Wrestling, Slogans and Jesus

"We're trying to figure out how does it work? And this is something the church has wrestled with for 2,000 years." That's the claim made in this video with Bill Johnson and Dann Farrelly from Bethel, as they discuss the deity and humanity of Christ. And, in one sense, they're right. Yes, the church has wrestled with the question of how Jesus is true God and true man. But they're also wrong, because in that wrestling, we haven't been left alone to "try to figure out how it works," for in that wrestling some answers have been ruled very clearly out of bounds. (And those answers which have been ruled out of bounds include both what was written in the quotations from Johnson's book cited in the video and also his attempts now in the video to clarify what he says he really meant.)

One of the problems here is the assumption that orthodox doctrine can be reduced to a slogan (in this case, that Jesus is "fully God and fully man.") But the central mysteries of the Christian faith can't be reduced to soundbite slogans. There are plenty of major heretics throughout church history who could sign up to that sound bite, but ask them a few more questions and you'll find that what they meant by it would be quite far from the orthodox faith. Nestorius, after all, was quite happy to say that Jesus was God and that Jesus was human, and yet we remember him as the Christological arch-heretic. If Nestorius can sign up to your slogan, it's very far from enough to guarantee orthodoxy!

This is one of the major reasons why Pentecostals and Charismatics need to give a lot more attention to systematic theology. The doctrine of the hypostatic union (the union in one person of the divine and human natures of Christ) is not merely a slogan, "fully God, fully man." The church has dealt with the exact questions raised by Johnson and Farrelly in the video; they're not new and so we don't need to try and work things out on the fly as if we're the first ones to think of these things.

Too often in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles we brush away any talk of persons/natures, inseparable operations, the communication of attributes, anhypostasia/enhypostasia, the unity of the single divine will, etc., as if they're silly complications. But, if we had a grasp of those issues, we wouldn't get ourselves into this sort of confusion. (You might not need to know all those words, but it would really help us to understand the concepts and issues behind them.)

In short, when we place very little value on systematic theology, then we'll get very confused about very basic issues and get ourselves into all sorts of messes! 

P.S. There are all sorts of other serious issues with this video (including the issues of truth, nuance, and accuracy in preaching, the category confusion of theological critique and personal attack/criticism, and the very nature of what preaching is supposed to be — all of which are things we need to get sorted out in the Pentecostal/Charismatic world), but one of the biggest is the serious pastoral concern that it raises, which I've briefly highlighted in this thread.