Fusion and Confusion
When people of two different cultures attempt to communicate with each other, they often encounter difficulties. There are several factors that serve to frustrate the efforts of these two different people to converse with each other. One of these impediments is the fusing together of two concepts in the mind of one of the participants in the conversation.
For the sake of illustration let us take the concepts of success and happiness. In the mind of the Western world the concept of success is fused together with the concepts of fame and wealth and happiness is intimately associated with instant gratification. If a person who is inculcated with the mentality of the modern Western civilization attempts to talk about happiness and success with a person from another culture that does not share in these artificial associations, there is bound to be some misunderstanding between them. Whenever the word happiness is mentioned in the conversation the Westerner will be thinking “instant gratification”, while that concept may not be the intention of his counter-part at all.
In order for people to have meaningful conversation it is necessary to identify these potential impediments that could stand in the way of people’s attempts to understand each other.
The impediment of artificial fusion of concepts is pronounced in the ongoing conversation between Jews and Christians. In the mind of the Christian the concepts of: “God” and “Jesus” are fused together. The Christian mind sees these as one entity. When the Jew says “God”, the Christian hears “Jesus” while the Jew never meant Jesus to begin with. When the Jew accuses the Christian of worshiping an idol, the Christian is baffled. In the Christian mind the God of Israel is inextricably intertwined with the Jesus of the Christian Scriptures. When the Jew talks of rejecting Jesus, the Christian hears a rejection of the God of the Jewish Bible.
The first step in a meaningful conversation would be to attempt to untangle this confusion, but it is not so easily accomplished. You may explain to the Christian that God and Jesus are not one and the same and that the two concepts could be separated. The Christian will perhaps understand you on an intellectual level, but the association between “God” and “Jesus” in the Christian mind runs much deeper than the intellect. Every emotion and every feeling that the Christian associates with God is also attributed in his or her heart to Jesus. It is very difficult for a Christian to disentangle these two concepts.
It would be premature to attempt to prove to a Christian that Jesus is not God and that God is not Jesus as long as the two words are synonymous in his or her heart. It is first necessary to establish a working language before attempting to engage in a complicated conversation. In the emotional vocabulary of the Christian, the word “God” means “Jesus” and the word “Jesus” means “God”. It is as if there was a language barrier preventing communication between the Jew and the Christian. That language barrier must be crossed before a meaningful discussion could begin.
Perhaps one way to overcome this language barrier is to use the words “God without Jesus” instead of using the word “God” alone. If you succeeded in breaking the language barrier, you can them begin talking with your Christian counter-part. You can only know that you broke the barrier if the Christian you are talking with is not comfortable with the term: “God without Jesus”. If the Christian is too comfortable with the concept of “God without Jesus” then these two concepts (“God” and “Jesus”) are still fused together in his or her mind and even though you are saying: “God without Jesus” the Christian is still thinking “God with Jesus”.
Perhaps you might need to take it a step further. You might try to explain that when you say “God without Jesus” you mean the Creator of heaven and earth accomplishing all He needs to accomplish in His universe without coming down to earth as a human. You might want to articulate that you are thinking of a God whose relationship with humanity is complete in every way without Him having to come down in an incarnation. Ask the Christian you are talking with to attempt to conceptualize this idea – “God without any possibility of Jesus”. Try to get him or her to imagine a universe where Jesus was not and will not be born. If the Christian you are talking with has understood the concept of “God without Jesus” – you could then begin the conversation.
You might want to explain to you Christian friend that the Jewish people have a covenant with this entity called “God without Jesus”. They share a deep and intimate relationship with this entity – a relationship that the Scriptures compare to a marriage. If this entity is too small for your Christian friend, you may want to explain to him or her that this is the One who we followed into the wilderness out of pure love (Jeremiah 2:1). It is to this God (the One without Jesus) who we are loyal to and we will stand for His truth forever.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal