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In Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 1, Donald G. Bloesch argues that "real incarnation means that Jesus entered into our historical and cultural limitations though he also transcended the times in which he lived and indeed all historical time in the message that he embodied." He worries that assuming the onmniscience of Jesus of Nazareth "betrays a Monophysite tendency" (140)--that is, it expresses the heretical notion that "the human nature [of Jesus] merged into the divine [nature]" rather than it being the case that "the Son of God adopted human nature and united it with his divine nature in the unity of one person" (128).

Bishop Wright echoes this point: "If we are to locate [. . .] Jesus [. . .] within the world of first-century Judaism, within the turbulent theological and political movements and expectations of the time (and if we are not than we should admit that we know very little about [Jesus]) then we must face the fact that [he was not] teaching a timeless system of religion or ethics, or even a timeless message about how human beings are saved" (178-9).

Thus, asking the question "WWJD" is revealed to be a deeply misleading act, or at least one which might yield answers which would not always perfectly coincide with those to "What does God want me to do?" or "What would the Risen Christ have me do?" (This is sort of the flip side of the fact that asking "What would the Only Child of God, Eternally Begotten from. and of One Being with, the Parent God, do?" doesn't seem very helpful either.)

Note that both Bishop Wright and Prof. Bloesch are far more conservative than I am, theologically--I'm not citing radically revisionist liberal theologians here, but rather well-respected conservative theologians whose location within the orthodoxy of the faith is relatively uncontested. The Scriptural evidence for the non-omniscience of Jesus is, in my opinion, overwhelming--there are relevant passages through all four Gospels (including in St. John, whose Christology is so high that the Johannine community would become the main source of docetism in the early Church) and in the epistles.

But my fundamental argument relies less on proof-texts than it does on poetry. The gravity of the Christ myth in many ways resides precisely within the humanity of Jesus: for me, the central moment of the Passion is Gethsamane, where Jesus, afraid to die, prays to the Parent God:
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.

If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done.
Tim Rice re-interprets the prayer in the garden this way:
GETHSAMENE lyrics )
This is moving stuff precisely because of the power of the paradox: God, omniscient and omnipotent, self-emptied (kenosis) so as to suffer fear and doubt.
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My Prayer

"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

All entries copyrighted © 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Cole J. Banning


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