This article was written in response to this one by Chuck Queen. It may not make much sense unless you read Chuck’s article first. Click here to read.
In and of itself the Gospel as an event and in power unifies mankind with God. We as Christians seek to understand this unification or state of oneness from 2000 years of conversation regarding the Biblical and Historically theological theory of Atonement.
When I say theory I do not mean that there is in anyway a chance that it (the Jesus event) does not exist but that our doctrinal expressions of it are brought about by a Christian belief that our reasoning as Christians is based first and foremost on a deductive form (top down) of reasoning. We Christians believe that God is mover and we are moved. He is Creator and we are created.
Deductive reasoning is clearly seen in the way we think about the phenomenon of music. We hear it, experience it and even creatively replicate it but we don’t actually ever create it or own it. This kind of top down thinking is why we call the basic general study of the music “Music Theory”. Music as a law happens whether we like it or not. Music in an objective and scientific sense is an event.
Like music Jesus is an event. Our response to him in conversation, and Biblical observation is theology. Theology is what we say about what God has said. If it is done in formal ways we would collect those distillations of “Jesus talk” into theories. These discussions and observations are falsifiable and must be if we are to actually dialogue about anything at all that is human. But and this is a big one Jesus like music and gravity in an objective sense is not falsifiable because he is the event Himself.
In other words we might theorize, talk about and try to figure out who Jesus is but He does not have this problem because he is in and of himself the event. He is God. He can authoritatively monologue about himself and say what he really means but we do not have this power.
Today we read all kinds of things about Jesus. The Internet is full of expressions. Many of these expressions use bottom up reasoning or inductive reasoning. This is fantastic for creating and expressing things in a human way through sermons and devotional material but not so much for good robust theological conversation.
I come across some dangerous and irresponsible articles from time to time about who Jesus is and what he has done.
Here is an article I want share with you by way of example. It was written by a man named Chuck Queen. Click here to read
This particular article is a great example of the dangers of reducing the Jesus (as if that can be done) event and God theologically to our own personal experiences and tastes. Chuck speaks of atonement authoritatively in light of personal inductive reasoning and interpret the Jesus event in light of personal experience rather than deductively. This bottom up thinking in turn expresses big Jesus in very small ways. It does not express him in big ways like gravity or music but more like a food review. An expression based authoritatively and singularly on personal experience and myopic induction.
Now I say all of that as a pastor who walks away from the pulpit each Sunday realizing that a sermon, like this article is the product of bottom up thinking. In light of that I don’t want to be too hard on experiential humanistic inductive reasoning we
use it all the time are bound to it. Besides how else could Old Spice sell deodorant and Axe sell body spray?
My hope is to not use inductive reasoning to convince you to look at God and thus limit him by what you see but to worship Him and enjoy Him because he has spoken big words to little people.
You see what Chuck leaves out is that the conversation of Jesus has been going on for a long time. Like music. This is what I take issue with. And though we have many different theological expressions and theories of atonement based on solid reasonable inductive reasoning we are not supposed to stand at the banquet table and within the solitude of our own mind proclaim that only one of them is legit based on taste. I am not allowed to convince people that God likes the music of Adele and NWA but hates Robert Goulet no matter how convinced I am. It’s not that simple.
The conversation of how God brought humankind together with himself is a multi-sided dice. These sides to the dice have been formed through thousands of years of conversation and interpretation and each one is special because of that. They all bring understanding to an event much bigger than ourselves namely God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.
I am personally tired of people badmouthing penal substitutionary atonement based solely off of distasteful experience and then purposefully directing folks away from that portion of the banquet table lest we make followers of ourselves and in our own image. Let music be bigger than us and let us have all twelve notes. Let atonement be bigger than us and let it have all responsible theories so that we might be a more robust and humble people who express a big God in little ways rather than a little God in big ways.