Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The incarnate Jesus

Heavy theology warning:
Suddenly it seems, in the big wide world of on-line theological debate, the identity of Jesus is up for grabs. An American guy named Driscoll, at a major conference, has declared that one of the problems with emergents is they have concentrated too much on the incarnate Jesus of the gospels, at the expense of the transcendent Lord of the epistles. Talk about creating a false dichotomy!!

Internet Monk, at http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/riffs-driscoll-on-the-incarnation-slices-perfect-phariseeism has answered this silliness well, and for once I feel like chiming in on a hot topic. Normally I leave such things alone, there is far too much heat and far too little warmth between Christians on these issues already. But I can’t overlook a misrepresentation of Jesus – whatever else may be debatable, this is not. The Jesus of the gospels is fully God and fully Lord. When we look at Him, we are meant to say “this is who God is” – I don’t mean that in a silly way, referencing the physical or socio-cultural characteristics which inevitably come as a package deal with incarnation, that is setting up a straw man a five year old could knock down, but the reality of what He said and did, and how He functioned in relationship was God made visible. The man Jesus was, in very fact, the image of the invisible God. God is, in very truth, someone who is angry with Pharisees and religious hypocrites, who is infinitely tender with the needy, the victimised and the broken, who shatters our theological idols, who restrains His power in order to empower mere human beings, who has authority over storms and a heart that delights in flowers, who leaves us no wriggle-room in our excuses, but then lavishly forgives us, who does not disparage either the masculine or the feminine, who has a sense of humour, whose wisdom overwhelms our deepest profundity. Is there a different Jesus in the epistles? Only if you read them through the distorting glasses of a fixed (human) theological system.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, a bible divided against itself has lost its authority. Certainly one part of scripture illuminates another, but we must never pit them against each other. Perhaps Driscoll has come the closest to saying outright what I have long suspected some Calvinists of believing, that the gospels are inferior, that all our “real” theology must come from Paul. There is an inarticulate feeling that the incarnate Jesus was somehow incomplete, perhaps dangerous to build theology on because, after all, liberals seem to like him too! Propositional theology is somehow exalted above what Jesus actually said and did. I don’t want to make accusations against people who are sincerely seeking to exalt my Lord, but I do wonder why they feel they have to chop away part of His essential nature to do it ..

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