To the editors:
Professor Sheehan’s “Gospel of Thomas” [April 21] may be the Gospel of Academia, but it is most assuredly not the Gospel of the Church, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Good News which we as believers in Jesus [the] Christ proclaim is that out of total and complete love–and for no other reason–God condescended to become a human being, and in so doing brought us into life with Him. We believe that God our Father created us that we might live in eternal fellowship with Him, as close to his heart as a woman is to her husband. Yet we, exercising the freedom to love–or to not love–with which we were made, chose to reject this purpose in favor of the allusions surrounding independence and the belief that we and our world are absolute. But despite our rejection of God, God would not abandon His purpose. He would not forsake us, but continued to reach out to us, seeking to draw us into the eternal fellowship of love which He is. These efforts on the part of God culminated in His taking on flesh in the Person of Jesus. This Jesus walked the earth, taught the way of fellowship with God, and died a death which removed once and for all the impediment to union which we had put in the way of God’s plan. He was able to do this because He, though human, was unlike any who had ever lived in that He was God, and therefore He alone was able to live the perfect life of unselfish devotion to others and to God. And to reveal that this life of Jesus was the life of God, that His way was the way, that his death did in fact remove the obstacle of our self-absorption, God the Creatore re-created Jesus in the flesh, manifesting to all that in Him God showed Himself as the Saviour of the people He had brought into being. Thus the resurrection reveals God’s action, which He took alone, to save us and fulfill His plan in creation. In it our flesh, united as it is to the God-Man, can finally be taken into fellowship with God–beginning now and for all eternity–by those who believe upon Christ, confessing Him as God’s Son, Lord and Saviour. The objective action of God need only be appropriated within the subjective experience of our lives. If this were not so, the sacrifice of Jesus would make little sense (for why would God condescend to die if salvation was available through other means?), and our new love of God would have little real substance (not being actually our own).
Thus it is easy to see how Thomas and Jesus differ. The arguments he lays forth concerning historical criticism (most of which are academically questionable and controversial) mean little in the face of the knowledge that the Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, must point to Christ. Christ is the embodiment and the source of the Kingdom He proclaimed. The action of the Holy Spirit within the life and proclamation of the Church as it bears witness to Christ must not be discounted, for apart from the Spirit there is no true understanding of Jesus. And apart from Jesus and His substantial resurrection, there is no real freedom from the chains that bind us to ourselves. There is no real salvation–now or any time–for the flesh and the material world as created by God.
It is appropriate that you named your article, “The Gospel According to Thomas,” for the ancient Gospel of Thomas is one of the great heretical texts in the early Church. It fell out of circulation not because of academic or clerical refutation, but because it didn’t square with the Jesus people knew in their hearts and in the Church. That Jesus is the God who loved them enough to die a horrendous death–that Jesus loved them enough to bring their whole created selves (flesh and all) into eternal life with Him, eternal life that begins now in everlasting fellowship with our Triune God (Fr, Son, Holy Spirit). This truth can never ben known within the minds of academia; it has always been “foolishness” to the arrogantly wise of this world. But it is a true, deep, and abiding reality within the hearts of believers, for it is nothing less than Jesus the Christ, alive at the right hand of the Father, known by faith to be in our midst.
Candidate for the Priesthood
The Episcopal Church
Robert McClory replies:
Mr. Schuler eloquently presents the fundamentalist position–namely, I’m secure in my beliefs, so don’t ask me to think.