You would think, that with all of the people in history, there would be less misconceptions with the person of Jesus Christ than any other historical figure. Yet, the more I spend time with individuals, the more I realize how confused they are on who He was and what He represents.
Recently I saw this video where Christopher Hitchens, the late great atheist, has to explain the fundamentals of Christianity to a liberal female minister, the Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell. In the video, Hitchens points out that if you don’t accept Jesus for who He says He is and what He teaches, you cannot call yourself a Christian. Dr. Sewell horridly tries to argue her point by suggesting that speaking metaphorically about Jesus is enough to claim to be His follower.
The problem with this argument is that it is ridiculous to claim to follow Christ and ignore everything recorded about Him. Even Hitchens points out that Jesus would have been evil to make the claims and commands He made if they were not to be taken seriously. But even an atheist can’t gain much ground with the ignorance of liberal theology.
Dr. Sewell basically admits to practicing her belief on a “monstrous fraud” that has evolved out of mystical thinking. To this, Hitchens responds and asks what value there is in believing in Christ when he doesn’t provide a structure for anything more than atheistic moralism can offer.
This is the ultimate crux in liberal theology: why do we need Jesus? Is he just a warm and cuddly character on the same level as any other fictional character in literature? What makes Him better than Forest Gump? or Robin Hood? Beyond that, why even look to Jesus at all when there are good moral people like Gandhi and Mother Teresea who are closer to our timeframe and reference? If these liberal “Christians” really admired Jesus, they would have to accept Him for what He represented. Instead, they paint Him out to be something He is not. And this is what I want to rant about today.
What do you think about Jesus, and how has your impression of Him been formed? The chances are, if you area a Christian in the Church of America today, your impression of Jesus has been greatly influenced by media, ideology, and liberalism, more so than by systematic biblical theology. The average Christian today does not have an orthodoxy (right opinion) view of who Jesus really is. Even if you consider yourself a conservative, your view is most likely skewed by imagination rather than Scripture.
If you think that “being like Jesus” means more patience than righteous anger, you have a liberal view of Christology. Let me explain. If you think that the Old Testament God is vehemently just and vindictively angry, but Jesus is the New Testament version who is meek and mild in nature, you are forgetting that God is eternal and does not change. The same Jesus that walked on the face of the earth for 33 years and tolerated the transgressions of prostitutes and tax collectors is the same God who ordered that every man, woman, and child be killed in Cannan. He’s the same Jesus Christ who will come riding back into the world on a horse with a sword and destroy more people in one day than all of the most malicious warlords in history. This is who Christ really is, and thinking of him in reference to only 33 years of His eternal existence does not provide a complete explanation of Christology.
Today we think of Jesus on our own terms. We prefer happy thoughts, so we don’t want to think of how Jesus is ultimately the one who casts people into hell. But if you read the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find he talks more about his judgment than he does about heaven. Jesus is serious about holiness.
I don’t say these things to suggest that we can’t learn from Jesus’ example when He was on earth. I certainly think we can and should. Jesus is the perfect model of how we ought to live our lives and He is the hope that we can live free from sin and holy toward God. But a narrow gospel view of Jesus is not complete and it leads to liberal theology.
So, why make mention of this? Why is it so important? If we claim to be followers of Christ, we ought to know the man we are following. It’s not enough to keep Him in our imagination, as many Christians do. We need to truly study Him. It’s not enough to ask the silly question, “What would Jesus Do?” and rack our brains for imaginative scenarios. We need to be driven to Scripture to actually see what He did, listen to what He taught, and follow what He commanded.
If you claim to be a Christian, but your view of Jesus does not take into account His wrath and justice, and you spend more time imagining Christ than studying Him in Scripture, you might be a liberal.