Since I am presenting the Sabbath school Lesson this week I thought I would put in the blog as it does reflect upon some of the subjects presented here over the last month.
The Subject for the quarter is Jesus and this week is the mystery of Jesus’ Deity. Last week our leader went over the historical controversies that divided the Christian church for the first 500-600 years. It is important to remember that the battle over who Jesus is not solved because the ruling churches at that time or subsequent say they have figured it out and presented a creed. The winners of histories battles can claim their victories but that does not make their victories truth and that became the problem of orthodoxy. The winning Christians declared their beliefs as orthodox and anything else heresy. Thus began the decent into traditionalism and away from reasoned faith.
So the mystery of Jesus’ deity may not be so much a mystery as much as simply making sense of what we have and then putting it together in a reasonable fashion.
For Christians as for anyone else dealing with philosophical ideas the first question is what do we need to know about God once we have determined that there is a need to conceive of a God. Assuming the Jewish Scriptures to be inspired we see a God who has a special people He raises up through no part of their own. The writers present a God who is loving and forgiving, cruel and ruthless. Who will kill His own people if they disobey (death sentences for Sabbath breakers, Adultery and rebellious children) and will tell His nation to wholesale kill other nations. Who said in the 10 commandments don’t murder and then told the Israelites to kill all of a people including the children and animals.
(1 Sam 15:3 KJV) Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
We are left with a picture of God which is frankly very confusing, even more confusing with our modern sensibilities but then our modern sensibilities are shaped by material which presents God in a less confusing light then that of the blood and guts of the Old testament stories. (see Judges 21 for a horrible story of cruelty by Israel,
(Judg 21:11 KJV) And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.(Judg 21:12 KJV) And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.)
At Sinai the Children of Israel pleaded for Moses to talk to God and stop the fearful voice of God
(Exo NIV) When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance (Exo NIV) and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."
From then on the messages were relayed through prophets. Until New Testament times.
(Heb 1:1 NIV) In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Heb 1:2 NIV) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Heb 1:3 NIV) The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
What is God like is the most important question we have to ask, is He worthy of worship, is He worthy of trust? Any being with enough power can enforce worship, respect can be produced out of shear fear but love never can be produced that way and trust is never obtained through fear.
Our question is philosophical and our question was philosophically answered by the book of John in the first chapter. It is an answer to the questions that were being asked at the time the book was written who is Jesus is He the Spirit that brings secret knowledge as the Gnostic claimed, is He the God who is in opposition to the wrathful God in the Old Testament as Marcion put forth. Or one of those other views we discussed last week. John presents Jesus as the Logos. We translate that as the Word but it had a much more specific philosophical meaning. Logos:
- In pre-Socratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos.
- Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves.
- In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul.
The source, the principle governing the universe, you really can’t miss what John is saying Jesus Christ is God. He is the argument for God revealed to humans, the argument that answers some of our important questions. Only God can answer the question of what God is like, not a man, not an angel, not a man who lives a perfect life even if he depends upon God for everything he does. That would not be God only God as God reveals His character.
You may think the debate about who Jesus is was completed a long time ago. But in fact even in the Adventist church today there are people who want to remove God from Jesus who want to stress the man Jesus as separate from God, someone who really lived as a man to show us that a man can live a perfect life if he depends upon God. These people destroy the whole philosophical argument of the New Testament. They are simply teaching a different gospel.