During the process of taking a class on the gospels this semester, I have been thinking afresh about what it means to be a Christian.
To be a Christian is to be a ‘little Christ,’ as it is said, a Christ imitator or follower. Defined this way, being a Christian is not primarily about remaining loyal to a set of ideas, adhering to a set of principles, or believing certain doctrines. It certainly involves those things (don’t hear me wrongly). But what it is primarily is a claim to follow a person, the real historical person of Jesus of Nazareth, not a person in the abstract (e.g., Jesus merely a means to an end that is my salvation), but an actual human being.
If this is central to what it means to be a Christian, this pushes against many contemporary forms of Christianity that have lost sight of the centrality of this person in favor of making other good but not central things central.
To illustrate, I will use evangelicalism’s infatuation with Paul.
I’m currently working on an ordination-type personal statement of faith; and I ran across this great resource in the back of one of my books.
An Outline of the New Testament Testimony to the Deity of Christ” by Murray J. Harris in Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 315-317.
A. Implicit Christology
1. Divine functions performed by Jesus
a. In relation to the universe
(1) Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2)
(2) Sustainer (1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3)
(3) Author of life (John 1:4; Acts 3:15)
(4) Ruler (Matt. 28:18; Rom. 14:9; Rev. 1:6)
Steve Walton states that Jesus’ ascension “expresses the Christian conviction that Jesus now reigns over the universe” (59) and “The ascension of Jesus … provides the apostles with a visual demonstration of the truth of Jesus’ exalted status” (60).
In addition to these summary-type statements, he provides 7 significant theological implications of the ascension.
(1) The ascension implies that Jesus now reigns alongside God in heaven, and thus it is appropriate to call him *“Lord” as well as “Messiah” (Acts 2:36). The (singular) cloud (Acts 1:9) echoes the one in Luke 21:27 on which the *Son of Man comes to God (cf. Dan 7:13), clearly placing Jesus alongside Israel’s God. Thus Jesus, still human, is to be *worshiped (Lk 24:52) alongside Yahweh, and the portrait of Israel’s God expands (Johnson). Psalm 110 (esp. Ps 110:1, 4) was a key biblical passage that was interpreted (following Jesus’ own lead [Mk 12:35–37]) concerning Jesus, who is thus to be understood as having been enthroned at God’s right hand as coruler (e.g., Rom 8:34; Heb 10:12–13).
(2) The ascension presages Jesus’ return to earth from heaven (Acts 1:11; cf. Heb 9:28). That return will be the time of cosmic renewal and restoration promised in Scripture (Acts 3:20–21) and of *judgment (Acts 17:31). The cloud—a key marker of Jesus’ departure (Acts 1:9)—became an emblem of Jesus’ return in early Christian writing (e.g., 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 1:7; 14:14–16). Paul picks up Psalm 110:1 as testimony that the time will come when God will place Jesus’ enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:25–26). The ascension is “the advance notice of the end” (Robinson, cited in Zwiep, 196).
The following is a modified manuscript/outline from a sermon I preached on 1 Peter 2:11-25 at Lake Drive Baptist Church in December 2013.
I’ve entitled my sermon, “Christian Living in a Post-Christendom America.” What do I mean by “christendom”? “Christendom” refers to the “Christian Empire,” where Christianity is associated with the state, promoted by the state, or the dominant religion within the state.
In a sense, one could have previously referred to America as a form of this Christendom. But now days, it’s quite clear that we live in a post-Christendom America. –Not only non-Christian, but even increasingly anti-Christian.
A mere casual awareness of the news makes one aware of the rapid pace of secularization in our country. For example, only 17 years after President Clinton signed DOMA into law, President Obama successfully pushed for its repeal. And keep in mind, he entered office opposed to gay marriage. And the rapidness of this shift only mirrors trends in the general population. Or again, it only takes a brief glance at recent headlines to demonstrate this:
- “Starbucks Enters Same-Sex Marriage Boycott Wars.”
- “Supreme Court Will Consider Hobby Lobby Contraception Mandate Case.”
- Referring to Chick-Fil-A: “‘Eat More Ignorance’ Is More Like It.”
- “Southern Baptists Convention Fighting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal.”“Should the Boy Scouts of America Lift Its Ban on Gay Members?”
- “New Mexico Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Discriminating Anti-Gay Photographer.”
- “Judge Orders Colorado Bakery to Cater for Same-Sex Weddings.”
- “‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Suspended for Anti-Gay Remarks.”
And without necessarily endorsing any of the parties in these conflicts– And no matter what you think about these controversies on a political level, they nonetheless indicate an increasing hostility and threat to Christian thought and values. … We live in an ever-increasingly secular culture.
So, how are we as Christians to respond? What does Christian living look like in a post-Christendom America? 1 Peter has much to say about how Christians should live within a non-Christian and even anti-Christian society.
In Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, Dr. Carson presents a Biblical investigation and evaluation of the title “Son of God,” and specifically the title “Son of God” as it is used to refer to Jesus.
He breaks up the short book into three chapters.
In chapter 1, “‘Son of God’ as a Christological Title,” he investigates the various Biblical uses of “Son of ___,” then focuses specifically on “Son of God,” and then focuses even more specifically on how the “Son of God” title is employed in reference to Jesus. Clearly, many “Son of ___” uses do not express a biological relationship, but presume some other kind of relationship or shared trait. Having established this point, Carson teases out its implications for the use of “Son of God” in reference to Israel’s kings who are called “Sons of God” and eventually the ultimate “Son of God” in this sense–Jesus.