December 3, 2020

iMonk 101: Reduced to Jesus

I’d forgotten about this one. Really, this is so very much what I have to say to anyone about the whole business of being a Christian. I couldn’t write anything today more on target with my journey to a Jesus-Shaped spirituality.

Read: Reduced to Jesus


  1. Thanks for this repost, too. I’m new to your blog so it’s helpful to me in understanding where you’re coming from.

    I think it is noble to want to form your faith around Jesus’ life and teaching. I think that is even what Paul himself tried to do. But I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this–Is emphasizing the Gospels the same as emphasizing Jesus?

    The Gospels weren’t written by Jesus and they were not intended to be exhaustive biographies of everything he said and did. They are theological documents written by Jesus’ followers explaining the significance of the Jesus event in narrative form. The Evangelists only tell you enough about Jesus to get their point across. To me, lifting Mark above Romans is not choosing Jesus over Paul, it is choosing Mark over Paul.

    While I would want to center my faith on Jesus, what I know about Jesus is limited to existential revelations by the Holy Spirit and what I read in the Scriptures as handed down from my fathers in the faith. When it comes to the written sources, I don’t see why I would prefer the teaching of one father (Mark) over another (Paul). I need both of their thoughts if I am to understand Jesus.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Michael, you said on your earlier blog entry that your link took us to, “I also believe that reducing my evangelicalism to a vital connection to Jesus is a worthy quest that I invite all of you on without embarassment.”

    I agree with that and I will be interested in coming back to your blog to see what has transpired with you lately to maybe “push” you more in this direction lately.

    Joanie D.

  3. Michael, over the years I have come to understand the Christian scriptures as a group of books speaking to use about relationship; first, our relationship with God and, consequently, our relationship with each other. In my admittedly limited reading of your essays, I see your “Jesus-shaped spirituality” as viewing the content of scripture the same way. In this vein, I also see your “reduction” as really an effort to take the words of scripture and “reduce” them to an experience of relationship beyond words.

    For words ALWAYS come second, only after an experience, and in an effort to describe that experience. That means all the words of scripture point to something specific: the experience of God. You aim, not at the words, but at the experience.

    I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it does to me. It reminds me to reach for the experience, not for the words.

  4. Thank you for that post, this is what the Lord has taught me all these years also that Jesus is the ultimate Word of God. I have also been in that quest to model my life and my whole spirituality on Jesus, everything else is secondary even unimportant when compared to this.

    Regarding Matt’s post, I think the gospels give substance to the epistles, I don’t think they were written to advance the author’s theology – they were written to preserve Jesus’ words and deeds, isn’t this what the end of John’s Gospel says?

    Theology, to me at least, implies that we have some control over how we see God, some control over his influence. My theology defines God and I’m in control.

  5. Ruben,

    Actually that’s the opposite of what John says in 20:30-31 and 21:25. He says that if he wanted to record all that Jesus said and did it would fill libraries. However, he picked and chose certain things so that the reader might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing the reader might have life in his name. His theological task was to convince the reader that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and he only included what he thought necessary to accomplish that task.

  6. Thanks Matt, you are quite correct. However the beginning of the Gospel of Luke seems to imply that it was written to preserve eyewitness accounts.

  7. I just think the epistles describe Jesus’ work and Lordship to us while the Gospels describe the Man himself. I’m not suggesting that evangelicals do not know Him, the emphasis on theology has grown so much that it overshadows His life. In my own experience I found this to be true, I was a loyal reader of books by top evangelical writers and avid listener to many evangelical preachers. I attended many good churches. Yet I was stuck at home due to an accident many years ago on holy week and was forced to watch the TV movie “Jesus of Nazareth” that week and it slowly dawned on me how little I had considered His words and life, it was like I never really knew Him! I remeber saying to myself that I only read about Him before now I actually met Him.

  8. Ruben,

    Good point about Luke. I think it is both/and. While the Gospels present real history, they do so with a theological agenda (even Luke says “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” in 1:4, implying an apologetic intent).

    Just like you don’t want to deny the Epistles, I don’t want to deny the Gospels as an important part of understanding the life of the historical Jesus. However, I think we have to realize that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Pauline Jesus. People tend to think that the Gospels came first and then later Paul interpreted the life of Jesus, when historically Paul came first and the Gospels were written later based on his (and others’) theological ideas.

  9. Yes, I agree. C. S. Lewis mentioned that same fact about the epistles being written first. They do not contradict and Paul was selected by Jesus Himself. We should never pit Paul against Jesus. I was actually coming from the standpoint of the modern evangelical tradition emphasizing the theology of the Epistles to an extreme and only using the gospels when they support this or that point of their theology.