Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Re-examining the Trinity - Jesus

As longtime readers of this blog already know, a number of the issues I have addressed here come from my collisions with classic Evangelical statements of faith.  One common element of such statements is a clause on the Trinity.  Here's a good example, cribbed from the website of a well-known Evangelical organization:

We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 This simple phrase is further amplified by the new EFCA statement of faith:

We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory. 

 There's a long tradition behind the notion of Jesus as fully God and fully human, dating at least back to the Nicea, as immortalized in the Nicene Creed:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. 

 But with all due respect (but no more than due) to the church fathers, I'm not absolutely sure they got it right.  There can be no doubt that Jesus represented himself as divine.  I refer you to an excellent word study my Mom published over at the Pioneers' New Testament, on the subject of Jesus use of the "I AM" phraseology--a construct that made no sense at all in Greek unless it was hearking back to God's declaration to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).  There's no reasonable question that his hearers heard Jesus characterizing himself as divine, either, as they tried more than once to stone him for blasphemy when he said it (see John 10:30-33).

Nevertheless, Jesus also, and just as clearly, referred to himself and the Father in language that seems awfully much like he saw God the Father as truly and distinctly other than himself.  Take for example Matt. 10:32-33, where Jesus speaks of acknowledging and/or denying people before his father, or Matt. 11:27 where he describes having authority delegated to him by his Father.  Or look at Matt. 20:23, where Jesus tells James and John and their mom that the authority to decide who sits at his right and left hand, has been reserved by the father and is "not mine to grant."  Perhaps most tellingly, Jesus' prayer to his Father in the garden that the cup of his suffering pass from him, does not sound like a unity of being.  These passages all  have their parallels in the other gospels; I'm not trying to be exhaustive here, but rather to point out the case that is to be made.

The question, then, is why we must make a big deal out of determining the appropriate Christology to think, in order to be judged a worthy disciple of Christ the King.  It took between two hundred and three hundred years for the church to come to the point of carving out the distinction (Nicea was in the early 300s--a time when a lot else got loused up by the church as well).  I submit that a healthier, and more biblical approach, would be to live with the tension of Jesus' divinity and his humanity--to recognize that when he referred to there being only one God, he was referring to his Father at the same time that he knew he, also, was begotten by the Father in a divine, non-human sense before creation, and then incarnated as the Word become flesh at a later point in history.

Bottom line, it doesn't take sorting out the finer details of this paradox, to get us down to the business of following him.   We would do well to get our priorities in order.

4 comments:

Ruth said...

AMEN!!!
For those who feel the "details" are so important, Please find us even one place where Jesus quizzes anybody on the fine points of what they "believe"(read, "think") about him, or anything else, for that matter. Acknowledge him as King -- and act like it -- and we are his! He is so much more gracious than most of those who claim to define "his people".

brettact2 said...

As a non-trinitarian, I've put up with a bit about how important this doctrine is suppose to be. I haven't heard any sermons or testimonies saying what difference it has made in anyone's life. And yet, because I can't believe it, I can't participate in any church ministry; no matter how i promise to handle the topic.

I've reached the point where I'm just telling people (when this topic comes up) that I follow a religion of revelation, not speculation. Since God didn't think the mechanics of the Godhead was important enough to us to spell it out, I'm not going to guess at something only He can tell me.

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings Dan Martin

On the subject of the Trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

sweetdreams said...

Hi Dan,Jesus said he was going to my God and your God, my father and your father. So clearly he is not God. I side with adoptionist who said he was adopted at the Jordan as the New Judge (Elohim) of Israel and Messiah to the Kosmos. As he ascended at Bethany he was begotten and transformed into the First-born spirit man. The words Pneuma and Ruach can also be translated Messenger (angel). The pneuma is not a comforter but a teacher. "It will teach you all things." So it is a persona but it cannot speak its own mind, but only what it hears, therefore it is only a messenger. Paraketos Pneuma Alethiea. An angel named Truth (Jn 16:16) .

The first parketos was chokma the first angel of Wisdom, the logos who created all things including humans and tented in Jesus (came upon him)

If Jesus pre-existed before the foundation of the earth then he is a visitor from anther realm (an alien) and not a real person. If he chose his mother (a married woman) how cruel to Joseph her husband. He committed incest with his mother and adultery). Denying his humanity is what 1John calls anti-Christ.

The gospel is a perfect man telling us about a loving father who does not want sacrifices. He is adoting children who on the final day become born again spirits like angels.