The first is a more technical text, Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. The title gives away the goal of the book - to see how truly reliable the gospels are in telling the life of Jesus. As honestly as he can being an evangelical Christian, Blomberg claims to "neither presupposed nor argue for the complete inerrancy, infallibility or inspiriation of Scripture, even just with the Gospel" stating further he wears his "historian's hat," not his "Christian believer's hat in this project." Early on in the book he applies this historical approach to the foundation of Christianity:
Christianity is based on the concept of God acting in history. Despite the oft-quoted verse 'we walk by faith and not by sight' (2 Cor 5:7), Christianity does not require a 'leap in the dark' or a sacrifice of the intellect. Paul is quoted entirely out of context when this verse is treated as a rationale for believing without evidence (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-8). Biblical faith is fundamentally committed to a God who has intervened in the history of humanity in a way that exposes his activity to historical study.This is powerful on a number of levels:
- It is easy to jack up verses and Scripture, co-opting them for our own purposes. We treat each verse as the little strip of paper found in a fortune cookie that we keep in our back pocket, forgetting that the Bible tells the full story of God's redemptive plan. Though the verse numbers are helpful, sometimes I wish we could tear them out.
- God works in history. This assumes God exists and that the God who exists is at work in the world in an active way. God is somehow involved through the course of this world's movement - past, present, and future.
- We can study God's work. Being exposed to God and His work in the world, we can study, analyze, ponder, and explore his activity in such a way that we can make thoughtful, meaningful conclusions.
Here is where the second book comes into play. In his book, The Peacemaking Pastor, Alfred Poirier admits the dry intellectualism that never actualizes to concrete belief by labeling himself a "closet heretic." His heresy and that of countless other pastors? Docetism. He writes,
Remember the heresy of the ancient church? Docetism is failing to believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Docetism is the belief that the Son of God only appeared to be, or seemed to be, fully man.This is of course a statement that has implied qualification. Poirer, nor the other pastors, object against Christ's humanity outright; he says it's simply sheer unbelief. Leaders of the church function daily with the idea of Christ coming to this earth 2000 years ago as God in the flesh, but it remains as mere concept with no real impact on how they pray, preach, counsel, evangelize, serve, or love. Seeking to move his readers through the mind to the heart, Poirer shares these convicting words:
Christ is no phantom. The real Jesus is no Hollywood Jesus walking two feet off the ground. The ministry of the Pastor of pastors in the ministry of the God-man--a man whose feet are blistered and dirtied by the long, hot days of walking dusty roads. In Christ we find a pastor whose hands are calloused by being about his Father's business--hands clasped in prayer, touching lepers, wiping eyes full of tears, and breaking bred. The first Pastor was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. The first Pastor was a lover of the real world even as he came to change the world.We often speak of the Incarnation as God becoming flesh (John 1:14), but Poirier points us to the fact that the Incarnation also includes God living in the flesh, praying in the flesh, preaching in the flesh, serving in the flesh, and being the embodiment of love in the flesh by dying on the Cross in the flesh and raising from the dead in the flesh! How interesting it is that I have much more difficulty conceptualizing the reality that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven in the flesh and is in the flesh reigning over all things right now as I type about him. Yet it is truer than any of my weak ideas.
Does this change the way I look at history? Can I see Christ's hand in each day as I walk the streets of Chicago, serve at The Line, hear about the politics and who is going to run for mayor, or read the news about a Christian's in Indonesia being attacked?
Does it change the way I study God's Word? Do I see all the stories from Creation in Genesis 1-2 to Consummation in Revelation 21-22 as what has truly happened and what will truly happen? Do I see them all pointing to Christ? As I read, do I slow down and allow the words on the page to penetrate every fiber of my being because they are both truth and history?
What about how I look at culture or think about my calling? Do I know that God empowers individuals and groups to be culture shapers and makers? In every aspect of this world, do I try to find how God has somehow influenced it by His common grace (Ps. 19:1)? A popular paraphrase of Calvin's teaching is "all truth is God's truth," but do I take it a step further and say "all truth is the living God's truth"? With regard to calling, do I trust that Christ in the flesh is looking over me, loving me, caring for me each day? Do I surrender my day and my future to Christ who knows better than I do about what's really best for me?
What about you? Does Christ's Incarnation challenge the way you think and live?
In short, the reality of Christ in the flesh crushes all our petty philosophies. In the very least this should bring sheer power, intensity and inspiration to all that we say and do.
Oh how I pray that the Spirit of God will convict both my mind and my heart that I may know Christ is more than just some idea or concept or worldview, but is now and forever God in the flesh.
By His Grace.