Sunday, March 19, 2006

What interests us about Jesus?

In The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Robert Louis Wilken writes that "One of the persistent criticism of the Christology of the early church is that the church fathers, particularly those who were associated with Alexandria in Egypt, were interested in the fact of the Incarnation, not in the things that were done by the incarnate Son of God during his sojurn on earth" (page 117).

What Wilken is trying to say is that there is this criticism that these early church fathers were more interested in the Incarnation happening that they seem to forget about anything else Jesus did in his lifetime.

In some ways, I don't think much has changed. As Christians, our two biggest holidays are Christmas, celebrating Jesus' birth, and Easter, celebrating his resurrection. We don't have any holidays celebrating the rest of his life. It's almost like it is an afterthought at times. But it really should not be that way. If it was supposed to be that way, our New Testament would be an awful lot shorter than it is, wouldn't it?

I think that many Christians today are similar to the early church fathers (though I am sure many would recoil at that idea). It seems that we could re-write Wilken's statement to say that a criticism of Christians today is that they are more [interested in the factof going to Heaven after one dies and not in the things that were done by the incarnate Son of God during his sojurn on earth].

Yet while I believe that most Christians would agree that Jesus' life is important, I also find there to be a disconnect between what we would agree is important and what is stressed as important.

Sometimes it seems that Jesus' life is secondary to making sure that a person goes to heaven after death. But we are not God. We do not know exactly what is in store for anyone. We also then have the problem that there are Christians who will then be somewhat paranoid that a person did not really believe the exact right way, or say the exact right prayer, or, in other words, was not a "True Christian".

I find this all to be rather sad and disturbing, for a variety of reasons. By thinking this way, we put ourselves in God's place. Who are we to judge the faith of another person? We also give the impression that a person's life here on earth is fairly irrelevant in the big scheme of things. I know that a response to that is that eternity is a long time and so our life now is minor.

I don't mean to be too cynical, and most of the churches I have attended have not made it a point to offer "altar calls" at each service and actually have not spoken a lot about going to heaven. But I also know that the idea is out there and I think it deserves some attention, especially with Easter fast approaching.

So stay tuned...

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