Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jesus or Jesus?

O r J e s u s ?
With all the various scholars writing about Jesus, and thus the varied and many portraits of Jesus being produced, students often struggle to know which Jesus they must follow. I've heard it asked many times. Once during a lecture with Jimmy Dunn a student stood up desperate: "Can you help us Professor Dunn, we're a bit lost as to which Jesus of scholarship we should be following in our Churches." I sat back in amazement at the question. Churches should follow the biblical Jesus, I thought to myself. The one revealed in scripture. That's who Churches should follow! But this is too naive and misses the point and force of the question.
Michael Bird has a good insight about The Big Tent Revival Jesus and The California Jesus. Of course the critiques are short and incomplete but the point they raise is necessary. There are some sloppy views of Jesus out there, and we must bring them back into line. This is not to suggest that a fundamentalist agenda be adopted but it is to suggest that once the evidence is appropriately assessed and weighed, theories should give way to conclusions and the church should move forward. I am convinced that George Caird hit the nail square on the head when he penned Jesus and the Jewish Nation where it states right at the beginning:

Anyone who believes that in the life and teaching of Christ, God has given a unique revelation of his character and purpose is committed by this belief, whether he likes it or not, whether he admits it or not, to the quest of the historical Jesus. Without the Jesus of history the Christ of faith is merely a docetic figure, a figment of pious imagination. The Christian religion claims to be founded on historic fact, on events which happened sub Pontio Pilato; and having appealed to history, by history it must be justified.[1]

Listen carefully to these words. They will save us much confusion and prejudice. But alas, having appealed to history, scholars still present a variety of views that leave us dazed and confused as students trying to find and follow Jesus in a post-modern world. Is there any hope? Tom Wright thinks there is, and I concur! His article, The Historical Jesus & Christian Theology has been a welcome correction to much superficial and unhelpful research into Jesus of Nazareth. Although this is the narrow path, the harder road of painful and careful historical research within the boundaries of the worldview of 2nd Temple Judaism and how it then relates to the Imperial worldview and then how Jesus either agree with parts, didn't agree with other parts or how he somehow agreed yet challenged other aspects of its various outworkings. This is the task at hand. If not, then Scot McKnight may be right in his assessment:

As I perceive the theological scene today, we have far too many who want to agree that in Jesus Christ, that is, in history, God has acted definitively for the salvation of all people, far too many who think we do have a faith in history, but who for various reasons are unwilling to subject history to a careful examination because it might tip their boat of faith. I am contending that such people believe in faith, not in Jesus, not in what God did for salvation in Jesus, but in faith. Their creed then is: "I believe in faith, faith in the Christian interpretation of life.[2]

Christians need to take responsibility for what they believe and why they believe it and then study the scriptures to see if it is so. Scot McKnight's book The Jesus Creed and Tom Wright's book The Challenge of Jesus are important starting blocks for those wanting to engaged Jesus appropriately. I cannot recommend these two books more highly. Even Wright's little picture book, The Original Jesus, merits mentioning as it is a solid little introduction to the issues at hand. We must answer Jesus' lasting question: WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? For in answering that question, we will have determined much of our destiny and means of arriving at that destination. As Schweitzer announced:

He comes to us as One unknown without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: 'Follow thou me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.[3]

Reading and studying the gospels, having fellowship with this UNKNOWN ONE, will lead us to the realization of Who He is... For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the perfect one comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, enigmatically, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
catch ya on the flip side...
[1] G. B. Caird, Jesus and the Jewish Nation, pg. 3.
[2] Scot McKnight, "The Hermeneutics of Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord" Ex Audito.
[3] Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, pg. 415

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