Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today

The first chapter of Drs. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson's book The Deity of Christ is written by Dr. Stephen Nichols who looks at how the deity of Christ is understood today. Most notable regards how Jesus is perceived in popular culture apart from the biblical text. Nichols notes three primary sources of influence.

The first is film. Nichols highlights three films in particular: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Passion of Christ (2004), and The Da Vinci Code (2006). These three films, he suggests, have had the greatest influence on the American culture's understanding of Jesus.

In my opinion, the influence of The Last Temptation of Christ is waning. Rare will one find a Millennial who has watched the film. Nevertheless, one can seen the influences of it and the other two films. Regarding how Jesus is portrayed in film in general, Nichols notes: "For many, the only Jesus they will ever know is the Jesus of these and other films" (30).

I suspect that Gibson's 2004 film is preferred by most readers. When The Passion of the Christ came out, I saw it multiple times and do consider it to be one of the best Christological films of all time. Yet even it cannot bypass an important challenge raised by Nichols when he asks "How do you portray the deity of Christ on screen?" (30) Jesus' humanity can readily shine in such films - Gibson's take is a great example. Yet one is hard-pressed to present Jesus as the theathropic one through film.

It is here we should remember that Christianity is a proclamational religion, not a visual one. The message of the gospel cannot merely be seen, it must be heard. Film is a great tool in many respects, yet it cannot replace the proclamation of the gospel.

The second is consumerism and as a former employee of a Christian bookstore, I concur completely here. Nichols notes two problems: "the trivialization of Christ and a detrimental witness before a watching world" (30). He then notes:
To put the matter directly, when we reduce Jesus to a vinyl rubber ducky or to copped advertising slogans on T-shirts and golf balls ("Got Jesus?"), we are not speaking persuasively and compellingly for the gospel. We simply look silly. (30-31)
There is an added problem to Christian consumerism in general worth mentioning: it encouraged Christians to be isolated from the world. At a Christian bookstore, one can buy Christian books, Christian music,  Christian toys, Christian movies, Christian apparel, Christian gifts, Christian art, Christian candy, Christian jewelry, etc. As a result there was created a Christian subculture that suggested that music was only good if it was published by so-called Christian publishers unless, of course, you weren't a real Christian.

The third is politics. Nichols notes two problems:
The first problem concerns us directly. in zeal to appropriate Christ, some go too far, making Christ captive to their political agenda. The second problem concerns a watching world. when unbelievers look for Christ, they see one dressed as either a Republican or a Democrat, but they can’t see past that to get to the real thing. The truth is that Christ’s agenda is far too capacious to be restricted to a political party, not to mention the problems incumbent when every issue of social ethics is reduced to the confines of the American two-party system. (31)
In the end, we should not be surprised to see so many distortions of the biblical Christ. The world is quick to make Jesus their "homeboy" or "friend," but few are willing to submit to him as Lord. The worse part is how prevalent this is in the church. Biblical illiteracy has resulted in many Christians turning to mediums like film & politics as substitutes for the real thing. This is where the church must be more careful and clear in presenting the Jesus of the gospel.
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