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Switch to Forum Live View The Divinity of Christ
4 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2009 - 6:00PM #1
Re4son
Posts: 9

I was raised in a non-denominational bible church by a mother who came from an Episcopal background and a father who was Southern Baptist. Either way, all three church creed's included the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as part of the God head (trinity). However, when I read the gospels I get thrown off why at times Jesus seems to make himself separate from God (calling him the Father and how he is not the same as the Father), but then other times the gospels state that Jesus and God are the same. Many arguments to contribute to Jesus as divine is the acknowledgement of his pre-existence, but aren't we all pre-existent to an omniscient God?


Anyway, my biggest thing is that in order to be 'saved' one must believe in Jesus Christ, believing in God is not enough. If you believe in God but your uncertain if Jesus was God, then you are unsaved and thus going to Hell...I just don't understand this. Why does God depend salvation on a man who lived at this one point in history and the fate of humankind depending on how quickly the gospel could be spread. What of those who are contemporaries of Jesus? Are they not saved simply because they did not get an opportunity to know about him? To me, it is very complexing to believe salvation is based on simply stating whether or not you believe in Jesus Christ versus how you conduct your life and if you even believe in God or not...


 


Anyway, that is my rambling of the day...just wanted to see if someone else has struggle with this thought and perhaps can give me some of their thoughts on it. Thank you.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2009 - 11:52PM #2
grampawombat
Posts: 269

There may be some progressive Christians who worry about this, but I doubt that there are many. There aren't many progressives who believe that "believing in Jesus" is the only way to salvation; in fact one of the concepts that is supposed to characterize progressives is the belief that there are other ways to a successful afterlife that Christianity. May you should ask your question of more traditional Christians.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2009 - 10:23AM #3
Stardove
Posts: 14,564

Nov 27, 2009 -- 6:00PM, Re4son wrote:


I was raised in a non-denominational bible church by a mother who came from an Episcopal background and a father who was Southern Baptist. Either way, all three church creed's included the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as part of the God head (trinity). However, when I read the gospels I get thrown off why at times Jesus seems to make himself separate from God (calling him the Father and how he is not the same as the Father), but then other times the gospels state that Jesus and God are the same. Many arguments to contribute to Jesus as divine is the acknowledgement of his pre-existence, but aren't we all pre-existent to an omniscient God?


Anyway, my biggest thing is that in order to be 'saved' one must believe in Jesus Christ, believing in God is not enough. If you believe in God but your uncertain if Jesus was God, then you are unsaved and thus going to Hell...I just don't understand this. Why does God depend salvation on a man who lived at this one point in history and the fate of humankind depending on how quickly the gospel could be spread. What of those who are contemporaries of Jesus? Are they not saved simply because they did not get an opportunity to know about him? To me, it is very complexing to believe salvation is based on simply stating whether or not you believe in Jesus Christ versus how you conduct your life and if you even believe in God or not...


 


Anyway, that is my rambling of the day...just wanted to see if someone else has struggle with this thought and perhaps can give me some of their thoughts on it. Thank you.



Your post reminds me of my asking my mother a question.  Let me say growing up I was raised in a Southern Baptist church.  Today my mom still attends a SB church. 


Anyway, I asked her "Mom, what about the Jewish race of people prior to Jesus coming to earth?"  Basically her reply was they would be in heaven, because they were looking forward to the Messiah's coming.  I replied I guess today Jewish people will still be going to heaven, since they are still looking.  Wink


I agree with Grandpa most Progressive Christians are no longer in the narrow boxes of teachings which many "main stream" Christians churches might teach/preach.


A new favorite saying I came across:  The best sermons are not preached, but lived.


 

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2009 - 10:37AM #4
bigbear6161
Posts: 3,612

Hi, the divinity of Christ is a doctrine that evolved in the period after historical Jesus (assuming he was an historical person) and ultimately defined at Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.  However, many Christians have and continue to believe that the divinity of Jesus is a mythological construct that may or may not be useful in one's life.  One classic way to understand this is the idea of the historical Jesus v. the Christ of the gospels and other New Testament writings.  The former is somewhat unknowable but many of us feel it is useful to try to understand who and what Jesus actually taught and did.  The latter is a mythological clothing draped over the memories and oral traditions about historical Jesus but which allow Jesus to be a focal point for our understanding of the relationship between God and man (women included). I think many Christians see the divinity of Jesus as an acceptable myth that points to the connectedness of all humans with the sacred, which all of us can encounter in our lives.  I think the exclusivity of orthodox positions, whereby Jesus is seen as "the only son of the father," is what most of us have trouble with.  Peace, Dave

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2009 - 6:17PM #5
Iwantamotto
Posts: 7,782

Anyway, my biggest thing is that in order to be 'saved' one must believe in Jesus Christ, believing in God is not enough.
Yeah, I find that weird that, even if one were Trinitarian (which I'm no longer one), the idea of placing the Son above the Father seems ...well, wrong.  Should the One who led people to God be over the One who created us in the first place?


My understanding is that Jesus for the most part says He's not God.  It's when you start reading what the apostles or their followers say about Jesus that magically He becomes God.  It smacks of rationalization.

Knock and the door shall open.  It's not my fault if you don't like the decor.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2009 - 3:31PM #6
Billmc
Posts: 37

I tend to think that we are all, in a sense, divine. The Bible describes us as being made in the image of God, alluding to the notion that there is something of God in each of us. Some call this "the divine spark."


But as to Jesus being God incarnate, I suspect that is the language of poetry. It's important that we understand that Jesus didn't write any of the gospels, nor did the apostles. The gospels are reflective of views of the early church, especially as the church became more and more influenced by Greek-thinking Gentiles. Paul himself says that "God was in Christ." Mark says that Jesus became divine at his baptism. Luke and Matthew says that Jesus became divine at his birth. John says that Jesus was always divine, pre-existing even his birth. So Christology was never monolithic about Jesus' nature.


For me, I understand Jesus to have recognized the "Christ" within him, his unity with God. When he did that, then he could claim that he and God were one, not of essence, but of heart and mission. Likewise, when Christians (which means "little Christs") recognize that we are one with God, we, too, become "the body of Christ" and the "incarnation" continues. For me, God is too "big" (or transcendant) to be contained in anything, even if that thing is a human body. Jesus said that God and his kingdom are all around us and even in us...if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. So it isn't about whether Jesus is God or not. God was in Christ. He is also in us. Being a Christian isn't about recognizing whether or not Jesus was/is God, it is about recognizing "Christ in us, the hope of glory." 

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2009 - 9:56PM #7
Intotheblue
Posts: 265

Wow, interesting thread. I've wondered about the same things, especially lately as my faith is shifting again. I think the post above mine said it very well. The whole chapter 17 of John's gospel is pretty good evidence.


In the years immediately following Jesus' life and death, his followers were divided over several key issues, one of them being the question of how much of him was divine and how much was mortal. The Council of Nicea settled the question once and for all, as far as the Catholic church went. They believed he was both God and Man. A lot of this has to do with historical and cultural context, which is hard for us to understand these days, as most of us aren't formally educated in theology. "Christ" means "Messiah." The Jewish people believed in this figure, and were waiting for him to come save them. He was foretold in countless prophecies. But these prophecies had to be met to the letter, in order for it to be valid. That's why there are so many strange-seeming things in the New Testament about Jesus, and sometimes you'll see "as it was foretold by the prophet [so and so]" tacked on to the end of something. If it weren't for Jesus' life, death, and resurrection matching the prophecies, he wouldn't be considered The Christ, and people would have disregarded his message, for the most part. Remember, his message was very radical at the time. The only reason people listened to it was they believed he was their long awaited Messiah, and therefore as good Jewish people, they had to listen to him.


So that's why there was so much importance placed on his divinity, and it has just carried on through the centuries, even though most people don't even think about it today. For me personally, his divinity isn't as important as his message. I'm not Jewish, never have been. I couldn't tell you a thing about the prophecies, nor do I believe in them. For me, what matters is that his teachings were true and good, and that I should apply them to my life. I think his kingdom is meant to be built here on earth by his followers. "Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven," he taught us to pray. It seems to me that he was more about the here-and-now. Jewish people at the time thought they could get to heaven by being clean enough and doing the right rituals. He told us it has nothing to do with that, and showed us a new way. He was pretty avoidant and vague about his divinity. Like when Pontius Pilate asked him if he was king, he replied, "You say I am king." He wouldn't directly answer. He gave a lot of conflicting answers. I think he knew people wouldn't listen to him if they didn't think he was their Christ.


I would like to think that today, we can listen to him, regardless of Jewish prophecies.

Namaste.

.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

"It is not our differences that divide us, but our inability to accept and celebrate those differences."
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2009 - 10:22PM #8
Billmc
Posts: 37

Your last post had alot of good food for thought, Intotheblue. I really appreciate your contributions!


This especially rings true in my heart: "For me, what matters is that his teachings were true and good, and that I should apply them to my life. I think his kingdom is meant to be built here on earth by his followers. "Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven," he taught us to pray. It seems to me that he was more about the here-and-now."


A couple of years ago, through a lot of reading, studying, and a little critical thinking (I don't do too much thinking), I came to realize that the Jews of the first century had at least two basic "blueprints" for what Messiah was to do. (BTW, I'm sure you know that messiah just means "anointed by God", it does not mean "God in the flesh." There are a number of references to messiahs in the OT.) Anyway, one basic blueprint was that messiah was to be God's holy warrior, one whom would kick the Romans out of Israel, establish Jerusalem as the capitol, not only of Israel, but of the world, and who would destroy all of God's enemies. This is why John the Baptist speaks of messiah as burning the chaff and why Jesus' disciples, at one point, wonder if they should call down fire from heaven on people who rejected the gospel. This blueprint for messiah was popular because, being humans, we tend to want to see God favor our "tribe" and get rid of our enemies. 


The other blueprint for messiah was not as popular. It was the blueprint found in second Isaiah of a "suffering servant" who would come, not to conquer through might, but to take on evil's full force and continue to love in the face of it. This vision of the messiah was not as popular because it said that the rich and powerful would be on the bottom while the poor and the "least of these" would lead the kingdom.


Our gospels have BOTH of these blueprints of messiah within them. Some Jews looked for a conquering king, someone to rule with a rod of iron. Few looked for the "Way" that Jesus described, a Way, not of seeking personal glory and power, but of suffering evil and of loving one's enemies instead of destroying them.


Because these two visions of messiah are in the Bible, we still have them with us today. Books and movies like "Left Behind" portray the "holy jihad" Jesus who will return to destroy God's enemies with holy fire and cast them into hell. But we also have the vision of the Jesus who has never left us, who is within us, not to destroy the world and it's people, but to redeem them and restore them - to creation and to each other.


And we have the choice today of which kind of messiah we will follow. For whatever it is worth, I see Jesus rejecting the first vision of messiah for the second. He refused to call down fire, he never cast anyone into hell, he refused a kingship of Israel, and he loved all 12 of his disciples who betrayed him and all of his enemies - even unto death. This is the kind of Jesus I endeavor to follow. He is the messiah who shows his power, not in military death and destruction, but in life-transforming compassion and love.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2009 - 12:11AM #9
Intotheblue
Posts: 265

That was very informative, Bill! Thank you for explaining... Like I said, I didn't know much about the prophecies themselves, so that was really enlightening.


What you said reminds me of the whole "OT God vs NT God" thing... Many people, myself included of course, have noticed that there almost seem to be two completely different Gods in the Bible. In the Old Testament, he seems wrathful and violent and vengeful, but in the New Testament, he seems merciful and gentle and forgiving. Personally I've always attributed this to Jesus altering the way we thought of God. I had never really thought about there being two versions of Messiah, but that does make sense. And I think it seems to correlate with the two versions of God, too. One would assume that a group of people who worship a wrathful God would naturally expect him to send a vengeful messiah, and a group of people who worship a loving God would expect him to send a forgiving messiah. Makes sense to me...


As I was reading your post, I was also pondering the difference between these versions. Like you said, it's kind of human nature to want vengeance. Sometimes we think of it as justice. I know I do. Sometimes I think how incredibly satisfying it would be to see my enemy suffer as they've made me suffer. How relieved I would feel, how triumphant! But then I think how cowardly I would feel too. First of all, I would've brought myself to their level, which just validates and perpetuates the hatred. It's kind of like the wars in the Middle East, you know how people say neither side even remembers who started it or why? It's just a never-ending spiral. I hate you because you hate me, you hate me because I hate you, on and on and on forever. But love can stop that cycle. It's the only thing that can stop it. And it takes soooo much more courage and strength to do that! I think about how much I have to work at it, but then once I achieve it, how freeing it is. Truly freeing. It's not that smug, temporary sense of triumph that is immediately overshadowed by the anxiety of the retribution I know my enemy will soon seek against me. No, it's real, lasting freedom and relief, knowing the cycle has been broken. It takes a great deal of courage and strength, and that's how you know it's worthwhile and true. Returning hatred and seeking vengeance is the easy way out, the weak knee-jerk reaction. Overcoming that is true triumph.


So, like you, I'm glad I follow that Messiah.

Namaste.

.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

"It is not our differences that divide us, but our inability to accept and celebrate those differences."
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2009 - 7:22AM #10
Billmc
Posts: 37

Nov 30, 2009 -- 12:11AM, Intotheblue wrote:


What you said reminds me of the whole "OT God vs NT God" thing... Many people, myself included of course, have noticed that there almost seem to be two completely different Gods in the Bible. In the Old Testament, he seems wrathful and violent and vengeful, but in the New Testament, he seems merciful and gentle and forgiving.




Yes, Jan, it can seem that way. But a closer look at both testaments shows us, as you have said, that both "kinds" or interpretations of God are in both testaments. After all, God wants to bless Abraham for the sake of the whole world in Genesis and when we read the minor prophets, we see a God with a broken heart but who promises peace to come. And in the NT, we find this interpretation of God as someone who could torment people forevermore, a notion not found at all in the OT.


So I tend to think that, to a certain amount, we, as humans, "create God in our image" and instill him with the traits that we think sanction our own views and biases. If we need to win a war, God is a holy warrior. If we need to seek justice and compassion, we find that in God too.


IMO, this doesn't mean that God is anything we want him to be, just that our notions of God are not God. God is God and my belief is that the "truest" interpretation, the God I see in Jesus, leans overwhelmingly towards a God of justice and compassion. Judgment is part of it, but it is only for the sake of reform, not for retribution. Just my fallible thoughts on it.


As I was reading your post, I was also pondering the difference between these versions. Like you said, it's kind of human nature to want vengeance. Sometimes we think of it as justice. I know I do. Sometimes I think how incredibly satisfying it would be to see my enemy suffer as they've made me suffer. How relieved I would feel, how triumphant! But then I think how cowardly I would feel too. First of all, I would've brought myself to their level, which just validates and perpetuates the hatred.



I love your honesty and insights, my friend. The church (all the church) needs people who can be honest about these things. Both these "Gods" want peace, but one forces peace through victory and the other seeks peace through service and suffering.


It's not that smug, temporary sense of triumph that is immediately overshadowed by the anxiety of the retribution I know my enemy will soon seek against me. No, it's real, lasting freedom and relief, knowing the cycle has been broken.



Exactly.


 It takes a great deal of courage and strength, and that's how you know it's worthwhile and true. Returning hatred and seeking vengeance is the easy way out, the weak knee-jerk reaction. Overcoming that is true triumph.



Great insight, Jan. That's how I see God also. I don't envision him as the all-powerful who forces people to do things. Instead, his power is seen in compassion and service.




If you don't mind me asking, how does the Taoist concieve of God or of the Divine? Is there a mix of compassion and judgment there also? 

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