We have been working our way through a study on the Deity of Jesus Christ. Simply put, this is one of the most basic and essential beliefs of orthodox Christian faith. Without belief in the Divine nature of Jesus, it can be seriously questioned if one is actually a Christian or, in fact, something else. We have discussed why it matters, a brief explanation of the Hypostatic Union, and some of the major attacks and assaults both historically and today on this essential doctrine.
As we move along in our study, I want to take a look at the whys, or the motivations, that may be driving those who doubt this doctrine to doubt in in the first place. Irritation warning here, and an intolerance advisory has been issued. Many will disagree with some of what I say here, but that’s really not my problem.
Let’s recap, quickly, just why this matters so greatly to the core of Christian belief:
When we pray for the forgiveness of our sins, who do most of us pray to? That is very likely Jesus Christ. If Jesus was not God, then we are praying empty, useless prayers, as only God can forgive sin.
We often pray to and worship Jesus. If He was not God, just who are we worshiping? After all, aren’t we to only worship God?
If we fail to recognize the deity of Jesus, them many other essential Christian doctrines fly right out of the door as well, such as the Trinity and the Resurrection. In fact, since the concept of the deity of Jesus seems quite clear in The Bible, a good part of that has to be tossed out the window as well.
Only God is eternal and infinite. If Jesus was not eternal and infinite, then how exactly did He pay for the potentially infinite sins of the entire human race past, present, and future?
There are many other things we could say about the essential nature the deity of Jesus, but we will leave it at the above for now and move along. The point is, that without a belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, one is not in any meaningful sense a Christian. Failure to believe in the deity of Jesus is failure to believe in the Jesus of the Bible. Belief in Jesus is essential to our salvation. Connect the dots.
So, who is it out there in the world denying the deity of Jesus? Well, there are many.
Obviously, atheists would deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Obviously, that is because atheists by definition deny the very existence of deity. There are, however, atheists who like to debate about whether or not The Bible even teaches the deity of Jesus. Why is that? Well, it goes right back to the essentiality of the doctrine. If the deity of Jesus falls by the wayside, so do other essential doctrines and The Bible itself. My purpose here is not really to address that issue, so I won’t.
Obviously, Muslims deny the deity of Jesus, although they do recognize Him as a great prophet of God. Again, I don’t plan on taking on that subject here either.
Who is my beef really with concerning the deity of Jesus? It is with “Christians” who would undermine this essential doctrine. Who are these? Well, there are the obvious candidates of “Christian” religions who are not really Christian at all. These groups deny this essential doctrine along with many others, rendering them not Christian at all but merely what they are: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Christadelphians, and others.
In addition, among “mainstream” Christian denominations, there are arising a group of quite vocal “progressive” Christians who are getting into the business of denying the deity of Jesus, along with other essentials such as the trinity, the resurrection, and the miracles of Jesus.
So, why the denial from these groups of the deity of Jesus Christ?
It doesn’t make sense intellectually to them. How Jesus could be 100 percent man and 100 percent God simply is beyond our ability to grasp. The incarnation of Jesus is criticized as paradoxical, enigmatic, and even self contradictory. Of course it seems that way to us! The idea of any being being 100 percent of two things, in this case human and divine, seems self contradictory. We need to remember here who we are dealing with; we are dealing with God. God is by nature not comprehensible by any one who is not, well, God. In one of the articles I posted on the previous post by Alister McGrath, he said the following:
“The idea of incarnation is easy to criticize: it is paradoxical, enigmatic, and so on. But everyone already knows this, including the most fervent advocates of the idea. And it is absurd, even offensive, to suggest that those who regard a belief in the incarnation as legitimate are intellectually hidebound or trapped in their traditions, unable to think for themselves. The question remains, as it always has been: is the incarnation a proper and legitimate interpretation of the history of Jesus of Nazareth?
The fact that something is paradoxical and even self-contradictory does not invalidate it. Those who have worked in the scientific field are only too aware of the sheer complexity and mysteriousness of reality. The events lying behind the rise of quantum theory, the difficulties of using models in scientific explanation – to name but two factors which I can remember particularly clearly from my own period as a natural scientist – point to the inevitability of paradox and contradiction in any except the most superficial engagement with reality. Our apprehension of reality is partial and fragmentary, whether we are dealing with our knowledge of the natural world or of God. The Enlightenment world-view tended to suppose that reality could be totally apprehended in rational terms, an assumption which still persists in some theological circles, even where it has been abandoned as unrealistic elsewhere. All too many modern theologians cry ‘Contradiction!’, and expect us all to abandon there and then whatever it is that is supposed to be contradictory. But reality just isn’t like that.”
It’s fairly easy to determine why the non believing world rejects the idea of the incarnation of Jesus; why, then do those wearing the mantle of “Christianity” reject it? That’s not difficult to discern, either.
How are we saved? Any true reader of God’s Word knows the answer is that we are saved by Grace, through faith. There is not even one iota of work we apply towards securing our salvation. We do not have to work to get it; it is a gift from God. We do not have to work to keep it; we are secured by God. When Jesus said on the Cross, It is finished, it was in fact finished. Why could Jesus finish it? He was God. As eternal God, He had the actual power to forgive on that cross. As eternal God, He could pay the debt for all of humanity past, present, and future. As eternal God, He had the ability to conquer death, and return to life so what we could do the same some day ourselves.
What I just described above is Christianity. Anything else is not. The single greatest heresy and false teaching in the “Church” today is the doctrine of salvation by works. It is not just a heresy, but a damnable heresy. Trust in any other thing besides the completed atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross will NOT secure a person’s salvation. Let me be clear: if you are still working your way to heaven, you are working the wrong direction.
Why do I say the above? If Jesus was not God, then Jesus needs our help. His death may have set a great example, but did not pay the price in full. His death paid most of it, but we have a few things we have to toss in there to finish the job and to keep it finished. We have to continually re sacrifice Him over and over by rituals and sacraments, because the first time wasn’t enough.Once we have it, we have to do good to keep it, because the power of Jesus is insufficient.
People reject the divinity of Jesus, because they don’t want Him to be God; they want to be God. We want to be God. We want our set of rules, our set of standards, our legalism to be the means by which we make ourselves right with God. Please don’t misunderstand me here; I do believe God has expectations of developing holiness from His children. I am not advocating license as an alternative for legalism here. Nonetheless, becoming sanctified over time and striving for personal holiness never saves us or keeps us.
We reject the deity of Jesus because we want things our way. What’s new, right? Isn’t this what started the whole problem back in the Garden of Eden? God had made things very simple, and Adam and Eve persisted in making it complicated. It is true that there is nothing new under the sun.
Next Week: We are finally going to start teaching what God’s Word reveals to us about the deity of Jesus Christ.