“Jesus Is: Find a New Way to be Human”

Judah Smith finds an Old Way to be Wrong!


The Christian Post (CP) recently conducted an interview with Judah Smith, lead pastor of The City Church in Seattle, WA. The focus of the interview is Smith’s new book. Apparently, Smith heard from God on Oct. 27th, 2007. According to Smith, it was so clear that it was almost audible. From this experience comes Smith’s new book, “Jesus is: Find A New Way to be Human.” I have not read the book, and in fact, I have no intentions of reading it. I am simply too busy reading good books to waste my time reading, what amounts to be, a really, really bad one from what I can tell.

The grand revelation of this book seems to be that Jesus is Grace. Grace is a person. Grace is not some abstract principle. Grace is not just divine favor, no. Grace is a person. Jesus is Grace. Smith’s revelation can be summed up in simple terms: John 1:17 says that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth come by Jesus Christ. According to Smith, because grace precedes truth in John’s sentence, grace is more important than truth. Jesus is grace before He is truth. Smith says that grace is always first in the biblical order. The argument would flow as follows:

Whatever is mentioned first in the biblical order is of higher significance.
Grace is always before truth.
Therefore, grace is the most significant aspect of Christ or Scripture (I suppose)
 
One does not even have to leave John 1 before questions arise as a result of Smith’s assertion. All one has to do is move from John 1:17 to John 1:1 to realize that truth has actually been mentioned prior to grace. The word is Jesus, and in John 17:17, the word is also defined as the truth, as is Jesus in John 14:6. Therefore, John mentions truth several verses before he mentions grace. Before we can even get started, Smith’s thesis has serious problems. In addition, there is no exegetical support for Smith’s claim. Word order can point to an author’s intention to emphasize that word, but to invoke a rule that this is always the case is simply a hasty generalization that has no basis in Scripture nor in sound exegetical principles.

If Smith’s principle is true, then it must hold true for every other aspect of divine truth as well. For instance, it should hold when we compare love with other aspects of Christian faith. However, 1 Cor. 13:13 would indicate this principle simply is not true. Paul says there remains faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love. Even though love is mentioned last, it is said to be the greatest of the three.

In John 14:6, Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Here, Jesus doesn’t even bother to mention grace. What does this mean? It means nothing at all in terms of the relationship of grace in our salvation or in any other way. Scripture is not some toy that God gave us so that we could come up with new and clever ways to say really cool things and look hip in front of our congregations.

Judah Smith’s thesis is absurd. To be as direct as I can, there is absolutely no reason to argue that John is elevating grace over truth because he mentioned grace first in the order of things. This is sheer arbitrary nonsense. Secondly, John never called Jesus grace. Grace is an act, not a person. Grace is a disposition of the divine Patron toward unworthy benefactors. God extends grace to us. There is no exegetical warrant for Smith to personify grace. It is an illegitimate practice that should garner serious rebuke. Not one writer ever said that Jesus Christ is grace, nor did any NT author ever say that grace is Jesus Christ.

Finally, it is impossible to miss yet one more attack on truth. It is a false dichotomy to set grace up over against truth. Even the attempt to say that grace is more significant than truth is a truth claim that even Smith would argue is significant. Even if one were to claim that Smith is referring to the properties of propositions, it still holds that his statement itself is also a proposition. It is always an illegitimate practice to downgrade one part of Scripture, one part of revelation, or one aspect of God in order to elevate another.
Exegesis is an investigation of Scripture that is guided by a specific set of rules that reflect norms in communication. God has spoken to us by His Son Jesus Christ and He has expressly given to us the record of this phenomenon in the pages of a divinely inspired set of documents we call the Bible. Ethical standards demand that we approach the sacred text of Scripture with extreme care giving to it the respect and admiration it deserves. Judah Smith, along with many young and restless pastors in contemporary times, seems to take up the text with the same degree of appreciation they show to a work of fiction. To claim that Jesus is grace and to arbitrarily assert that grace is more significant than truth because John placed it first is simply false.

Comments

  1. Did you read where the Bible says that the Grace of God has appeared to all men...? Maybe you just want to attack Smith because you can yet fathom where he speaks from. or maybe his level and dimension of understanding is different and loftier than yours. Or maybe you are just attacking him because you don't buy his reasoning, understanding, judgement , "proposition " or revelation.

    Maybe you need to go back and study the word more or be more humble for Holy Spirit so that you can see and grasp the heart and the Spirit of what he is saying and not just the letter.

    God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Or maybe, just maybe, Smith is wrong. That is another possibility you forgot to mention.

    ReplyDelete

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