Jesus of Nazareth … somehow managed to combine with his radical challenges to tradition a strangely conservative attitude to God and to Scripture. (John Stott)
Yes, I love Jesus. He’s so theologically conservative that, in a way, it made him oddly/paradoxically progressive and anti-conservative, i.e., challenging the conservative elite and status quo of his day —
“Don’t you see, your tradition is actually violating God’s word and voiding it out” (Mark 7), as if to say, “You religious conservatives aren’t conservative enough!”
We need more of that today.
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.
On Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.
Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.
See previous posts:
This week was surveyed the role of the Gospel–or, the mission of Jesus–in redemptive history.
Overview of Biblical material
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – The life and saving work of Jesus.
- God becomes a human—Jesus of Nazareth.
- He works great miracles.
- He teaches great things.
- He is eventually killed by the Jews and Romans.
- But three days later he rises from the dead.
Role within redemptive history
We can summary the central role of the Gospel in redemptive history as follows: God becomes a human being—Jesus—and initially but decisively brings about God’s new-creational kingdom. He does this centrally through his death and resurrection.
As always, we will break this down into in various parts for closer examination.
- God becomes a human: the incarnation’s relationship to the Gospel
First, we want to consider the incarnation’s (lit. “infleshing,” i.e., the event God becoming a human) relationship to the Gospel and its fulfillment of this new-creational kingdom.
The following two quotations, from Lewis’ Mere Christianity, constitute Lewis’ well known lunatic, lord, or liar argument, sometimes called Lewis’ “trilemma” or “mad, bad, or God.”
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 3, paragraph 13; chapter 4, paragraph 1.
In short, Lewis argues the only two alternatives besides accepting that Jesus is God is to view him as either an immoral liar or an insane person who did not realize he was lying. Most non-Christians don’t exactly like those two alternatives to this Jesus figure who often seems to them seems like a pretty solid dude–just not God. But Lewis will have none of this riding the fence garbage. A good moral teacher would not claim to be God without actually being so. To falsely claim such, he must needs be either a lunatic or a liar. Thus, as Lewis argues, this common tact of taking Jesus as non-God, non-lord, great-moral-teacher is off the table.
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)