The Word made Flesh - An examiination of the Mennonite COF, Part 2

To be honest, in reading this article, there’s not a whole lot that needs to be added.  I think the framers of the confession did a remarkable job of wrapping up a lot in a very short piece.

However, what I would like to comment on is something that seems to have received lesser emphasis in our current culture.  This article talks a lot about Jesus’ acts and what he did and achieved as a human among us.  It deliberately talks about him as someone other than God the Father.  He’s a prophet, a high priest, a king, a servant, a Savior, the Son of God, the incarnate Word, the Lord and final judge.  But there is something that gets passing mention that I think is important to re-emphasize.

See, in today’s pluralistic society, people like Jesus are a dime a dozen.  There are so many religious figures that people can point to as a “good person” or a “prophet like no others” or an “inspiring figure”.  People can be disciples of almost anyone, any great teacher.  What sets Jesus apart from all the others?

I think the COF points this out when it says

As fully divine, he is the one in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. During his earthly life, Jesus had an intimate relationship  with his heavenly Abba and taught his disciples to pray “Abba, Father.” He is the image of the invisible God, and “all things have been created through him and for him, for he is before all things.

But I think that something brought out in the commentary needs to be brought fore-front in our theology discussions in the church.  The commentary points out a passage from Colossians 1 as specifically discussing Jesus divinity.  We recognize one God.  We recognize one creator.  With one God and one Creator and Paul being a VERY Jewish man also steeped in Monotheism, these statements in Colossians bring us pause.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he
is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Note the parts that I’ve accented.  While there can be debates about other passages about Jesus being a person, perhaps not God but some other being lesser than God, these words of Paul seem to indicate that Jesus was the Creator.  Also, to have “all his fullness” dwell in a man seems to be beyond just some portion of a spirit laying on Jesus but an indwelling of the complete divinity of God.

This is something that I admit that I’m not an expert on: the divinity of Christ.  But Paul was an expert on the Judaic YHWH and, with his Pharisaic training, I cannot imagine him switching over to a polytheistic worship.  Also, his Damascus road experience showed that he recognized Jesus for who he was.  “Who are you, Lord?”.  A Jew would not call any being Lord except for YHWH.

I leave the major theological arguments to others who are more well trained than I am.  However, I do think that this is something that we need to emphasize in our churches.  Jesus was a great man, but he was more than just a man.  Without the divinity of Christ, there is a lot of our theology that just falls through.  If just any man could live so purely just by talking with God more, why did do we need to rely on Jesus?  Why can’t we just do it ourselves?  If Jesus was some sort of angel or something, why would God who gives the command “You shall have no other gods before me” allow worship of Jesus on equal with him?  For that matter, if Jesus was just an angel, what would be the point of the crucifiction or even the incarnation?  The theology of the NT relies on God’s indentification with man through the incarnation as proof that God loves us. “15For we do not have a
high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have
one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without
sin.”

In our post-modern/post-Christendom culture where people are seeking everywhere for someone to believe in, a God who cares, and a way that gives hope, Jesus as just a man falls flat.  But Jesus as God, who came down among us to identify with us, that rings solid.  God condescended.  God came down among us to our level because God realized that, in our humanity, due to our falleness, we could not understand how to relate to him.  We needed Jesus to put a face to God, to bring God into reality, to make God relatable.  No longer do we have a figure like a man on a throne, burning like fire.  No longer do we have a mysterious wheel within a wheel.  No longer do we have to be content with seeing just the backside of God.  Now we can relate directly to God.  When Moses spoke to God, it was as a friend speaks to a friend.  Because God came down and put on flesh, now we, too, have that awesome privilege.  Like Adam, we now have the opportunity to walk with God in the cool of the day.  God is no longer a mystery to us because Jesus is the revelation, not just of who God is, but of how man can relate to God.  John said it best.  The Word became flesh and walked among us.  That Word is no longer a mystery.  We can give it a name.

Jesus.

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4 Responses to “The Word made Flesh - An examiination of the Mennonite COF, Part 2”

  1. Samuel Says:

    I enjoyed this, and am curious where the conversation is going to go!
    One thing I thought of while you were reading this is keeping both parts of the ‘fully divine’ ‘fully human’ conversation going. In a recent issue of either the Mennonite or the Weekly Review (help, I clearly recycled it-can someone find it) one of the letter’s to the editor argued that Jesus never learned anything, because he was born fully divine, thus fully omniscient, and quoted his wisdom in the temple as a young man. You point out the dangers in saying Jesus was ‘just a man’ I wonder if there are dangers in saying he was ‘just God’. I wonder exactly what it means to be human-are ‘Godlike’ attributes, like omnipotence, omniscience, etc. limiting to being human? One of the quotes I like from this article is ‘He was declared to be Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead’ that is, it was only after resurrection that we know who he really was. Does that have implications for who Jesus was before resurrection?

  2. Robert Martin Says:

    Samuel,

    An interesting point. I think I recall something in my theology classes about a necessary tension. When confronted with seeming paradoxical ideas (like being both fully human as well as fully divine), the best rule is to maintain that tension. Leaning too far one way or the other risks losing the richness of the revelation of God.

    As for pre-resurrection and post-resurrection, I think the fully-human/fully divine tension still exists. Consider what is supposed to happen to us after our resurrection. In the New Creation, we are not spirits but we are given new bodies, new flesh that is incorruptable.

    I just got finished reading one of the final chapter’s to C.S. Lewis “The Last Battle” of the Narnia Chronicles and Lewis invokes Plato’s analogy of the cave. What we have now in the way of the nature of being human is just a shadow of what we were intended of being. Jesus before the resurrection still lived in that shadow. Jesus after the resurrection, though, had a fully redeemed body, one that could eat and drink, but also one that was not confined to the limitations of the fallen flesh. So, after the resurrection, I think we see Jesus still as fully human and fully divine both, but the human part, that “first fruit”, was completely redeemed into what a human SHOULD be. That is our hope, that we will someday truly be what we were originally created to be. Not Gods, but humans, created in God’s image.

  3. John Arthur Says:

    Hi,
    I think I agree with you. Yoder described Jesus the Word of God and normative human person. How to relate the Godhood of Jesus and his humanity in one person is a mystery and we should hold these truths in tension as you correctly state.
    Thanks for your post.
    Shalom,
    John Arthur

  4. Ray Nachtigall Says:

    As I travel about, I am becoming more and more aware of the passivity, tolerant, and non-challenge in our conversations with others concerning who we believe Jesus the Christ is. If we really believe that He is the only “Way, Truth, and Life and that no man cometh to Father except through Him”, than in order to be faithful to that belief and acceptance of that truth we need to be unapologetic and proclaim it clearly in our daily lives and in our statements of faith. John the apostle apparently didn’t have any doubts about who Jesus the Christ was when by inspiration of the Holy Spirit he writes in John 1:1 “In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
    Than in John 1:14 inspired by the same Spirit, he
    writes “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (NIV)We as humans, even regenerated ones have a tendency to dismiss truth that we in our human state cannot understand. Reason is not the final judge of truth. And so we need to proclaim it as truth if it is Scripture. We ought
    to be able to say “this is scripture but I am not able to grasp it all.”

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