This is a passage from Dorothy Sayers that Alister McGrath quoted in his book, “Theology: The Basics”. The quote is from a lecture she gave in 1940 which was published in a collection under the name “Creed or Chaos”. She is making the case that the person and work of Jesus cannot be held to the standard of morality and goodness, but must define the standard of morality and goodness. Those are two very different things. When Jesus is held up against a predetermined set of rules we have to ask where that set of rules came from, for obviously they came from somewhere separate from transcendence. However, when Jesus is the standard that we hold up we find a solid foundation with which to begin to ascend the hill of holiness, goodness, and virtue. Also, if we looked at the life of Jesus for our standard of living just as many people in the American church as outside of it would be shocked and frustrated. This is the way of Jesus though; He always changes our default paradigms when He enters our lives in His graceful fullness.
It is quite useless to say that it doesn’t matter particularly who or what Christ was or by what authority He did those things, and that even if He was only a man, He was a very nice and we ought to live by His principles: for that is merely Humanism, and if the “average man” in Germany chooses to think that Hitler is a nicer sort of man with still more attractive principles, the Christian Humanist has no answer to make…The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life…Teachers and preachers never, I think, make it sufficiently clear that dogmas are not a set of arbitrary regulations invented a priori (before testing / prior to scrutiny) by a committee of theologians enjoying a bout of all-in dialectical wrestling. Most of them were hammered out under pressure of urgent practical necessity to provide an answer to heresy.
– Dorothy Sayers
In the discussions of our day there is a subtle temptation to relegate Jesus to the ranks of mere example. While this isn’t untrue it is only partially true. Jesus isn’t just our example of how to flawlessly follow the commands of God, His life is the law of God. He is the logos, the word, the logic of God. He represents the very essence of God because He is God. He’s not just the best rule keeper, He is the rule. Everything is measured by the wide expanse of His life. Our love, mercy, forgiveness, justice, passion, and hope are held up against the standard that He is, not the standard that He followed.
This might seem a playing at words or some kind of splitting of semantic hairs, but I assure you it is not. What you believe about Christ is more than splitting hairs, it is the whole of the matter. If your Christology is correct, your Theology is correct, and your biography is bound to be moving in the right direction.