The God Who Believes: the vicarious humanity of Jesus

This post begins a series reviewing Christian Kettler's book, The God Who Believes - Faith, Doubt, and the Vicarious Humanity of Christ.  For other posts in the series, click a number: 234.

Dr. Kettler shows how Jesus, as the representative and substitute for all humanity, has faith on our behalf. To view a "You're Included" interview with Kettler, click here.

Fundamental to the thesis of Kettler's book, is the Christian doctrine of the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. Here are a few representative quotes:

"As common as it has been to consider Christ's death to be vicarious, carried out in our place and for us, what if we were to consider that the entirety of his humanity was lived vicariously for us and in our place?" (p. x).

"Can we say that Jesus believes, not just as an example of a believer, but believes for me and in my place vicariously, so that I can be helped in my unbelief (Mark 9:24)?" (p. xii).

"The nature of Christ's vicarious work is not simply one moment on the cross, but his entire life, so that the entirety of our lives might be affected. The Word took on the entirety of humanity, body and soul, in order to save the entire human..." (p. 6).

"Let me carefully define what 'vicarious' means in term of the vicarious humanity of Christ. Unfortunately, it can often mean to some people, 'pseudo' or 'false,' as in the father getting a 'vicarious' thrill from his son's accomplishments as an athlete...In that way it is 'false,' not real....[But] the vicarious humanity of Christ does not mean that Christ's humanity is unreal. Quite the contrary! It does mean that the vicarious humanity of Christ speaks of the deep interaction between Christ's humanity and our humanity at the level of our being, the ontological level. So the atoning work of Christ is neither simply a means by which we are declared righteous by God, nor simply a demonstration of God's love. It is both, but much more, in the sense of God desiring to recreate our humanity at the deepest levels, addressing our needs and fears, our doubts from within our very being" (p. 6).

"A vicarious sense of Christ's humanity signifies that Jesus Christ is both the representative of and the substitute for my humanity. He represents my humanity before God the Father, having taken my humanity upon himself, bringing it back to God from the depths of sin and death. He is High Priest, representing the people before God (The Epistle to the Hebrews). But he is also the sacrifice himself. He is the substitute, doing in my place, in my stead, what I am unable to do: live a life of perfect faithfulness to, obedience to, and trust in God. 'Vicarious' at its heart means doing something for another in their stead, doing something that they are unable to do" (p. 6).

"[Our] response of faith [to God] should not begin with the weakness and vacillation of our faith, but with the faith of Jesus, a faith that is part of his wider human response in every way, even including our repentance. [Jesus'] solidarity [with us] is the means for Christ to be our substitute... Jesus the Son of God must walk the path of sinful humanity, sharing in our stories, including our doubts and fears. This is the path of both representing our humanity and taking our place" (p. 27).

"Jesus' vicarious humanity is a story about our humanity too and its need for completion, for fulfillment, to fill up what has been lacking" (p. 28).

"The vicarious humanity of Christ in the sense of his obedience [on our behalf] is not antithetical to [our personal] faith in Christ. Jesus 'sees' the Father (John 6:46). 'The will of the Father' is 'that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day' (John 6:40). The believer 'eats' of Jesus 'the living bread...and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh' (John 6:51). The humanity (flesh) of Christ is integrally connected to the life of the believer. Jesus' 'food,' in turn, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work' (John 4:34)" (p. 30).

"If there is a vicarious humanity of Christ there is also a vicarious deity of Christ. [Just as] Christ represents and stands in for us before the Father. So he also represents and stands in for the Father" '...And no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' (Matt 11:27). Christ puts himself in God's place since the relationship between the Father and the Son 'falls within the very being of God'" (p. 32).

"To share in Christ's vicarious humantiy is not to be released from faith and discipleship. In fact, discipleship is intensified. Jesus predicts that his disciples will be handed over to be tortured, put to death, and hated 'because of my name' (Matt 24:10, cf. v.22). The follower of Jesus will now act vicariously for Jesus ('because of my name'). The 'sheep...blessed by my Father' will be rewarded because they acted on behalf of Jesus, meeting Jesus himself when they clothed the naked, fed the hungry, and visited the imprisoned (Matt 25:31-46)" (p. 34).