I’ll tell you why I love JRD Kirk. He’s helping to take the life of the believer out of a world in which all that matters is whether he can recite certain propositions about Jesus and the Bible. This, incidentally, is the dire consequence of systematic theologies. In turn, he’s then helping us move from there to a place where the measure of our lives is the degree to which we actually resemble Jesus.
And that has made all the difference.
Kirk is no stranger to systematic theologies. He is, after all, a seminary professor. But systematic theologies–putting all your thoughts about God into certain tidy categories to be recalled when asked certain prescribed questions–can have a difficult time getting power to the wheels.
Instead, Kirk thinks in terms of stories, just like the rest of us do. Stories have a way of carrying the same ideas trapped in systematic theologies and delivering them in a clandestine manner, often bursting open within the hearts of an audience before they realize what is happening. They are a Trojan Horse of sorts.
And the best of stories, in my opinion, are non-fiction. They must be compelling, certainly. They must have action and danger and risk and noble ends, of course. But the best stories are of actual events, actions that have changed real people in real time, first on the occasion of the live drama and then again in each retelling.
To Kirk, this is what it means to follow Jesus. It is to hear his story, to hear how he transformed person after person, crowd after crowd, how he risked all he had for the sake of all there was, how he believed he was acting on behalf of the one Creator, and how his actions were wholly good. And then, upon hearing, the hearer decides that her life must resemble that one. Her story must echo Jesus’ story.
In his own words:
Jesus is the key to our identity and our actions. How does new creation come about? By the self-giving love and power of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. How is the family of God formed? By following Jesus along the way of the cross and receiving the commission of Jesus, the Resurrected One. What does the family of God do? It images God to the world by giving itself in the self-giving love first shown to us in Jesus. Jesus is the interpretive key not only for reading both the Scriptures and Jesus’s connection to the story of Israel but also for reading our own lives as those who would follow him (Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?, 195).
NT Wright has written that one of the best ways of considering our lives in relation to the Bible is to regard scripture as an unfinished drama, with our lives being the most recent ad libbed scenes. This, ultimately, is what JHILBP? has been all about. Paul, upon encountering the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9), discovers that there’s a better life for him to live, that it has already been modeled by this Jesus, and that it is truly in line with the drama that the Creator is writing, a drama that ends, in time, with the restoration and peace of the entire creation.