John Franke on the Uniqueness of Christ

As we approach the celebration of Christ’s incarnation, John Franke has written a piece for Christianity Today, inspired by his latest book, Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth, that tackles Jesus as “the way,” “the truth,” and “the life,” while maintaining his postmodern posture towards certainty.

Jesus Christ is the living embodiment of God’s gracious character as the One who loves. This love is not an abstract notion or a set of feelings, but is rather characterized by the action of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Commitment to Jesus as the Way means we do not presume to know the nature of divine love ahead of time. We certainly do not let our culture tell us what love is. Rather, our understanding of true love, the love of God, is shaped by the particular way in which God loves in and through Jesus Christ.

Read the whole essay in CT.

  • http://www.christianengineer.org Joe Carson

    I read it and my reaction was primarily “lots of nice sounding words that have little connection to the facts on the ground on planet earth in late 2009.”

    I think Christian focus on God ought to be on his role as Creator – absent that role, none of the others make any sense – and connect Christ to God’s intentions as Creator – not only of universe, but of planet earth and mankind, his image bears and “creation-caring for creatures.”

    If Franke got out of ivy tower and explored empirical facts of life and human existence, I think this article would be quite different – he certainly has a sharp mind.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    After giving a strong, unequivocal endorsement of the uniqueness and significance of Jesus the Messiah, John Franke then makes a plug for the plurality of Christian theology:

    “The [theological] diversity of the church is not a problem to be solved but is, in fact, the blessing of God. Indeed, the proper expression of orthodox biblical faith can only be characterized by plurality. But in the midst of our diversity, we must remain unified on this point – Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (CT, Dec. 2009, 31).

    While I appreciate that Jesus is the center of his faith, Franke leaves me wondering, “Which Jesus and which of His teachings?” If our theological “plurality” is a “blessing of God,” perhaps we shouldn’t try to nail down what He was trying to say? Perhaps instead, it’s more blessed to hold contradictory beliefs about His teachings?

    If instead Franke had said, “Theologian unity and certainty are difficult or even impossible to attain on the less-than-central issues, because we see in part. Therefore, we have to exercise a high degree of tolerance for theological nuances,” I would offer a resounding, “Amen!” However, for him, it seems that this plurality (and the accompanying uncertainty) is something to be extolled and perhaps even tenaciously guarded.

    There also seems to be an element of incoherence built into this position. Perhaps reflecting his pluralistic position, Franke writes,

    “Truth is not finally to be found in abstract notions or theories, but rather in the Person of Jesus Christ, the unique son of God and the living embodiment of truth” (28).

    While the vast majority of Christians would agree that Jesus is “the living embodiment of truth,” we would also regard His teachings as “truth,” along with our attempts to capture His teachings in our own English translations. However, Franke seems to want to divide Jesus – Jesus alone is the truth – from His teachings and everything we or the Apostles might say about them.

    However, this division works against his writings, mere “abstract notions or theories.” We are tempted to ask Franke, “If your own writings do not reflect theological truth, why should you expect anyone to read or listen to them. If the plurality of opinions is a virtue, instead of arriving at the truth of Jesus’ teachings, why have you even written in favor of one point of view? Why not instead a pluralistic hodge-podge of contradictions?”


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