Monthly Archives: April 2018

Jesus (Letter 22)



Greetings to you, Sir Dangerous of Dangeroushire.

A very reverent and sombre SMASH to you.

I guess there’s a sense in which we will never fully know the full detail of how the Godhead fits together. All throughout our discussions I am aware of the Apostle Paul’s words: ‘we see through a dark glass…’ This sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but if it is true that God’s ways are higher than ours, it is inevitable that we won’t be able fully to grasp some of the deeper truths. Without being able to technically define it, I am convinced, like you, that a.) Jesus was God b.) he pre-existed his coming on earth and c.) his existence was in some way irrecoverably changed through the incarnation. As you said, ‘the Word became flesh.’ In the same way, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus’ post-resurrection body bears the scars (probably forever) of his death on the Cross. So you’re right that his earthly ministry defined and changed who he was. Now the book of Revelation describes Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.’ So perhaps, amazingly, Jesus has always, in some way, existed as God’s chosen sacrifice for us. But in another sense, when he became a man, he walked down a path and there was nowhere back.

This leads neatly onto another of your points about how we are ‘flawed Jesuses.’ I frankly think that the most neglected truth in the modern Evangelical church movement is that we are ‘in Christ.’ All he has is ours because we are ‘in Him.’ Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth and he gladly passes it to us. In the same way, because we are in Christ, God sees us as his loved, accepted, holy children and his chosen vessels for his will on earth. I think there is lots of needless agonising (mostly in my own life haha) because we don’t have the faith to see how much God has done for us. As you said, Paul and the other apostles were able to do amazing things in Jesus’ name, not because they were morally stronger than us, but because they had the faith to see that they had everything in Christ. Read Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1.

I liked your point about Hades and I think you’re basically correct that Jesus acts as the go between, allowing us to interact with God. In our politically correct culture, where we love to focus on God’s love for us, we tend to neglect the numerous passages in both the OT and the NT, which basically teach that ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10). The Israelites really copped it if they got it wrong, when they were walking through the desert with God. This is not because God is harsh, capricious or because he automatically burns with wrath for us. It is because he is holy, he is above us and as you say, in his holiness he cannot be in the presence of sin. For me (and this is for me a precious personal conviction as well as a theological point) the only solution is Jesus’ death. Before we know God, we are his enemies (Ephesians 2), although the hatred is on our side, not his –  he still loves us and seeks reconciliation with us. When we accept Christ, we are ‘adopted’ as his children and enjoy the full blessings of his Father love. And what makes this transition possible is Jesus’ blood…again, it’s all over the OT and the NT. In the same way that the Israelites sheltered under the blood on their doorposts, while God’s Angel of Death and Judgment passed over them, we can shelter from the ‘coming wrath’ (1 Thessalonians 1, Colossians 3), as we trust in Jesus’ death for us.

Anyway, SMASHY old bean, I look forward to your response!

Sir Thomas


Jesus (Letter 21)



Sir Tom of Sirtomshire,

Before I say anything I need to clear up a misunderstanding. What I said in my previous letter was that I am not sure that Jesus existed prior to the incarnation in the same form. I really want to stress that. I was not saying that He did not exist, but that through the incarnation He took on a new form, one that he then took with Him back to Heaven.

John talks about Jesus as the Word in the beginning of his Evangelion (or Gospel is you wish to be drab); the Greek word for ‘word’ here is Logos. Logos means word/speech or wisdom/reason. This is SUPER important (in my ‘humble’ opinion) to our understanding of who Jesus was and now is. I think that Jesus existed as God’s thoughts/words rather than as a separate entity (It should be noted that ‘logic’ comes from logos).

You re, of course, right that God created the Universe through Jesus, but when we go back to that creation story what does it say? “God said…”. God spoke the Universe into creation and Jesus is the Word. In that way God created the universe through the Word. John tells us then that the ‘Word became flesh’. Jesus was the embodiment of God’s speech/logic.

When you then take various things Paul says such as Jesus being the first-born amongst the dead, it suggests that it was Jesus (rather than the Logos) that ascended to Heaven.

So, just to make things clear there is the Logos (disembodied) and Jesus (embodied) and we can talk about them distinctly. Therefore Jesus only exists from the conception though the Logos that was His spirit (hence fully God while fully man) existed eternally as part of God.

So, why?

I think it has something to do with Sheol/Hades (the land of the dead). And this is all me, I don’t’ even know if anyone has put this forward before. So, according to the OT we die and go to Hades (not Heaven or Hell) and that means that means we are unreachable by God. Why? Because God cannot be in the presence of sinners. Look at all the stuff they had to go through in the wilderness, all the sacrificial laws put in place because they were trying to deal with God one-on-one. So God can’t just nip down to Hades, but if Jesus dies then that’s where He goes and He can then preach the Evangelion to the dead and stop people from being forever separated from God. I think this is (maybe) the truth behind the idea that Jesus defeated death.

Finally on this train of thought, Jesus is the relatable God. Perhaps we will never be able to interact with God (after all even in our resurrection bodies we won’t be made into God, surely He will always be something greater than us), but we will be able to interact with Jesus as He keeps his human form, or some kind of similar (but better) form as our resurrection bodies.

Finally finally, this has huge impacts for us as Christians. If Jesus is God’s word/wisdom personified then we are flawed Jesuses. We have the law written on our hearts, we have the Holy Spirit within us. In this theory, that is what Jesus had (with the added ability to keep free from  sin) and so we have the ability to do and teach like Jesus did; that’s basically what the disciples did in Acts.

Hmmm….

Peace

Dangerous


Jesus (Letter 20)



Count Dangerous-ula of Dangerous-vania!

Thank you for your kind comment at the head of your last letter. In terms of politics, Jesus is neatly centre-ground, in that his teaching and message have strong strains of both left-wing and right-wing philosophy. This means that people from different political backgrounds can still access and hear him. I always think of his command to “give to Caesar what is due Caesar and to God what is due God.” This sums up his attitude: worship God and do your best to bear with the state. Paul writes similar instructions about praying for and submitting to rulers. When we had the last General Election in this country, we had ridiculous articles on Christian websites about how Jeremy Corbyn was the most Christ-like leader on the ballot etc. I’m all for Christians being politically engaged (I love my politics), but people need to get over themselves and realise that God has called them to something so much higher and deeper. Jesus himself said: “my kingdom is not of this world…”

I liked your idea of putting down ways in which Jesus has been re-purposed by the Church. Here’s one for you. I was in the epic, Gothic York Minster with my family this week, doing some sight-seeing. Although I am safely founded in a very informal, independent Evangelical Church, where we all show up on Sundays in our jeans and t-shirts, it struck me that we could learn a thing or two from the more formal churches about reverence for God. Has the church turned Jesus into a bit of a ‘boy-friend’ like character, who is just like our best mate although a slightly bit more powerful? Certainly some of our worship songs would suggest so (and I say that as someone who leads worship in church and enjoys the more intimate songs in my own walk with God). I always loved CS Lewis’ depiction of the Great Lion, ‘Aslan’ in the Narnia Chronicles (Aslan is a type of Christ). Lewis wrote that the Lion “isn’t at all safe…but he is good.” I would argue that when we approach the risen Jesus in worship, we should have reverence as well as love. And I wonder whether we in the church sometimes major on the latter at the expense of the former. I’m wondering whether we should rework that famous phrase: “be afraid…be (a little bit) afraid.” I don’t mean we should fear Jesus in the sense of being terrified of him. But I do think we should approach him with full respect and awe.

I do think that Jesus existed before his birth, although I respect and understand your viewpoint. Paul writes about him in Colossians 1 as having created the world (or at least that it was created through him) and John writes at the beginning of his Gospel that ‘in the beginning the Word was with God,’ and then he echoes Paul’s words about the world been made ‘through’ the Word. Now assuming John means Jesus by ‘the Word,’ these lines would suggest that Jesus was around before his earthly ministry. I do however think you are right in your assertion (in a previous letter) that I went too far by trying to identify ‘the angel of the Lord’ in the OT as Jesus. As you say, if the Bible says it was an angel who shut the lions’ mouths in the den, then it was an angel.

I’m sure we will cover the ‘Jesus defeated death’ idea in a later podcast/series of letters, but to have an initial stab, there is a fascinating piece of Scripture at the end of the Book of Revelation which talks about there being a ‘second death.’ Broadly speaking, I interpret this as meaning that we die once physically but that we die spiritually as well and it’s this spiritual death that Jesus ‘defeats’ in rescuing us from our mistakes, or sins. When mankind first sinned, we know that physical and spiritual death entered the world and that at least in some way, Jesus was the ‘second Adam’ sent to restore things. Paul in 1 Corinthians: ‘For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive…For Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’ Jesus in John: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’ Paul in Hebrews: ‘Christ too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’ Sorry to quote so much Bible – it’s a sign that I’m dissatisfied with my own words. What I’m trying to say is that without Jesus we would die and stay dead: by rising from the dead – going into death and coming out the other side – Jesus ‘defeats’ this curse which hangs over us.

Love your line about Jesus no longer being simply ‘a vagrant teacher, but the one who already sits on the right-hand of God, the One in power, no longer in humility.’ That sums up perfectly what I was trying to say above!! I also agree with you about the ‘Golden rule’ and reading the OT through this. My problem comes more where you hear things like this. (I have intentional paraphrased this next bit, but I have actually read it in several places in notable Evangelical quarters and it greatly worries me): “Because Jesus never really spoke much about the Cross and Resurrection, we have obviously over-emphasised it in our own church teaching and need to re-examine whether Jesus needed to die for us to receive forgiveness.” Not only do I heartily disagree with this statement, but its main error (in my own view) is to fail to see that Jesus couldn’t teach about his death and resurrection because every time he tried, the disciples threw a wobbly (they weren’t ready to understand). So we need to read Paul, Peter, James and John to understand the deeper significance of the Cross. It’s this slavish idea that ‘all the NT must be subservient to the synoptic Gospels’ that gets my goat, because it fails to understand that Jesus had more to say to us (through the Spirit) after he had ascended. Sorry, rant over 😉

SMASHY

Sir Thomas