Shades of Popular Nestorianism, by Pr. Klemet Preus
(This is the final post in a seven part series on Christology.)
If you have read my last six blogs you may be asking. What if I have never heard of Ulrich Zwingli, was born in 1960 and never really knew what Seminex was all about, have never read anything in the old CTM and certainly nothing about secularization theology, believe that Kent Hunter is a radical and does not represent the church growth movement in Missouri, attend a church which practices closed communion and have always believed that Christ’s body and blood are received and consumed by all who commune? Further, I find all this obscure theology rather boring and esoteric? So why are you bugging me with this weird stuff? What’s with the incessant purification?
I am bugging you because bad theology always somehow trickles down and affects the Christian in the pew as well as the mission message of the church. The most famous Nestorian of the last 500 years was Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli’s Christology dominates the ecclesiastical scene in America. It is a theology where we worship the God Jesus and confine the man Jesus to our own limitations.
That’s what always happens when you divide the two natures. Then you have to explain the human nature. You can no longer simply assert that the human nature has received divine qualities. Rather you have to make him a super-hero, a sports hero, a great psychologist or a cultural sensitivity exert. He is no longer allowed to be “true God begotten of the Father from eternity and true man born of the virgin who is my Lord.” He is no longer allowed to be depicted as a good shepherd, a man riding on a donkey, praying in garden or dying on the tree.
There is a strong tendency these days to create the human Jesus in our image rather than accept him as he is – the son of Mary who lived and breathed at a certain time.
This is not benign. The old St. Louis seminary and Seminex made Jesus into a man who had exegetical questions based on faulty knowledge – just like them. The Charismatics make Jesus a two experienced, spirit-filled miracle worker just like them. Kent Hunter makes Jesus a culturally sensitive man willing to live out of his comfort zone for the sake of his purpose which was to multiply his work – just like Hunter. Many who practice open communion make Jesus someone who was intentionally vague or indifferent about the manner of his presence in the sacrament just like them.
Similarly, today you have images of Jesus which show him as a football player, a guy playing with his niece’s kittens, a boxer with long hair and bulging muscles or some such figment of your imagination. In all these cases there is the divine Jesus and the human Jesus. We can’t change the divine so the human Jesus must suffer constant redefinition at the hands of his fickle church. And we often even find it charming to let people simply imagine Jesus any way they want. These contemporary flights of fancy are not at all similar to the depictions of Jesus which most Christian artists have made throughout the years which were honest attempts to paint Jesus as he was. Rather they are attempts to make Jesus something other than the man he was.
And these fanciful creations are not harmless. Jesus does not want to be taught different than he is. He was not a boxer or a football player or some type of contemporary hero sacred or profane. He has given us plenty of information about the actions of the human nature. We don’t need to change Him to fit us.
God did not take on flesh so that we could imagine him as we want. He became man so that he could reveal Himself as we need.
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