In the Advent season we celebrate the incarnation. God became flesh in the humanity of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in a world of swirling questions, debate and fears. Jesus' mission took him to the cross to bring reconciliation to the conflicted world.
Our world, too, spins with doubt, rancor and fear. Our mission is to help the world meet Jesus, to come together at the cross and to find reconciliation in the swirl of conflict. We seek to model reconciling candor in the midst of conflictive criticism. As we work to equip pastors for the church, MB Biblical Seminary finds itself dealing with such criticism. I want to address three specific concerns.
The meaning of the cross
One issue has to do with the meaning of the cross. Why did Jesus die on the cross for our sins? MBBS has been teaching the same thing about the biblical reason for the cross for at least 30 years. The Bible gives more than 30 word pictures (metaphors) describing the basic truth of the atonement. The biblical facts can be abbreviated like this:
Human sin has alienated us from God, bringing death.
Jesus died for us.
By accepting what Jesus did, humans are freed to be in relationship with God.
The seminary teaching is consistent with the MB Confession of Faith (see COF Article 5). We profess that Jesus is the only way of salvation and that Jesus' blood, his death on the cross, is the only way for a sinner to be saved. Jesus died for us. We teach substitutionary atonement.
Because we say that the Bible has many pictures to interpret Jesus' death, some people mistakenly think that we teach that there are many ways of salvation or ways to God. We teach that there is no way to God except through Jesus and his cross. We try to teach what the Bible says—even when it challenges popular ideas.
Many affirm that there is one explanation that captures the full meaning the cross. We follow instead the New Testament writers and use a diversity of images to communicate the depth and breadth of the saving work of the cross and the resurrection. Among these images are: redemption or liberating us from slavery to sin (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:13-14); justification or restoring us to right relationship with God (Rom. 3:21-26, Gal. 2:16); defeating the principalities and powers and thus freeing us from these enslaving forces (Gal. 1:3, Col. 2:15); reconciliation or providing forgiveness and restored relationships with God and others (2 Cor. 5:19-20, Eph. 2:13-22); and sacrifice or being cleansed from sin and liberated from shame through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, Heb. 9:12-14, 10:19-22, 12:2). Jesus' advent leads to the saving power of the cross and resurrection.
Another concern is our teaching of the virgin birth. Critics are saying that the seminary denies the virgin birth; this is not true. We teach, as the Bible teaches, the virgin birth of Jesus. We say that Matthew and Luke present the historical event of the virgin birth in order to teach us more about God and who Jesus is. Matthew focuses on Jesus' miraculous birth to emphasize that Jesus is the righteous Savior from sin. Luke proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God who has come for all. MBBS proclaims the biblical truth that Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary.
As we seek to proclaim the good news in a multicultural and diverse world, we tackle the major ethical issues of our day: love for enemies, sexuality, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and money and possessions. We teach in conformity with the Bible and the MB Confession of Faith regarding all of these issues. Not all Christians agree on these issues. Even when we know what is right, we still have the demanding task of putting our shared convictions into practice. We invite discerning dialogue not only about these issues but about everything the seminary faculty write and teach.
At MBBS we believe and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to bring salvation and peace to a confused, sinful world. We celebrate the advent of Jesus Christ, God in flesh. At the foot of his cross we seek fellow believers with a passion to reach a lost world with Christ's Good News. May Jesus be at home in our hearts during this Christmas season.
Posted: November 13, 2008