...are the ones that make the biggest difference

10.09.2006

"Master"?

In the few odd hours that are not spent with my nose deep in a nursing textbook of one variety or another (I've even had to go down to 3 days-a-week at work for the next few weeks because I was starting to fall behind, especially in pharmacology), the wife and I are trying to work through Dallas Willard's "The Great Omission". I'd never really heard of Willard until a couple of months back when Christianity Today did a piece on him and then I found this latest book prominently displayed at Border's (I haven't been there in once in the last 6 weeks at least, which is bizarre because we used to go there every weekend!) So far, the book has been quite good - asking some hard questions, pointing out some key failings in the evangelical tradition and taking a good hard look at both what the Bible and history has to say about discipleship. One passage in particular really got me thinking.

In it, Willard is addressing a group of Christian academics at a conference of some kind and asks them if what we believe about Jesus is true, how can we regard Him as anything less than the master of every field of human inquiry? How can we not regard Christ as an expert not just on 1st century Judaism and the Kingdom of God, but also literature, science, computers, or any other field of human endeavor? Willard says the responses he got were hostility to the idea as nonsensical, befuddlement and some that found it to be a key and challenging question that they took to heart. I must admit I found myself reacting in all of those ways to the question; generally confused, then wondering what sense it makes to think of Jesus as the master of nursing assistance (since I currently work as a nurse's aid) and then trying to answer that question in a positive light. I can actually see Jesus being the master of nursing assistance since primarily what I do is directly caring for the sick. It ain't real technical, believe me. But it does require care & concern, gentleness, compassion and many other requirements typically associated with Jesus' character. But what about nursing, since that's what I'm studying to be? Believe it or not, nursing is a highly technical field requiring a great deal of scientific knowledge about body processes, disease symptoms, medicines, various medical technologies, as well as the more interpersonal aspects of patient care, working with families and working under doctors. Did I ever really consider that Jesus had anything significant to say about medication administration and patient assessment?

The answer, of course, is no and I truthfully found it a difficult idea to ponder. At some levels, if felt very much the kitschy Jesus-is-my-best-friend crap that I find so very annoying. Certainly one thing I gained of appreciation of in Orthodoxy is Jesus' absolute majesty; something Protestants in general don't spend anywhere near enough time contemplating. But after I thought about it for a while, I realized that this was not actually the case. This is taking Jesus' claims to divinity - and by extension omniscience - very, very seriously. It is to recognize His lordship over all of creation, including these rather paltry human endeavors that we give so much billing to. I realized that, in fact, very few Christians ever seem to give any credence to the idea that Jesus just might have something useful to add to the field of law or computer science or research or literature, except for the moral implications of the way we behave in those fields. We have basically widdled Jesus' mastery over those areas of human thought into simple moral quidelines about the way we are to behave - am I nice to my coworkers/students/employees/customers? Am I honest in my dealings? Do I treat others fairly?

The very nature of those questions, however, clearly demonstrates that we actually give Jesus very little room in our professional lives. He is the cop who makes sure we don't break any rules instead of the map telling us where to go within that field. Indeed, instead of being the very ground upon which we trod in those pursuits. I honestly don't know how to get past that very limited kind of thinking; I'll own up to having not been very active in trying to break out of the former habits of mind if only due to busy-ness and mental fatigue. But I want to.

4 comments:

basil said...

Well, my problem with this "Jesus can play guitar better than Jimi Hendrix" position (I actually heard guys in college saying this) is that while it attempts to take Jesus' divinity seriously, it does not take his humanity seriously. In his divine nature, Jesus is fully omni-everything. In his human nature, however, he is only skilled in what he has applied himself to learn. Now, granted, he has had 2k years to practice the guitar, so perhaps he's better than Jimi. But we can't assume that he's been spending his time for the past 2k years skilling himself in whatever field we would like to imagine him mastering.

The Chalcedonian distinction between his human nature (in which is like us in every way, save sin only) and his divine nature (in which he is consubstantial to the Father) is bedrock to Christianity.

Nathan said...

Kevin -

I think if you take Willard's argument in context, he's not arguing anything like "Jesus can play guitar better than Jimi Hendrix". He's not talking about physical skills but His being "fully omni-everything" - including omniscient about music theory, computers, etc. But even so, I think you may be drawing the distinction between Jesus' human and divine natures a bit too finely. Christ's humanity has been deified by His resurrection, right? If it hasn't, then the Orthodox cannot claim to consume the entirety of Christ (body, mind, soul and spirit) in the Eucharist - His human nature would be circumscribed as ours is. With that in mind, and given Christ's glorified resurrection body (which we'll all eventually receive) then, yeah, I think Jesus probably could play better than Hendrix if He wanted to.

Hilarius said...

Our priest gave a sermon on this subject about a year ago when the Gospel passage was the one in St. Luke Ch. 5, where our Lord commands St. Peter to cast his nets in the middle of the day.

He noted that here was something that St. Peter knew about, his profession - fishing. And here's a man, a carpenter's son, telling him how to fish. And he submits his profession to the Lord - saying "nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net."

If I recall correctly, the point of the sermon was the importance to our discipleship of letting Christ into those things where we think we are the expert, rather than trying to compartmentalize our Lord's role in our life into the realm of the 'spiritual' only.

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