The downsizing of Jesus…and the hamburger


We have a little problem, a big one actually.

Somewhere along the way, Jesus and the work of the Trinity was downsized. While McDonald’s downsized the quality of the hamburger, Christians have downsized Jesus. I am not suggesting we look at a new recipe for spiritual marketing and recruiting for religion, as the antidote. I am not suggesting we work harder or try more. I am suggesting we revisit identity. The identity of God and the identity of you and me. Cheap burgers aside, we have lost God and therefore ourselves.

The word holiness permeates the landscape of the Christian definition for God. Yet we have hijacked the word holiness like McDonald’s has hijacked the hamburger. We have reduced it to a shadow of itself. Holiness in it truest sense describes “the wonder and beauty and rightness of the Trinitarian life.” We have “detached it from relationship with the Trinity and reconceived it within the world of law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice.”

“This notion of holiness was then taken back into the doctrine of God and substituted for the Trinity and the deepest truth about God.”

We had no idea the implications of such a deduction. We paved the way for a gospel that was solely about a human race that fell into sin and was “liable for punishment.” Against that backdrop, Jesus Christ came to “satisfy the holiness and justice of God.” With this definition of holiness framing the conversation, the cross focuses on the guilt of the human race placed upon Christ and God’s punishment for sin taken upon him. You can’t help but feel the personal and relational implications.

You get the sense the overarching arc of the life of Christ is satisfying the justice of God.

You can’t help but feel that somehow Jesus came to “satisfy [God’s] white – glove legalities, even to change God so we could be forgiven. The cross has suddenly replaced Jesus himself as the point of eternal significance. Jesus is the place where the divine and the human come together. He became human so that he could connect us and thus mediate his divine life to us. Forever and ever, he will be the point of meeting, the union between the life of the Trinity and us. Thus Jesus Christ, not the cross, is and will always be the center of the universe and all things.” In our downsizing of him, his suffering offers legal punishment, as the fullness of his contribution.

Wait, there is more that we have contributed to the downsizing of Jesus.

Adoption is at the heart of the Christian message, not justification. “Forgiveness is part of the message but it is not the whole truth. It is not even the main part of the story. Forgiveness serves a higher goal, the higher goal is our inclusion in the life of the Trinity.” We hear a lot about forgiveness but little about “the staggering reality of our inclusion in Jesus’ relationship with his Father and the Spirit.” With the absence of adoption we lose the secret of our existence.

In downsizing Jesus, we downsized ourselves.

In this exchange we create a whole new, and shall I add poorer, awareness of God and therefore ourselves. Like McDonald’s we have cultured people to love hamburgers that are making them sick.

“The connection Jesus forged between the Trinity and human beings is eclipsed,” when justification conceals adoption. It misses the main point. The point being that we are now part of an invited circle of relationship shared by the Father, Son and Spirit. That is our identity. As a result we have been “overtaken by the abounding philanthropy of the Triune God.” JESUS and humans returned to who we are.

By the way, Fatburger is the last great hamburger stand.

Todd Rutkowski

*All the quoted sections are taken from C. Baxter Kruger (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary, PhD, King’s College, University of Aberdeen) in his book “The Great Dance “ – The Christian vision revisited, published by Regent College.

~ by blueporch on August 27, 2010.

One Response to “The downsizing of Jesus…and the hamburger”

  1. I’m like Whimpy – I could eat burgers everyday from just about anywhere. Maybe watching Pop-Eye after school got me started, a hungry kid day-dreaming of hamburgers for dinner. What a revelation! No fast-food touches In-And-Out Burger – but it is a 12-hour marathon from Vancouver to the California boarder!

    Great quotes. My hope is that as we ask and find answers to the not-so-basic questions, “Who is Jesus?”, and “Why is He significant?” that His ministry of being our personal role model, not just saviour will change our lives practically, and maybe even Church culture in the West. When I hear or read the older slogans “Jesus is the answer” or “Jesus, the hope of the World”, this is what I think of – not just humans getting to have a clean conscience. It’s great to see newer authors like Kruger and Hirsch join the bandwagon and write about Jesus as more than our atonement, but all the other things He claims to be in the Scriptures. People have been writing this way for decades (thinking of recent Regent-connected authors: Peterson, Ringma, Wright, and Houston and his buddy James Torrance, Kruger’s teacher at Aberdeen).

    Clearly the work of the Spirit in Paul’s writings is not just to reveal Christ as saviour and our “object” of worship, but to present a resurrected, living, and ruling Conqueror of evil Who brings a transformational result, the catalyst for change at the epicentre of all human life. This could be the greatest strategy of the enemy – to keep a life-less Jesus on the cross, or only on the cross, in our thinking about, but more importantly our admiration of Him. But God’s word presses on beyond the cross to reveal the significance of the presence of Christ in us, and to the by-product of finding freedom in Him – “but the fruit of the Spirit is…”

    Unlike the hamburger, the story, life and effects of Jesus grow bigger and bigger as we look longer and more intensely at Him.

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