Lately, I’ve heard some more “progressive” Christians talk about how they believe in Jesus but they reject so many other things in Scripture. One of the biggest things they reject is a teaching called substitutionary atonement. This is what we are talking about when we say that God gave up His own Son to death on our behalf…Jesus dying in our place. The argument is that God didn’t “need” the sacrifice of Jesus in order to forgive humanity. If He wants to forgive us, then He can and will without condition or clause.
It’s not that I don’t see the logic of this thinking. It totally makes sense. God makes the rules and therefore can do any and all He so chooses or pleases to do. I don’t pretend to understand why He set this existence up the way in which He did. However, there’s something very troubling about all of this… the Bible…the BIBLE teaches us all we believe about Jesus. The Bible is where we get the tenets of Christianity. The Bible is where we get the basis of all of Jesus’s teachings. The tendency within progressive thinking to reject certain parts of the Bible while accepting the hero character of Jesus is nothing short of foolish and what’s more…it’s dishonest.
God wrote this narrative…which is to say that this universe is a story of which He’s the Author. I don’t have to understand His reasoning or His comprehensive purpose in writing the storyline the way in which He has. Within this narrative, He’s introduced a Savior. This Savior has said some wild things and performed the supernatural. He’s been executed and defeated the power of death itself. The idea that we can accept things we like about this Savior or “Hero,” while rejecting what Scripture says about reality in other areas is ludicrous. If we accept the narrative of Jesus, then we’ve got to accept the entire story…not just make up new ones as a supposed point of objective moral truth.
You can’t have Jesus without the entire truth within which He’s encapsulated. If you do, you don’t have Him…but a weak hybrid of human thought and divine truth akin to the ancient mythological characters. What’s more is that Jesus, Himself, said He would give His life as a payment for many. This means that He fully understood the reasoning He came into this existence in the first place. He also said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This means that He saw Himself as a divine Savior and Messiah…so the argument that He was perhaps simply a good moral teacher is also ridiculous. C.S. Lewis said that if Jesus wasn’t the Lord, then He was either a liar or a lunatic…but not a “good man.”
Jesus of Nazareth is perhaps the most controversial Person in history (at least in my opinion). When He is considered, many see Him as a rebel or a revolutionary. I understand some of that thinking. Then He’s viewed by many as simply a man that cared about how we treat each other…a man that never “judged.” He’s often branded as the gentle pacifist that would rather die than fight for His cause.
But rarely…rarely…is He considered in light of ALL the Scripture says about Him. Yes, He cared about people and didn’t condemn the flawed. But He also made a whip and beat the greedy merchants, running them out of the temple complex. Yes, He cared about social justice. However, when one of His disciples perceived a frivolous use of an important substance that could have been sold in order to help the poor, He rebuked him. He said that the poor would always be around, but He wouldn’t.
He is a gentle hand and violent storm. He had anger and He had patience. He accepted the fact that we are flawed, but didn’t allow that to be an excuse for our continued journey down a road of rebellion. He cared about everyone, but didn’t attempt to heal them all.
And what’s more is that before humanity enters into the narrative, He had already written out a story of redemption…a story in which He sacrifices and hurts more than anyone else. If someone things this is “divine child abuse,” well…they just don’t accept the Bible…nor Christianity. If they claim to have Christ without this central reality, they have nothing short of a dangerous counterfeit, masquerading as God’s design. A Jesus out of His full context is no different than either a rebel or a charismatic cult leader. If we are going to claim Jesus as ours, then let’s claim Him in honesty…otherwise, we have a fake Jesus, and small God, and a total lack of reality.
Image taken from: https://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382