A Lesson in Christological Rhetoric

You say that you want to argue for a “high” christology, for something widely considered to be a mainstream Christian understanding of Jesus. My advice is: be careful - if you say too much, you’ll open yourself up to refutation, and your claim will appear implausible, or too contentious and theoretical, or you’ll at least invite questions you have no intention of answering. How, then, to state your thesis?

“Jesus is God himself“? Sounds heretical (suggests they’re the same person, and not merely the same being, and that the Son and Father are the same person). Plus, sounds a bit too strong.

“Jesus has the divine nature“? What’s a divine nature? Who knows? Help! Is there a metaphysician in the house? You don’t want to go there – legions of nature-theories are lurking in the shadows, nipping and growling at one another, and at you.

“Jesus is a member of the Trinity“? Good and vague – but it raises that whole Trinity issue. Better to sidestep that one.

“Jesus is included in the identity of God.” Mysterious, but not in a good way. Plenty unclear, but sounds too high-falootin’, too academic – like something Brian McLaren would write. Too newly minted. You can retreat to this if need be – you can name-drop a famous scholar or two here – but whatever you do, don’t lead with it.

“Jesus is God“?

Mmm… good and vague. Powerfully simple, pithy. Close – but too much like the first statement above.

You may believe all of the above – but you don’t want to say any of those claims, unless you have to.

Here’s a better way: “I believe in the divinity of Christ.” Perfect. Like a Rorschach test, people can read it however they want. You’ll get those heads a-noddin’.

Modalists? Check. Tritheists? No problemo. Social trinitarians? No doubt – they’re down with imprecision generally. “Latin” theories? Yep. Spirit christology? Subordinationism? Yes, and yes. Constitution trinitarianism? Sure. Even unitarians can dig this – Jesus is the Son of who, and sent by whom? God! So, he’s “divine”. This statement tickles nearly all Christian ears.

It won’t go down so well with Jews, Muslims, theological liberals – but there’s no pleasing everyone.

What does it mean? That it is false that Jesus is “just a man”. What does that mean? Why, that’s a denial of the divinity/deity of Christ.

Be sure to put things that way – “deniers” are inherently reactionary, negative, unattractive, quibbling, more subject to body odor, and more likely to lack opposable thumbs. Plus, there’s a mild whiff in the term of its most popular usage, “holocaust denier”. This can only help. Plus, to the biblically literate,  it’ll suggest that your opponents are personally and publicly betraying Jesus. You get to make that accusation without making it – rhetorical gold!

To review: you affirm the divinity of Christ. Your opponents deny the divinity of Christ. That’s your line, and you’re stickin’ to it.

You can make it part of your case that “the divinity of Christ” has always been taught by all Christians everywhere (a little exaggeration never hurt anyone), and because your statement is so vague, it won’t be obviously false (even if it is false). Justin Martyr, Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, 3/4 of U2 circa 1982, Paul (of Tarsus, not Hewson)- all, you can urge, clearly agree with you. An ecumenical cloud of witnesses like this is hard to match.

Finally, note this this is a tried and true method.The pros swear by it.

  • You get credit for having a respectable, not-obviously-false and not-obviously-self-refuting theory, whether or not that’s so. (Don’t bother folks with theory – souls are at stake. Plus, God is bigger than our puny minds.)
  • If your opponent demands to know what you mean by your claim, just repeat it, politician-style, in slightly different words (full divinity, deity, full deity), and more slowly and loudly. A quick subject change may be called for here as well.
  • Show mild disdain (don’t overdo it) for anyone who doesn’t agree that the Bible obviously teaches this formless blob of a claim.

Above all, remember this: what can’t be understood, can’t be refuted.

Happy persuading!

About Dale

Dale Tuggy is a Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

37 Responses to A Lesson in Christological Rhetoric

  1. We can put it into an other way, there are no reason to use the word “trinity” to tell about divinity of Christ.

    One other way to express complete divinity of Christ is:

    Christ is the wisdom of God, God is wise and in God there are nothing unwise, so Christ is essentially the full content of God. (Here you call replace the word “wisdom” with the word “truth” and get essentially the same result.)

    This is how it should be taught instead of over-using the word “trinity”.

  2. john says:

    Dale
    I looked at the definitions of ‘deity’ and ‘divine’ some time ago and came to the following conclusion

    “Deity’ means ‘God’ or “a god’
    “Divine’ or divinity’ means ‘of God’

    Thus one can say that Christ is NOT deity – but he is divine because

    (i) He partook of the divine nature more than any other man
    (ii)We believe in the divinity of his office and status as “Son of God”
    (iii) He did only the Fathers’ will
    (iv)He is also elevated above ‘mere humanity’
    (v)With respect to authority the resurrected Christ is placed above mankind and the agels
    (vi) HOWEVER he is subordinate to the Father in all creation.

    Hope this is helpful

    Blessings

    John;

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    So, Dale, would you please remove your tongue from your cheek and tell us plainly who Christ is?

  4. How about a minimalist doctrine, comparable to an account I have in a couple of papers on the Eucharist. There I argue that we understand Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as an institutional fact (vide Searle) in virtue of which the elements are a referential device by which we can pick out Christ.

    By the same reasoning we can recognize the divinity of Christ as a status conferred on Jesus by the Church in virtue of which (in at least some contexts) we count remarks addressed to him as being addressed to God and (at least some) claims about him as being about God, etc. Bluntly, the idea is that the divinity of Christ is an artifact of the Church’s conventions for linguistic and other behavior.

    Can you say “Christ is divine”? Sure, because given the Church’s linguistic conventions that comes to saying God is divine, etc.

  5. john says:

    Harriet

    “we count remarks addressed to Him as being addressed to God and ( at least some) claims about him being about God etc”

    The problem is that Christ never claimed or even insinuated that he was God – indeed there are so many statements made by Christ to the effect that he was NOT God.
    When one reviews all of the so called ‘proof texts’ one finds that there is NOT EVEN ONE which substantiates a Trinity.
    I don’t know how you interpret the ‘who do you say that I am..” statement – or “I go to my Father and your Father ,and my God and your God”. Christ was always reflected in ‘agential’ ways – albeit at a ‘higher’ level than one encounters in the commercial world!.

    Even in Acts where thousands of believers were being addressed before venturing into the world, Christ was described as ‘a man’ , ‘God’s servant’ ‘ raised by God’

    Notice too ,that reference to the Holy Spirit as a person is almost completely lacking in the so called proof-verses and when there is, a linking of F,S and HS is not done in a way which ‘proves’ that they constitute a ‘triune God’

    Trinitarians are aware of these shortcomings and indulge in frantic gymnastics to cover their weakness.
    When cornered on weak ground they ‘turn up the volume” !!
    Every Blessing

    John

  6. Jaco says:

    You’re right on, John. Whatever language is used approximating the “divininty of Christ” in whichever form, requires qualification. Hence Dale’s tongue-in-cheek article above.

    Dr. Baber’s attempt has nothing to do with the veracity or validity of the trinity (or so I understand her). Instead it’s aimed at using the trinities in liturgy, lectionary, iconography, etc., and producing a universal and all-encompassing model.

    (I don’t think that’s possible or as easy as she had thought it was. Somewhere, somehow, some essential condition of some trinity version will be violated, excluding it from the desired “universality” of the super-model…)

  7. Dale says:

    So, Dale, would you please remove your tongue from your cheek and tell us plainly who Christ is?

    Everything the New Testament says he is: unique Son of God, a real human being, the Messiah, now the risen and exalted Lord. Not God himself; rather, the Son of God. Not a part or member of a Trinity of co-equals; the NT doesn’t teach or imply that.

  8. Jaco says:

    Spot-on, Dale. Remove Jesus’ functional identity with God and we sit with a Hellenized/Latinized hybrid God-man in all kinds of interpretive models (Or, to use Harriet Baber’s expression, programmes), neither of which is truly biblical…

  9. Marg says:

    I like your description of Christ, Dale. I don’t see how it can be refuted. But I also recognize that Harriet is no fool, and deserves respectful attention. Who knows? Maybe everybody will modify his views a bit.
    Well – just a TINY bit??

    Call me Pollyanna.

  10. I’m not addressing what the Bible says. My question is: IF we want to make sense of what I take to be orthodox doctrine, according to which one talks about “God in three Persons” and says that Christ “is” in some some sense (and I think there’s wiggle room here) God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, what do we do to avoid logical incoherence. And, insofar as possible, minimize commitment to peculiar, or ad hoc, metaphysical doctrines.

    2 questions Dale: (1) what does “Son of God” mean on your account? and (2) if you back down from the Incarnation claim, what is the motivation for a Trinity doctrine?

  11. Mike Gantt says:

    Dale, thanks for your clear answer to who Christ is, which, insofar as it goes, is indeed faithful to the New Testament. However, please tell me what you think of biblical references to Christ’s preexistence (e.g. Mic 5:2; John 1:1; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2; etc.) and sinlessness (John 8:46; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22;) – that is, how do they fit within your definition above.

  12. Jaco says:

    Mike, if you agree with Dale’s description of Christ, does that mean you are non-trinitarian also? Or how would you describe the Christology you confess? Thanks.

  13. Mike Gantt says:

    Jaco,

    I believe in the deity of Christ. I do not believe God is a trinity, nor do I believe in modalism.

  14. Dale says:

    hi john – yes one can describe that Jesus as divine in the sense you say. And what’s more, he can be addressed as “God” and even be described as ” a god”. All of this is compatible with humanitarian unitarian christology.

  15. Dale says:

    Harriet – spoken like a philosopher. :-) yes, in principle, we might understand god talk about Jesus in a deflationary way. However, if one’s concern is to be orthodox, to really be within that mainstream of the catholic tradition, then this won’t do. The “fathers” in their theological heirs insist that Christ has ” the divine nature.”

  16. Dale says:

    I’m not addressing what the Bible says. My question is: IF we want to make sense of what I take to be orthodox doctrine, according to which one talks about “God in three Persons” and says that Christ “is” in some some sense (and I think there’s wiggle room here) God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, what do we do to avoid logical incoherence. And, insofar as possible, minimize commitment to peculiar, or ad hoc, metaphysical doctrines.

    Hi Harriet,

    Fair enough. Most philosophers punt on the biblical issues. I think this is unfortunate – why are we willing to really roll up our sleeves to charitably interpret Aristotle or Hume, but just trust the theologians on the NT? You are theorizing on the basis of what theologians say is the input of the NT. For me, the evidence shifted significantly when I decided to carefully work through the sources themselves.

    2 questions Dale: (1) what does “Son of God” mean on your account? and (2) if you back down from the Incarnation claim, what is the motivation for a Trinity doctrine?

    Jesus is God’s unique son in a causal sense (virgin birth) and are relational sense (their friendship is like an ideal Father-Son friendship).

    In the end, I don’t think Trinitarian theories are well motivated. One wants to think that some Trinity doctrine is true and normative for Christians simply because so many in the mainstream have committed to the project. But when one goes back to the sources, one finds that it is not as advertised implied there, and more importantly it is not the best explanation of what is said and implied there, when one considers lower cost unitarian explanations. In my view this trumps testimony of tradition in favor of those standard formulas, formulas which as you know have no agreed upon interpretation.

    And you are right I think that incarnation theories came first, and in a sense are more central to the catholic traditions. Yet they are little understood nowadays – I mean, the traditional patristic views about the two natures of Jesus. Instead, one finds the patently false view that Jesus, in the NT, just is God himself.

  17. Mike Gantt says:

    Dale, did you miss my follow-up question to you above? I was hoping you’d be gracious enough to address it, as you did my original question.

  18. john says:

    Hi Harriet
    Just a couple of brief comments on your questions addressed to Dale

    (i)What soes Son of God mean…?
    Interestingly Christ has been called by many names
    (a) Son of Joseph- Luke 14v22 John 6 v 42
    (b) Son of David- Matthew 21v9
    (c) Son of man – Matthew 12v40 “ho huios tou anthrOpuw” “Son of a human” in the Greek
    (d)Son of God John 20v17 “I go to my Father and your Father and my God and your God”
    Mark 1v1 “Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ – “huoiu tou theo” in the Greek.
    NOTE that Adam was also called the son of God “Adam tou theo” in the Greek.
    As always, the Unitarian explanations are ‘lower cost’ as Dale so eloquently observes.

    (ii) What is the motivation for a Trinity?

    Many writers ascribe at least part of the rapid spread of Christianity in the “Latin’ world to the fact that
    Pauline writings imply that Christ is God.

    Indeed the Doctrine of Atonement which seems to be fashionable among evangelicals is said to be based on the premise that ‘because mans sin is so great, it required Gods personal sacrifice to atone for it”

    As always Unitarians have simpler and more credible explanations – and for many this is based on the ‘Moral Improvement ‘theory of Atonement.
    Trinitarians scream ‘works’ !!! -but if one reads carefully Paul was condemning works done ‘under the law’ – i.e. as ritual or duty.
    Love and compassion towards our fellow man (and their outworking) is the only evidence of being ‘born again’ that I can think of !.
    The ‘forgiveness of sins as a result of ‘blood sacrifice’ which evangelicals are so fond of has many problems. One accepts that the use is allegorical and designed to resonate with Jewish converts – but consider the following
    (i) Christ was not an ‘acceptable sacrifice ‘if one reads the Hebrew rules
    (ii)Human sacrifice was anathama
    (iii) Sacrificial atonement was only available for a limited range of sins
    (iv) Sacrificial atonement NEVER related to FUTURE sins (i.e. to be committed in future)

    Unitarians do not make the mistake of believing in ‘perpetual atonement’ and such nonsenses which flow from wrong thinking..

    Having dug themselves ‘into a hole’ seventeen hundred years ago – Trinitarians have ‘never stopped digging ‘in their attempt to extricate themselves!!

    Blessings
    John

  19. Marg says:

    Love and compassion towards our fellow man (and their outworking) is the only evidence of being ‘born again’ that I can think of !

    Does that include refraining from making derogatory remarks about people who don’t agree with us?

  20. john says:

    Hi Marg
    The most painful thing for me is my observation that the closer people get to ‘certainty’ the more they drift away from the very things (love and compaiision) which are the hallmarks of a true faith.
    Thats why I tend to be Erasmian in my outlook- keeping things which divide on the ‘back-burner’ in the hope that wiser and more ‘inspired’ people will find the answers in the future.
    If one suggests that the Trinity is not scriptural -one is disparaged – even hated by l zealots.
    And the trajedy is that these people are FEAR driven – while Christ instructed us to ‘fear not’ !
    Blessings
    John

  21. Jaco says:

    Mike,

    I believe in the deity of Christ. I do not believe God is a trinity, nor do I believe in modalism.

    Thanks for the answer. But what does it mean? What does it NOT mean? It’s like saying, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Depending on one’s theology, this could range from a Nestorian adoptionist perspective, to a Modalist perspective. “Deity” is simply too weak, with so many slants of interpretation, that it simply does not cut to the chase. What are the contents and the limits to believing (in your case) in the “deity of Christ?”

    Thanks,

    Jaco

  22. Mike Gantt says:

    Jaco,

    I thought my answer was straightforward. I’ve already told you that I reject trinitarianism and modalism. I don’t see anything attractive about Nestorianism. Perhaps it would help if you would give me your own view on the subject, which would give me a better idea of where your concerns with my position lie.

    By the way, I’ve asked Dale twice about his views on Christ’s preexistence and sinlessness, but he hasn’t answered. That would help fill out my understanding of the position he was implying in the original post. I don’t know whether your perspective is identical to his. If so, perhaps you could answer the questions in his stead. I am not looking to pick a fight. I would, however, like to understand the view of this blog, of Dale, and of you – whether they’re the same or different.

    I will add that I have elaborated on my position at length on my blog. When you get there, go to “Introduction to this Blog” and when you get there, click on “There Is No Trinity; There Is Only Christ.”

    In any case, peace. And thanks for engaging with me.

  23. Dale says:

    Only time for the shortest answers: I don’t think the typical pre-existence texts really imply that, and yes, I think Christ was sinless, but not essentially so.

    Now you should pony up a short answer too. :-) Are you a Oneness person? Or…?

  24. Mike Gantt says:

    Dale,

    No, I’m not a Oneness person.

    As for giving you a recognizable cubbyhole in which to insert me, I honestly don’t know of one. I read the Scriptures and cannot find the Trinity. Neither can I find there Modalism or Oneness. My perception is that Trinitarians have established a taxonomy of heresies (much like the APA has its DSM) and anyone who doesn’t salute the trinity concept gets slotted into one of those. Whenever they’ve told me what they thought I was, I looked it up and didn’t recognize my view. When I would report back to them such a finding, the answer I received from them was something along the lines of “Well, it doesn’t matter; we know you’re in our heresiology somewhere. I was hoping you would be a bit more open-minded.

    As I started to say in the paragraph above, I came to my view by reading the Scriptures – not by reading theology or philosophy. That’s not to disparage either of those disciplines. Rather, I’m just making known to you that I can’t answer your questions in the language of either of those fields.

    Apparently, your position is that the “trinity” is not a scriptural concept. I concur. I could even agree with you that at least some of the preexistence texts get overblown or eisegeted. However, I think there are some that are undeniable, and while preexistence, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily require divinity or deity, it does mean something greater than humanity, or at least greater than humanity as most of us seem to know it. Regarding your distinction between essential and non-essential sinlessness, I can’t figure out what you mean by that. Sinlessness strikes me as a pretty big deal (in the same way that preexistence does), no matter how or on what basis it’s achieved.

    If your position is that Jesus was human, it seems to me that you have to have a pretty good answer for his activities in preexistence (that is, his pre-human role in the cosmos) and for his sinlessness on earth (which, if you’re right, would throw Pope’s “to err is human, to forgive divine” right out the window.

    If your position is that Jesus was more than human but still not divine, you might be able be able to have an answer for preexistence and sinlessness. However, a hurdle you’d still have to clear is explaining what the Second Coming of Christ was all about if not to reveal His divinity.

  25. Dale says:

    “I was hoping you would be a bit more open-minded.” Mike, relax – it was just an honest question. No one’s cramming you in a cubby hole. You are certainly right that popular taxonomies can be a substitute for careful thought. At the same time, we must classify to understand. The key is being willing to revise or add to our taxonomies.

    If one is essentially X, that means that one is X, and that it is not possible that one exist without being X.

    That’s right – if Christ existed before his conception, that doesn’t mean he must’ve been divine, but only that he was then some sort of spirit. I don’t think though that it entails that he’s greater than any human. Why could not a human-type spirit exist disembodied for awhile, then become embodied, thus becoming human? (IF that’s what it is to be human – I doubt that.)

  26. Mike Gantt says:

    Dale,

    Thanks.

    Let me then ask you a different question: If A believes that Christ is human and B believes that Christ is God, but both believe all authority in heaven and on earth have been given to Christ (Matt 28:18; Eph 1:20-21; etc.) such that all should obey Him (Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:2; etc.), what differences, if any, will we see in the behavior of A and B, all other things being equal?

  27. Jaco says:

    Mike,

    I don’t think a vague answer is a straightforward one. Maybe it isn’t vague to you, but to me it is still, precisely because of the fluid meaning of “divinity.”

    I consider myself a progressive Christian and a non-trinitarian. I confess the One God and his human Messiah, Jesus Christ. If you say only Jesus, then you and I will disagree on the basis of (among others) 1 Cor. 8:6 and John 17:3.

    So, if you say, Jesus is divine, what do you mean? Is he God Almighty and Most High himself??

    Thanks,

    Jaco

  28. Mike Gantt says:

    Jaco,

    He might as well be.

  29. Mike Gantt says:

    Jaco,

    As you can see, I decided to give two answers to your question. That first one may have seemed to you flippant or vague or both. I’ll return to it in a moment.

    The New Testament was written in anticipation of the eschatological day of the Lord, the inauguration of which revealed that Messiah was God. Thus from Christ’s ascension to His Second Coming the message of God was “Jesus is the Christ.” Commencing with the Second Coming, God’s message became “The Messiah is God.” (Yes, the kingdom of God came just when Jesus and the apostles said it would, sometime between what we call 70 AD and the end of the first century; it rearranged cosmology and reveal the identity of Messiah).

    If you find this hard to believe, consider that even on your view Jesus Christ holds all authority in heaven and earth. You and I are called to obey him in everything (Acts 3:22; Deut 18:15). Therefore, I can’t figure out how I’d give him any less honor, devotion, and obedience if he were man instead of God, nor can I figure out how you’d give him any more honor, devotion, and obedience if he were God instead of man. Thus my first answer to your question was far more serious than you might otherwise have thought.

  30. Jaco says:

    Mike,

    Thank you for your reply.

    The New Testament was written in anticipation of the eschatological day of the Lord, the inauguration of which revealed that Messiah was God.

    Who anticipated the Messiah to be God Himself? The ancient Jews? This is so inaccurate, I can’t believe you even say it. You’re claiming a Jewish theology that never existed. This is THE idea that is strikingly absent particularly in ancient Jewish literature.

    Thus from Christ’s ascension to His Second Coming the message of God was “Jesus is the Christ.” Commencing with the Second Coming, God’s message became “The Messiah is God.” (Yes, the kingdom of God came just when Jesus and the apostles said it would, sometime between what we call 70 AD and the end of the first century; it rearranged cosmology and reveal the identity of Messiah).

    Jesus is the Anointed. This requires an anointing and a supreme figure doing the anointing. It also links to ancient prophecies that places Jesus outside the identity of God (Ps. 2, Isaiah 11, 52/53). This concept excludes the Anointed from being the Most High immediately (it goes without saying, except if later doctrine supercedes ancient literature, culture, theology and particularly language). The anointed OF God sets him apart from the God he is anointed of. How you get from “Anointed of God” to “God Himself” is still mind-boggling, precisely since it is strikingly absent from the NT and surrounding literature. Texts such as 1 Cor. 8:6, 11:3, 2 Cor. 1:3, Php 2:11 (“hina” introducing purposive clause) as well as the documented kerygma of the apostles (Ac. 2:22, 3:13, 17:31, etc.) place Jesus outside the category and identity of Almighty God. This never changed while the apostles were still alive, especially not the leap from Son of the Eternal God to Eternal Son of God.

    We can most surely believe that Jesus received all authority in heaven and earth. This was authority that could be delegated. If an absolutist, even reductionistic approach is given to such a statement, one would even expect God (part of the ALL authority) to subject Himself to Christ. But this is most certainly not the idea the NT writers had in mind when they wrote this. Not even close. Monotheism was safeguarded and YHWH remained the Most High over Jesus even after his superlative exaltation (2 Cor. 1:3, 1 Cor. 15:28, Rev. 1:1). As John chapters 5 to 7 also show, Jesus acted in God’s stead and showed his perfect obedience to God’s word and mission for him. For this reason we can afford to trust Jesus fully. THIS was the link between Jesus being worthy of full obedience; NOT EVER his being God Himself. This is invented.

    Therefore, I can’t figure out how I’d give him any less honor, devotion, and obedience if he were man instead of God, nor can I figure out how you’d give him any more honor, devotion, and obedience if he were God instead of man.

    This is another quite absolutist approach to the issue, downplaying the clear statements of agency, representation, imitation, reflection of the human Messiah (2 Cor. 4:4-6). Jesus was not only A man, but also THE man – the prototype of what humanity was utterly meant to have been. We as humans would also be transformed into his image and glory – a fulness which we will share in (Eph. 3:19, 2 Pet. 1:4). These parallel metaphors are simply brushed over, obviously due to perceptual difficulties and subceptional inconvenience the implications of these cause. Devotion to Jesus was always purposive and the purpose was to ultimately glorify the Origin, the Initiator and Only True God, YHWH. Jesus was NEVER intended to be the end of these, but the means of them. As soon as categories and prototypical meanings of concepts need to yield to compromising and potentially debilitating and illogical dogma, it is then when history needs to be reinterpreted, language needs to change and original meaning needs to lose its meaning. There’s no truth in any of this.

  31. Mike Gantt says:

    Jaco,

    Thanks for your informative response. You have misunderstood me at several important points. I may address those in the future but for now I’d simply like to focus on what to me is the most important and practical question.

    On your view, doesn’t Jesus still need to be obeyed daily (as in, say, Luke 6:46, or any of similar scriptures I referenced above)? Your final paragraph seems to suggest that Jesus was the supreme example for human – a point with which I heartily agree. But are you saying that’s all he is to us – that we are not to be obeying his teaching today and tomorrow and the next day?

    I see the NT as full of admonitions to obey Christ, heed Christ, be devoted to Christ, love Christ, honor Christ, know Christ. In fact, if the Father is explicitly commanding anything in the NT, it is that we pay attention to His son. If you do not seek to live each day in obedience to the commandments of that son, pray tell whose commandments do you seek to obey?

  32. Marg says:

    Well put, Mike. I agree that the honor we should show to God’s Messiah is not really different from the honor we should show to God himself. If the Father WILLS that equal honor be paid to both (John 5:23), that should settle the matter.

    Jesus is not “the only true God”. I have the words of Jesus himself for that.

    But there are passages which certainly seem to present Christ as the agent through whom God created all things. I hope that some day those passages can be dealt with thoroughly, one at a time, so that we can discard any that don’t hold water.

    I keep hoping.

  33. Now for my shocking heresy. I find the Trinity doctrine as such easier to swallow than the doctrine that Jesus was, in some way, theologically unique, or special. If we don’t start with some theological commitment in virtue of which Jesus has some special non-empirical character–whether pre-existence as firstborn of all creation or identity with the Second Person of the Trinity or something in between–he just isn’t that interesting. Again, apologies, but there were lots of wonder-working rabbis during the period, and teachers of wisdom and gurus. I suppose he gets into the top 20% of Great Moral Teachers, along with the Buddha, Socrates, Epictetus, Hillel and Apollonius of Tyanna but I just don’t warm to The Historical Jesus.

    I’m channeling Kierkegaard here: unless one makes the leap of faith and recognizes his divinity (whatever that comes to) Jesus just isn’t all that interesting. And now zipping up my asbestos suit, I’m ducking.

  34. Dale says:

    Hi Harriet,

    If you view being a Christian as being a disciple of Jesus, taking him as your guru, as it were, then… well, I think one has to be more impressed with him! I certainly am… But I suppose that you don’t think about being a Christian in these terms. I’m not picking up kindling and looking for matches; I’m just at a loss. If he’s not worth following, why in any sense commit to this movement that derives from him?

    To me it is a tragedy that attention shifted in the 2nd century and beyond away from the Jesus presented in the NT – the real, Jewish man – and onto this hypothesized eternal Logos which yes, became a man, but is mostly interesting because it shares the divine nature – whatever that means. I think the real man really revealed God and God’s ways to the world like no one before or since, and really made a new deal between humankind and God.

    Kierkegaard… big subject. I find him to be bizarrely over-reacting to the Hegelianism and state church of his day… Your mileage may vary. ;-)

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