I wrote this because it has taken years to get to the point where God having a Son made any kind of internal sense. These are my current conclusions.
Quick summary: Perfection is in an eternal state (timeless, infinite, awesome, all-love, wowzer). Free will allows us to be imperfect. God (Perfection's consciousness, total love) wants us to exist, but because we are imperfect, we must have a place to exist that is NOT in eternity, because imperfection can't exist in an eternal state. So God had to create a TEMPORARY/FINITE place where imperfection is allowed to exist, so that WE could exist at all. But because Perfection/God wants us to exist in eternity, not just this temporary place full of horrors (imperfection) that can't last forever, God has to give us a process by which we can become perfect, and thus escape the temporary/finite place. Only God can do that process perfectly, so God has to squeeze an aspect of God into this finite, imperfect, temporary place in order to bring consciousness into perfection so it can exist in eternity. Who is that? Jesus. Ironically, this totally wacky idea is at least in part supported by that most religious of arguments: Scripture.
How I, cynical-pessimistic-materialist-atheist that I was, nevertheless came to believe in God is a long story. I've kind of covered it elsewhere on my site. Once I had reason to believe in a God of love and truth, though, that part was okay. I had always believed in truth anyway, and love as a concept was pretty cool (if scarce and hard to find in practice).
However, it wasn't as simple as just believing in God, because every truth coming my way had something to do with Jesus - the famous Christian Jesus who died on a cross guy. The more I thought about God AND Jesus, the more a couple things bugged me.
WHY would God have a "son"? God as One, one being/entity/mind, makes sense to me somehow. A single perfect being, a unity of infinite goodness, the bright Power at the point of absolute perfection ... all that is intuitive to me in some way. There is only one God in the same way there is only one zero point or origin on the number line. There is only one "Everything," only one (pseudo-mathematical terminology alert here) "set" containing all sets. There is nothing outside of that, by definition. But ... a "son"? Why would absolute perfection need a "son"? Some kind of offshoot? Why? Just to make 1 + 1 and basic arithmetic? If 1 then 2, but if 2 then 3, and if 3 then why not 4 and so on? So why just ONE son? (And why does it have to be the masculine "son"?)
And if God is perfect, what's all this imperfection doing screwing up this planet? ("What imperfection?" you may ask. Just read the news.) One big reason I was an atheist in the first place (aside from the behavior of Christians who tried to shove the Bible down my throat) is because of the sheer MESS our world is in. I hate the level of horror, sorrow, destruction, and tragedy that floods our planet.
Okay okay, suppose God gave us free will, a free will explains the sad, messy state of the world. If so, He's still ultimately responsible for this mess (He must have known how things would turn out). So probably God would want to fix it. Why hasn't He fixed it? And now, people say Jesus fixed it. But why do that through something so unintuitive as a death on a cross? Seriously, why not do something more intuitive, like a mathematical solution, like a hidden message in the digits of pi (sorry Carl Sagan, couldn't resist)? Or maybe some kind of message in the mathematics of black holes? Why not just write a fiery message in the sky, or magically erase bad thoughts for just 100 years and give us a clean slate? Etc.
But what if all of these questions are interrelated? Let's back up a bit and I'll explain how I view God and the Spiritual Universe, which explains who and what a Son might be and do.
First off, I'm going to be assuming that there is such a thing as Perfection (let's capitalize it so that it represents an abstract absolute nothing-better-than-this total perfection). If you don't feel that some kind of Perfection exists, then sorry, I can't convince you. (One lame argument is "just the concept of perfection indicates it exists" - which isn't watertight as far as I can see, but makes the interesting point of why would we have such a concept in the first place? Or as C.S. Lewis argued, why would we humans have a strong desire for meaning if such a thing didn't exist? Evolutionarily it makes no sense.)
Anyway, I further suggest that God is perfect, and Perfection is God. (In fact, one reason I think God must exist is an argument that C.S. Lewis once made: intelligence is good. It is better for intelligence to exist than not to exist. Therefore Perfection has intelligence.) The very highest of the highest Heavens would be a manifestation of Perfection - presumably. All beings in perfect harmony with God would be part of Perfection - assuming such exist. Okay, now moving on:
It occurred to me that, just as the "set" that is Everything contains the "set" that is Nothing (think about it), and Nothing does not and cannot contain Everything (think about that, too, if it doesn't make sense immediately), it is impossible for Imperfection to contain Perfection, by definition. However, it is possible that Perfection could contain Imperfection IF ... and only IF ... it is better to have some Imperfection than none at all.
I'm assuming love is a primary characteristic of Perfection/God. If love requires free will (I will spare you the long arguments theologians and apologists have written on this topic)... then I suppose it becomes more intuitively plausible that free will must have some kind of space/wiggle room/freedom in which to make decisions and choices (or else it's not free will at all). And if there's a space that allows for choices, there's room for making choices away from, or in the opposite direction from, love, and therefore away from Perfection. That area of freedom, where we can choose to move away from God, is something I call Spiritual Space. Another way to put this is that IF we have the free will to be in a less-than-perfect state, and we happen to be (say) in a bad mood and wanting to hurt someone, then we can't exist in Perfection. If we want to exist at all, we need a playground where we can be as imperfect, mean, broken as we want. Spiritual Space lets us exist. It's a gift that lets us choose, lets us have free will, and lets us be less than perfect.
Spiritual Space is a concept Ben Swett introduced me to by suggesting that "up" is a direction in a spiritual context that translates to "better." Once we have directions we have one or more axes, and thus a sort of mathematical space. Then this diagram on Ben's page starts making sense as a real "space" defined by spiritual states of being. Here's more about it:
Let's pretend that choices/intentions/mindsets form a sort of coordinate space that can be wandered around upon. Every decision/state of mind/heart/soul could be mapped out into this space at any time t. Every being is somewhere in this space right now. I sometimes pretend this is a Cartesian coordinate space, but really I think it may be more of a cone-shaped space. (It could even be simplified down to a single axis of "better (up)/worse (down).")
Any person or being can be mapped onto this space in some way that includes all of their state of being at that time, conscious and subconscious, like maybe a wave addition function. It may be a waveform "located" at one spot, kind of like an electron "being" at "one" point (really an electron is a probability wave that has no precise location until measured - wonder if this is true of our spiritual state? Hmm!). A person could be nice but depressed and prone to being petty; someone could be violently hateful but unexpectedly fond of animals; someone could be extraordinarily compassionate but addicted to alcohol and always feeling guilty about it. Naturally one tends to travel around the map in different circumstances (e.g. even a mean person may be in a great mood after winning the lottery, or the most loving person may be crabby after a big disappointment). Still, presumably a person (or their spiritual waveform) would tend to inhabit one particular region of the map. But what about absolute perfection in mindset/decisions/outlook (kind, joyous, peaceful, etc.) that is best for everyone and everything? As far as I can imagine it, that Perfection is at the theoretical top of the "up" (better) direction. At the top of the love axis. At the top of the joy axis. At the top of the peaceful axis. (I'm pretty sure they all intersect somehow at the top.)
We could argue it's a single point. Put another way: even though there's a huge range of emotions and states of mind and soul and spirit - human emotions, animal emotions, spiritual states of creatures we haven't dreamed of - God has the only perfect one, which presumably doesn't change, and there's only One God. Therefore, assuming each of us occupies only one point in this spiritual space at any time, there's only one point of Perfection in this whole place. In theory other beings could occupy that same state, but then they'd be in the same place as God.
(I doubt we humans could get there in our lifetimes. We're too trapped between wanting to do good, but yet being afraid of what other people will think, how we will put food on the table, how to afford healthcare, and being angry at the guy who cut us off in traffic, and being sad about the horrible state of the world. Too much weighing most of us down from getting near God.)
So, God as at the very top of Spiritual Space, while the vast bulk of it falls short of imperfection. This is a VAST space. It might be infinite. There might be an infinite set of spiritual locations to be. The further away from God, the darker, nastier, sadder, meaner, more despairing things get. That dark place is rightfully called by some (and I think Jesus as well) "the outer darkness." And it seems to be bottomless and endless darkness. Anyone who's been in deep depression is familiar with some of that place. (When one is very deep into it, one even starts wanting everyone else to fall in there, too.) It's very deep and big.
Yet we just said (earlier) that Perfection is BIGGER than Imperfection. Perfection contains Imperfection, first of all. Secondly, I believe all the mathematical alephs and all the infinities in all of existence are just small aspects of Perfection. In other words, Perfection is HUGE, larger than every infinity, and because it's Perfect, it's eternal and happy and beyond imagination. AND it's bigger than all of the vast expanse of Spiritual Space, the vast bulk of which is imperfect.
More than that, Perfection is eternal and timeless. But Imperfection - including our universe - has time (in the physical realm) and some kind of time-like causality (in the spiritual realm). Near Death Experiencers report they don't feel time when they are out of their bodies; however, things are still highly causal. They do X, and then Y happens. They travel to places, they have conversations, they choose to come back. It's less linear than normal physical time (NDEers report it feels like everything happened at once and yet felt like it happened over months, and other such paradoxical things). That said, it's still got causality. The closer to the Light (God) that NDEers get, the more they seem to report a sense of joyous, timeless eternity.
Time and causality are kind of necessary for that process we call "learning" to happen! Person does something, something happens, person learns. Causality, time. Time is definitely not eternal, but I guess it helps us learn.
It then occurs to me that C.S. Lewis was exactly right when he described Hell as being a tiny dark hole not even the size of a blade of grass in the infinite expanse of Heaven's glorious landscape. In the vastness of Perfection, God created a tiny pocket of IMperfection, because it was better to have it than not to have it - for the sake of free will. And because Perfection is so huge and perfect, this Imperfection is transient and tiny and can have no long-term negative effect on Perfection (as C.S. Lewis argued in The Great Divorce. Can there be sorrow in a Perfect Heaven? Can there be disease and hurt in a Perfect Heaven? No. Therefore, how fleeting, how tiny, how miniscule is Imperfection!)
But Imperfection is vast when you're inside it. It's nigh infinite, and it's got all those varying degrees of darkness except at the single point of perfection. When inside Imperfection, Perfection looks infinitely far away, tiny, unreal, just a tiny dot (mind you, a single dot radiating light and truth, but when you're deep in a pit you don't see those things). Seriously, to us, it's just a single point in a vast space. But yet, the TRUTH of the matter is actually the inversion of our perception. Perfection - God - is far, far bigger than this spiritual space. The whole spiritual universe is almost an illusion. It is the transient, ephemeral, tiny place. True freedom, infinite existence, and eternity is outside. What looks like a tiny point is the true expanse. So maybe the more we journey toward perfection, the more we start to see this.
C.S. Lewis was right again. If we are journeying to God, and the further into truth and perfection we go, it could be argued the bigger it gets. It looks like we are journeying "inward and upward!" (The Last Battle), and yet the further we go, the vaster and more encompassing reality becomes. Not to mention more glorious and exciting and joyous and wonderful.
Our perceptions are just totally inverted! And why wouldn't they be? We're in the realm of Imperfection!
(Note: some of this came to me after pondering and starting to wonder what Jesus meant when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." I was also immensely helped by Ben's writing about the meaning of Jesus' Name, and what it means to believe in it. And then lastly, I read an excerpt from Peter Tam's writing, where he wrote: "Our Lord Jesus Christ is the manifestation of [God] in time, space and energy in person simultaneously to all His creations (all of the Spiritual Universe) - so that all His creations can relate to God." Something started to click.)
Suppose now we think of God as a person. God is, by my definition anyway, Perfect. Perfection cannot become less than Perfection, or it wouldn't be Perfect. And Imperfection is a smaller set than Perfection. Therefore Perfection is like a trump card ace that cannot be defeated by anything, ever.
So... how does Perfect God do anything in Imperfection?
Anything that Perfection touches directly will be either obliterated or turned Perfect.
Anything that wants to approach Perfection must either become perfect itself, or it will be destroyed, because imperfection cannot survive in the pure presence of Perfection. Yes, God created a little pocket existence where imperfection could exist, but whenever imperfection tries to crawl out, it runs into ... Perfection.
Love and free will demand that Imperfection exists and be allowed to exist as long as the beings there want it to exist (free will). But YET, to be eternally trapped in Imperfection is horrific. Is it perfect to have eternal suffering? Maybe if someone has truly decided that's what they want (if free will trumps everything)! But surely, in the confusion and lack of truth of Imperfection, most beings would rather get out of eternal suffering and get to Perfection, right? A loving God would want to help them get free!
Yet how in the world do imperfect beings communicate with Perfection to get help? The slightest bit of selfishness, ignorance, or greed in our thoughts would cause them to burn up in the light of Perfection (seriously, think about it ... nothing flawed can exist in the heart of true flawlessness). Maybe a tiny fraction of our thoughts and intentions (the good, true, loving part) would make it to God. How could our sorrow, anguish, terror, despair, rage, desperation ever be conveyed to God? Those things would likewise burn up on the way. How would God ever hear the prayers of a person who is suffering horrifically through tragedy and grief? (Side note: This is a good reason for why it is better to rejoice in God and have faith and peace and be motivated at all times by love - it does increase the signal to noise ratio of our prayers!)
God has this problem that He, by His very nature of being absolutely spotless and perfect and pure light, can't really touch anyone who isn't without totally transforming them (which could violate free will), and can't technically speaking really receive all the sad, lonely, broken thoughts and feelings - because God isn't sad, lonely, or broken.
To reitrate, God can't touch Imperfection without it going POOF! into a bit of illogical non-existence. And Imperfection can't get near Perfection without having to jump through the hoop of Perfection.
Rudi Rudenski wrote of it this way (he likes to mix up gender pronouns with God, so don't get confused): "The light of God could also be called love... love so bright that the illusions of death and dying would vanish if she [God] were to look on it... love so strong that every act of unlove vanishes from his [God's] presence...." Rudenksi in fact holds to this view so strongly that he believes God can't really look at the universe. "The Light can not even look on sin. The Light looks on our darkness and it vanishes...." Since God wants us to be able to learn in the universe, God can't look into the universe because it would be destroyed... according to Rudenski.
This stumped me! If I really believed this, there is no way for me to get help from God, except by making part of me Godlike and pure so that it could be good enough to be heard by God without going poof! But how could I do that? I can't! I'm not good enough!
So what does God do? He creates a special part of Himself that is truth, the way, the life ... the PROCESS for bringing the Imperfect beings into Perfection. This special being CAN interact with Imperfection. This special being works in space-time. This special being is, by definition, a redemptive being who is also God and is God's will for Imperfection, but who works through TIME and thus does not immediately vaporize Imperfection into nothingness (and which also allows the inhabitants to "learn"). Yet, of course, this being is still anchored in the eternity of Perfection.
God actually creates all of Spiritual Space - the land of Imperfection and entities who can choose less than perfection - THROUGH this special part of Himself. This special part of God holds the special pocket of Spiritual Space like a protective mother kangaroo with an alternative universe in her pouch. The universe is divided up with causality and "time" that protects the residents inside from being destroyed or immediately transformed by God's touch. And because anything involving time is temporary, maybe it's just such a fleeting blip in Eternity that God can allow it to exist in the vast expanse of perfection.
God is a true gentleman. He respects our free will so much that He lets us create what we want to, and won't destroy us (not immediately, anyway) as we struggle with our own free will and power. He knows that His subset, His ... Son? ... is lord of this space of free will and Imperfection yearning to become Perfection. This Son is in and of Himself an empowering and unifying force/being/personality whose will is for completion, wholeness, and perfection.
(Please see my essay on Jesus' Name for more on how Jesus is the perfector who brings everyone and everything into perfection. Please also see my essay suggesting how Jesus is reconciling and perfecting our physical universe.)
Jesus is the author and the perfector not just of our faith, but of the universe; not of just the physical universe, but all of Creation that contains Imperfection.
In fact, I suddenly realized God's Son, who represents the beginning and the PROCESS and the end work of Perfection, also incarnated on Earth and tested the Process of Perfection against all the powers of Imperfection. "But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33) is actually quite profound. It shows that despite all appearances to the contrary, God's Perfection is still greater than Imperfection. Heaven's principles are truly beyond the reach of darkness. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or understood] it" (John 1). This is really Perfection conquering the "can't do it, can't become perfect" of Imperfection.
The death on the Cross I still don't understand (though I try to talk about it below, in the next section). I understand there's possibly some big karmic payment involved for all the sin and depravity that has been rolled over the Earth. I understand that the children of Israel had been under an older covenant of sin and consequences - one tailored for a people who wanted a mediator rather than God to speak to them directly, and the only way to be freed from that was through death of either party - and Jesus died. I understand that somehow, curses were broken by Jesus taking on the curse of crucifixion on a tree. I understand that somehow, Jesus' suffering and physical mutilation bought healing for all of us, that by his stripe (singular) we are healed. I understand that Jesus died and went to the deep dark regions of the Spiritual Space and somehow did something important there (including preaching to the spirits of the dead, but more than that). I understand that His shed Blood now cries out for our salvation. I understand that somehow Jesus won back all authority that we had lost, whether from our listening to evil or our choosing to learn knowledge from evil. So much I understand, yet do not understand at all.
But now I see that if we accept Jesus into ourselves, now we really do have a part within us that is pure enough, good enough, perfect enough to be fully in God's Presence without going poof! This part of us HAS conquered the world, so we don't have to. This part of us IS the way and the truth, and the eternal life - because this part of us is already part of God: The Son. Somehow just our free will agreement allows God-as-perfector (Jesus) to reside within us.
And someday this Son will bring forth the finished work to His Father: Perfection that has been forged out of Imperfection, a better thing than if it had never existed. A glorious company of beings who sing eternal praises and belong in the expansive, infinite joy of residing in Perfection.
Perfection is better than Teflon; it can never be sullied, tarnished, or diminished. BUT in its definition perhaps is eternal improvement, ever increasing Perfection - perhaps. By temporarily allowing Imperfection, Perfection can grow into more joy, more wonder, more awe, more love - what could be better than goodness, except for ever-increasing goodness?
Still working on this one....
Why even live a human life, anyway?
First off, though, I just have to say, Jesus is the only modern god who ever deliberately went through the unpleasantness of human life and suffering and death for our sake. (I say modern because some have drawn parallels between Prometheus and Jesus, but there are few adherents of Prometheus in this day and age.) A lot of New Age spirits claim to be powerful and have our best interest at heart, but when I look back at history, it's still only Jesus who came, saw, healed, rescued, taught about God, and then got tortured and nailed to a tree, and rose from the dead to boot. I have a lot more respect for someone who came here and lived it and walked the walk in addition to talking the talk.
And which of the other typical gods or prophets ever accepted suffering and death rather than fight back and slay the enemy? Okay, I can totally see the Buddha accepting being crucified, but the Buddha didn't miraculously heal people or raise anyone from the dead, either. He likewise never claimed to God.
A new point I hadn't considered when I first wrote this section is that God specifically gave the planet to us to manage. It's kind of obvious when we look at how humans have (mis)managed the planet, but it's also backed up by Scripture ("The heavens -- the heavens are Jehovah's, And the earth He hath given to sons of men" (Psalm 115:16)). (And yes, "sons" includes women from what Jesus said: "And Jesus answering said to them, 'The sons of this age do marry and are given in marriage'" (Luke 20:34).) So, it has been argued that Jesus had to come as a human being in order to qualify as a steward of the planet. Or to use Christian theology, Jesus needed to be human to get full human authority over the earth.
(And side note: I read an interesting theory that God could offer His Son to men because Abraham willingly offered his son to God. Kind of like reciprocation... like another idea I heard, that Jesus was baptized into humanity so humanity could be baptized into God. Apparently reciprocation may be a thing.)
But why get killed?
And why is it a big deal? Christians say Jesus died for us. Though, people do that all over the world - they die rescuing their own kids or even some stranger. Christians say Jesus rose from the dead. Though, technically so do a lot of people - whether brought back by others (e.g. doctors or Biblical prophets) or sent back to Earth after a Near Death Experience. So why is Jesus' death so amazing? It's only amazing if He is who He says He is, and if His death does what He says it does. Is Jesus the Son of God? A big part of God who creates, reconciles, and brings to Perfection the universe - the Spiritual universe and the Physical universe? Whoa. That's big. And did His death free us from all sorts of curses and give us authority and power to operate as He does - the ability to command healing, kick out demons, restore the brokenhearted, comfort the afflicted, command the elements, multiply food, and so on? Well, I now have friends who say "Yes! We walk in authority and healing and deliverance every day and you can, too!" Whoa. To me, that's big. Really big. We have been given the authority to fix this planet. Seriously!?
But how does this crucifixion thing work?
I know theologians have tackled this question for ages. Most agree the mechanics don't matter. Some point out the Old Covenant could only be dissolved by death - and since it was between God and humanity (or maybe just the Israelites), if "God" died (especially as an Israelite), then the Old Covenant could be dissolved. Some point out that Jesus apparently "became a curse for us" and broke all curses - including the early ones on the first humans, the curses that said life would be hard (which it has been), the planet (ground) itself would be cursed (ouch), and husbands would lord it over their wives (sadly all too true throughout history). I don't know about you, but I'm psyched to see people throwing off the chains of those curses - healing the land, seeing productivity increase, commanding pollutants be destroyed, restoring ecosystems, and fixing that historically horrifically screwed up societal imbalance between husbands and wives.
And what about bearing God's wrath? I don't see God as wrathful exactly, but I do think humans have violated spiritual laws (laws that resemble karma) for a really long time. Injustice, oppression, murder, you name it, humans have done it. I personally think the stain of violence and selfishness has been on the planet a long time (selfish gene theory), and humans have been all too willing to play along with the selfishness. I think human souls come to Earth wanting to learn lessons from evil - thereby empowering evil (see my essay about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). I think everything we do has been tainted, spiritually and biologically, with darkness. And because there are consequences for this, we should rightfully be reaping devastation.
Did God need Jesus to pay a tremendous price, to take His wrath? (Is God really so wrathful?) Is the God of the Old Testament really the dad of Jesus Christ? Sometimes I think the Old Testament view of God is viewed through a different lens than what Jesus used. (In fact, it is apparently known that Old Testament writers viewed the devil as an obedient servant of God. This contrasts with Jesus' portrayal of the devil as a renegade whose works Jesus came to destroy.) The Old Testament God demanded blood sacrifices and stoning certain sinners to death. Our modern society has grown to the point where women have equal legal rights, killing people (even children) for having the wrong religion is no longer justifiable homicide, and we shudder at the thought of killing farm animals to sprinkle the blood on our clothes. Yet, God the Father of Jesus is described as demanding this, and coincidentally He somehow matches the same blood-thisty outlook of humanity of the bronze age. Is it maybe because that's all we could imagine and envision back then? Even some hundred years ago it was okay for royalty to murder their relatives to consolidate power. Thousands of years ago it was even worse. Just look at what passed for entertainment in Rome - slaughtering animals and people for fun. The gods of the ancient years reflected the same quick willingness to kill and punish as our ancestors did. Could it be humanity was so stuck in darkness that, by necessity, even the best God they could imagine was pretty violent and wrathful? Spiritual truths are filtered through our own minds and souls - but even the highest minds and souls are still weighed down the darkness of their surrounding societies. Is it coincidence some of the most influential men of the Bible were those who sometimes seemed to be more merciful than God (arguing against destroying the Israelites, for example, or negotiating down the number of righteous people needed to be in a city to save it from destruction) - maybe this is a hint that God was actually looking for the merciful to break out of the old modes of thinking? Could it be that maybe Jesus jump-started us into a higher mode of existence, one more true to God's real character? (But, perhaps, with a couple thousand year delay to get to the point of even (say) deciding women really are equal and capital punishment might actually be controversial?)
Boy, if this is true, then we were so tainted with darkness, so eager to be slaves to darkness, so in-tune with the dakrness, that God really did have a hugely difficult task to kick us out of that quantum state, and into something higher. (And, of course, He had to set the record straight: that supernatural being who likes to kill and destroy was not acting as a loyal and obedient messenger from God, despite what the Old Testament writers thought. That being is a renegade murderer and Jesus came to stop that bad stuff, not inflict it on us.)
God really wanted to rescue Creation. He knew it would go "that horribly pear-shaped" (as Graham Cooke puts it), and He would have taken steps to fix it. Jesus on a cross? God Himself stepping into Imperfection and enduring an unjust penalty? I don't understand how even God dying on a cross saves all of humanity from penalty, but I also consider this:
For a moment, let's picture what kind of potential energy Jesus brought to Earth. Yes, I'm blending the physics term with spiritual terms. I think we all carry potential energy - because we (seriously) all have potential, and all have some kind of driving force behind our births. Some of us may only be here a short while, and some may be here a long time and have a great impact. Our potential energy become kinetic for the most part. But what kind of potential energy would God have? Infinite. What kind of energy is then unleashed on Earth through a life spent to the utmost, and then a death of grace and forgiveness chosen to unleash maximal energy upon the planet? Hmm. Infinite?
Enough to kick our world into a higher quantum state? Maybe?
Think, too, what a good life does. It helps bring Heaven to Earth. It brings a bit of the eternal to the physical plane. Good deeds done out of pure love ripple on forever according to mystics of all types - another way of saying that love is eternal, and acts of love are therefore acts of Heaven, and therefore bring Heaven to Earth. So, a pretty much perfect life would bring a LOT of Heaven to Earth. It was a life that was operating in so much faith and authority, that Heaven's operations really were going on - healings and deliverances and restoration and giving and teaching and feeding and rejoicing. The waveform of the planet and the lifeforms was being changed by Eternity to make Earth match Eternity more closely.
And could a perfect death have cemented Eternity's imprint on Earth in a whole new way? "And I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32).
Was it that God proving that Perfection really is possible, that it really is a better way, and it really can exist even here, that it really will win, rejoice, rejoice, rejoice?
I confess the gender-loaded language still irks me. Why a SON? Why is most everything in Christianity so much in the masculine context?
Reading the Bible can be like taking a giant clawhammer to women's self-esteem. In the Old Testament, women were worth less (not worthless, but worth less money), not to mention second class citizens. Even the Ten Commandments are apparently written for men, not women (it does not say "Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's husband"!). Thank God there was at least ONE female judge, right? And the same story has a woman war hero, even. Hardly makes up for all the other women who were essentially pushed around by the males, though.
Obviously there are cultural reasons why God is the "Father" and Jesus is the "Son." The cultures that contributed to the Old and New Testament were quite patriarchical. Duh. We know that. Fathers had all the authority. Their decisions were final. Their legal status is what mattered. Women without husbands or sons were often SOOL and without legal protection, and could (I've heard) lose their homes - and, not only that, if still of reproductive age, were apparently considered sexual temptation risks unless safely married off again. Nevermind that Jesus compared Himself to a mother chicken(!) and compared Heaven (and thus God) to a woman sweeping a house for a lost coin: to our human minds, God had better be male rather than a powerless sexual temptation risk! "Son" means authority and inheritance and equality with the patriarch in the context of historical cultures, whereas "daughter" means ... well, let's just say it doesn't convey the same thing at all.
But Jesus is different, somehow, from the ancient culture around Him. The Gospels paint a very different picture than even the Epistles of the New Testament. Jesus acts in a way no other Biblical man has acted - or any other "great spiritual teacher" of any of the major religions. He seems to make a point of speaking parables including women (e.g. the woman and the lost coin, the wise and foolish virgins, the woman and the judge). He was okay with teaching women (e.g. Mary). He traveled with women. He healed women, did as they asked even when initially reluctant (turning water into wine at his mother's request, restoring the Syrophoenician woman's daughter), raised a girl from the dead. He even praised women for their faith or charity. The first person he appeared to after His resurrection was a woman! And last, but not least, Sojourner Truth is famously thought to have made this point: "Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him!"
That said, people who have met Jesus in the spirit, such as in a Near Death Experience, typically report that He is incredibly "masculine"! Unlike many reports of angels that are characterized as genderless, Jesus Himself is very "male" apparently. But what does that even mean?
I once asked Ben Swett and he gave me this idea. Even today, the word "masculine" carries a certain impression of strength, authority, leadership, and unyieldingness. "Feminine" conveys gentler, quieter, softer, and (yes) submissive-er, if there is such a word. To our understanding, just as "up" usually means "better" to our human brains, so "masculine" is associated with those characteristics that just happen to match up with Jesus: strong, authoritative, incredible leader, unyielding in purpose, powerful, etc.
Could this possibly be just human bias? It's the matriarch that leads the herd of horses or elephants. Matriarchs hold sway among bonobos, and bonobos are famous for being unusually peaceful - especially compared to their male-dominated and more violent chimpanzee relatives. And we all know about social insects such as bees (hey, is that one secret reason Judge Deborah's name means "bee"?). There are other species, too, and who knows about in other worlds? If a female-led species encounters Jesus, would they perceive Jesus as more like a female?
But let's go back to human definitions. What about the feminine aspect of God - does God have a feminine side? Interestingly, some people who claim to have met God in Near Death Experiences, NOT meaning Jesus, say there wasn't a real sense of gender, or maybe the best of both genders. One example is Rudi Rudenski mentioned above, who switches gender pronouns for God as a result of his encounter. The Bible says: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). And, also as mentioned before, Jesus compares God to a woman looking for a lost coin, and Himself to a mother hen. There's also the interesting case of the personification of wisdom in the Bible as a woman. Even Jesus makes a quick reference to "her": "But wisdom is proved right by her children" (Luke 7:35). As wisdom is a characteristic of God, it may be safe to say there's evidence here, too, of a feminine aspect of God.
Since Jesus made a point of talking to, talking about, and thus including women, it's clear that whatever the true meaning of gender in the spiritual sense, Jesus had regard for women, and certainly treated them as joint heirs or "co-heirs" (as Peter would later write). There is also the famous Scripture: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). As mentioned, Jesus also spoke of "sons" in a gender-inclusive way, as evidenced by speaking of the "sons of this age" being given away in marriage, the thing that culturally applied only to women, and also included them in the phrase "sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36). And, the reverse holds: men are included in feminine parables such as the woman and the coin or the virgins awaiting the bridegroom, and when the Book of Revelation speaks of the "Bride of Christ," everyone knows this includes men. Both men and women are part of the Body of Christ, and as one charimastic Christian writer puts it (approximately): "If men are part of the Bride of Christ, then women can be called Sons of God!"
So can we say that "Father and Son" isn't an absolute reflection of God and Jesus as being like or reflected by only half the human population? It seems that way to me. "Son" makes historical, contextual sense, and while these days we can safely say "child of God" and mean the same thing, that's probably at some level a result of Jesus' finished work.
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time...." (2 Timothy 1:9)