Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jesus: Do You See Who I See?

Have you heard of a stereopticon?

Neither did I until I read a brief description of one in The NIV Application Commentary: Gospel of Mark by David E. Garland. (Garland was quoting an essay by Walter Wink.)

A stereopticon allows a person's brain to receive two different images, one from each eye, at the same time. Like the huge lenses that your optrician uses to test your eyes, the stereopticon projects the two images. Two groups of people, Latin Americans and USAmericans, with stereopticons were simultaneously shown images of a bull fighter and a baseball player. The Latin Americans "saw" only the bull fighter and the US citizens "saw" only the baseball player. The point? We are culturally-conditioned "to see" what we see.

Scot McKnight over at Jesus in "Which Jesus will it be?" suggests that various "Jesus scholars" see a Jesus in the Gospels that they set out to see. Some see an historical Jesus as a failed prophet, or a pious theological Jesus, or a Second Temple Judaism Jesus, or a projection of the early church Jesus, or a Jewish Cynic Jesus, etc. Like the old TV show, I want to say, "Will the real Jesus please stand up!"

A contingent of evangelicals (decreasing monthly I hope) are still holding to "the myth of objectivity." They seem to think and speak and write as if they are above the fray and are not at all culturally-conditioned. In the ghetto of their minds they find safe haven. As far as they are concerned, they come to the Bible with pure, uncluttered, unconditioned, unbiased, untainted minds. Thus, their pronouncements have the tone and inviability of bomb-proof certainty. You get the feeling that not only is the Bible inerrant, but each of their statements are, too. How can they be wrong since they are so "objective"? They, and they alone, have "the biblical position" on whatever the topic is at hand. They are clueless to the condescending arrogance they project. Nit-picking sawdust out of others' eyes as they haul logs in their own. It's silly really.

But, John, this just leaves us with relativism! No one knows all the truth and everyone has some of the truth? Where will that get us? Only confused, right?

Not necessarily.

Imagine that I am talking with some friends about my lovely wife Julie. I am a devoted witness to her. Some friends think that Julie is a native Michiganian, not knowing she was born in Dallas, Texas. Some think she married me for my knock down good looks (and they may not be too far off), some think she, as a pastor's wife, is omnicompetent for all things local church. Some think she is the coolest grandmother alive. I can defend her honor, be a good apologist for her character and abilities, build bomb-proof evidence of her interesting history and on and on. Yet, the best thing I can do is introduce her to my friends. "Friends, here's Julie. Talk with her. Get to know her."

Jesus is more alivethan Julie, so to speak. Do we really believe this truth? Relational knowing is "true" knowing. Do I know Julie personally? Yes. Do I arrogantly presume to know all about her? Even after 38 years of marriage, the answer is "No." Yet we have some evangelicals presuming to know God fully----everything there is to know about God they know. Don't dare "to know" anything differently about God than they do. (The irony is that they keep repeating Luther and Calvin as if all good theological work ended with the Reformers.) Those who disagree with them may end up being labelled hairy ticks.

Some USAmerican evangelicals seem to think the Great Commission is "Go, and tell the world how evil it is [especially if it's liberal Democrat] and slam your Christian brothers and sisters, too, if they disagree with you."

Gandhi said, "Live now the way you want the world to become." That's "gospel" even according to Jesus.



At 9/06/2007 7:59 AM, Blogger Terry Rayburn said...

At our home we receive the monthly snail-mail newsletter of a prominent evangelical Pastor. Each month my wife Midhele and I comb the multi-page newsletter for anything about Jesus Christ.

Seldom is there *any* mention of Him, to our monthly amazement.

But the newsletter is *strong* on The Word, The Word, The Word, The Bible, The Word, The Bible.

Now, I LOVE the Word of God, and hold to its innerancy in the original. But as Jesus said to the Pharisees...

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;" (John 5:39)

If we're not seeking and getting to know *Him* better, our theological accuracy (or or arrogance about it) are not the Shekinah we think they are, but just a fog blinding us and those we teach.

Thanks, John.

"a hairy tick?" :)

At 9/06/2007 9:40 AM, Blogger John Frye said...


You nailed it--since the Reformation and *sola scriptura* we have seen Christianity become a Book-centered faith rather than a Person-centered faith. Thanks for the good comments.

At 9/18/2007 4:12 PM, Blogger Denny Gunderson said...

As always, good stuff, John! In case you haven't read it, I recommend "Colossians Remixed--Subverting the Empire" by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. It touches on some of the same themes.

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