What's Tony Thinking

The Christ Who Is Fully Human and the Health of Congregations


Although the on-line, live webinar series based on my book, What’s Theology Got To Do With It, has ended the recordings are still available. Here is the one related to the chapters on the person and work of Jesus.

In his write-up for this recording, Jason Micheli quotes the following from the book:

If we do not face up to our own brokenness, however, we cannot appropriate the real blessings of God’s embrace of our full humanity in Jesus. Or to put it in a more positive way, by his full embrace of our finite and limited humanity, Jesus makes of our humanity a blessing and not a curse.

We need not flee the inherent vulnerability of being human in order to follow Jesus. Or to put it a slightly different way, the world is not divided between the sinful and the virtuous. It divides between those who are aware of their sin and their need for grace and those who are without awareness of their true condition.

When the awareness that we all stand in need of grace is absent, it fundamentally skews the ministry and health of the church. We become blind to our own need for forgiveness and healing. We pretend that we have it together. We are happy (or not) to help others, but we need no real help ourselves, thanks very much! In this view, Christians are better sorts of people, not sinners in need of God and God’s grace. Author, theologian, and teacher Roberta Bondi says that all too often the church permits and encourages us to be our “noble selves,” “our cleaned up and socially presentable selves.” That is not without value. We do need to be reminded of our better natures.

But there is a problem with an unrelieved emphasis on our noble selves. It does not so readily invite and include our real selves. And, observes Bondi, the real us is who God wants and who God loves. In Christ, God has embraced our real and full humanity, warts and all.

Frequent readers, whether of this blog or my books, will recognize this as one of my recurring themes. Another term for “our finite and limited humanity” is what Dave Zahl calls “Low Anthropology,” which is the title of his great 2022 book. The subtitle, is The Unlikely Key to Gracious View of Others (And Yourself). 

There’s a lot of “High Anthropology” in the air, as in “You can be anything you want to be,” “The Sky’s the Limit” and “Dream Big!” We love that stuff, but it’s not quite true. It often sets people up for disappointment and self-recrimination.

Over the years I’ve noticed that one of the harder life transition periods for many is the post-college graduation period. In some ways, that’s counter-intuitive. You are a college graduate. Go now and conquer the world! The high-powered and prestigious colleges/ universities, graduations in particular, offer a very heavy dose of high anthropology — you can do and be whatever you want, you and your generation will change the world, you are the leaders of tomorrow — that often strikes me as a bit of set-up. Or perhaps the point is to flatter the parents who have paid the big bills!

Better, perhaps, to take a more modest view of others and ourselves, as fallible people in need of grace, people who can and will make a contribution but don’t have to take the world on our shoulders. The good news of the gospel is not about us climbing up to a God-like heights or status, but about God coming down to us, where we are and as we are.


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