Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is Jesus a Footnote to Adam?

Is it possible to overestimate Jesus Christ? Is it possible to give Jesus a place in our theological vision that is over the top, so to speak, too significant, too critical, too central? Can we make too much of Christ? Can we give him a role in the creation and in the purpose of the cosmos that is far more than he is actually worthy of? Are we violating the witness of the Spirit if we give Jesus Christ too much of a hearing when it comes to our thinking about God, about creation, about humanity and human history? Are we in error if we make Jesus Christ our fundamental hermeneutic–the key to our understanding of God, humanity and the cosmos, and everything within it?

It is striking to read the apostles in the light of these kinds of questions. For Paul and John and the writer of Hebrews, Jesus Christ is the one in and through and by whom, and for whom, the entire universe was called forth and is constantly sustained. He is the center of the created world, the one in whom it all holds together, and in whom the human race lives and moves and has its being (JN 1:1-3; COL 1:16-17; ACTS 17:28; 1COR 8:6-7; HEB 1:1-3).

Note carefully Paul’s stunning statement: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…” (EPH 1:5). We will surely return to this breathtaking thought many times, but for the moment please note that adoption is the eternal purpose of God for the human race. The triune God does not create the world and then have a meeting to find out what to do with creation, or the human race within it. Our creation follows a prior and definite purpose—adoption.

Even more beautiful and challenging is the fact that before the foundation of the world Jesus Christ was chosen to be the one in whom our adoption would be accomplished. Adoption through Jesus Christ is the eternal purpose of the triune God. Adam was created and called, and then Abraham and Israel, to serve the larger purpose of the coming of the Father’s Son. Jesus is not a footnote to Adam, not plan “B” quickly put in play after the fall of humanity. Jesus—and our adoption through him—is the eternal point. To borrow a thought from Professor T. F. Torrance, ‘the Word of God was on the road to becoming flesh’ before the first particle of creation was called into being.

For more on the eternal centrality of Christ see my book, God is For Us and my essay, “The Cosmic Christ,” both available at

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Shack

The Shack, by William P. Young is one of the best books I have read in years. It made my top 10 list on the first reading. On the second, it jumped up to number 7. If you have not read it, read it. If you have, read it again, and buy a copy for a friend. I hope everyone on the planet reads it.

I won't spoil it for you, but I will tell you this much; the story is about a sad and broken-hearted man who meets the real God. The bulk of the book is the conversation between them. Young's insights are seasoned and brilliant, and full of the real gospel. Stunning. The human race is already accepted and embraced, Jesus continues to be human forever, the Father’s heart never flinches, the Holy Spirit is a redeeming genius—and we are as real as we are precious to the blessed Trinity.

Here are a few quotes, used by the author’s permission.

“Jesus?” he whispered as his voice choked. “I feel so lost.”
A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn’t let go. “I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.” (p. 114).

“I don’t create institutions—never have, never will.”
“What about the institution of marriage?”
“Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship.” (p. 179).

“If only it were that simple, Mackenzie. Nobody knows what horrors I have saved the world from, ‘cuz people can’t see what never happened. All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. This world is not a playground where I keep all my children free from evil. Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all.
Mack rubbed his hands through his hair and sighed. ‘It’s just so hard to understand.’
“Honey, let me tell you one of the reasons that it makes no sense to you. It’s because you have such a small view of what it means to be human. You and this Creation are incredible, whether you understand that or not. You are wonderful beyond imagination. Just because you make horrendous and destructive choices does not mean you deserve less respect for what your inherently are—the pinnacle of my Creation and the center of my affection.” (p. 190).

Thanks to Wendy and Wayne Marchant of Sue St. Marie, Canada for phoning me and insisting that I get The Shack and read it.

And yes, I will list my all-time favorite books in another blog.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What is a Person?

What is a Person?

The philosopher, poet and politician Boethius (480-525 AD) defined a person as “an individual substance of a rational nature.” The Western world has functioned with this non-relational concept of a person ever since. But is a person simply a disconnected individual thing that thinks or uses its mind to interact with the world around it? Isn’t relationship critical to any notion of what it means to be a person. “To be a person is to be distinct from other persons, and yet inextricably bound up with them: to be ‘other’ only in ‘relation.’ Just as God is who he is in the inextricable fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit, so for us to be personal is to be what we are in relation to other persons.” (Colin Gunton, The Christian Faith, p. 43).

I much prefer Gunton’s idea to Boethius', yet, while Gunton has hit the target, I don’t think he has hit the bull’s eye. For me, a person is an individual who exists in union with Jesus Christ. And Jesus is the One who lives in union with his Father, and the Holy Spirit, and the human race, and all creation. Existing in union with Jesus Christ means we are included in his relationships with his Father, the Holy Spirit, humanity and all created things. To be a person means that we exists in union with Jesus Christ in his relationships, and are therefore called to participate in his life, called to give ourselves to participate in his own life with his Father, and in his own anointing in the Holy Spirit, and in his own personal relationship with the human race, and his own lordship over all creation. Perhaps an individual is a human being who exists in union with Jesus but is not participating in his relationships, or is violating his relationships in some way. A person is an individual who lives in union with Jesus and gives herself or himself to participate in Jesus’ way of seeing and being with others and his creation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Note on God's Purpose

In reading through the creation story in Genesis it is astonishing that God does not move on to other, more important matters, after he has created the universe and human life within it. In dramatic contrast to all the gods and goddesses of mythology, the biblical God creates and then enters into the most personal relationship with what he has called forth and fashioned out of nothing. Walking with Adam in the cool of the day, addressing him personally, giving him a perfect mate, and calling him to participate in his own Lordship over creation are not the sorts of things most gods and goddesses would do. To heart of God shouts out to us: “I want real relationship with you. I want you to be part of my world and share in my life.” This is the simple, beautiful and astonishing story of the Bible. It will get very complicated after Adam’s fall and dastardly darkness enters and shapes the human mind, but the heart of God never flinches. “I want real relationship with you. I want you to be part of my world and share in my life.” Thousands of years later, when the time was right, the Father’s Son does the unthinkable—he becomes one of us. The Father’s dreams, so clear in the beginning and even more obvious in Israel’s history, are fulfilled in Jesus. Immanuel. But in our darkness, we cursed him and poured our scorn upon him. And here we see the genius of the Trinitarian love, for in bearing our scorn the Father’s Son has met us where we are, thus establishing a real relationship with us in our terrible darkness, and including us in his own relationship with his Father and the Spirit. We are accepted—and called.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


“Reconciliation means sharing in all that the other is.”

In this one sentence Professor T. F. Torrance (“Reconciliation in Christ and in His Church,” Biblical Theology 11:2 (1961), p. 31) cuts through non-relational haze of extrinsic, detached legalities and directs our thoughts about reconciliation into the world of real relationship. The purpose of the incarnation was not simply to provide a spotless external sacrifice to cover our sinfulness, so that God could then accept us. The purpose of the incarnation was to reach us, to establish a real relationship with us as we are in our fallen and pitifully broken existence. Real reconciliation means incarnation. And real incarnation means reconciliation. For what does it mean that the Father’s Son himself has become what we are, if it does not mean that he has established a real relationship between us and His Father in the Holy Spirit? And what reconciliation could possibly be more personal and real and true than the Father’s Son meeting and embracing us in our pathological darkness, and bringing his Father and the Holy Spirit with him? Who wants a balanced ledger when we have been given a place in Jesus' relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Light of the World

The startling fact about all of the great "I AM" statements from Jesus recorded in John's gospel is that they are simple declarations of fact. "I AM the resurrection and the life." "I AM the way, the truth and the life." "I AM the bread of life." "I AM the true vine." "I AM the Good Shepherd." "I AM the light of the world." The truth or reality of these declarations in no way depends upon us or upon our faith. We do not make Jesus Christ the resurrection, or the life, or the light of the world. He is. And he is the light of the cosmos because he is the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained. Jesus is both the source of our existence and its reason for being. The meaning of human existence, and indeed of all creation is found in the person of Jesus. There is no other meaning for us.

Now we can see something of what sin and salvation all about. We either believe in Jesus and in his vision of God, life and history, or we believe in ourselves and our own vision. Thus we either spend our lives seeking to participate in Jesus' way of seeing and being, or we spend our lives trying to make others—and indeed Jesus himself—believe in and participate in ours. Sin is insisting that Jesus repent and believe in us. It is insisting he give up his vision of his Father and the relationship he has established with us and join us in our vision and its religion. Christian faith and repentance is saying no to our own darkness, no to believing in ourselves, and yes to Jesus.

A simple prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world. I don't want to see things the way I do any longer, and I do not want to impose my will or ideas or vision upon others. Give me your mind, your light, your heart. Help me see your Father, others and all creation with your eyes. Help me change my mind and believe in you. Deliver me from the darkness and give me your light on life.

Happy New Year