In my ongoing attempts to keep everyone abreast of the latest theology blog kerfuffles, here is an interesting one that pertains to a topic we have touched on in forum discussions-- the full humanity of Jesus and his mental state at various points in his incarnate experience.
For Easter, Nijay Gupta and A.J. Swoboda published a short CT reflection on the internal struggles (“doubt”) Jesus faced in his humanity. They examine a few passages they think point to these moments of human vulnerability.
What Jesus brought with him into our world was his godness , which included a deep trust and faith in his Father; part of what he received from us in his humanness was our ability to doubt—and doubt he did.
Doubt is a real part of human experience. And Jesus was so committed to entering humanity that he dared to enter human doubt as well.
This set off quite the storm of responses, notably this one by Brandon Smith and Madison Pierce, published on Ed Stetzer’s CT blog
Jesus was finite and socially-constrained in his humanity. That doesn’t diminish the fact that Jesus is God with us in our suffering, but we cannot assume that taking on flesh requires the assumption of every aspect of humanity’s fallen heart, mind, or will.
Defining “doubt“ would demand more space than we have here. But we think it is helpful to say that, generally, Jesus’s life and ministry was not marked by doubt. Instead, it was marked by perfect obedience and steady confidence in his identity and vocation. As we have sought to demonstrate, emphasizing these things is more faithful to the tough texts above. Doubt is not proper to humanity, and certainly not necessary in God’s mission to redeem humanity. The doubt brought about by Satan’s temptation of our first parents blossomed into sin and death, but Christ’s full faithfulness secured our redemption. Our comfort in times of doubt rests on this truth.
Nijay and A.J. respond to the critiques here:
Part of the ongoing problem, it appears, is there remains a lack of agreed-upon, biblically-determined, and user-friendly definition of “doubt” that can speak to the diversity of biblical literature in both the Old and New Testaments and the nature of human experience. Undeniably, if one defines doubt exclusively in negative terms (“distrust,” “unbelief,” “lack of belief,” or “rejection of God”) then clearly we would agree: Jesus never doubted. But this was an imported assumption by many who read the article. We weren’t using doubt in this “vice” sense. We were using “doubt” in the modern, conventional sense of a “feeling of uncertainty,” reservation, reluctance, and hesitancy (see Merriam-Webster, OED). While we wish we could retroactively be more sensitive to this in our original article, we are profoundly grateful for the tension points this conversation has exposed.
But we continue to believe that the category of “doubt” might actually be helpful in bridging people to the gospel of Jesus. And here is why. We have all come to see it for ourselves: there is a generation of people who are walking away from the faith, our churches, and our families over these issues of doubt and deconstruction. They want to follow Christ but see so much in Christianity that does not reflect who he is. Whether it is this conversation or not, the church of Jesus is in deep need of theological reflection around the doubt and deconstruction experiences. Without it, we will see one generation after another walk away from the church because we have not thought in a more robust way about this experience. In the end, we increasingly suspect that there is a lurking Docetism alive and well in our various ecclesial tribes. By this we mean that the contemporary church’s failure to wrestle with the full humanity of Jesus keeps us from understanding ours. We can’t become the humans God calls us to be if we fail to see the kind of human God became when he walked on our planet in Jesus.