Archives For Jesus Christ

rp_Untitled101111-683x1024.jpgI’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation. The reason being I’m convinced its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.

You can find all the previous posts here.

III. The Son

25. What is the Gospel? 

The Gospel is Jesus.

The Gospel is the life of the 2nd Person of the Trinity made flesh in Jesus Christ and made known to us through the community constituted by the narrative which witnesses to him, what we call the Gospels.

In that narrative we hear the good news of how the God who raised Israel from slavery in Egypt has raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating Jesus’ faithfulness to God’s Kingdom, defeating the kingdoms which had crucified him, and inaugurating a New Age in which Jesus is Lord and we are called to witness to the God who refuses to let our violence and sin determine our relationship to him.

The Gospel is not the effect of the Gospel.

It is not atonement. It is not justification. It is not salvation. It is neither being forgiven your sin nor is it going to heaven when you die.

The Gospel is the entire story of Jesus Christ, for the person and work of Christ cannot be separated or abstracted from one another; that is, there is no meaning to what we mean by Gospel- no universal human dilemma- that can be known prior tom or without submission under, the story we call Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

The Gospel is the entire narrative about Jesus Christ because there is no way to know Jesus apart from discipleship, apprenticing under him through this story in which he reveals himself to us.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel.” 

– 2 Timothy 2.8

§1.14 Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics concerns Revelation.

Not the last book of the bible (which is NOT called Revelations in the plural, one of my pet peeves) but revelation in the sense of God revealing God’s self to humanity.

How is it, in other words, that the Eternal, Unknowable, Wholly Transcendent God can be known in space and time?

Predictably- or I should say reliably- Barth has one simple answer to that question: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as the one Word of God, is the revelation by which we know God.

The only revelation.

This is one of Barth’s constant themes in all his work not just the CD. For example, its’ the motivating assertion in the Barmen Declaration, the confession of faith Barth wrote in opposition to the Nazi’s nationalizing of the German Church.

Barth insists: We do not have abstract, universal ideas of “god” which we can deduct from logic or the natural world and which then correlate to the true God.

Abstract, universal concepts of god only lead an abstract, universalizing deity ready-made for idolatry, Barth believes.

They do not, could not, lead you to the very particular God of Jesus and Israel.

As is often the case, it’s theological liberalism that provokes Barth’s arguments.

Barth is wary of the tendency in theological liberalism to see the particularity of Jesus Christ as merely a cipher for more universal principles which we can adhere to apart from Jesus Christ. That is, Barth wants to avoid liberalism’s tendency to say ‘once we get past the particular forms and practices of our religions, we all really believe the same thing.’

While I concur with Barth’s concerns and while I normally enjoy his ballsy rhetoric and sweeping generalizations, in this instance I part ways with Karl.

On the most elementary and obvious level, the assertion that God cannot be known apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ is demonstrably false.

People knew God prior to Jesus Christ, and people do know God today apart from Jesus Christ. A whole lot of people, actually. I’m friends with some of them.

One could argue, I suppose, that such people worship this God wrongly if they do worship in the name of Christ, but if there is only one God then its logically impossible that they do ‘know’ him.

On another, more problematic level for me is that by suggesting the revelation of God happens only through Jesus Christ, Barth disconnects creation itself from God.

Creation for Barth isn’t really any different than how the Deist understands creation:

something which God made at some discrete point in the past and which God now stands distantly apart from or above.

And for Barth, you get the impression that God’s been so long away from his handiwork it no longer bears his fingerprints.

As Barth puts it in this section, Jesus Christ is the ‘light that shines in the darkness’ and the darkness is not revelation the light is revelation.

This world = darkness.

This is where Barth diverges from the ancient tradition and I don’t think I can go with him.

For the ancient Christians, creation itself, including us in it, are expressions of God’s revelation (or contained within it, so to speak).

All the universe, as Isaiah says, is full of the glory of God. Present tense.

Accordingly, said the ancient Christians, to know anything-

1+1 = 2

the wing speed of a hummingbird

hitting a ball on the sweet spot of a bat

the feel of my son’s hand in my own

the scent of my wife’s hair-

is already to know, however partially, God.

Barth’s understandable emphasis on the particular revelation of Christ unfortunately comes at the expense of transcendent reality.

Rather than saying, as Barth does, that Jesus Christ is the only revelation by which we know God, I think it better to say that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation by which we know God.

Christ is not so much the singular revelation of God but he is the summary of the fullness of God.

That in him is the totality of the One in whom we live and move and have our being.