December 12, 2019

Monday with Michael Spencer: The Question Is God, the Answer Is Jesus

The Transfiguration, Duccio

Monday with Michael Spencer
The Question Is God, the Answer Is Jesus

An article from another blog Michael authored: Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

• • •

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”

• Martin Luther

It’s been a very interesting day. I can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you something.

When a discussion starts about God, the Christian is not faced with the same choices as other people.

Most people can go wherever they want in the discussion. They can talk about “God as I understand him” or “my higher power” or “my church says that God….” and so on. Really, the choices are practically infinite.

The Christian, on the other hand, must immediately think about Jesus. Jesus from the pages of scripture. Jesus the light, the revealer, the image of the invisible. Jesus in his own words, in the Gospels and in the totality of scripture.

Jesus reveals God, and from there, the discussion can go on.

You can explore the Bible, or you can place Jesus into a moral issue or various cultural settings. You can apply what you know of Jesus to what you don’t know of God. You can pray, sing, preach. There are plenty of roads open NOW. But only after we come to Jesus.

It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

You can dress your opinions about God up in whatever language you want. You can validate it with experiences, signs and wonders. You can claim miracles, voices and confirmations in the mystical realm.

When the smoke clears, you’ve explored your own imagination or otherwise missed Jesus.

If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.

This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.

It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.

Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Now you know.

Comments

  1. Truth.

  2. I understand what Michael is saying here, and I have a lot of sympathy with the idea. It is what Barth, Capon, and a host of others have said again and again. Christian God-talk and God-thinking, Christian theology, starts and ends with Jesus Christ. Venture beyond that, and you are venturing into unknown territory. And yet, I wonder if a theological principle isn’t being laid down in this seemingly simple guideline that isn’t laid down by Scripture, or more precisely, by Jesus himself in the New Testament. I know Jesus points to himself again and again in the New Testament as central to the Good News that God is sharing with the human race, and I know that he identifies his own presence with the presence of God’s kingdom; but does he anywhere say, or imply, that when we think or talk about God we should only think or talk about him? I think he doesn’t. I may be wrong, maybe he does that and I’m missing it; in that case I’d be happy to be corrected, because I think I would prefer it. But if he does not in fact say or strongly imply that, then we are proceeding on the basis of a theological principle which says that for the Christian to think or talk about God it is necessary to only think or talk about Jesus, when Jesus himself in Scripture does not tell us that’s what we should do. In that case, we would be proceeding with this theological principle on the basis of what we think Jesus should’ve said, or what we think we can infer from some of what Jesus says, or from some other part of Scripture not involving Jesus’ own words. In other words, we would be venturing into unknown territory, and that may be what we have to do, but let’s not start with the warning that we must not do it, and then immediately go on to make this one exception for our theological principle from the get-go.

    • Short answer – “Whoever has seen Me, *has* seen the Father.”

      Long answer – I think the book of Hebrews makes a solid case that centering theology and practice on Christ alone is the only way to go.

      • –> “I think the book of Hebrews makes a solid case that centering theology and practice on Christ alone is the only way to go.”

        Amen. It was only when I led a study in Hebrews a few years back that this REALLY clicked (particularly v1:3a “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”)

        Sadly, I see some churches/denominations that are rooted only in Paul’s epistles, even putting them over the four gospel accounts. Hebrews should be studied much more than it is, and mixed in with that needs to be frequent reading of either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. We need continual reminders that Jesus is what it’s all about.

    • I would cite this witness from John’s Gospel:

      No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:18)

      • Does that mean there was no positive knowledge of God before Jesus’ Incarnation? That would seem to run counter to what Jesus said about God as he is known in the Jewish Scriptures. He also certainly talked as if people had a positive and true knowledge of God both from the natural world, and from the ordinary social interactions of human beings. Are we saying here that there is no natural theology that we draw on for our knowledge of God, or even that Jesus in his humanity drew on for knowledge of God/The Father? What happens then to the idea that Jesus was fully human, learning in the way that other human beings did?

        • “Does that mean there was no positive knowledge of God before Jesus’ Incarnation?”

          No, but it does mean that Jesus surpasses and fills in those prior revelations to such an extent that it is no longer desirable to attempt to understand those revelations apart from Him. Again, Hebrews covers this pretty extensively.

          “Are we saying here that there is no natural theology that we draw on for our knowledge of God?”

          Natural theology, too, only gets you so far. It can only tell you that there is a Creator. Jesus reveals that there is a Redeemer.

  3. On another blog that Michael had started he used the subtitle “God is Jesus.”

    • “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.” Read that soomwhere and liked it.

    • Christiane says

      If you look at many evangelical expressions about ‘Jesus’, it becomes apparent that there is not the same way of expressing the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity among evangelical people as among people who are more traditional main-line Christians who are ‘creedal’

      so you might ask an evangelical, as I have, ‘Is Jesus God’? And you MIGHT get this response: ‘NO, Jesus is the SON of God’

      of course, many evangelicals will know the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity and will affirm it, but some do not, and being biblically informed only, they use their own understanding to ‘describe’ who Jesus is.

      It can be a bit jarring to realize that many evangelical people are not creedal in their beliefs. It was for me.

      • Another good question to ask, Is Mary the mother of God? There I have heard, No. Mary is the mother of the Son of God.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        so you might ask an evangelical, as I have, ‘Is Jesus God’? And you MIGHT get this response: ‘NO, Jesus is the SON of God’

        You’ll also get “NO, The BIBLE is THE! WORD! OF! GOD!
        (That was a trick question during my time in-country; don’t know if it’s still around.)

  4. I edit on occasion for a couple of evangelical professors and pastors and authors, and it’s always bothered me that I have to point out to them….”where is Jesus?” in this. They got God everywhere, but missing Jesus.

    Then they’ll stick Him in. An afterthought. Really?

    (shudder)

    Thank you for keeping MS in our weekly musings. Always food for thought. Now out for my morning walk before we start melting here in SoCal.

    • –> “Thank you for keeping MS in our weekly musings.”

      A big +1

    • Or when Jesus does get mentioned, even in sermons, he’s not much more than a really good example to follow/emulate. If that’s all or much of who Jesus is, what a waste of Jesus!

  5. Norma Cenva says

    I trust in Jesus of Nazareth’s very literal body and person.
    And in nothing more.