Defending “Jesus Manifesto” – Part 1

I want to take a moment today to talk about a recent controversy against Jesus Manifesto and the site’s editor Mark Van Steenwyek. The controversy basically stems from his understanding of the gospel and other Christians who understand the gospel differently. On his site, he tried to start a dialogue with the very Christians who were attempting to say his way of viewing the gospel was wrong. One read, Chris, had this to say:

“I simply fear that the Jesus Manifesto and like movements turn Christ into nothing more than a teacher–granted an exalted teacher, the best teacher–but a teacher nonetheless, downplaying His Divinity and His Lordship. We focus so much on the human Jesus of Matthew 5, that we forget the exalted King of Colossians 1.”

Because Chris mentioned Colossians, I went back and read the first chapter as he suggested I do. What I found was a beautiful description of Jesus Christ as the ultimate power who has reconciled all people to himself through his blood shed on the cross. I doubt Mark or any other member of the emerging church would disagree with such beautiful language. Christ has begun a process by which all things are coming back to God, and as Paul says elsewhere “all creation” is eagerly expecting the culmination of things to come.

I don’t want to speak for other Christians who disagree with Mark and others, but it seems those like Chris have those such as Van Steenyek quite backwards. The emergents, as far as I understand them, believe Jesus to be not only a good teacher, but the Lord of this universe with complete power. What many Christians who, like Chris, really seem to mean is that they view Jesus as Lord, but view his teachings as secondary to his Lordship. I do not count myself as among an emergent church (if such a church does indeed exist I have not been entirely convinced), but they do seem to suggest that Jesus’ teachings and his Lordship are one in the same. To this end I heartily agree.

Jesus, as far as I have understood him in my own context, did not call the disciples to be Christians in the modern sense of the word, but to be members of his society, where Jesus’ rule of law won out. This is to say, that where Jesus’ follower are, his way of viewing the world would also win out. What am I suggesting? Where there is hunger, Jesus would offer food. Where there is thirst, Jesus would offer water. Where there is sin, Jesus offered healing. As his followers, we should do no less. In fact, if one reads the gospels closely, Jesus suggests that his disciples would do even greater things than he was presently doing through the power of the spirit.

In my next post in this series I will deal with the differing understandings of gospel, and why this has created a debate amongst different circles of Christianity.


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