I just finished a summer class this morning that attempted to present a theology of worship. Much of the required reading for the course was by modern theologians with an ultra-traditional bent towards things. In contrast, the majority of my summer reading has been books by people with an ultra-contemporary bent towards theology and the church.

The experience of reading ultra-traditional theologians back-to-back with ultra-contemporary theologians has been something like taking a cold shower after you run. The initial shock is almost unbearable, but ultimately you even out somewhere in the middle and are thankful for the event once you've recovered from the shock.

I've noticed something about the authors I've been reading that is subtle, but awfully telling about the great divide that exists in theological (and church) circles today.

(As a side note, I realize the terms "traditional" and "contemporary" are loaded to the hilt with baggage, but chose them because they're decidedly less loaded with baggage than the others I could have chosen)

The majority of the authors I've read with a more traditional bent tend to write of the second Person of the Trinity as "Christ." They emphasize the "Life of Christ," the "Words of Christ," and the "Person of Christ" among other things. For the most part, what they say about "Christ" is accurate and biblical.

On the other hand, many of the authors I've read with a more contemporary flavor to their theology tend to emphasize the second Person of the Trinity as "Jesus." They emphasize "Loving Jesus," "Coming to Jesus," and "Believing in Jesus." Like their traditional counterparts, many of the things they say about "Jesus" are accurate and biblical.

What's the difference? Emphasis.

I told you it was subtle.

The term "Christ" typically points to the Deity of the second Person of the Trinity. It is a title that means "anointed," and usually speaks of His exalted state above the Universe as a unique Person of the Godhead.

The name "Jesus" is exactly that: Jesus' name. It's the name the second Person of the Trinity was called by Mary and Joseph when He was born a Man. Most clearly, the name "Jesus" reminds us of Jesus' humanity.

Is it right to call the second Person of the Trinity "Jesus?" Sure. Is it okay to call Him "Christ?" Sure. The writers of Scripture use both.

So what's in a name? More than you might think. The names and titles people use to refer to the second Person of the Trinity are awfully telling. Many of the ultra-traditional theologians emphasize Christ's deity to the detriment of His humanity. As a result, they present a "Christ" who is impersonal, cold, uncaring, and surreal. In contrast, many of the ultra-contemporary theologians emphasize the humanity of "Jesus" to the detriment of His deity. In their books, we find a personal, forgiving, "Jesus-is-my-homeboy" man, but miss His holiness, perfection, and complete sovereignty.

Both extremes are a tragedy. Jesus Christ is 100% God, and 100% man. Talking about Him as anything less is blasphemy and idolatry. It's hard to balance the two. It's impossible to understand the two.

It's a tricky business to accurately picture the Person of Jesus Christ with our words, thoughts, and ideas. But we must take great care to not speak less of Jesus Christ than is true of Him... even in the subtleties.