For Christians, Jesus not optional


This Speakout is in response to several of Carl Kline’s recent opinion pieces.

Kline, speaking of Jesus, says “much of the Christian community has so divinized his life”, and “they give Jesus special status as “the Son of God.” It’s not clear if Kline is saying Jesus is not divine, or we’re all divine, or Jesus isn’t necessarily any more divine than we are, or if he’s just noting that many don’t follow Jesus’ example. The Bible reveals that Jesus is fully God and at the same time fully man, and Jesus makes clear that there is a distinction between him and us. Jesus said to some of his critics, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8:23b.

Kline incorrectly claims that Christ dying for our sins didn’t become “center stage of Christian theology” until the third century. “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, and 17, written by Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, about A.D. 55. 

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19, written by Peter the apostle about A.D. 64. 

Isaiah, prophesying about Jesus the Messiah long before Jesus was born, said of him “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6. 

So we see that the death by crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been the central core of Christianity. “The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Kline contends “At its heart, the Christian tradition is about the fullness of a person who is able to fully surrender self in service to others.” This concept is often referred to as the social gospel, which focuses on people while mostly ignoring God. Someone asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39. Kline overlooks the first, which Jesus said is the most important. Jesus indicated we should obey both commandments, not just the second.

Kline states that Jesus “doesn’t refrain from teaching and preaching the consequences of injustice and selfishness.” 

True, nor does he refrain from preaching the consequences of unbelief. Jesus stated, “That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24.

But Kline continues his quest to try to make Jesus into what Kline wants him to be: Optional.

Jesus stated, referring to himself, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18.