I’ve talked about various issues related to doctrinal differences between denominations and individual Christians. Those are important, but not faith shattering. The foundation of the Christian faith rests on how one question is answered.
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29
Who do you say that Jesus is? That is the question. I used to think I knew who he was. Jesus Christ, Emanuel, God with us. The God-Man, born of a virgin, second of the trinity, God himself wrapped in flesh, Savior of the world who died as a propitiation for my sins, was buried, and raised again to life everlasting at the right hand of God the Father. The perfect, spotless lamb, the sacrifice in my stead. Because of the sin of the one man, Adam, God sent his own son into the world to become sin for us, for me, so that we might have eternal life, joint heirs with him, adopted into the family of God through Christ. And all I had to do was believe it.
The problem? Suddenly none of that makes any sense to me. I don’t know who Jesus is. Is he all of that? Or is all of that embellishment and exaggeration? I’m about to embark on reading Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God. Somehow I think I could read a thousand books and still wonder who Jesus is. An apocalyptic prophet? A martyr? God in the flesh? Therein lies a problem. That’s a question that must first be answered before I can even begin to worry about the doctrinal issues I have.
I’m just not sure that Jesus is God in the flesh. That doesn’t mitigate the possibility of there being a God, and it certainly doesn’t mean there is no value at all in scripture. It just means that Christianity may not be all that I once believed it to be. But at the most basic level being a Christian isn’t just about following the teachings of Jesus. It is about believing that he is the divine, perfect, spotless sacrifice for all of mankind. If I don’t believe that I don’t believe myself to be a Christian in the true sense of the word.