Some time after college I read an essay in The…
Deepak Chopra's 2008 book The Third Jesus is an attempt to understand three distinct manifestations of this elusive person: the historical Jesus, the theological Jesus created by the church, & the spiritual Jesus available to those that can achieve what Chopra calls a God-consciousness. Using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (trust me, it matters) and Gnostic texts, Chopra explores the available evidence to figure out Jesus, what he said on a number of issues, and then offers help for those that are looking to deepen their understanding.
Chopra's examination and conclusions about Jesus fit right into my spiritual framework. Not willing to succumb to either literalist or rationalist interpretations of the Gospel, Chopra advocates for an active spiritual relationship with Jesus. This means that a biblical reader needs to understand how the Gospels were created, what texts were left out by the Church & what they said about Jesus, and how to see the spiritual Jesus in the texts.
This type of analysis usually deters many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians from either reading a book like this all, let alone pulling anything valuable from it. Chopra's lists Jesus' ingredients of a spiritual life, and it is indeed frightening for many that believe the Bible to be the God's literal word (list on page 23).
- Meditation: Going within to contact the silent mind.
- Contemplation: Reflecting on the truth.
- Revelation: Receiving spiritual insight.
- Prayer: Asking for higher guidance.
- Grace: Taking God into one's heart.
- Love: Participating in divine love.
- Faith: Believing in a higher reality.
- Salvation: Realizing that you have a place in higher reality.
- Unity: Becoming one with God.
Naturally, I am attracted to this list and believe Chopra did well overall with showing the three Jesus manifestations. I also think most people who are open and do not cling tightly to a belief about Jesus would also like this book. Chopra accepted this and said, “Let's be candid here. The readers of this book are very unlikely to be Christian fundamentalists. The shortcomings of the religious right have been widely aired, also, so why repeat them one more time?”
I reluctantly agree with Chopra here. There has to be a way to write a book like this that engages fundamentalists and evangelicals. Perhaps I am in a magical land of happy cows and farmers. However, if one views the ideas brought forth by the religious right as shortcomings, what good are you doing in the big picture other than pandering to a like-minded group and purposefully excluding another?