Thursday, March 11, 2010

Checking Jesus at the Door

A while back my friend attended a Christian college. He needed to fulfill a general education requirement in the social sciences, so he signed up to take a psychology course called “Mental Disorders.”  He expected some consideration of the Christian view of the human psyche but the very first day in class set him straight: “There are certain psychological problems,” the professor intoned, “That cannot be fixed by prayer.  That’s what we will be talking about.”  Prayer, Christianity, faith, the Bible or Jesus were never mentioned again during the semester.  In effect the professor said: “Enough with Christianity, let’s get down to how things really work.”

Poor Jesus.  Each day, at workplaces all across North America, he gets checked at the door.  I’ve begun to imagine high-rise office buildings where Christians can stash Jesus in a cloakroom off the lobby before getting on the elevator and heading up to their law offices, accounting practices, engineering firms, insurance companies, and investment bullpens.  Most of these businesses probably have a Christian fish in their logo.

In his essay, Jesus the Logician, Dallas Willard points out the separation between Jesus and the real world:
“There is in our culture an uneasy relation between Jesus and intelligence, and I have actually heard Christians respond to my statement that Jesus is the most intelligent man who ever lived by saying that it is an oxymoron . . . How could we be his disciples at our work, take him seriously as our teacher there, if when we enter our fields of technical or professional competence we must leave him at the door?”
What about it?  Is he the smartest guy ever, or what? And if he’s so smart, why wouldn’t he have something to say about how to get the job done?

Yes, we respond: Jesus can remind us to tell the truth and be kind to small animals--but what does he know about estimating the raw materials required for this construction site?  But what if Dallas Willard is right?  What if Jesus was--and is--the smartest guy alive?  What will he say to us as everyday followers?  Was the Apostle Paul merely engaging in flowery speech when spoke of Jesus, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)

The calling of a disciple is to make life application in Christ.  Jesus was a carpenter, true--but what if he was a doctor?  Jesus is looking for someone today to demonstrate the answer.  What if Jesus was a marketing executive? Or a car salesman?  Or a wife and mother? These are no idle questions. They go to the heart of our life in Christ and our calling to put him on display in the human situation.  When my friend’s (Christian) psychology professor exempted the life of God from consideration of the human psyche, she set herself on a course to ignore the surest reality in her field.  Willard recommends the Christian faith because it helps you integrate with reality.  After all, who created the human psyche?

This issue is significant for individual Christians but also for the church at large.  Christian books pour forth daily, dealing with every conceivable life issue: marriage, family, business, personal discipline.  Many of these well-meaning treatments look to “the latest” results of research, science or technology and attempt to baptize secular learning with Biblical window-dressing, much like the Christian psychology professor who presumes that the faith is unable to speak to her discipline.  If, in fact, all the treasures and wisdom of his age are hidden in Jesus Christ, shouldn’t he be the first place we look? Why do we turn to  “objective” sources of research or academia only to apply a Christian wrapping paper after coming to our conclusions?

How can we make application in Christ?  How can we discover the hidden treasures of wisdom in him?
  • Recognize Jesus the Wellspring: Jesus is our model. Not a “spiritual model,” or “ethical model.” He is simply the source of all wisdom and knowledge.  Those who recognize the Source will turn to him first and ask for revelation from him before examining other sources.
  • Trust the Biblical record: In my opinion the downside of Biblical scholarship in our age has been distrust of the scripture’s inspiration.  To recognize the God-breathed nature of the Bible does not limit the text to one and only one meaning, but instead opens it up to the possibility that the infinitely intelligent and creative God has placed more and more in the Bible for us to discover.
  • Look for the Living, Resurrected Lord: Jesus, the smartest guy who ever lived, is alive today.  Not only alive, he is accessible: he promised that he shows up whenever two or three get together in his name.  He--and his wisdom--are not remote.  His treasure-trove of wisdom and knowledge is, among other things, mediated by his Spirit and found in the communion of the believers who assemble in his keeping.
  • Look for His witness in so-called “Secular” Wisdom: Proverbs depict Jesus as the Wisdom of God, dancing daily in the Father’s sight, rejoicing in the creation of the world (Proverbs 8).  Jesus is Lady Wisdom in the marketplace. Jesus, the wisdom of God, delights in the Father’s creative genius whether that genius is discovered in worship or in Wall Street.
What we must not do is check Jesus at the door.  He is, in fact, the Wellspring of wisdom and truth beyond our imaginations.


  1. Thanks for this Ray. It's easy to forget that Jesus is Lord over our work and our minds and that he can direct us in these pursuits.

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  3. My pleasure, Ed. Especially as writers--we really should look for his wisdom and direction!

  4. Thanks for this Ray. It's easy to forget that Jesus is Lord over our work and our minds and that he can direct us in these pursuits.

  5. My pleasure, Ed. Especially as writers--we really should look for his wisdom and direction!