Jesus was not a Theologian

heavenly ladder sketch

Artwork by Erick Michaud

Chris Lazo wrote a post the other day about presuppositional apologetics and how Christians need to engage people with different worldviews on common ground. This common ground could be unknowingly borrowed from the biblical worldview, ie views on marriage, society, the origin of the universe, the meaning of human life, morality, etc. Rather than a “barking monologue” or ten second sound bites, many people are helped more if you enter into their situation and engage their story.

If you are truly “living on mission” or working the gospel into your day to day affairs, then you will encounter all manner of people throughout the week. Coworkers, cashiers, baristas, waiters, to name a few. Every situation is different and you don’t know exactly what that person needs. Some people whom you see regularly can be engaged gradually. Others, you may never see again. This affords you a great opportunity to practice being one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) and pay attention to His inward indwelling.

As someone once remarked, WWJD becomes “what is Jesus doing.”

Jesus certainly didn’t stick to a prescribed method in His interactions with others. He responded to real people and real situations.

On one occasion He answers, “I will follow You wherever You go”, with cautious realism- “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Jesus seems to pour cold water on his zeal. On another occasion He answers, “Permit me first to go and bury my father”, with radical encouragement- “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus stokes the fire.

In the most basic sense, it seems that most of all Jesus wanted to reach people in any way appropriate and elicit a response from them- “repent for the kingdom” (Matt. 4:17), “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)- or meet their need.

This of course isn’t to be emulated mechanically. Walking around with a signboard that says REPENT, will probably just turn people off. The details of the Lord’s exceedingly human contact with people, especially in the Gospel of Luke, speak volumes.

All of this reminded me of a section I recently read in On Being a Christian by Hans Küng:

Jesus’ style of preaching is not professional, but popular and direct: if necessary, keenly argumentative; often deliberately grotesque and ironical, but always pregnant, concrete and vivid. He finds just the right word, uniting in a remarkable way close observation of facts, poetic imagery and rhetorical passion. He is not tied down to formulas or dogmas. He does not indulge in profound speculation or in erudite legal casuistry. He makes use of universally intelligible, catchy sayings, short stories, parables, drawn from the plain facts of ordinary life, familiar to everyone. Many of his sayings have become proverbs in every language.

Even his statements about the kingdom of God are not secret revelations of conditions which are going to exist in heaven, nor are they profound allegories with several unknown factors, of the kind produced in abundance in Christendom after his time. They are sharply pointed likenesses and parables which set the very varied reality of God’s kingdom in the midst of human life dispassionately and realistically observed. Despite the decisiveness of his views and demands, they do not presuppose any special intellectual, moral or ideological attitudes. People are expected simply to listen, to understand and draw the obvious conclusions. No one is questioned about the true faith or the orthodox profession of faith. No theoretical reflection is expected, but an urgent, practical decision.

4 thoughts on “Jesus was not a Theologian

  1. On the one hand the Lord Jesus spoke the highest theology – see the gospel of John and many portions in Matthew, Mark, and Luke – and on the other hand He never ever behaved as a theologian would behave. He was the real and only NORMAL human being, able to relate to people as He talked to them, not being too much, and not being religious at all. How much we need to learn from Him – or even better, allow Him to live in us a reproduction of the life He lived while being on earth…

  2. What a great excerpt! That is awesome that Jesus was “not tied down to formulas” and that He used language that was “drawn from the plain facts of ordinary life, familiar to everyone.” The Lord was so approachable!
    It’s so sweet that the Lord had such a fine humanity and I’m encouraged by this post because this approachable, human One lives in us.We don’t need a method for telling people about the Lord and we don’t need to try to be anybody. We just need to follow His leading in our spirit. This is a great post, Kyle.

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