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“Perhaps it is tidier to deal in false dichotomies than to face the fullness of Christ”

On Good Friday as found on the Gregorian Calendar, I give you Teague McKamey (who is, in the interest of full disclosure, my brother-in-law):

Death and resurrection cannot be separated. This may appear so obvious that saying it seems like a platitude. But what I observe quite often, in the words of others and in my own thoughts, is a dividing of these into two separate categories. Now, it is often necessary and profitable to separate them for the purpose of teaching, to gain the clarity that only comes when a thing is considered in its own right. But it is disastrous to separate these two in actual belief and in the living walk of the believer. Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to thinking of death and resurrection as different subjects. Perhaps it is tidier to deal in false dichotomies than to face the fullness of Christ. We can say with certainty that there are theologies in the church that are based on neglecting or marginalizing either death or resurrection. Protestants avoid crucifixes. Prosperity teachers make great use of 3 John 2 but can’t preach on Philippians 4:12. Christian ascetics love to fast but don’t show up to the wedding feast. In the first few centuries, the church had to vigorously stave off attempts to deny Christ’s divinity or His humanity. I wonder: is diminishing the reality of Christ’s death or Christ’s resurrection any less serious?

I’ll let you read the rest.

In addition to Teague’s observations, one can also point out that Christ’s death was a function of His humanity; the resurrection, His divinity. There are still those today who try to deny (or downplay, at least) either the crucifixion or the resurrection, and intentional or not, a concurrent denial of His humanity or divinity is the inevitable result.

Also, consider the publishers of the First Look Sunday school curriculum, who are skipping the crucifixion altogether in their Holy Week materials, and as a result, can’t talk about the resurrection either.

We have made this choice because the crucifixion is simply too violent for preschoolers. And if we were to skip the crucifixion and go straight to the resurrection, then preschoolers would be confused. […] We’re using these formative preschool years to build a foundation for that eventual decision by focusing on God’s love and telling preschoolers that “Jesus wants to be my friend forever.”

Without the crucifixion, as this letter acknowledges, the resurrection winds up meaning nothing; without the resurrection, as these people have found to be inevitable, there’s nothing left to talk about but warm fuzzies. This is an extreme which, intentionally or no, winds up meeting the opposite extreme, denial of Christ’s existence entirely, at the other end.

One thing — clearly, the Christological controversies weren’t limited to the “first few centuries.” Those “tidy false dichotomies” are still with us today — Arianism still exists, in the form of certain sects who are more common than one might realize. (Do a Google search on the words “Arius was right” and you will discover that there are at least two well-known and established, if controversial, groups who claim the teachings of Arius as their spiritual patrimony.) Gnosticism and Nestorianism, I suspect, contain teachings which many modern Christians would encounter and say, “Well, that makes sense enough to me. What was the big deal?” Iconoclasm is proudly and openly claimed by some Christians.

Orthodox Christianity likes to say, “We’re both/and rather than either/or” — Christ was fully God and fully man, for example. Teague is absolutely right — this approach is non-negotiable when it comes to the crucifixion and resurrection as well. Otherwise — as one commenter to the Touchstone posting put it — the Gospel might as well simply be, “Adam and Eve lived in this really great garden that God made for them! Noah really loved animals (and rainbows)! Jesus loved giving children hugs! The end!”

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