No need of redemption?

Over at the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy blog — a long title on a blog worthy of attention — you can find a discussion of the meaning and significance of the UM doctrine regarding Jesus Christ.

It is a good post and a helpful summary that makes a point of getting down to the “so what?” questions.

One part of it, though, did get me thinking about some of our trials in the UMC.

Why is it important to believe that Jesus is fully divine and fully human? Actually, our very salvation stands or falls on this question. If Jesus were not fully divine, could he redeem us (that is, would he still have the power to redeem us)? If he were not fully human, could he redeem us (that is, could his saving power be applied to us mere mortals)? As nothing less than true God in human flesh, Jesus identifies fully with us and is like us in every way except that he is without sin—precisely in order to save us from our sins.

Reading this, I am reminded that many of our brothers and sisters do not believe we need divine intervention to redeem us. They are not troubled by the problems that require God to be both fully human and fully divine. Whether it is the lingering effect of liberal Protestantism discarding of the supernatural or a latent Pelagianism, lots of people do not really believe in their bones that we are in need of a redeemer. A helper, yes. A role model, sure. An encourager and example, absolutely. But not a redeemer.

Many of us are not people who believe the verb redeem describes anything of which we are in need. Or we believe we are the ones who will do our own redeeming.

This is a fundamental problem. It makes Jesus Christ — as understood in our doctrine — unnecessary.

I’m not sure how to respond to that situation as a pastor. People who are not thirsty never seek out the source of living water, no matter how well it is packaged and sold.


10 thoughts on “No need of redemption?

  1. “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” I have buried MANY who trusted (only) in themselves. I have watched them falter in their self-assurance as their faculties go haywire and a sanctimonious masquerade of piety disintegrates. I have seen them screaming at graveside. Many claim not to need a savior. Don’t believe it.

  2. To use language from another discipline, many people are in denial and breaking through that is the proper business of pastors. When I ran a 12-week alcohol treatment program the first six weeks were devoted to just cracking the wall. In order to do this pastors need to have first done enough work on their own denial around the need for redemption, it’s obvious that many haven’t done much, many do things which are designed to actively strengthen denial. I think the old “Hell fire and brimstone” guys perhaps wielded an instrument that was blunt, but they knew what they were trying to do.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Is there a way to respond on your blog? I could not find one, but those things hide on WordPress at times.

      I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge, but I’ll try to give it a go in a day or so when I have time to give it some attention.

      The challenge — as I understand it — is explain what the word “divine” means without quoting other books or scholars. Does that include the dictionary. That is usually the first place I go when trying to understand the meaning of a word.

      1. Actually, a full blog post would be preferable. And do what you can or feel up to. This certainly isn’t a requirement. It’s more of a test, really.

        1. I’m not really interested in delving into a full blog post on this topic. I’m just not as troubled by this question as you are.

          I guess, as well, that I don’t accept your second condition of your test. You ban me from defining ‘divine’ by saying it is ‘of God’ because you say that is a tautology. But, in fact, that is the definition of the word ‘divine.’ The Latin root of the word is the word for godlike. So, I don’t understand your test.

          It’s like saying define the word ‘water’ but you can’t say it is an oderless, tasteless liquid composed of hydrogen and oxygen.

          Maybe I’m not understanding the test.

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