Monday, August 22, 2011

The Decisive Question

In the Gospel reading assigned for yesterday (Pentecost 10, Proper 16, Year A), Jesus asks the most important question anyone can ever answer when he says to his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)

How each of us answers that question is critical, for Jesus is not merely one proclaimer of truth among other proclaimers. Jesus is the Truth. And Jesus is the Game-Changer.

It's easy to answer Jesus' question by giving a version of the disciples' first response: "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Matthew 16:14). We have versions of this response today, with figures like Spong, Ehrman, Borg, Crossan, and Pagels providing "scholarly" warrants for suspending commitment to Jesus Christ as the fully human and fully divine Lord and Savior.

But if, like Peter, we decisively answer Jesus' question by saying, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God," it will change our lives in ways we could never imagine and take us to places we might never have dreamed of going.

The passage below comes from Thomas C. Oden's Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. In it, Oden draws on the ancient ecumenical consensus concerning Jesus' identity to pose anew the challenge of the Gospel question.

When we meet the Jesus of the [biblical] text, he is constantly calling us to a decision. It is a decision about who he is. Historical scholarship wants to suspend judgment while these facts are being examined. Yet the decisive question persists in the New Testament texts: Is Jesus really the expected One?

The Jesus of the texts presses us closely: you must decide, yes or no. The decisive skandalon of the Gospel question is: Does the evidence show that Jesus indeed is the Anointed One? Only in facing this question does the critical inquiry into Jesus begin. ...

The evidence is personal - a real person embodying the Word of God to humanity: "I am the way" (John 14:6). "He who is the way does not lead us into by-paths or trackless wastes. He who is the truth does not mock us with lies. He who is the life does not betray us into delusions which are death. He himself has chosen these winning names to indicate the methods that he has appointed for our salvation. As the way, he will guide us to the truth. As the truth, he will establish us in the life" [Hilary of Poitiers].

A decision must be faced by each hearer. It must be made now. Why? There is no more time remaining before God's own coming. Since God's coming is now, all are called urgently to repent and trust in God's emergent rule. To delay is to say no.

~ Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity (2009)


Don C said...

How surprising is it, that as many church leaders and theologians dismiss the need for a savior, and put forward the individual of Jesus, merely as a model of Godly living, that people no longer see the need for Christ or the church? They fail to recognize that if Jesus is not Lord, we are worshiping false idols. We are no different than Peter himself, for if Jesus is merely a example of living a godly life, we are all worshiping the created rather than the Creator. The Spong's and Borg's of the theological world actually encourage this heresy, which is endlessly fascinating. Unfortunately, it is in the same way that a train wreck is fascinating, and ultimately with the same result; A heaping mess that must be cleaned up!

The Underground Pewster said...

I have always thought that I would be one of the disciples that said, "Elijah."

How could anyone remove the personal imperative from this lesson?

We all have to experience Jesus on that personal level, and commit ourselves personally to Him before we can begin to work together as a community in Christ.

Is there any other way?