Western christians and the great mystery of faith

Below the surface many ideas are afoot concerning the dogma about God. This is threatening. The church, as it is, lives on the knowledge of who God is. It lives on that one, great mystery of faith (1 Timothy 3,16).

Let me start with two examples concerning Jesus Christ. Recently Hillsong Church, an influential chain of pentecostal parishes originating from Sidney (Australia) announced another “grand opening”. The so-called “basis of faith” (creed) said this as first thing about Jesus’s work: “we believe that during His life on earth Jesus Christ revealed God’s will and announced God’s Kingdom. But the Gospel claims something going much further: it claims that Jesus reveals God(’s being) and that He is the King of the Kingdom. Why is so much attention paid to attractive services and not to christology?

Islamic Christ
The second example is about christian life. Many people mention Jesus Christ mainly as example. “I do this the way Jesus did it”, those christians say. Now Jesus does evoke us to follow Him. This is about His summons to stop living as sinful people and find our lives in Him (Matthew 16,24). And when the apostle Paul tells us to imitate him like he imitates Christ, he does so because he acknowledges Christ as Lord (Acts 5,9). The early church knows the testimony that we basically have no idea who Christ is, as He is really God.

Today it seams more and more that Christ is becoming an islamic Christ. Burgomaster Mr. Aboulateb suggested this recently in the Rotterdam debate about salafism. The burgomaster maintained that salafism is nothing exceptional. According to him it is just about who is your salaf (herald). In the way muslims have Mohammed as their herald, Jesus is the herald for christians, burgomaster Mr. Aboutaleb said. But there is not any muslim who claims that Mohammed is God. Do christians perhaps radiate that Christ is mainly a person to model themselves on?

The third example is about God’s Trinity. In the Free Reformed Churches there is a discussion going about the female minister. This is mostly about explanation and application of texts in the Scripture. But not everybody sticks to these matters. Some advocates as well as opponents in this matter make an appeal to God’s Trinity. As if God is a human being Who can be compared to other human beings and not an altogether unique and singular spiritual being…. eternal, inscrutable, invisible, immutable, endless and almighty (art.1 Dutch Confession).

Speculative ideas are not shrunk from in this discussion. Even the debate held in the U.S. about the eternal subordination of the Son of God to God the Father takes root here!

The revalation of God
This situation among western christians is embedded in the context they live in. Our culture has parted with God, “killed” Him. Christians are in the defensive. They need all their energy to maintain faith. Others try to keep God “alive” by adapting conceptions of their faith to the conception of people today. In the meantime the great mystery of faith gets out of sight.

That is why western christians must return tot he revelation of God in the entire Scripture. To the question of who God is. The Old Testament tells that God punishes His people because they follow other gods. The people goes into exile. But then God also comforts His people (Isaiah 40-66). God repeatedly says that He is absolutely unique and that there is no other God beside Him. God promises that He Himself will see to it that He – and He alone – will be honoured.

And then there is silence for ages. Until that Man comes along. That Man from ‘nowhere’. That Man Who performs miracles, forgives sins and makes Himself worshipped. But also the Man you can resist, hit, deride. He is crucified for blasphemy.

The gospel says He is God. Western christians must get to know  and acknowledge Him better. Jesus Christ is not a ‘lesser God’ (as if that would be possible!). At first He is worthy of our worship. Who confesses Him in this way is led into the great mystery of faith and saved in it by the Holy Spirit.

Dutch christian dialy Reformatorisch Dagblad, Februari 9th 2018

See also
Celebrate the great mystery of faith with us (2013, Good Friday and the Koran).
The life of Pi and the death of ‘Amanat’ (2013, Who is God? It’s all about the first two commandments).

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