Full Text for The Dark Side of Christology (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER April 1974 Volume 38, Number 2 The Dark Side of Christology T 1-11; L,\7rlNGl?I,ISh:I IiFEOl<'T which I- prove. to 1.x a soiirce of emb;~rrassment (to some) because a ~L~III- 1)cr of C:l~ristians continue to insist that the only authcnt-ic cncountcr with GocI conies through Jesus Christ. Thus, arguments continue to rage o\!er the ndvisabilit!' of: proselet\zing tliosc of Jewish faith, siilce both they ilrltl the Christians nlil(e accept the Olcl 'T'cstn~iient as a valid, ;~~lthc\ntic re\~clatiori of God. i.lrgu~ncnts also arise ovcl. ~vhetl~er or not tl~osc of other faiths need to bc! con\.ertcil to Christianitv as \vcll. In n (la!. ~slien thcrc are supl~osctll!. no absolutes, Christi&itl. esposcs i.1 clnl.ker sitlc of itself in that at the sanlc tinic as it clain~s to reveal God's lovc, it also insists that only Christianity brings the love of Got1 nrjd is n valid encot~nter ~vith lijni. Tn exploring this darlt sicle of Christolog\ (rcnlly soteriologv!), wc have chosen to study thc Gospcl of John, for jt well r~~rcscnts'tl~c paratlox: jol~n's gospel contains nlorc state~~~cnt-s bout lo\,c than the other gosl3c:ls anti it contains thc most familial: statement of God's lore (3 : 16), yet at the same time it also contains a st~rprising nuiubcr of refc~rcl~ces to an csclusi\~c sotcriolog);, solnctin~cs iutlgecl to he rather ~1111ovi11g. 13eforc examining thcse statements' - it \\:o~~ltl be well to glance at the Olcl 'Testament fol- indications of this snmc es.- clusivity . 'The first esanlple of exclusivity is God's relation to onc nation. Israel. E-Ie made a covenant will1 this one nation and thc c1;ents of Joshua and Judges indicate that Israel's clispIacemc~~t of the peoples who occupicd Canaan reflects the conviction that Yahweh had prom- ised it to the111 as ;in inheritance. Throughout various p~ophets, too, one collides with a number of thcse exclusive statements. For ex- ample, in Hosea 9: 10 Israel is likened to grapes in the wilderness; at 12: 9 (and a number of other places throughout the Oltl 'Testanlent) Yahweh identifies himself as God. Through thc l~ropliet, the Lord even has the auclacity to claim that besides Inin], tllerc is no savior ( 13 :4). Along similar lines, Amos records Gotl's worcl to Israel: "You only have I ltnown of all the familics of the earth."' Isaiah stresses the same itlea that Israel is unique: "Beca~lse you are l~recious in my eyes, and honorecl, and I love you, I give men in return for you." "I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you" (43 : 4,3). "You are my witnesses,"' says the Idordl "and mir servants whom T have chosen that you mav ltnow and believe me and understand that I am he" (10). "I, I am the Lorc-l and besides me there is no savior" (1 1). God may use other nations and individuals (Cyrus, for example) but all is done for the sake of Israel." The second example of exclusivity is the relationship of Yahweh to one man, Moses, which allo~ved Moses to glimpse God and to reveal his will to Isracl in the form of the covenant. Iie bt'came fie prototype for all prophets to come in Israel, and especia1,ly of the ll~cssianic prophet of Deuterononly 18 : 15. Thc autho~: of I?cuteron- omy 34 can siy of Moses, "There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face," ant1 it is that propl~et whom the l'harisees of John 1 : 25 are expccting. Indeed, it is the exclusive relation of God-Moses and God-Jesus which leads into the New Testament and the examples of exclusivity in John's Gospel. M'ithin the fourth Gospel the relation of thc old to the new mav be seen in thc comparison-contrast of Rfoses ;ind Jesus. The alltho; reminds the reader that h'loses gave the law, but gracc and truth callle through Jesus Christ. Futhermore, Moses' glimpse of God was not complete, "no one has seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made llini Icnown" ( 1 : 17-1 8). Moses did not give the true bread, but the Father gives it ill lesus (6 : 32). It urns Moses who wrote about Jesus (1 :45) and it is Moses, not jcsus, who accuses the Jews because if tiley had believed Moses, they \vould have believed Jesus (5 : 4 5-46). I11 John's vjcw, Jesus has a morc exclusive, intimate relation to the Father and, thus, his follow- ers Ilove a ~llore intimate relation to the Fnthcr than tl.lose \vl~o arc apart fro111 Jesus. But now to the various exclusive passages in John. T~vo fcatures stand out: 1) Jesus' remarks and John's comments are in relation to the Jews. /iltho~~gh many have consideretl John's gospel to be "anti- Semitic" (to the extent that one version of it was published wit11 thcse anti-Semitisms t'ieleted), seriorts scholars todav understand that hoi 1lourEnioi of 'John are to be vieweti, not ethically, hut theologically.' 'They are thc Jews who refuse to accept the more exclusive relntion- ship which Jesus offers and who rely on Moses instead (9 :29). It will do no good to see them as literary foils designetl to "put down" the Jews and present the church in a superior 1ight.TThey arc best seen as those 1~1io had trouble integrating this claim of Jesus with their understanding of the scriptures. Nevertheless, it was to God's own people that the message and claim of Jesus of Nazareth was first directed. To the people to whom Moses had revealed God's will, Jesus said, "for \/~LI will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he" (8:24); or this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life and I will raise him 111' at the last day" (6:40). It was to the people of the Torah that Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent" (6 : 29). 'The second observation to be made is that the Father-Son rela- tionship appears indispensible to salvation. Moses revealed the will of God through the Law, but Jesus reveals the Father Himself! In 3: 18, condenlnation is laid upon those who do not believe in the name of the only Son of God and "it is the work of God that you believe in him whom he sent." The egb eimi of 8: 58 links Jesus to the ego eimi of Isaiah 43: 10. If Jesus pictures himself as the Vine, his Father is the vincdresser. No one comes to the Father but by Jesus (14: 6); Jesus tells his disciples that the Father loves them because they have loved Jesus and believed that He came from the Father (1 6: 27); ant1 c.tcl.;lal ]ifi~tl('l.il of' cx~111si.c it!- becomes c(,lllp]ctc, 'Testa- rl~c~rlt Isrncl Ii~is an c\cl~lsi\.c elation to Gotl? 1)cg~ln at (Ilc ],xodus cwnt rnctlintct! th1.0~1gh 310s~~. ~CSLIS l~ri~~~s ;ill[] n.lccliates [Ilc complctc rcc1cnij)tion and rc\,elntion \vIiich o\,ersh;lcI~\i.~ tl.ic "Id 11~ V.~~-~LIC' of its bej~ig si~pcsioi: in reli~liol~ to t1-1~ Fatlicl:. !csus rc\.ca]s th; Fi~tlicl- 1-Jitliself and IIC urges Iiis own pcoplc to accept this 11c\~ re\.cla- tion. Of' this ~'sc~~Is~\:c' llnturc cvcn 1<1itIol.ph .I3ultiilanl1 In~lsl: sa\., ':l-llc I{c\ci~lcl. is t.11~ ;~C(.C'SS to C;od .c\.hicIi Illan is lool;iny for ;IJ>(~ ;rhat jt , , - 111ol.c: . . . thc oill! acuss. ' ;I short not(: is ncccssar!' ~.cgar(ling tl.losc 110 al.c 11ot. of the: house of Isl-acl-tvhnt ;1ho11t the GeiltilcsZ--and it is ~\ort]l ~loting that I csus sa! s thal- 11e "must bring then1 also" in[o tlle , Ilocli, i111.- pI!-ing thiit for 1-he Gcntjlcs as \vc!l, entl:ancc into t11~ sliccl>f:ol(l is tht.or~sIl tllc salilc [Poor. 1s tl1c!i.c! ;I 11ci'il tllen, fol. positi\,c: Christ iun \vitt~css to 11otll Ic\vs i111c1 Gentiles who ha\.c i~ot l~rartl of Ji!sus? (.kl.ti~inl\, onc o~1ql.11: not to apl~roac.11 \\.ith an iti~: of s~~l~eriorit!.? e\ci~ tlioiigl~~ it sccnls to this \vri.trr, the (:hristian logicall!. must accrpt this c\;aluatioll of his o\vn \va! to salvatio~l os lint1 onothcr more satisfying. (I'aul r.c~nin(ls the (;erltilt.s thi~t, aftt.1- all. thcv arc grrrftcd l>rclnelics!) k'ct it ;ippc.ars From tllc ~nission 01' Tcs~rs th:lt- one cannot snv to t-11c ]e\visll people, "Sta\- ~vith \vI?at \.ou 113\,c, it is cnol.t~h," if on;! trul! I>c'lic\;cs that ](ISLIS is the fullil11i;cnt of tllc Old 'I'cstament. /\llllol~gl~ sol~tc contemptuously refcr to evangelism as "scalp-huiiting," i~buscs oi' t11c past do not. logically rec1uil:e ccssatio~~ of tllc: n~issiotl. l'a111 first ~vtrtlt to the s!;n;igogue of evcl:!; tow11 ancl only secontlly did 11~: tlt;iil \\.it11 the cultu~:cs to \\:llol.~l "3lcssiah" was not intecrral. Of ]oh11 1:16 ti [.,uther said, "II. a difl.(!rcnt \ViI\ to llca\.cn csistcd, no tloubt: Goti \voultl 1ia.c:~: ~ccorc'lccl it, biit rllerc is no other ~va),."' After l',n~~santic (1973) it al,pc.nrs tllat: 21 n~il~ll~cl: ol Christian groups arc still coln~nittctl to ]csuS Christ ils tjic? Ele\~c'itler ol' Gotl. it has byen our intent to show that tl1c idca OF cxc:l~~si~.c~>css it1 Gotl's relation \vith certain peoplc js not. q New '1-estamcnt clcvcl-- opnicllt that wils formulntetl out of ~~olcnlic iiltcrest but. that is roots lie in I](: Oltl II'estnmcl~t: ii11cl God's ~.elafion to Israel ant1 to &;loses. to group and intlividual. i\s Xsracl was to be the light for !.hc nntiolls, SO I~o\?; is the bodv of CIIirjst. Jesus is unicl~le beciiuse only t-Te ~:c\:~als the Father and ii is only wl1ei1 a I>erso~belicvcs in thc Father and the one ~vhonl he sent ihat an ;iuthentic rclation to God tlevciops. 1. A basic list of passagcs \\,auld include John 3: 18, 36, 5: 24, 6:29, 40, 8:24, 10:9, 16, 14:6, 16:27, 1713. 2. Chapter 3:2. I;or the implication of "to ];llow" a )>coplc, SCC R~~tlolph Bultmann, "gig~zosko," Thcologicnl Dictiolzary of the N('7t? 'Z-CS~.UI)IC~~, ~1. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm. l3, Ecrdrnans, 1964), p. h9hf. 3. Although God uses Cyrus and calls hiin his ;~nojntctl, Cyrus docs not "];now" I'nhweh (Is. 35:4, 5). Any coiltact of Yal-iwch ~vith those Israel must be tempered with the Hc'l~rcn-s 1 : 1, stai-c~ncnt about 1:arjolls n7ays in thc past o\:er against the one nlodc of spc.a]/d ant1 Mcic? irz 1nlcr.171.r:l(itiolz. (NCIV Yo1.J;: Harpel: ;lnd ~OIV, 19661, p. 28. 6. Mr. 11 :27; fk. 10:22. 7. I~~~tloll~h Bnltmann, The Gospel of: ,701171 (P~ii1:~cI~~~pJii~~: T4Tcst~~~il~stcr, 1961), \,ol. 1, p. 605. 8, I&',\, 10, JII', 13. 162.