The Son of God as the focal subject in Hebrews 1:1-4 is that Son who was preexistent, became incarnate, and was then exalted to the right hand of God. We might say that the contemporary Jesus has come a long way since Hebrews was written- a long way down to earth. This exaltation, according to some modern Jesus scholars, only occurred in the minds and theologizing of the early church. Thus, the exalted Jesus of the New Testament is being recast variously today as a cynic philosopher, a charismatic man of the spirit, an eschatological prophet, a prophet of social change, and a sage.
The modern studies of Jesus have been popularized by most of the Jesus Seminar a group of seventy-four scholars who meet regularly to vote on the authenticity of the Gospels’ accounts concerning Jesus. Among their “findings”: Only eighteen percent of sayings ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels are authentic, and Jesus did not really rise from the dead. The latter, not surprising (given the Seminar’s commitment to philosophical naturalism), directly contradicts a basic tenant inherent in the exaltation proclamation of Hebrews 1:3. Although the Seminar has been harshly criticized for poor methodology, outdated presuppositions and neglect of work done among New Testament scholars outside their group, their media machine has given them a broad hearing in popular culture.
Earlier in this century G. Campbell Morgan suggested that when the church ceases to lift Christ to the height where all people can see him, it becomes useless and a fraud. The modern views of Jesus that attempt to make Christianity fit for modern perspectives actually undermines the heart of Christianity—that Jesus was vindicated as the Messiah, God’s Son, by his resurrection from the dead and that he was exalted to the right hand as Lord of the universe, and the church’s ministry.
It is only the exalted Jesus who can make purification of sins, according to Hebrews (1:3; 8:-12; 9:1-10:18), and provide us a way to draw near to God (4:14-16; 10:19-25). It is only the exalted Jesus who can offer help to us in our time of need (4:15-16), deliver us from death (2:14-15), and lead us to glory (2:10; 12:22-24). In short, it is only the exalted Jesus who is fit for our worship and attention who can help us persevere in the Christian life. The problem with the insipid Jesus of the Jesus Seminar consists not in his humanity, but in that he is no more than human. As such he is unable to offer anything to modern people beyond the inspiration of his words and ideas—and precious few of these survive the Seminar’s “analysis.”
In his book Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, Alistar McGrath, formerly a theological liberal and now one of Evangelicalism’s strongest spokesmen, writes concerning his disillusionment with liberalism:
“Yet the more I thought about the liberal project, and the more I wrestled with its agent and approaches, the more I felt it was academically vulnerable and spiritually inadequate. Its pastoral weakness became especially evident to me during a three-year period as pastor in Nottingham (1980-1983), in which I came to realize that liberalism had little to offer in the midst of the harsh pastoral realities of unemployment, illness and death.”[i]
By contrast, the Son of Hebrews 1:1-4 has much to offer humanity in general and the church in particular. As the preexistent One, who has paid for our sins and been exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus is our true, present source of hope and help.
[i] Alistar McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity (Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity, 1995), 13.