The Faith of Jesus

Here is a brief nugget to chew on from my professor’s most recent book:

“In Hannah (a character in a woody allen  movie), the hypochondriac demands absolute certainty in order to believe in God.  but Jesus does not.  The faith of Jesus is the kind of faith that is able to live with ambiguities of our world rather than to bow to the outdated Gods of modernity that demand certainty without paradox.  His faith is a genuine faith because of the cry of abandonment (pg 143, author’s emphasis).”

While from there he gets into his view of the “vicarious Humanity of Christ,” i’m not wanting to explore that yet.  I’m curious to see what everyone thinks of this idea.  He’s saying that Jesus’ faith was genuine (we have to affirm that if we take his humanity seriously), and he saw no need to figure out paradox.  He was able to leave things unexplained, like his unanswered prayers, when the consummation of the age would occur, etc.

Here is the rub: if Jesus showed us what it is like to be truly human, then shouldn’t our faith look like His?  If so, does that critique our philosophical/theological work, and if so how?  I know some say that we should avoid mystery, but Jesus didn’t seem to.

Any thoughts?


5 responses to “The Faith of Jesus

  1. In short, yes, our faith should look like His. I believe this is what Paul talks about in the often debated “faith/faithfulness of/in Christ” of Romans and Galatians. I think this definately affects our theological work, as we have often times made Christianity about faith in God and Christ and talked about the emulation of Christ on the periphery. Instead, I think the focus of much of Christian theology is conforming oneself to the humanity of Christ so that we will become like God in nature (in His humanity He showed everything it is to be God). This is why it is important that Christ is the the radiance of God’s glory and the represenaton of God’s essence (Heb 1:4), so that He would show how humanity is to be perfect like the Heavenly Father.

    As to how this affects thelogy and philosophy: this is something that I have been meditating upon for a while now and I still have yet to fully integrate it into my theology and understanding, so I can not really answer it in my opinion.

  2. I think it is crazy we have to even have this discussion. It is amazing to me we must even ask the questions.

    It is pretty unreal how complicated I, we, you, us make the things of God.

    Often times we assume Jesus’ only purpose was to save humans from hell. That’s a shame.

    I think Jesus was adamant about people understanding the Kingdom of God (the personality of God) is not one of judgment, but of freedom. So what is Jesus/God trying to set us free from?


    Well, if that is the case, then the mission is a dismal failure, for we all still sin and sin just as horribly as we did before entering a relationship with God.

    So what are we being set free from?

    What was Jesus’ point and purpose?

    I cannot say yet that I have it fully figured out. But I think, the more I reflect on it, Jesus came to show us how simple the things of God really are. In Jesus we find the perfect way, as humans, to interact with God.

    Jesus as God is a savior.

    Jesus as a human is an example.

    Jesus as God rescues us from hell.

    Jesus as man rescues us from ourselves.

    The problem is us humans make it too damn complicated.

    Jesus faith was so profound in that it was so simplistic.

    “What does it look like to love God? Do that”

    “What does it look like to love all people? Do that.”

    “Never let either conflict with the other.”

    That’s it.

    The message of Jesus the Human in 3 lines.

    To answer your concluding question, D; if anything we do, say or think goes beyond what Jesus displayed for us in how to be human, then we are sinning. I’m pretty sure the way Jesus lived is a critique on our philosophy and theology for the most part, but if not just that, his shard verbal critiques of the uber-theological and philosophical minds should be enough for us.

    Wasn’t it Jesus who went sternly to the Pharisees and rebuked them saying, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me…”

    My fear is that us Christians are still sinning in this way.

    Jesus the Human shows us what we are to do as humans. And it is very simple.

    To make it anything but simple is to make it anything but of Jesus.


  3. Cliff,

    i appreciate a lot of your comments, but to stir the pot a little, let me play devil’s advocate. Let me use a scene from the gospels as a sounding board, since we both agree to look at Jesus’ life.

    In his dialogue concerning the situation of the woman of five husbands, Jesus uses solid debate skills in his use of appealing to common ground with the sadducees, and even hinges an argument on the tense of a Hebrew verb! In fact, Jesus in His interaction with pharisees/sadducees/teachers of the law often showed an amazing command of the Scriptures, logic, and theological insight. JP Moreland cites the above example and others in his book “Love the Lord With All Your Mind.”

    So when you say this Cliff: “Jesus as a human is an example,” then you’ve kind of proven the point that we need to think. Jesus didn’t critique the “uber philo-theological” folks by merely calling them to “simple repentance”: He called them out using sound reasoning and theological insight. Jesus never allowed the pursuit of truth to be divided from the call to repentance. We must always strive against this as the body of Christ, or we may fall into mere moralizing theories of Christ with little bearing on our lives today.

    Another problem i have with your view that all Jesus as human taught was to love God and man, and never let the two commands conflict. By your logic then cliff, Jesus as a human didn’t have to die on the cross, or even be God Incarnate! You’ve reduced him to a mere moral influence. I know that you would point out that you affirm that he is God who came to save us as well, but the problem here is that you can’t divide the two natures of Christ so tightly, or our salvation is in question. This is the insight of the Council of Chalcedon, i think.

    Another issue i have: “To answer your concluding question, D; if anything we do, say or think goes beyond what Jesus displayed for us in how to be human, then we are sinning.” Cliff, i think that either i’m not reading this right, or you’re not giving me a full response, b/c you and i both know Jesus didn’t address cloning, stem-cell research, homosexuality, democracy, colleges, and many other things. Jesus taught in a premodern culture, and we live in a modern/postmodern (although i prefer the term hypermodernity) culture. We can’t just “cut and paste” the gospels on today. That is actually unfair to Jesus’ teachings, b/c he may (i bet in some ways wouldv’e) approached humanity today differently, and wouldv’e critiqued different things. I’m not saying Jesus’ teachings don’t have relevance today, but just that it isn’t as simple as a cut and paste job.

    I strongly feel the pull to simplicity of faith. I think that in a sense we can have a simple faith in today’s world. I think if we change your statement from “Jesus faith was so profound in that it was so simplistic” to Jesus faith was so profound AND it was so simplistic” then we have our answer.

    This is way too long already, so i will actually present my view in another post, which by the way includes that John passage you quoted at the end of your post. Cliff i appreciate your thoughts and love you deeply brother. Please take no offense at my reply.

    Take care,


  4. Interesting discussion. Some of the latter posts seem to veer off the original intent. Honestly, I guess I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking Derek. Maybe I’m just not trying to understand right now or I lack the ability.

    Cliff, I appreciate your passion, but your response, while impassioned, seems to be misguided. Truly interesting to me is how you quotied John 5:39, one of my favorite verses of Scripture, and use it in the way that you did–to illuminate the type of faith that Christ had juxtaposed with that of the pharisees’ faith. This entire passage is not an example of Jesus rebuking the pharisees for their misguided, illfounded faith, but an exhortation to find Christ within the Scriptures! It seems that Christ’s point in this passage was in essence to say, “I can’t believe that you guys have memorized the whole of the first testament and yet you don’t even recognize the Messiah when he’s standing in front of you. Refocus your attention. They aren’t there simply to be assimilated as propositional truths so that you can extract legalistic laws, but instead they are a portal, a doorway that lead you to me.” While we can indeed tie faith into this at some point, it would be a diservice to the power of Christ’s confrontation with the Pharisees to superimpose this purpose upon it.

    I love you brother and appreciate your passion and dialogue. Hasta luego everyone.


  5. This is a late comment, but I just ran across the website and couldn’t keep my fingers off the keys of the computer. What Kettler is talking about in using the word “vicarious” is grace. It is the grace of God doing for us what we cannot possibly do on our best day. The whole point of grace which is what Kettler is speaking about is the wonderful exchange by Christ of what we cannot do and cannot be, with Christ himself who gives us every blessing that is rightfully his. See Martin Luther and John Calvin on this (The Freedom of the Christian in particular, and Institutes Books 3, and 4, particularly the concept of the mirifica commutatio). The Reformers called this the “great exhange.” James B. Torrance coined the term “Christ in our place,” which means that our faith however great, is supplemented by the faith of Christ. The whole point of Christology is to overcome the dichotomy of God/Christ on the one side and we, you and I, on the other. This is what the Torrance family has so clearly pointed out: “the mediation of Christ,” between the Father, and you and me, by the Power and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Paul, the Apostle, said it best in Galatians 2:20 “It’s not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And the faith which is spoken of here is Christ’s faith! Calvin said that as long as Christ remains outside of us, then we are hopelessly lost (See the opening statement in Bk 3 of the Institutues). But as we are united to him by the Holy Spirit we receive all that is rightfully his, and what becomes ours, by the gift of grace. We are allowed to give him our sin, our lack, our want, our hopelessness, in exchange for his justification, sanctification, and his place in the Father’s embrace! Now, Calvin does speak of Christ as our pattern, and his life is certainly the life we should model ourselves after, however Calvin also spoke of Christ as our patron. Both concepts must be kept together, or you get a pelagianism run amok, what James Torrance called a “an engendered weariness” in our trying to live the Christian life as best we can until we’re exhaused, jaded, and depressed. If Christ is not at the center of everything, including our faith, what you get is an incipient unitarianism which is me trying to do what Jesus did, only doing it not as well. I can never get to God no matter how hard I try, this way. The whole point is that we can’t–thus the need for grace. The gift and the giver as T. F. Torrance used to say so clearly is the same.

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