A New Kind of Christianity: Jesus and the Bible

A reader writes:

Thank you for “A New Kind of Christianity.” Thank you so much. I cannot begin to describe how it has manumitted me from my imprisoned conceptions of God, Jesus and the Bible. Thank you!
Came across a quote I thought you might enjoy. You spoke of the Gospels as central in Scripture (to briefly summarize). In Origen’s commentary on John, he writes, “The Gospels are the first fruits of all the Scriptures.” That really resonated with some of your thoughts on the centrality of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s testimonies of Jesus.

Thanks for the note. Origen seems to be saying something similar to Luther’s comment that the Bible is the manger, presenting Jesus to the world. (more after the jump)

Yesterday there was a lengthy and vigorous dialogue about the book at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, undoubtedly one of the most active sites of theological conversation among Evangelicals on the planet. I tried to counter what to me was a rather blatant misrepresentation of my views on the Bible. Here are parts of my reply …

Let me thank everyone for taking the time to engage so vigorously with one of the ideas from the book. I wish I could have anticipated and avoided some of the misunderstandings that I sense in many responses – i.e. saying I say things that I don’t say, making assumptions that aren’t accurate, etc. No doubt, the book has many flaws – inevitable considering its author! – but I also think there are some real issues there that deserve attention. I hope you will be able to graciously ignore the chaff to find whatever few grains of wheat there might be.

It’s very discouraging to hear people speak for me with complete confidence and then get it wrong. There have been quite a few examples of this today, but just to offer one:

“I believe God primarily authored these books through the full participation of human authors under the guidance of their Jewish Spiritual Traditions, Culture, and specific contexts.
Brian does not believe this. God is not revealing Himself through this textual incarnation. Its all people. For Brian it’s about the “community of the faith” simply conversing and writing about those conversations. His view is the extreme antithesis of the other extreme form of dictation theory: there is no divine.”

As someone with a bit more access to what Brian believes, let me say that this commenter misrepresents me. Nowhere in Chapters 8 and 9 (or anywhere else) do I say the Bible is just the community of faith conversing – all human and no divine. I say God self-reveals through human conversations about God and life. (Check out pages 91, 94, 95 for example.) It’s not divine OR human, it’s divine through human. I’d rather not use the term “incarnation” for the Bible, though – I’d rather reserve that for Jesus. I believe, as Martin Luther said, that the Bible is the manger that presents the Word of God to us. As I explain in chapters 10 – 14, I believe Jesus is the ultimate, complete, unique, and unparalleled self-revelation of God.
On Scot’s original question, several commenters picked up my point. I feel that the soul-sort narrative as I described it (those four words should be in bold!) doesn’t honor Jesus enough. To paraphrase (and tone down) a spicy comment from Dallas Willard, it wants Jesus for his blood and little else. To me, every dimension of Jesus’ life is unspeakably precious … every word, every gesture, every interaction, every miracle, every tear, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection, everything … because through Jesus, God speaks. God self-reveals. In word and deed. In life and death and resurrection. Folks may disagree with me on this, but this is what I believe.