Posted by: Billy Marsh | January 25, 2008

Language Games: Christian or a Follower of Jesus? (Part I)

Recently I read a blog by Dr. Al Mohler called “Christianity vs. Jesusanity–The Postmodern Temptation“. Immediately, a deep concern of mine that I had buried over the course of last year was reawakened and my mind began running on all cylinders, not to mention the rate of my heartbeat increased and the color of my skin became to turn a dark shade of red. This reaction is an example of one of the ways that I relate so well with the Reformer, Martin Luther. When I first encountered the famous/infamous German monk, I was relieved to find someone else who probably had high blood pressure due to his intense passion for truth and hatred of false doctrine. But what had been stirred up in my mind in Mohler’s article was the issue of a misplacement of Jesus which, ironically enough, tries to elevate Jesus to a higher plane, yet actually results in belittiling his glorious person and work which is ultimately divine, not human.

I won’t give you a full review of Mohler’s article because there are other things on which I wish to elaborate. But in order to set the stage for later comments, here’s the gist of Mohler’s discussion: personal spirituality versus biblical Christianity. As postmodernism continues to have sway on how biblical interpretation is executed and how religious piety is viewed, major elements of Christian doctrine and application become deceptively distorted. The case study in this subject for Mohler’s article is the shift from historic, orthodox Christianity to a nuanced version, hence the title “Jesusanity,” which seems to be motivated by people who believe themselves to be liberating Jesus from the chains that traditional Christianity has placed on his true teaching and message. In essence, what this movement actually merits is, to manipulate the title from a Bruce Ware book (God’s Lesser Glory), [Christ’s] Lesser Glory.

Dethroning Jesus ~ Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace

Mohler submits some interesting thoughts from Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace’s recent book that addresses this issue entitled, Dethroning Jesus, such as:

Jesusanity” is a coined term for the alternative story about Jesus. Here the center of the story is still Jesus, but Jesus as either a prophet or a teacher of religious wisdom. In Jesusanity, Jesus remains very much Jesus of Nazareth. He points the way to God and leads people into a journey with God. His role is primarily one of teacher, guide, and example. Jesus’ special status involves his insight into the human condition and the enlightenment he brings to it. There is no enthronement of Jesus as God’s side, only the power of his teaching and example. In this story, the key is that Jesus inspires others, but there is no throne for him. He is one among many–the best, perhaps, and one worthy to learn from and follow.

Bock and Wallace’s analysis of this approach to a religious view of Jesus reveals the tendency of postmodernism to place undue emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, thus, creating a deficiency in people’s perception of his deity. However, the main point of regretted departure is trying to focus upon parts of Jesus rather than the total person. Without a doubt, Jesus was the Incarnate Son of God, God in the flesh, the God-man, but what is often neglected is that Jesus is a single, unified being. When people attempt to apply the surgical knife to Jesus’ identity, separating his two natures as if they were intended to be dissected in that manner, we are left with a schizophrenic savior. But, as Mohler points out, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is simultaneously both fully divine and fully human. He asserts that “Jesus does not need to be ‘humanized’.” And though the Scriptures speak at different times to varying aspects of Jesus’ identity and life such as his temptation, suffering, teaching, miracles, kingship, judgment, and so forth and so on, the instances speak of Jesus as a whole, not to two different persons.

For instance, in his temptation, Jesus was both able to be tempted and not sin. This is made possible by the unified form of his being. In other words, the account does not say that Jesus as man was tempted, and that Jesus as God remained sinless. Instead, the Scriptures simply teach that Jesus was tempted and was without sin. The fine-tooth combed distinguishment is not necessary because in everything that the Savior does, he performs as as a whole, as the full Incarnation. Jesus of Nazareth is the same Jesus who is the Son of God. Jesus, as fully divine and fully human, experienced life on earth just as Jesus, as fully divine and fully human, now sits at the right hand of God awaiting his glorious return, when every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).

Please read Mohler’s article on this issue and brief review of the book, Dethroning Jesus. Obviously, I haven’t touched what I really came to say in this post. So, I’m sure there will be several subsequent posts to come in the next few weeks on this topic. I want to look at the issues of postmodern spirituality and maybe some existenstial linguistic analysis which are major facets of this topic as well.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

~ Hebrews 4:14-15 ~

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