He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
The church has become uncertain of Jesus, even uncomfortable with him. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the issue has surfaced whether Jesus is Savior, or whether God alone is Savior. Is Jesus the means of salvation for all humanity, Christians or otherwise? Or is he simply an expression of salvation, one among other possible expressions? The Christian gospel differs most radically from all other religions in the doctrine of the Incarnation. Yet it also seems true that the church is scandalized by the Incarnation no less than the world is.
Believers inevitably experience anguish whenever the church reopens the question of the significance of Jesus Christ. We instinctually sense that the foundation of salvation is in trouble. And it is. If the history of the church teaches us anything, however, it teaches that the foundation of salvation is endangered in every generation.
A History of Embarrassment
Church history is sadly replete with a tendency to forsake Christ—often with subtle theological sophistication. I am not thinking only of the great Christological heresies of the second through fourth centuries, in which every conceivable option to the dogma of the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ was advanced and entertained. Those controversies exposed a tendency in the early church that has remained to the present, even if subsequent expressions of it are less dramatic than Athanasius's battle with the Arians.
Many medieval theologians replaced Christ with the church and its alliance with Western culture known as "Christendom." During the ...1