Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What We Really Needed

The most common way to water down the teaching of Jesus is to try to make Him a moral philosopher advocating a new moral system. To do so is to make Him irrelevant.  Now do not get me wrong; because I am convinced Jesus is the Son of God, I believe He put forth the perfect moral system. That means that where He differs from other moral systems, He is correct in His answers. But this amounts to deciding the details. The broad principles of morality are agreed upon by various moral systems. Yes, there are differences. There may even be the occasional case where a specific group has gone completely out of the way. But what we have is what you would expect in a fallen world where God revealed His moral principles in the beginning, but people have since tried to forget and distort them. The problem is, it is hard to believe that getting every detail exactly right in our moral code is all we need to do to produce a truly moral society. We need, not just a minor course correction, but a major reorienting of our lives. We do not need a new standard, but a new capability to meet the standard. If Jesus was just a moral philosopher, even if He was the great or correct one, we would simply put Him on the shelf with Socrates and Confucius and other similar practitioners. And He would only be pulled out occasionally, to check His opinion on a particularly interesting controversy or to supply an occasional inspirational quote.

In Jesus' own time, they had plenty of moral philosophers, and one more would have been lost in the crowd. The Jews had a long list of significant rabbis. The Greeks and Romans had a long list of philosophers. Why would one more example of the same be any more more than an interesting footnote in history? One more book to put on the shelf. It is interesting that hardly anyone at the time regarded Him that way (there may have been a few break-offs that held to something like this, but they are so obscure we know little about them). Even some of the earliest pagan observers characterized Christians as worshiping Jesus as God. Which brings us to what we really need. We do not need another great moral teacher. We have already broken the teachings of the great moral teachers we have. As C. S. Lewis points out, even if Jesus is the perfect teacher, that does not help us. If we have already flunked mathematics, how will it help to be taught calculus? What we need is for God to come down and pay the price for our failures to keep the moral law, that we might be forgiven. Then we need God to work in our lives to begin to make us more like what the standard requires. Nothing else can meet our real need with a real response.      

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