Monday, December 15, 2008

Everyday Heresy

How Many Ways Can You Go Wrong in One Sentence?
Conversation 2

This is continuation of Conversation 1 about the deity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity.

"G's" comment:
And Lettia, it did feel almost as though this couple was assaulting the deity of God when we first had this conversation, and I was afraid for them for even suggesting that Jesus wasn't fully God, but merely had qualities of God since he was after all his son.

I responded:
The way you explain your friends' ideas about Jesus as Son of God betrays a bit of confusion about what Sonship is on their part. This is really important, because I believe this confusion exists in the Christian church at just below the conscious level and is not well addressed.

First, the idea that "Jesus was not fully God" is problematic by itself. In Judeo-Christian monotheism, someone is either divine or not divine; he cannot be somewhere in-between. In Jesus' case, He is either God or He is not. So, the term "fully God" is either a redunancy or signifies bad theology by suggesting that divinity is like a tank that must be filled to capacity in order to achieve God-status. In most cases, it's bad theology that rules the day.

Second, getting the "fully God" part wrong will trip you up going into the next portion of the sentence, "but merely had qualities of God..." Really? What are those qualities? If they are not eternal self-existence exhibiting omniscience and benevolent omnipotence operating in a transcendent-emmanent paradox with relation to the material world, then what--forgiving others, healing the sick, walking on water? Well, Jesus' disciples, even Judas Iscariot, had some of those qualities, but we don't wonder how close they were to being divine. Point is, one cannot appeal to the qualities of God without describing, well, God! They are unique and exclusive (no 'merely' about it!) to only ONE in a Judeo-Christian monotheistic worldview, which means that God cannot share His inherent qualities with Jesus unless Jesus inherently possesses those qualities also.

Third, the last portion, "since he was after all his son" simply screams out massive confusion. If I may grab an Islamic objection to the Sonship of Jesus to demonstrate confusion about Jesus as the Son. Islam teaches that God does not and could not have a son. To a Muslim, having a son is a form of procreation, something that is irrational for God to do. Therefore, Jesus being the Son of God is irrational at best, blasphemous at worst from their point of view. But Sonship isn't about a Muslim point of view; it is a Judeo-Christian point of view, which begs the question, what was so special about Jesus that made Him God's Son? And if being God's Son makes any sense at all, why wouldn't being God THE Son make just as much sense? Your friends are borrowing heavily the language of orthodox Christianity without any of the definitions associated with the language either because they don't know the definitions or because they choose to ignore them. In either case, they are not adopting a Judeo-Christian view of Sonship, which is that Jesus is fulfilling the duties that the second member of the Trinity, the Son, was sent into the world to do. What your friends mean by God's Son is a mystery to me, and I think perhaps it might be a mystery to them as well.

Overall, trying to explain how Jesus is not God but is able to exhibit all the "qualities" of God comes from and leads to great theological confusion about the very nature of God. If we impose a post-Enlightenment standard onto the Bible as many do, it should not surprise us that what was obvious in the 1st century escapes our understanding today. Furthermore, if we use terms devoid of their original meaning, it should also not surprise us the heights of heresy to which we can achieve. Sad but true.

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