the bloke who tried to help: david dark offers a few thoughts on jesus
today, via @EmergentVillage, i came across a video (from 2008…so this isn’t exactly breaking news…) of author david dark laying out a really beautiful christology. it was one of those things where i couldn’t quit thinking about its implications long after i watched it, so naturally, it was worth sharing here.
i actually don’t know a lot about dark except he’s married to indie singer/songwriter sarah masen and that he authored the highly-recommended the sacredness of questioning everything. beyond those things, i see him referenced by many theologians/thinkers that i respect quite a bit, so that’s typically a good sign. 🙂
in the video, he begins by relaying the story of going to see stand-up comedian eddie izzard, who was performing in his hometown of nashville. izzard says that he doesn’t believe that jesus is actually god, but rather, a “bloke who tried to help.” in thinking about this statement, dark offers a really worthwhile and beautiful christology.
here’s the video:
i was struck by many things, but the thing that stood out most is the idea of a faith that singularly affirms jesus’ death, rather than his fruitful life and ministry. i can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard pastors and leaders and just regular old armchair theologians state something closely akin to the following:
Never preach a message that would still be true if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross– that’s just giving advice.
the point here isn’t to call out ed stetzer (despite his proclivity to regularly say things that i consider very reductionist and narrow) or a particular person or a particular brand of theology. rather, he offers a statement that i’ve heard many, many times. and i just don’t believe it’s helpful, to say the least.
now please, don’t get me wrong. i 100% affirm that things drastically change if not for the death and subsequent resurrection of jesus. drastically. i mean, that completely upends the entire foundation of the faith. so, please hear me out here. i’m simply saying that it does a grave injustice and undermines the life and ministry of jesus to make a statement like that.
jesus’ radical love for the least of these would still be powerfully salient without his death. different, yes, but still powerfully beautiful. jesus’ shocking mercy for the broken still carries a tremendous amount of world-changing possibility without his death. different, yes, but still incredible. jesus’ choice of peaceful surrender rather than violent upheaval is a much-needed value even without the reality of his death. different, yes, but still undeniably crucial to a better world.
it’s striking to me that when jesus is asked what it takes to enter the kingdom of god, he doesn’t mention “personal salvation” or anything about the cross or some other reference to his death. rather, jesus re-affirms one of the most intrinsic teachings of his life: finances. what does it take? it takes selling all your possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor. whereas these things are absolutely related to his eventual death and resurrection, those things aren’t the fundamental thing jesus points to. it’s the simple (yet not so simple), every day things—the life of jesus things—that he points to.
and so it is with dark’s christology. he hits the nail on the head by affirming a christology that doesn’t just cheapen jesus by making him a “ticket or a barcode” to heaven and saying that we’re “washed in the blood”. rather, a high christology says that when we actually follow jesus and engage others like jesus and live out the way of jesus, we honor christ. by actually helping to be a part of the kingdom “here on earth, as it is in heaven”, we make jesus more than just a stand-in for our personal sins or a puppet for a cruel finality.
jesus’ death is inseparably crucial to following in the way of jesus, but we most lift up jesus as lord when we actually honor his life. that is the kind of jesus i want to serve and follow.