Some people breathe heavy, some breathe deep; for others, their breathing becomes shallow, almost imperceptible. These forms of breathing signal varying responses to the name of Jesus Christ. Oh, yes, the one-and-only Jesus Christ, who has been the subterfuge of many a historical-critic, the bane of many a Marxist atheist, and the one whose eyes pierce to the bottom of the soul for many a Christian. Now, these responses, with the last being the most clearly dominant (if we are to take empirical and statistical evidence at face value), are responses to, as the Christian tradition articulates it, the God-man, the Son of God/Man, who was sent by the Father, yes, Father God, to redeem a broken, afflicted, and rebellious humanity. And it is these responses, or, more specifically, what the right response of believers should be, that we are concerned.
In a recent book, I was presented with a picture of Jesus, a “low to medium Christology,” as it were, which cast Jesus, the Son of Man, in terms which modern day ethicists deem as proper, or, at the very least, the most comfortable. By painting Jesus against this wall, he was, in turn, painted as an oppressor, for he did not immediately overthrow the Roman Empire with all her crimes; as a racist for his treatment of the Syrophoenician woman; as a rage-o-holic for his anger and violence toward the temple merchants; and, essentially, as something less than what we’d expect from the (quotes intentional) “Son of God,” never mind a son of God.
Yet, is this the proper way to approach Jesus or is something, to put it mildly, drastically amiss? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Briefly, we can note a few things about this statement. First, the “no one” Paul has in mind, while it could be taken to refer to every person, in light of vv. 11-15, likely refers to not regarding the apostles, and any other such person, who lives for Christ (v. 15). Second, it is clear that Paul has in mind the identity of believers, those who are in Christ, as being part of a new creation for the eschatological breaking-in of God’s kingdom/new creation has “come.”
T. F. Torrance writes with regard to 2 Cor 5:16:
Paul is [not] indifferent to the historical Jesus – but that a Jesus who is known only in a carnal manner, as by the mere historian, the reporter of historical events, can be of no interest to us. That Jesus … apparently failed in his mission … [Rather], it is … Jesus Christ, spiritually discerned, by a transcendent mode of apprehension … we have [thus] … an object of knowledge presented to us in a complex of historical fact and spiritual event.
Torrance is helpful here, for it would be wrong for us to deduce from 2 Cor 5:16 that we are to reject any notion of Christ historically-speaking. In fact, this would militant against the very existence of the Gospels, which, albeit in different ways and with different emphases, gives us a picture of the historical Jesus. Instead, we are to regard Christ in a manner that, while taking Christ’s humanity into account (for, indeed, how can we rightly fail to do so?), holds it together with Christ as the God the Son incarnate, or, in Torrance’s terms, we must keep in mind the “complex of historical fact and spiritual event.”
So, choosing to start with a constructive approach, we cannot expect to truly apprehend Christ unless we approach him in faith. Now, to be clear, by faith we mean not mere intellectual assent, but rather, something far greater: trust. We must be those who trust in Jesus as our mediator and redeemer. This kind of trust is greater than merely the trust that can exist between peers, or, even the trust between a superior and an inferior (e.g., child toward parent). It is trust in the God-man, the One who, by his priestly work, provides the way for us to boldly approach the throne of grace. As a consequence, this kind of trust quickly approaches worship. By beholding Christ by faith, we receive him as the subject and object or the God and man of our faith. By approaching him in this way, we cannot see him merely from a historical or anthropocentric viewpoint, whether it be the modern canons of ethical deliberation, modern historiography, or something else. Rather, we must look upon Christ as truly encapsulating, incarnating, a spiritual event. It is Christ as both God and man, rejecting the possibility of denying either the former or the latter, whom we behold and receive by faith, and, in turn, whom we worship.
Moving toward a polemical orientation, to approach Jesus in any other manner is, to be blunt, blasphemy. BDAG defines blasphemy (βλασφημία) as “speech that denigrates or defames, reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander.” Now, what is often translated as slander when referring to humans is the same word used for blasphemy when referring to God, namely, βλασφημία. It is our opinion that this lexical definition can be expanded to give countenance to the theological nuance accompanying such a definition. In sum, blasphemy is communicating in such a manner that detracts for the essential dignity of the human or divine person of whom the communication refers. In the case of humans, it takes the shape, in large part, of slander; with God, it takes the shape of blasphemy so-called. Yet, whether this communication is directed toward humans or God, this does not significantly modify the substance of such a communication. At base, it is a distortion of the person (human or divine) which is subversive of the person’s basic dignity and worth.
Therefore, while we would expect those who do not enjoy fellowship with Christ, who have not been united to him and, as a consequence, received the benefits of this union, to speak in such a manner that conforms with our discussion of blasphemy, or, in Pauline terms, “according to the flesh” (κατὰ σάρκα). Christ can never be merely an object of historical inquiry for the believer, nor can he be seen through the eyes of modern-day psychoanalysis, ethical theory, or everyday politicizing. To attempt to approach him in these ways is in fact to approach him “according to the flesh” and, as such, in a manner that does not in fact apprehend or give the rightful dignity and honor owned to him.
So, to conclude, let the one who does not enjoy such a beautiful, life-altering union with the risen One engage in such blasphemous and thus severely miscalculated analyses of Christ, but, for the one who truly trust in and worships this same One, let their thoughts be ever beholding anew the beauty, majesty, holiness, goodness, love, truth, and perfection of him thus shaping how one understands Jesus’ treatment of the Syrophoenician, the Roman Empire, the Temple merchants, and the Pharisees, to name a few.
 T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (ed. Robert T. Walker; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2008), 29.
 A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed.; University of Chicago Press, 2000), 178. Italics original.