Saturday, September 15, 2007

The fallacy of "WWJD?"

A common saying I've heard from a number of places is the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?", abbreviated WWJD. While it sounds pious and reasonable, it's a question that's fraught with problems.

What kind of problems?

Let's change the question a bit and see what kind of answer we get:
  • What would Mom do?
  • What Would Dad do?
  • What Would my spouse do?
  • What Would a Police Officer do?
  • What Would a CEO do?
Each and every one of these questions has the same problem - answering them requires one to know the person, how they act, how they react, and have all the information they have. I'll grant there are times when it's possible to predict someone's actions from their prior actions, but that presumes a lot of time spent with them and a knowledge of how they act and behave.

However, even with married couples who've known each other for years, there's still going to be surprises along the way. How many times have you been surprised by what friends and relatives have done along the way, or wondered about their behavior?

Given the trouble people have in knowing each other and predicting what they would do, how can one hope to answer the question of "WWJD?"

If one thinks about it for a bit, the question itself is rather audacious. Why? Because Jesus made all creation and still holds it together by His power. This is a creation that, for all the time and effort mankind's spent studying, hasn't been able to count all the species of life that He made in 6 days, much less figured out how it all works.

It may be possible to infer some of the things He'd do from an extensive study of Scripture, but how many people who ask WWJD spend the requisite amount of time in God's Word to get even a hint of an understanding of how Christ does things? Consider also that the religious authorities of Jesus's time spent their lives studying the Scriptures of their time, and they still got it wrong.


Because they did not have the Father in them. They didn't even recognize the Lord of Glory because their eyes were blinded to matters of faith and the spirit. So also with people today - studying without the direction of the Holy Spirit will not lead one down the road to understanding matters of the spirit and of faith.

Even the disciples who were walking along the road to Emmaus didn't "get" who they were talking to because Christ chose not to reveal it to them until He broke bread with them. A number of times Christ instructed the disciples, and the disciples didn't "get" what Christ was saying until Christ opened their eyes to understand the Scriptures.

Anther problem with WWJD is that Christ was here to do a specific job on which the destiny of all creation for all time was laid on His shoulders, a duty we not only could never understand, but could never carry out. He also had the Father telling Him everything to say and to do, which involves a level of communion with the Godhead that we do not share.

We do, however have the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit, which the Father has placed within each and every believer, does have that communion with the Father, and has the responsibility to lead us and open our eyes to understand the Scriptures, even though our sinful nature gets in the way and clouds the message.

So rather than asking WWJD, I'd say look to the book of Ephesians where we're told that God has laid out a path for us to walk, and ask
"What would God have me to do now?"
It's not possible to answer the question "WWJD?", but with the help of the Holy Spirit within us we can work on answering the question of "What would God have me do?" This same Spirit will instruct and lead us in the way He would have us to go, and gives us the ability to will and to do God's will until we're called off this rock to our eternal home.


Ray said...

Tim, Your theological toolbox needs some sharper tools for this one. I Cor. 11:2-"Follow me as I follow Christ." Apparently Paul was capable of asking himself what Jesus would do. Apparently as we follow Paul we are capable of asking what Jesus would do. What's more a putdown of this theological question is essentially a putdown of the entire Wesleyan Holiness Movement and the belief that some kind of Christian perfection is possible. One of the most influential books a hundred years ago involved asking this very question. Charles Sheldon's "In His Steps" is still influencing Christians in a powerful way to live holy lives. I prefer to challenge the folks who have "made merchandise" of these bracelets to ask themselves "What would Jesus do" with 100% of the profits they have made through the years.

Anonymous said...

I would say the question is more appropriately "What would the Holy Spirit have me do?" (WWTHSHMD is just not as marketable as WWJD) This is more doctrinally correct. The Holy Spirit was given to us to guide us, direct us, bring all things to rememberance, give us understanding, and the other ministries He has in our salvation, fellowship with Christ,etc.

Tim Kuehn said...

Anon - amen and amen!