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Reasoning in unreasonable times

Religion

The dogma of the new protestantism (not that any of its adherents would consent to holding to anything called "dogma") runs something as follows:

Jesus was a swell fellow, perhaps even mystical, but calling him God is taking things a bit too far. It divides people when they should be united behind a banner of peace, love, and more equal income distribution. Jesus loved God and so we should love God, and making Jesus into God only distracts us from his message, which wasn't about himself at all, you see, but about a more just and equitable society.

Jesus, the social reformer has been hijacked, goes the new protestantism, by conservatives who want to distract us with all this God talk from their hypocrisy in opposing universal healthcare (did Jesus ever charge anyone for his healings?), higher taxes (didn't Jesus himself instruct us to render unto Caesar?), and higher "investments" in education (what was Jesus if not first and foremost a teacher?).

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The apostles of the new protestantism are writers like Martha Woodroof, opining in The Washington Post that a personal relationship with God doesn't require Jesus to be anything other than exemplar:

"It does seem to me Christianity's insistence that Jesus be god repels people who might otherwise happily trot along in his path. And that path trotting is, I would suggest, what Jesus, himself, calls us to do."

Or consider Bill McKibben's approving review of Harvard Divinity School professor Peter Gomes's new book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News? in The New York Review of Books:

"It is easy to understand why the church, once it became an important social force, chose to deemphasize this core idea [of economic redistribution]. . . ."

It's also easy to understand why hearing that some new teaching has come from an American divinity school is the surest way to disqualify it in the eyes of we reprobates who believe that dogma is not something to be newly crafted by clever people in each successive generation.

This is protest at its worst. It's the notion that a little training and a Bible are all one needs to divine the mysteries of God. It holds that creeds and the Church are human institutions only (which conveniently elides the fact that it is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that gave us the Bible in the first place). It assumes, further, that the modern surveyor of Christian doctrine is himself liberated from creeds more secular than that crafted in, say, Nicea and Constantinople sixteen centuries ago.

"Could someone please explain to me what, exactly, that's about?" asks Woodroof, regarding the doctrine of Christ's divinity. "And why it's essential to believe it in order to follow Jesus?" Here is tragedy verging on comedy: a serious question asked by a presumably well-read, faith-oriented thinker that betrays an utter ignorance of the very Christian dogma she so blithely casts aside. It seems reasonable to expect those who reject Christianity, Dorothy Sayers used to insist, to understand just what it is they are rejecting.

But we live in unreasonable times.

What need, really, of Christ's divinity? Well none, I suppose, if salvation from sin and death is unnecessary. Why can't we simply follow Jesus without all this God stuff? No reason, really, except that you traipse toward a futile death, insisting as He does that you take up a cross and follow Him. That cross wasn't a social justice banner back when He uttered those words, after all.

The divinity of Christ is utterly essential to the salvation of man, for only God could break the hold of Hades. That educated people no longer know what schoolchildren once routinely did is perhaps something divinity schools might redirect themselves toward remedying, if they can be troubled to set aside their plans for national economic redistribution and dogmatic deconstruction long enough to do so.

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