Unfortunately, the comments section of The Mennonite online is currently closed. So I will post below my thoughts in response to a recent essay there by Don Blosser, retired pastor and professor of New Testament at Goshen College, entitled, “Let’s Let Jesus Speak for Himself.”
Don Blosser has correctly and eloquently described the tendency to divorce ethics and service from the gospel proclamation, and salvation after death from discipleship in this life, along with their destructive effects. Thanks! We always need to hear such a warning. But I fear that, by prioritizing conduct over creed, practice over proclamation, and discipleship over doctrine, effectively pitting them against each other, as his essay seems to do, he has substituted one destructive dichotomy for another. It is a mirror image of the theological and spiritual vivisection that he rightfully decries. Either kind will leave the subject dead. Doctrine at its best only describes relationship, and has everything finally to do with doing. We can discount or disparage doctrine only by being as doctrinaire as the dogmatism we disparage.
The only Jesus we have is the Jesus of the Bible and the apostolic preaching and teaching about him. That preaching and teaching (yes, as missionaries) is as much about how Jesus saves us, and what Jesus save us from, as it is about what Jesus saves us for (yes, discipleship, justice and peacemaking). This was not just to appeal to understandings of sacrifice among ancient audiences, as Blosser says. Something about biblical language and practice of sacrifice points to and arises from the very nature of the Triune God, in whom is “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).” My discipleship never being radical, faithful or pure enough, I require mercy and grace as both empowerment and forgivenessl coming from the supremely self-giving Savior, as well as the ethical example and teachings of this Savior. Otherwise, why call him “Savior?”