I'm deathly afraid of naive fundamentalism. The Jesus within it hovers six inches above the dusty near east earth. He opens doors for women, never passes gas, and speaks timeless principles that drift over the heads of his hearers and into my living room unscathed. He fits well into the moral majority mold made for him.
But my self-righteous flight leads me into the jaws of the burgeoning beast of NT scholarship. Deep within its bowels I can't make heads or tails of what I came looking for - Was it the Jesus of history? Or was it Matthew's spin? Or am I really seeking the church behind the author behind the text? Or did it all get fuddled in transmission anyway?
There, the Jesus who so winsomely and authoritatively turned Torah interpretations on their heads now slavishly fulfills every whim of Second Temple Jewish literature. The Jesus who confidently butted heads with Pharisees and Sadducees now double checks his theology with Qumran. And the Jesus who recreated the world in his resurrection becomes Paul's plaything, a vacuous two-dimensional figure brought back to life and relevance by a stroke of creative genius.
Who will deliver me from this hermeneutical body of death?
"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" As I settle down to my English text, millenia removed from the events it contains, I encounter a present, abiding, divine Word. He neither sparkles like the gilded former version nor evaporates into the obscurity of the latter.
Jesus speaks. There is power in the written and risen Word.