The ‘Elevator’ Question

One of the perks of studying theology is that often people pose some interesting hypothetical questions. Some are intended to act as a critique of an idea, while others are more intended to gauge something of who I am, or what my theological beliefs are. This is one such question. Seeing as it was asked in a conversation, my answer is written in the way that I actually answered the conversation; hopefully showing some of my thought processes that were occurring as I was responding.

The Person asked:
“So, imagine you walk into an Elevator there’s someone there. Spotting your cross necklace they ask if you’re a Christian. You respond yes and they then ask, ‘So what’s Christianity about then?’ Assuming that they are from a non-believing background and don’t really know anything much about Christianity, what would you say to them?”

My response was something along the lines of:
Well, to be honest I don’t know what I would say to them. I think that I would hope and believe that God would by his Spirit give me the words I would need to speak to that person, Matthew 10 style*. Hmm, I have a handful of half composed pithy tweet style responses floating around my head but I don’t think I would say any of them.I think I would try to say something along the lines of:

“Well, Christians believe that Jesus is the God who made the world and the universe and that having made it he wants to know all of it; everything he made and all the people in it, and personally I am glad that I know him!”

For me, this would be a simple way of expressing what I believe to be some quite profound truths.
It starts by saying that Christians believe something about Jesus; he’s the one it’s all about.
This Jesus in turn is identified as the God who created everything.
In this idea there’s contained the theological idea of the homoousion; the idea that Jesus is God and not just a God but he is the same God as the Creator God is. For me, with my theological background, this also carries the implication that Jesus is the same as us because that’s the flipside of the homoousion.
This idea also carries the soteriologically relevant Judaeo-Christian concept that the-one-who-saves has to be the same as the-one-who-creates.
This is then followed by the idea that Jesus wants to learn about, wants to engage with, cares about and for what he has made and he wants to know it. This wanting implies that there is a degree of growth or change to his knowledge. Having made everything, there are things or people which or who he doesn’t know – but he would like to know them!
The last bit then shifts into a short testimonial style piece.
I am – I , the person you are talking to – am glad to know Jesus.
To a non-believer this would hopefully be an interesting idea; how could this person here with them in the lift know Jesus? What does that even mean?
And so hopefully it would provoke questions and provide a natural way for the conversation to develop. It also has an implied question, this person knows Jesus; do ‘I know Jesus’?
Am I interested?
It’s only a small thing to say, and with only a short period of time to say it. On the surface it might not seem that profound but actually it ‘ticks’ lots of boxes without, hopefully, sounding like a ‘tick box’ answer, or an impersonal formula.

Personally, I think I’m relatively happy with it as an answer – what do you think? What kinds of conversations have you had with people in these contexts? Are there things you feel it is key to include? (For example, I haven’t actually said anything about the cross and resurrection). Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

*Matthew 10:20

EDIT: This was intended as a casual conversational response as I responded to the question I was asked. However, I’ve since had an interesting conversation and have asked the person to post their point in the comments below – check it out for another aspect of the way in which Jesus knows his creation.

1 Comment

  1. I like your blog and thought your article was very interesting, however, there is one point of theology I would like to put to you. You rightly maintain a case for homoousion i.e the son is of the same substance as the Father as argued at the Council of Nicea, however it is your section about there being things that Jesus doesn’t know which I feel a bit uncertain about.

    It depends I think as to whether you have in mind his earthly existence or his exalted nature in heaven! There were certainly things which the earthly Jesus didn’t know about i.e. the timing of the parousia etc (Matthew 24.36). This ignorance has been described by one of my lecturers at the ‘old LBC’ as a case of divine condescension, i.e. the Son’s ‘divine’ knowledge is limited to be akin to the people he came to save and serve …. but now that Jesus has resumed his rightful place in heaven, post ascension is there anything that he doesn’t know? I’ve always assumed that the exalted Jesus now enjoys full comprehension of the divine will. In which case as the one through whom all things are created and have their being, there is nothing that he doesn’t know. I think I would rephrase your statement because to say “having made everything, there are things or people which or who he doesn’t know” doesn’t quite seem logical (at least to me)! I don’t think Jesus needs to be introduced as if he doesn’t know the people he’s created – I think rather that he would like his creations to know him.


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