Like coffee and caffeine, Jesus is a package

There is no room for a supernaturally neutered Christ, argues Peter Sara in response to an earlier ''Faith and reason'' column.

Ian Harris' extreme makeover of Christianity (Faith and reason, ODT, 14.12.12) had a number of difficulties. Chief among them was the idea that the divine can be taken away and still allow naturalists like Mr Harris to call the result Christian, or as he puts it, secular Christian. In a nutshell, he argues that the supernatural underpinnings of the Christian faith have had their day; that not only is the divine God dead, he never was alive in the first place.

A good question is: what would Jesus have to say about this idea? If we accept the Gospels as the primary record of what Jesus actually said and did and why, we very quickly see there is simply no room for a supernaturally neutered Christ. Central to his teachings was who he was, and what his life and mission was all about. In a nutshell, he said he was sent from the Father (the Divine one) to show humanity that God loves them and cares for them; that the divine Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.

The gift of divine nature and eternal life are available for all who would receive them. The mission of Jesus was to save mankind from sin and death. His sole credentials for this astounding rescue operation were his divinity. Take away the divinity of Christ and what you have is someone completely off their rocker. The Bible tells us that God became human so that he could complete his loving plan to end the tyranny of the fear of death, and to show mankind what God was like. He is just like Jesus.

Conscious that his earthly mission was very short, Jesus promised his followers that when he returned to be with God, the Holy Spirit would be sent in his place by whom he, Jesus, would fulfil his parting promise that he would be with them forever.

If we humans ''sweat it out on earth'', the Helper is alongside us. For the Christian (not the secular kind), the Helper actually takes up residence in the spirit of that person as a seal or guarantee of the investment of the divine nature and of eternal life. That divinity is from without, not within. The locus of the divine is now shared. Through the divine Son, Jesus, mankind is offered to take up divinity in Christ, through the power and working of the Holy Spirit. That is why a Christian is someone in Christ.

The secular Christian is one who wants some of the religious trimmings of faith, such as nice churches, an identification with goodness in some way and a sense of belonging, while eschewing the supernatural aspect altogether. Some have gone further with the definition and coined the term atheistic Christian.

By biblical definition, at any rate, the two cannot lie together in the same bed. Getting rid of God is like throwing the baby out with the bath water, as well as the bath. Secular Christianity is like decaffeinated coffee or no-alcohol beer. Secular Christianity is actually Christianity without Christ. Without Christ, the Son of God, there is no Christian at all.

Jesus is a package deal. Take him as he is, for who he says he is, or not at all.

Peter Sara is a member of the Dunedin Elim Church.