In noting that several translations of the First Testament — from the LXX to the NRSV — tend to water down language that refers to God ‘birthing’ the world, John Goldingay writes the following:
Such alteration and watering down of the text may reflect a desire to protect God’s transcendence. The First Testament offers much evidence that this is not a desire God shares, but human beings often prefer their God safely transcendent (Theology of the Old Testament: Volume One, Israel’s Gospel, 62).
Not only is this explicit disavowal of faith in a purely transcendent God found in the First Testament, it is also found in the Second Testament and, significantly, on the lips of Jesus himself. Thus, as he prepares to depart from his disciples, Jesus engages in a speech in Matthew 25.31-46 that is intended to counter any future desire to locate Jesus as a transcendent (and thus rather safe) Lord. Rather than projecting that his future location will be solely in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, Jesus states that he is actually to be found in the material and imminent existence of ‘the least of these’ — the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.
Methinks that many Christians today may want to reconsider these things. Jesus, for many, has become little more than a safely transcendent deity who doesn’t intervene much into our lives and who also doesn’t really ask all that much of us. However, instead of piddling around in prayers to this distant Jesus, we might be better served to jump into the hard work of serving the Jesus who is found in ‘the least of these’. In the end, our ultimate allegiance should not be to the conception of Jesus we talk to in our heads; rather, our ultimate allegiance should be to the crucified people of today, and the Jesus we encounter there. Everything else — our faith, our values, our priorities — should be subordinate to that.