- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

As Christmas arrives, consider a question: "What would Jesus drive?" The Evangelical Environ-mental Network has put that odd question before Americans, especially those who are Christians. And it hopes people are inclined to take the question seriously.
A whimsical Web site (highrock.com) isn't so inclined. It has answered the question with biblical references. Such as that Jesus might have driven an old Plymouth, since Scripture says "God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury." Or that Jesus actually did drive a Honda because, though he didn't like to talk about the brand of his car, he did once remark, "For I did not speak of my own Accord."
The Evangelical Environmental Network is politically left of center. It is so keenly dedicated to changing what it calls people's "transportation choices" that it has a Web site (yes, whatwouldjesusdrive.org) where it invites Christians to "Take the Pledge."
The pledge states that pollution from cars is hurting people and the rest of creation; that driving is "impacting" (its choice of verbs, but not one, I think, Jesus would choose) human health: contributing to global warming: and increasing our reliance on oil from unstable countries.
Jesus "wants me to travel in ways that reduce pollution and consumption of gasoline," is what pledge takers agree to. Meaning, at the least, don't drive an SUV.
For those unacquainted with the Protestant evangelical world, it isn't inhabited entirely by religious conservatives. The Evangelical Environmental Network, as its name indicates, is an evangelical organization. And the question it asks is one that has concerned evangelicals since the 1890s, when Charles Sheldon, a minister in Topeka, Kans., preached a series of sermons urging his congregants to ask "What would Jesus do?" before making decisions. The sermons later became the best-selling book, "In His Steps," and today WWJD is a widely recognized acronym.
But here it is Christmas, and what, you might ask, does "What would Jesus do?" or for that matter "drive?" have to do with Christmas?
Actually, the question serves to clarify what Christmas is about. Groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network that ask "What would Jesus do?" work from a serious ethic found in the commandment (stated by Jesus) to "love your neighbor as yourself." Yet to the extent the WWJD question assumes that the point of Jesus' life was merely to point people toward right decisions, that surely is wrong.
The New Testament accounts say otherwise. So do the historic creeds and confessions. So do the hymns that will be sung in churches around the world on Christmas Day.
The central question about Jesus in the New Testament concerns who he is.
As Jesus put it to his disciples in Mark's gospel, "Who do men say that I am?" Part of the answer from the Gospels is that he is "the Christ, the son of God." And this notion that Jesus is truly divine was elaborated in the doctrine of the Trinity. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea affirmed that Jesus is of the same "substance" or "essence" as the Father.
But the answer to who Jesus is has another part, which is that Jesus also is fully human. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," is the famous biblical expression (from the first chapter of John) of the doctrine of the Incarnation.
Another church council this one at Chalcedon, more than 100 years after Nicaea stated the doctrine this way: That Christ was "born of the virgin Mary" and is "to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person."
A lot to unpack there, yes, but that is the classic formulation.
Centuries later, the Westminster Shorter Catechism framed the doctrine in suitably succinct fashion: "Christ the eternal son of God became man" and "continueth to be God and man, in two distinct natures and one Person forever."
Trinity and Incarnation are concepts that belong together. And the advent of the Incarnate Christ is the subject of Christmas hymns, not least "What Child Is This?" The hymn's refrain is: "This, this is Christ the Kin the Babe, the Son of Mary."
It is a refrain that captures the church's understanding of who Jesus is.
And that understanding makes everything else including invitations to figure out what Jesus would or might do, not to mention what he might drive so much less important.

Terry Eastland is publisher of the Weekly Standard.

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