What's all the middle stuff for???

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Greektim, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    To piggie back off of a book I just finished:

    Many classic Christians creeds speak of Jesus' virgin birth and skip right to his death and resurrection. So if that is the important parts (the "fundamentals") then why did the 4 evangelists spend so much time on the middle part, i.e. Jesus' life and ministry? What is the theological point to it (if any)?

    What do you think?
     
  2. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,406
    Likes Received:
    99
    because our Christology isn't based solely on the limited focus of the earliest creeds. We get most of our Christology from the stuff in the middle I'd say.

    The early creeds had a limited scope, they were trying to define boundaries over clearly articulated issues and found much of answers to the heresies in the front and back matter.

    What do you think? Not being snarky, just wanted to reply simply and see where it goes. :)
     
  3. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    I am reserving the right to save my opinions for later. But honestly I don't see much of people's christology coming from the the 4 evangelists except to answer a few pet doctrines like X's humanity or divinity as if that was the point of the "middle stuff."

    The point in mentioning the creeds is not that we derive our doctrine from them, but that they do much of what we do in songs and systematic theologies - skip right over mentioning the significance of Jesus' life that is sufficient to the presentation of the 4 canonical accounts.
     
  4. revmwc

    revmwc
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Messages:
    4,037
    Likes Received:
    69
    The middle stuff is the stuff that Proves the beginning and end. If He were born of Virgin that could be and was debated. If He rose from the dead and that were the only miracle associated to Him then that too could be debated and the lie the soldiers told could be believable. But it is because He performed the miracles and taught as no other man had ever taught that we know the beginning and ending are true too.
     
  5. 12strings

    12strings
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,743
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think the focus on the middle stuff that you are referring to is not actually there.

    All 4 Gospels are extremely weighted toward the end of Jesus' life.

    Most spend at least 1/3 or almost a half on the last WEEK of his life. All focus almost exclusively on the last 3 years of his life...the ministry years. Only 2 out of 4 give any birth or childhood information.

    It seems the gospel writers had a definite theological motive in their writings...one that had the crucifixion and resurrection at its center and focus.

    The "middle stuff" is primarily Jesus Teaching and performing Healing Miracles, both of which were meant to point to and validate who he was, and what he came to do. The creeds generally focus on those two things: the Nature and the work of Christ, and so I think do not do injustice to the gospels in their short statements of doctrine. Are they exhaustive? Of course not. But I don't think they miss the point of the Gospels, but rather reflecting it.
     
  6. Gina B

    Gina B
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2000
    Messages:
    16,944
    Likes Received:
    1
    Probably a very simple answer...get the very basics out there and consider the job done. Sad but prevalent.
     
  7. 12strings

    12strings
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,743
    Likes Received:
    0
    OR perhaps in that ORAL culture, they simply wanted to make a short, memorizable statement of the basics of what they believed, making the primary points things that differentiated them from the false teachers of the day.

    I see no problem with the early creeds, they seem to put the focus where the Gospels put the focus.
     
  8. Aaron

    Aaron
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2000
    Messages:
    15,646
    Likes Received:
    223
    excellent answer. What is in the creeds is central.
     
  9. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    But what is in the creeds skip right over the majority of the evangelists' stories. It goes from birth to death without mention of X's life achievements or purposes. The creeds certainly served a specific purpose to the apologetic answer of its time, but have we Christians picked up on the creeds as if all the 4 accounts were doing was telling the story of Jesus' birth and death? If that is the case, then it was superfluous and arbitrary to add in all the middle stuff. There is more there.
     
  10. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,548
    Likes Received:
    273
    Perhaps the writers of the early creeds were cognizant of the fact that as the Prophet He had nothing to say to the Church, but was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, specifically to 'that generation'. Also, there's a whooooole lot of parables/riddles/dark sayings contained therein for the writers to come to agreement on their meaning.....
     
    #10 kyredneck, Apr 18, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2012
  11. 12strings

    12strings
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,743
    Likes Received:
    0
    So Which of the following are you suggesting?

    1. The early creeds should have included more? This would have necessarily made them longer, harder to memorize, and would not have directly addressed the contested doctrines they were meant to address.

    2. OR...The Early creeds were useful in their time, but we who are not in the midst of Arian controversies should leave the creeds to history and focus more on Jesus Earthly ministry? ...Even though the clear focus of the Gospels is on the Person, Nature, and Ultimate WORK of Christ (Death & Resurection).

    If the second, I think we could agree to a point, that the Gospels present a larger picture of the Person, teachings, and works of Christ; It isn't superfluous or arbitrary, but helps us see who Christ is, and also gives us guidance for life in God's Kingdom... but The Gospels are clearly pointing to The cross, and if we aren't sure of that, we need only to look at the rest of the NT.

    I'm not saying you are doing this, but there is an inherent danger in pitting the Gospels' teachings and miracles against the Epistles emphasis of the cross. You may start to say that the epistles also missed something by focusing too much on the cross. My take is that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, The Epistles put a focus on Jesus' most important Work: the Redeeming of souls.
     
  12. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    Suggesting neither (had to see that coming ;) )

    As to #1, the creeds included only what they needed to include to handle the debate of the day. They were more for apologetical value than for church teaching.

    As to #2, I'm not saying to throw away the creeds. My point for using the creeds is as an examplar of how many in Christianity have followed since. We focus so much on the birth (Xmas) and death of Jesus that the majority of the story in the middle seems to be superfluous.

    I think a part of this is that post-reformation evangelicalism has put far too much focus on the epistles over against the gospel accounts. I don't mean to pit them against each other, but we clearly have a canon within a canon. Pauline theology has directed much of our thought (and rightfully so as understood to its relation to the gospel accounts). But the early church relied mostly on the gospel accounts. In fact, that Jesus' message of the gospel was kingdom related, I feel we should read Paul in light of the gospel accounts (as a kingdom focus a gospel of repentance and discipleship).

    I completely agree that as a narrative, each account is leading to the climax of Jesus' death. Be that as it may, theologically speaking, it seems strange to divorce Jesus' ministry and Jesus' death as if they were not part of the same mission. If Jesus' mission was to bring God's rule to earth (i.e. set up God's kingdom), then probably the message of the gospel accounts is that Jesus' death is the means for that to take place (an already/not yet within an already/not yet). Thus, while atonement theology and X's divinity is big, that is not the thrust of the 4.
     
  13. 12strings

    12strings
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,743
    Likes Received:
    0
    1. While I can agree that The Gospels, especially Jesus' teaching, are neglected in much of our teaching and preaching; I disagree that the teaching itself is the PRIMARY focus of the Gospels. See John: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31). I believe the focus WAS on Jesus' Divinity, and His Salvation Work.

    2. While I agree that God's kingdom is currently in an "already/not yet" state on earth, ever since Jesus came...I'm not sure I would say it they way you do: "Jesus Mission was to bring God's rule to earth." IT seems saying it that way has too many problems:
    -Was God's rule not on the earth in the OT?
    -Is God's rule on earth more now than in the OT?
    -If it is spiritually, in the church, his people, then I could agree. But as to an actual earthly kingdom, I would disagree.
    -John 18:36 - Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
    -It seems Jesus made a point to say that his purpose AT THAT TIME was NOT to bring God's Kingdom to earth. His purpose for his first coming was a Spiritual one, setting up a spiritual Kingdom, the Church...and the primary way he did that was by redeeming her.

    One more thing to note: 3 years of Jesus' teaching day-in and day-out left him with 12 disciples who still didn't really understand what he was saying, fell asleep praying with him, argued about who was better, tried to stop him from being crucified, then ran away and hid, one openly cursed and denied him...IT was only AFTER his death and resurrection that they were transformed from fearful, selfish men to Bold, selfless men who would preach Christ's death and resurrection with fervor, and be willing to die for it. JESUS' DEATH AND RESURRECTION DID WHAT 3 YEARS OF HIS TEACHING COULDN'T DO!
     
  14. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    1) I do not believe I said that his teaching was the primary focus of the gospel accounts. What I meant to drive at is that there should not be this divorce between his ministry and his death. The former pointed to the latter and the latter accomplished the former.

    2) I'm not sure why you have a problem w/ the phrase "God's rule on earth." Isn't that where God's program is going in the New heavens and new earth??? God's rule will reach the "not yet" stage and be consummated as creation is renewed and restored. But even more simply, if we understood the word not as "kingdom" (which is the rare meaning of the word) and simply as "rulership" or "rule" or "reign", then it is easy to say that when Jesus preached the "kingdom of God" he was preaching God's reign or rulership (its restoration). And he was certainly preaching that God's reign would come down from heaven and spread to and through the earth ("your reign come... on earth as in heaven"). As a side note, the distinction between an earthly and spiritual one is not my point. I'm not thinking of "kingdom" in the terms of a millenniaran. I'm talking about God's righteous rule that was established in Eden but usurped by his vice-regents set up to be the king's statue image bearers. Following the story of the Bible, Jesus' mission was to restore that, which I believe he did in his ministry and through his cross-work (albeit in an incipient form).

    Your last paragraph is not really what I am arguing for. And it concerns me to see Jesus' ministry as such a waste. True enough, his disciples failed until the kingdom and Jesus' reign begun at his cross-work. But the point of his ministry is to usher in and point to that. Jesus' calling disciples is to call in people to God's reign (for God to rule in righteousness over them). THe church carried on that commission with Jesus' ascension as the vindication of all his messianic and kingly/kingdom claims.

    This then is the point. It is, imo, short-sighted to say that the middle stuff is to prove Jesus' divinity (in the systematic theology sense rather the biblical theology sense) or simply the salvation work. The Bible is larger that God redeeming humanity. It is about God restoring his creation (humans being a part of that). Jesus' death and resurrection didn't just secure salvation for his people, it began the new creation (Jesus as the firstfruits and we who are "in Messiah" are new creations old things passed away). As we await the kingdom so too do we wait for the day when new creation reaches its culmination. This is the drama of the Bible. When we see the grand picture, we see how the middle stuff fits right into this. But if we only rely on Pauline theology (separated from the big picture), then we are only wanting to see atonement theology (rarely ever mentioned in the 4) or Jesus' divinity (though there in the 4, the point is to show the God of Israel coming down to man once again re-establishing his blessed presence as he did in the garden, tabernacle, and temple - Jesus is the new temple!).

    Long post... sorry.
     
    #14 Greektim, Apr 18, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2012
  15. 12strings

    12strings
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,743
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'll try to insert brief responses before this gets too long...

    I would agree with what you say here, I Guess I just don't see what it is exactly that you would change about the way we approach Jesus and/or his ministry. Perhaps an example would help.

    I think God IS moving history toward its full end in a new heaven and new earth; I was just saying it's not here yet, not fully. I believe Jesus' ministry was an introduction to the kingdom, and a model of it; But It was the cross that created a people (the church) that could begin to live in that way, albeit weakly.

    I'm not saying it was a waste, I'm saying it was not the PRIMARY reason he came...AND that it in itself would not have provided for us what we needed.

    I'm not sure I disagree with anything here.
    I'll just say that Humans were and are the Highlight of God's creation, and that His relationship with creation centers on humans, was wrecked by humans, and redeeming humans seems to be at the center of his work of redeeming creation.

    Again, I guess I would ask what exactly you would like to see different about our teaching and/or application of the things you are talking about.
     
  16. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    My point it to emphasize the 4 over the epistles for a start. Also to understand Jesus' ministry (the story of the 4) with more than just his death. Yes the story is climaxed at his death, but the story as a whole is not his death, it is about "God becoming king." His death achieves that.


    But it is so vastly important to see that Jesus' ministry was so kingdom focused, that God is restoring his reign. That message and announcment of God's rule was his mission. It was accomplished on the cross. Again, I don't think his mission and death should be divorced. Although his ministry has no redeeming merit to it, it is still essential to the 4's account and theology of Jesus presenting God's re-establishing his rule on earth. Their theology is not atonement (if it is, it is only a small small portion). Their theology is that Jesus' mission was to set up God's kingdom which he ultimately did through the cross.


    I'm not saying it was the primary reason either. I'm saying that it was an essential part of the evangelist story of God establishing his rule on the earth. And therefore, we should treat it with more than lip service or as an apologetic for atonement theology and Jesus' deity.


    I would only qualify that b/c of God's revelation is to humans that it may appear that at the center of his work is to redeem humans as a part of his creation. But perhaps we have too narrow view of God's redemption plan or too high view of ourselves. While we were created in the image of God, that has more to do w/ our mission as God's vice-regents than being the "highlight of God's creation." God's plan in creation was always an eschatological one, to move his creation to perfection.

    My point here is that we abuse and ignore the 4 accounts as if they don't even matter, or if they do matter, it is only to prove something tertiary to the message of the 4 accounts. Their purpose was to present a truth that started in the OT, in the garden -- that God is becoming king again. The God of Israel is doing that by taking up residence once again in Jesus ("in" is not a spatial term here). Jesus' ministry was to fulfill Israel's mission to bless the nations (Paul calls that the gospel). Jesus introduces and establishes God's reign once again. It is proved by his resurrection and vindicating ascension to God's right hand position.

    Very little of the 4 accounts have to do with "accept Jesus as your Savior" or "Jesus paid for your sins." That may be there, but it is subtle and in the background. The foreground is much different. And so I am saying our theology and even understanding of the epistles should reflect the point of the gospel accounts - God is bringing about his new creation kingdom reign through Jesus. That is the message of the 4 accounts when read in light of the metanarrative of Scripture.
     
  17. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    Time to fess up...

    I just finished reading N. T. Wright's book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels.

    It was an excellent read. If you would rather watch a 1 hr lecture that summarizes the book well, you can watch it online: http://www.calvin.edu/january/2012/NTWright.htm .

    I know some people hate Wright here, but if you gave him a chance (watch the video!), you'd see that he is reading Scripture well and has brought the focus of God's kingdom to the forefront of the message of Scripture. That's where we need to be.
     
  18. HeirofSalvation

    HeirofSalvation
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
    Messages:
    1,962
    Likes Received:
    1
    As far as what the Bible itself focuses on.....fully a third or more of all the gospels focus on the Last week of his life....with about 5 chapters each exclusively on the passion portion of it. That is what is most important.....the way I see it, his "teachings" were only novel inasmuch as they focused on what his individual purpose and what his individual accomplishment was to be in wrapping the whole of revealed Scripture into focus. As for basic Scriptural living was concerned...the rest of revealed Scripture (taken as a whole) explains the bulk of what we need to know. If we are to remember him, he says..."remember my death" He was not here to supercede the law, to teach us a new law, or anything else....was here to DO something....which he told us to look back into the rest of the Scriptures to understand.
    As C.S. Lewis said.... (paraphrased) "He is either God almighty, or he is a liar or a lunatic....because he claimed to BE God, but let us have no foolish notions about him being a great moral teacher....he did not leave us that option, nor did he intend to." (paraphrased).

    This is not to be understood heretically, but given what I said above..Ghandi, Confuscious, Marcus Aurelius....even Buddha (in his own weird way) gave us more practical wisdom and teaching than Christ did. God gave us Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles to teach us how to live; He gave us HIMSELF to set us free.
     
  19. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    Hey... my folks live in Ocala...

    I'm not sure that your math is accurate or at least conveys what you want it. For instance, Mark starts the passion week in chpt. 11. So 11-16, 6 of 11 chapters. Wowza! But most of it is on his teaching and kingdom ministry. Only 2 of 11 are on his death and resurrection (not that chapters matter since they weren't there originally). Again, the climax of the narrative in all 4 accounts is the death and resurrection. Taken narrativally, one would not understand the death and resurrection of Jesus were it not for his kingdom mission before it. We bring to the accounts so much theology and baggage that the writers themselves did not mean to display. And so, to understand the accounts as intended by the writers themselves with their proper theological motives, it needs to be read in light of itself before adding on the epistles. After all, they are just continuing Jesus' ministry to make more kingdom disciples. So the accounts direct interpretation for the epistles. Yet it is so often the reverse.
     
  20. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,406
    Likes Received:
    99
    Well I'm not sure what you mean by "most people's Christology" but the reasonable Christology I read draws on the deep well that is the complete presenation of Christ in the whole of all four Gospels plus other NT works.

    The creeds had a limited scope, primarily developed to respond to the heresies of their day and rest as static doctrinal engagements. When I read developed Christologies I see there is a lot of the middle stuff that supports and bolsters the limited claims found in the creeds. There are plenty of examples too. Take Jesus' series of "I AM" statement in GJohn, or His interactions with demons in the Synoptics, or His discourses on ethics in GLuke & GMatt. I think there is a lot more than there than we give them credit for often.

    I can't help but note that a lot of songs in Christianity are pretty shallow period. However, I can have trust in the stuff of the beginning and end by seeing Christ's character and ministry in the middle.

    Hmmm...maybe we're identifying the middle differently. I don't know, maybe. Obviously we have no data on Jesus' life between (essentially) 18 months and c. 30 years old. (Maybe a slice in GLuke.) But the picture we have of Him that comprises the "middle" of the Gospels (which I believe is His earthly life and ministry) is significant for our understanding of Him theologically. Now if you're speaking of the time between 2-30 years old...I don't know why we don't have that data. :)
     

Share This Page

Loading...