Dave forwards to the HB a comment from a friend, who shall remain anonymous:
I have a personal relationship with Christ but my Christ is not an ass and He wants everyone to do what makes them happy including gays being allowed to marry
This statement is rich with false assumptions and error but will reward us for paying some attention to it because it captures the “spirit of the age” (Zeitgeist) perfectly. If we understand what this statement says and implies and why it is fundamentally and thoroughly false we may avoid being taken “captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8)
What we have here is a series of truth claims. Our writer is telling us that she knows things, propositions that are, as distinct from those that are not. She does not say, “What I think might but true but it is subject to further evaluation. ” She’s saying that she knows with an apparently high degree of certainty several things to be true.
How does she know and what does she know? Notice that she does not begin with revelation (either natural or special). She doesn’t begin with “God says” or “Scripture says.” Rather, she begins with the tell-tale subjectivist qualifier, “personal relationship with Christ….” That’s evangelical code for “I am a Christian” and it’s not inherently objectionable. After all, we are persons and Christ is a person and if we do really know him, then we must know him personally. In that sense, all knowledge is personal knowledge (Michael Polyanyi). Is there any other way to know him or anything? Humans only know things, propositions, and persons personally. We cannot know Christ impersonally can we? We know about him (historical knowledge or notitia) but if he has revealed himself Holy Scripture and we trust that he is true and that what he has said is true (assensus) and if we trust that it is true not only generally but also for us personally for us (fiducia), then, presumably every believer has a “personal relationship with Christ” but which Christ?
I ask because she qualifies the person with whom she has a “personal relationship” with the odd expression “my Christ.” This is a deadly qualifier. When I was a pagan, under the influence, as it were, of the doctrines of Alcoholic Anonymous, where it is confessed that we have put our trust in “God as I conceive of him” it was orthodoxy to speak of “God as I understand him” or “my God” as distinct from “your God.” Implied in this way of thinking and speaking is that we are not necessarily referring to a God who is objective to me, who exists regardless of my experience. The intended implication of this way of speaking is that “You have your god and I have mine.” As the Beatles sang and my Pol Sci prof Bob Miewald used to say [warning archaic and decidedly unhip cultural reference coming in 3, 2, 1], “Whatever gets you through the night….” In this view there’s no claim that “my god” is actually, objectively true but only that it is of sufficient psychological value to help one remain sober or sane. We were never to ask “But is it objectively true?”
Thus, “my Christ” should be troubling because the starting point is not Christ as he has revealed himself in Scripture or as he is confessed in the catholic creeds. The starting point is not that which is outside me and comes to me. Rather the starting point is that which is inside me and particularly inside my imagination. Scripture has a very low view of “God as I conceive of him” or “my Christ:”
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:29–31)
This was Paul’s message to the Athenian Philosophical Society at the Areopagus. He knew Christ personally. He had an intensely personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Nevertheless, he also knew and taught that the subjective and personal does not obliterate the objective. The Christ who confronted him on the road to Damascus was not a figment of Paul’s imagination nor was he the product of psychosis. He really and truly existed.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. (Acts 9:3–7)
Paul’s encounter with Christ was personal and public. It was personal but witnessed by others. The Jesus who spoke to him was not the creation of his imagination, it was the same Christ who had been crucified and raised. By persecuting the church Paul was persecuting the Christ who actually is. Paul did not go to Christ, as it were. Christ came to him.
So, persons do receive and interpret truth but the acts of reception and interpretation are not the same as the act of creation. The Christ he preached to the pagan philosophers was not “my Christ” but the Christ, that same Christ who was
…conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried…the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead (Apostles’ Creed, articles 3–7)
The Christ Paul whom announced and declared was not a figment of his subjective experience but the Christ who is and who is objectively true and who will objectively return and judge everyone on the basis of an objective, plainly revealed moral law known by all (Romans 1–3).
In that same speech, Paul also argued that God is the Creator. He is objective to us. In the words of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God….” In the beginning, before we were, God was and there was nothing else. Everything else that ever was is contingent upon God and he was and is and shall be contingent upon no one. He is that he is (Exodus 3). He just is and we are because he created us. He spoke ex nihilo (from nothing, i.e., matter is not eternal) into nothing and by the power of his Word made all that is (John 1:1–3).
So, creation is personal. It was spoken by divine a person, and accomplished through the agency of the second divine person and with the help of the third divine person of the one Triune God hovering over the face of the deep (Gen 1). Yet, creation is objective to us. We did not make it. We were made. We experience it but our experience of it does not define it. God defines it and us. He says what it is. Our vocation is to name his creation in obedience to his definition of it.
Now out of the ground the Yahweh Elohim had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would name them. And whatever the man named every living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19).
The business of naming is a high calling but it was to be done in submission to him who spoke first. God’s speech is creative and our speech is, as it were, only re-creative. We re-assemble what God has already created. That is why nominalism is so cruel, because it breaks the stable, divinely intended, analogical relation between God’s Word and ours. It seeks to make the creature into the Creator. Adam’s naming wasn’t arbitrary. God gave him the gift of language and he was use that gift in submission to and for the honor and glory of the Creator of language. He was to imitate his Creator.
Thus, “my Christ“ is an idol. The Christ is the Word (1 John 1:1). He is objectively true. His Word is objectively true. He was known with the senses. He was actually, physically, empirically verifiable. The Apostles touched him. They heard his Word. They watched him perform miracles. They saw him risen from the dead (Matt 28) and they watched him ascend to the Father (Acts 1). “My Christ” doesn’t exist. He is, by definition an idol, a figment of the factory of idols (Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8).
Next time: Idolatry has consequences