Sunday afternoon I began reading a book I bought about a month ago — Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ. The author, Stephen Nichols, is attempting to trace the history of American thought towards Jesus Christ and how that thinking was heavily influenced by contemporary cultural values. It has not made for a healthy understanding of Christ at the end of the first decade in the 21st century. It is that unhealthy and unbiblical thinking about Christ that has motivated my current sermon series, seeking to give us a more complete view of the magnitude of Christ's atoning work on the cross.
The last paragraph of his introduction sounded the warning for today's American church particularly well:
The history of the American evangelical Jesus reveals that such complexities as the two natures of Christ have often been brushed aside, either on purpose or out of expediency. Too often his deity has been eclipsed by his humanity, and occasionally the reverse is true. Too often American evangelicals have settled for a Christology that can be reduced to a bumper sticker. Too often devotion to Jesus has eclipsed theologizing about Jesus. Today's American evangelicals may be quick to speak of their love for Jesus, even wearing their devotion on their sleeve, literally in the case of WWJD bracelets. But they may not be so quick to articulate an orthodox view of the object of their devotion. Their devotion is commendable, but the lack of a rigorous theology behind it means that a generation of contemporary evangelicals is living off of borrowed capital. This quest for the historical Jesus of American evangelicalism is not just a story of the past; it perhaps will help us understand the present, and it might even be a parable for the future. This parable teaches us that Jesus is not actually made in America. He is made and remade and remade again. What will next year's model look like?