Friday, April 20, 2018

TTT #10 For Christians, Jesus Must be Lord as Well as Savior

In the ninth chapter of Thirty True Things . . . (TTT), I emphasize that Christians must be careful when they call Jesus “Lord,” but the following chapter accentuates what seems to be just the opposite: Christians must be careful to call Jesus “Lord” and to mean it. In other words, for Christian believers, Jesus must be Lord and not just Savior.
Confessing Jesus as Savior
For historic Christianity, nothing in all the world—or in the world beyond—is more important than being “saved” by Jesus. Although there are differences in interpretation and implementation, confessing Jesus as Savior has been the fundamental basis for Christianity through the centuries.
Beginning in New Testament times and continuing to the present, salvation in Christianity has regularly been interpreted as the redemption of human beings from the punishment of sin (eternal death, Hell) and the gift/promise of everlasting life (in Heaven).
While the Catholic Church has interpreted salvation as the result of receiving, willingly or otherwise, the sacrament of baptism, the Protestant tradition has emphasized personal confession of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation.
In both cases, though, the result of salvation was essentially the same: escape from eternal torment which awaited all the “unsaved” at the time of death.
Objecting to Jesus as Savior Only
Especially in much traditional evangelical Christianity, salvation was (is?) largely presented as a type of “fire insurance.” It was/is a very good policy to have so one will not “fry when they die.”
When I was a boy attending a conservative Baptist church, many of the revival preachers I heard were related, religiously, to the legendary “fire and brimstone” evangelists who did so much to expand the membership of evangelical churches in England and especially in the United States from the 1730s through the 20th century.
They were quite successful in expanding the number of Christians—but they were also responsible for fostering a limited view of what salvation really means.
The revivalists, as well as many (most?) local evangelical pastors, preached effectively about the certainty of escaping Hell and going to Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. Their main message was almost exclusively individualistic and otherworldly; that is, it was about the salvation of individuals from damnation upon death.
The emphasis was mostly on Jesus as Savior. Little, if anything, was said about the importance of Jesus being Lord now. Similarly, there was hardly any emphasis on the Kingdom of God. Its presence in the present world and the necessity of Christians being a conscious part of that Kingdom was seldom mentioned.
Confessing Jesus as Lord
It was the more liberal churches, and church organizations, that began emphasizing the Kingdom of God and the Lordship of Christ in ways that were largely absent in the conservative, evangelical Churches. That contrasting emphasis led to the formation of competing world organizations of churches.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) was established in 1948, and the World Evangelical Fellowship was established in 1951 and its name changed to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) in 2001.
Through the years, the WCC put more and more stress on social justice issues, but the WEA continued to emphasize that the central mission of the church should be for the primary purpose of evangelism in the traditional sense, that is, saving people for eternal life in Heaven.
As I point out in a later chapter in TTT, the best choice, in this case as in most others, is both/and rather than either/or. That is why I like the following diagram—and why I think emphasizing Jesus as Lord is important for moving traditional evangelical Christians toward the middle. 
[Please click here to read the tenth chapter of Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT) upon which this article is based.]


  1. I do like the blended concept of the center - but then I tend to be a centrist in general, serving humanity in gratitude to His Majesty. I haved face the ire of both polarities. It is better just to avoid those of the extremes and live a life of service, with Christ on one's shirt sleeve. So much of the Church prefers schism. Evangelists too frequently slam the door, and the Justice warriors are too frequently unjust. I halfway expect to face an extreme tonight at church. I hope not, but I'm prepared to walk out - I have do so in other settings.

    Side note: There is also the Catholic Rite/Sacrament of Confirmation. Just because one is baptized does not mean that one will be confirmed (some bishops do, others look for evidence). I know of several who were not believers, and just nominally Catholic, who were not confirmed, and were no longer permitted to receive the Eucharist. It is a high view of sacraments. The USCCB has affirmed this practice, although many bishops ignore it. I have met many Europeans as well who consider themselves "Christian/Catholic" although they believe in no god, let alone Christ. I consider them to generally be people of goodwill, but not Christian in any sense other than baptism. Given the choice, give me Christians (devout disciples) of goodwill. But if not, give me people of goodwill - I will still follow and serve my Lord Jesus Christ. (Of course the name Jesus being a derivative of Joshua - Savior.)

    1. I ended my book "The Limits of Liberalism" with a recommendation for forging a "radiant center." I was writing mostly about theological issues there, but I would say the same regarding the continuum presented above about evangelism and justice (which should perhaps be more properly called "action for social justice"). There are sometimes serious problems'caused by those in positions "1" or "5," but much less so with those in positions "2" or "4." But from either side, moving toward a radiant center seems to be the optimal way to go.

    2. A good point, thank you. I have only been physically threatened by those in 1 and 5, and attempt to avoid them at all costs or look for an escape. But those in 2 and 4 are good at calling names and causing disruptions. I try to avoid them unless we are working on something with which we have a mutual connecting point toward the same end. A #4 friend pulled a gun on me once thinking I was a #1 coming to attack - thankfully he noticed who I was quickly and did not pull the trigger. I have no concern about his valid desire for a good defense when threatened. We are still friends, as are several others in the 2 and 4 positions, but their are also several whom I do not trust in both camps. I'm not sure how radiant the political center is, but it does exist - I have met many, especially conservative Democrats. I do not know where the center lies in religion.

  2. Thank you for leading us through a rethinking of what we mean by "Lord and Savior." Jesus used lots of metaphors and parables trying to get us to think beyond the limited concepts of traditional terms. He uses them to leverage each other. He was not the Son of David in the way Solomon was the Son of David. Jesus was more. Jesus as Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven leads us to love and service, and away from the often implicit misuse of "Lord" as in "I am going to Lord it over you!" Too many victims of bad Christianity have heard it that way. "Salvation" has a similar issue. When salvation refers to a new believer walking through the front door of Christianity there is not much issue. However, what about the people we meet who seem to be fellow-travelers of the Kingdom of Heaven who are not professing Christians? Are there side doors, back doors, garden paths, and what not that also lead into the Kingdom of Heaven? What do we say to those Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and such who profess love and justice? Is Christ big enough to cover them? For instance, what are Christians to make of Irshad Manji, author of "Allah, Liberty and Love"? See link:

    I very much appreciated reading your full chapter 10. It has a lot to think about.

    1. Craig, thank you for reading all of chapter 10; unfortunately, not many of my Thinking Friends seem to have taken time to do that. One TF I was talked with yesterday said he thought the was more helpful than the blog article, and I would agree: it is possible to say/explain more in five pages than in 600 words. But I would rather people read a 600 word article than nothing on the subject at all.

      You asked about what Christians should make of people such as Irshad Manji, whom I was not familiar with. And although on one occasion Jesus said something that seemed to be the opposite, on one occasion he said "whoever isn’t against you is for you" (Luke 9:50. CEB). As I suggested with regard to the Kingdom of God, I believe there are people who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and who would not use the words "Kingdom of God" but who are, in fact, working for the KoG. Their work for social justice, for example, is similar to those who do such work in the name of Christ--but the results/benefits are much the same. So I say, "More power to them!"