Submitted to Philosophy and the Spiritual Life, The British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, Biennial Conference, September 7-8, 2017
Jesus as a Philosopher Drawing Pictures in the Sand
In exploring the spiritual side of philosophy, we can likewise consider the philosophical side of spirituality. We investigate the Gospels as sources of the philosophical thinking of Jesus of Nazareth.
How did Jesus figure things out? A survey of his methods brings out two points of view: "the bad kid" (the prodigal son, favored by the Father) and "the good kid" (his brother, whom the Son identified with). We can perceive a clash between the Father's vision of Salvation ("God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son"), and the Son's vision of the Kingdom of Heaven ("I don't pray for the world - I pray for my own!"), resolved in the Son's words "not my will but yours".
The Gospel of John can be understood as how Jesus thought to himself, in his personal language, as documented by his best friend. Life is the fact that God is good, but eternal life is understanding that God does not have to be good, life does not have to be fair.
We can imagine Jesus thinking in terms of four structures of 8-fold statements related to the body's needs (Beatitudes, "I Am..." statements), the mind's doubts (antitheses), the heart's expectations (and emotional responses, as Mark makes evident) and the will's values (Lord's prayer). A study of his parables yields 8 teachings, and also 8 good things. He ever adds two perspectives, God and good, to 6 human perspectives.