everyone and everything are one, united in a loving and compassionate “Sacred” (“God”) who is beyond all but also in all (Greek: en theós in God; en Christo in Christ).

 

#19 [Jesus’ Priorities]

Jesus in his public ministry prioritized above all the actualizing of the Reign of God in “the here and the now.” That could be seen in a personal and social order that was characterized by the Hebrew concept Shalom (“wholeness”, the totality of all good things). More concretely, that includes (distributive and restorative) justice, compassion, forgiveness, inclusivity, and solidarity with others, among other things.  

Jesus of Nazareth was not primarily concerned with proclaiming his own identity (contrary to the impression that the Gospel of John gives us) although he was, at the same time, convinced that his ministry and teaching played a crucial role in establishing God’s reign. Moreover, he showed an amazing non-attachment to “franchising” (monopolizing) the work of establishing the reign of God only to those of his immediate circle of followers (see for example Luke 9:49).

From that we must conclude that “orthodoxy” (professing correct beliefs) is only secondary to “orthopraxis” (doing the right thing, ethics). Also in line with that, we must affirm that as long as contemplation and the active effort to realize God’s all-encompassing SHALOM (compassion, benevolence, distributive justice, etc.) are in progress where we are located, we can consider all other things as of secondary importance. In short, the inclusive Reign of God (=the establishing of a state of SHALOM in the here and now) and not the narrowminded and narcissistic prioritizing of establishing and enhancing a religious organization, was the priority of Jesus and should continue to be the priority of all people (regardless of their personal beliefs) who consider Jesus as an inspiration. However, the “reign of God” should be the priority especially of those who bear the name “Christian” in any sense. The neglect of this priority will make Christians and the Church unfaithful to the intentions of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

 

#20 [Jesus as the Supreme Standard for Christianity]

Jesus—the Catholic theologian Hans Küng argued—should be the norma normans non normata of Christianity. That Latin expression means “the supreme standard that should not be controlled by any other less important standards”. In short, the figure of Jesus, his vision, his spiritual experience, his priorities, his program and so forth (as much as can be responsibly reconstructed by historical research) is the supreme standard against which anything Christian should be measured against. If something goes against Jesus and his program, it has to be brought in line with that standard in order to be considered authentically Christian. 

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