Even Christian Textbooks Are “Muddy” About The Son Of God
Whether Jesus Is the son of God has been the great question for the last 2000 years. So let’s keep asking…
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made. . . .
—Nicene Creed (AD 325)
Is Jesus The Son Of God?
Last week we how 19th-century American textbooks treated Jesus. For the most part, they ignored Him. Certainly, they ignored His real significance as the Author, meaning and center of all history. We have seen that even many 20th century secular texts often recited what the gospels and the early Church said about Jesus. That He was the infinite Creator incarnate in perfect humanity; that He died and rose again to purchase forgiveness for those who would believe in Him. These historians confess no personal faith in Jesus Christ and so they don’t attempt to explain history in terms the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.
Now we come to a few Christian history texts from the 20th century. This first is aimed at middle school students in Christian schools. In many ways, it is a very fine book in many ways, but when it comes to the Incarnation, it has only this to say:
At this time God sent his Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. . . . This was the best time in history for Jesus to come and save his people, and to send his apostles out into all the world with the Gospel of salvation. . . . For the slaves and the poor, as well as for the rich, Jesus alone had the true comfort. . . . Christ had taught them to be meek and humble and to endure suffering for a while. For those who believed, there would be a better life hereafter.
Jesus Christ is The Son Of God
He was born of the Virgin Mary. He came to save His people. Salvation, at least, involves “a better life hereafter.” To the orthodox Christian, this is, at least somewhat familiar territory. But to the secularist, even to the liberal Christian, this is all pretty vague and muddy. In what sense was Jesus “God’s Son”? What is salvation? What exactly did Jesus come to save His people from? Suffering? History? What exactly is Jesus’ connection with history, then or now? We aren’t told.
The next text was “designed to produce a truly objective textbook on world history, suitable for use in both public schools and private schools.” The Foreword goes on:
A public-school textbook should be objective, recognizing that parents and pupils represent a wide variety of philosophical, political, and religious beliefs. Every attempt has been made to present a balanced and objective perspective on world history. . . The Judaeo-Christian background of western history is presented objectively and thus not offensive to those of other faiths.
Can Discussions Regarding The Son Of God Ever Be Balanced?
Objective? Balanced? “Not offensive to those of other faiths?” At best, we get an approach that offers equal time for Jesus. There doesn’t seem to be much point in going on. Nevertheless, here is what this history book says about the Advent of Christ:
The mother’s name was Mary, and the Bible record states that she was still a virgin at the time of the birth of Jesus. So the birth of Jesus was a miraculous sign that the promised Savior had come into the world. . . . The Bible states that Jesus was the Son of God and that He came to earth to save people from their sins.
The book goes on to describe Jesus trial and crucifixion—as history—uninterpreted history, that is. But the resurrection comes as a kind of “news story” not as divinely ordained and interpreted fact:
Then, shocking news rocked Jerusalem. The body of Jesus buried three days before, was gone from the tomb. It is this one event that makes Jesus different from other religious leaders and great teachers. He was the only one ever resurrected from the dead. More than 500 people saw and talked to Him after His resurrection. . . Christianity is based on the death and resurrection of its founder, rather than on His teachings.
We should give the authors here great credit for emphasizing the historical foundations of the Christian gospel. They do not, however, officially side with that gospel. The authors only tell us what 1st century Jews might have read in their newspapers. They leave us to decide what we will believe about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it might or might not mean for the history of the world.
One More Christian Textbook
After centuries of predicting the coming of a great Savior, God raised up the Man who would prove to be the most important human who has ever lived, Jesus of Nazareth. . . Mary, however, was not married (though she was engaged). So she did not know how she could have a child. Gabriel said that God would cause her to conceive. For this reason, the child would not have a human father. He would be the Son of God.
So far, Jesus is “a great Savior,” a Man-God raised up, and “the most important human who has ever lived.” Jesus wouldn’t have a human father: “He would be the Son of God.” While this last isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s hardly clear. In what sense would Jesus be the Son of God? Because God caused her to conceive His human nature? Or because Jesus, God the Son, is the eternal deity? This lack of clarity continues with the message of the angels.
They told these shepherds that Jesus was a Savior, Christ, and Lord (Luke 2:11). But Lord they meant that Jesus would fulfill the Davidic Covenant: He would rule as David’s greatest son. By Christ, the angels meant that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ is the Greek word for “anointed one.”) By Savior they meant that He would save His people from their sad condition. (14-15)
Angels Called Him Savior
When the angels called Jesus “Savior,” they meant He would save His people and their world from sin and its consequences—spiritual, ecological, political, economic, and physical. The angels called Jesus “Christ,” and meant He was the promised Prophet, King, and Priest who would mediate God’s new covenant with His people, the One who would pour out God’s Spirit upon all flesh. When they called Jesus “Lord,” they meant He was Yahweh, Jehovah, the Creator God who ruled the universe. And, yes, these titles and the Child’s location— “in the city of David”—implied the coming of the Davidic kingdom described in the prophets, the one that would fill the earth (cf. Ps. 2; 72; 110; Dan. 2; 7).
The author does speak of godly stewardship. He emphasizes the sinner’s need for repentance and faith. But when he comes to talk about Jesus as the object of faith, he says only “that Jesus was the Christ, the One sent by God to save them.” As he describes Jesus’ death, he calls Christ “God’s own Son” and, finally, in summary, he says, “God had sent His own Son.” But this is terribly late in the game and can mean all sorts of things to all kinds of people. Again, clear as mud.
Text Books That Truly Teach About The Son Of God
It takes an enormous amount of time, talent, and money to produce a textbook. Any textbook that comes from the Christian community should excel in clarity, style, historical accuracy, and contemporary relevance. Above all, such a book would be theologically accurate. To put matters bluntly, any Christian textbook should be absolutely clear about who Jesus is, why He came, what He has accomplished, and what He continues to accomplish. If we are ashamed of Jesus, unclear in describing who He is, or even vague in our own thinking about His claims, then we shouldn’t be writing textbooks. (Perhaps we’re not really Christians) We certainly shouldn’t call our textbooks Christian. A Christian text will presuppose the Christ of Scripture at every point and be quick to apply His claims and promises to every subject in the table of contents. This ought to be a bare minimum.
Watch Carefully As The Khan Academy Attempts To Make Him “Fit In”
Christianity becomes more and more irrelevant as we muddy up who Jesus Christ is while attempting to make him “fit” the culture we live in. Jesus Christ, because of the nature of his claims has never “fit” in any culture in history and will never fit. He’s always been an offense because He claims to be the only way. No neutrality here.
Our theological filters are changing rapidly. We were once a Christian nation. As pastors continue to preach “The Gospel of Nice” instead of the gospel of Christianity, we will continue to lose ground. Of course, we should be nice. It’s an important aspect of our faith. But making “Nice” the central message of Christianity is a wicked thing. The truth is, “Nice” is not only a muddy concept itself, but it’s idolatry and the number one rival religion in America today.
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