Sunday, April 13, 2008

Define God.

1) A central aspect to Christianity theology is that the word of God became flesh. The lamb of God takes away the sins of the world, and through the Incarnation, God became man.

2) "Be generous to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. In a word, as God's dear children, try to be like him, and live in love as Christ loved you, and gave himself up on your behalf as an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God." Ephesians 4: 32, 5: 1-2

3) "You are on a spiritual level, if only God's Spirit dwells within you; and if a man does not possess the Spirit of Christ, he is no Christian. But if Christ is dwelling within you, then although the body is a dead thing because you sinned, yet the spirit is life itself because you have been justified. Moreover, if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells within you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit ... For all who are moved by the spirit of God are the sons of God. The Spirit you have received is not a spirit of slavery leading you back into a life of fear, but a Spirit that makes us sons, enabling us to cry "Abba! Father!" In that cry the Spirit of God joins with our spirit in testifying that we are God's children; and if children, then heirs. We are God's heirs and Christ's fellow-heirs ..." Romans 8: 9-11, 14-18

4) "He is the image of the invisible God ... He is its origin, the first to return from the dead, to be in all things alone supreme. For in him the complete being of God, by God's own choice, came to dwell. Through him God chose to reconcile the whole universe to himself, making peace through the shedding of his blood upon the cross -- to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, through him alone." Colossians 1: 15, 18-20

5) "For God is love; and his love was disclosed to us in this, that he sent his only Son into the world to bring us life. The love I speak of is not our love for God, but the love he showed to us in sending his Son as the remedy for the defilement of our sins. If God thus loved us, dear friends, we in turn are bound to love one another. Though God has never been seen by any man, God himself dwells in us if we love one another; his love is brought to perfection within us." 1 John 4: 7-12

6) "But go to my brothers, and tell them that I am now ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God."/ Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!" John 20: 17, 28.

I get rather frustrated when discussing the Trinity, or the concept of Jesus as God, and I think I'm starting to understand why. I see no consistent method in defining the word 'God' in orthodox Christianity. As it stands, God can either stand for the Triune God, God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. When the term 'God' is thus used, our understanding of the type of God who is referred to is not dependent upon a definition, but rather upon the context of the discussion itself.

For instance, take #1. The definition of God does not remain consistent. We are told that it is pivotal to Christian theology that the word of God has become flesh. The term 'God' here cannot refer to the Triune, or to the Son. It has to be the Father, for it's the word of the Father. Same with the "lamb of God." God there must also mean the Father. Then we get into God becoming flesh. The 'God' there can no longer mean 'the Father.' It now means 'the Son.' In this very paragraph, we have two different usages of the word 'God.'

In #2, the definition of 'God' there can only be the Father. God forgives us in Christ. We are God's (the Father's) dear children, we should love as Christ loved, and then offered himself as a sacrifice pleasing to God.

In #3: we start out with God's Spirit, and then there is a reference to the Spirit of Christ. Does the 'God' there then refer to Jesus? Triune? The Father? It can't be the Holy Spirit, since the paragraph is referring to the Spirit. When we keep going, it mentions that if you have the spirit of Him who raised Jesus, then that God will give your mortal bodies new life. The 'God' there must refer to the 'Father.' Can we then say that the original use of 'God' at the beginning also means the Father? I tend to lean towards that, since this holds to a definite hierarchy. Christ is referred to as God's heir, and then humanity is described as Christ's fellow-heirs (leading me to wonder if Christ is God, does that makes us fellow-heirs with God?)

#4: I believe this one is used as support verse for Jesus is God. However, the verse itself doesn't just say, "Jesus is God." It says that Christ is the image of the invisible God. The contexts makes me think this is God the Father. And then a few sentences down, in Christ, the complete being of God, by God's own choice, came to dwell. The 'God' there also seems to refer to the Father, especially since it goes on to say that God chose to reconcile the whole universe through Christ, by choice. By this same choice, the complete being of the Father came to dwell. But why mention the word 'choice' at all if this complete being is something that Jesus always possessed?

In #5: the God in use here has to be God the Father. This is the same God who sent His son, and thus proved His love for humanity. I've seen references elsewhere about how the best way God proved His love for people was by becoming a man, and dying for us. But then wouldn't it be logical to include that in a paragraph like this? To say that God is love, and thus came and died for us? Incarnated Himself for us? Instead, the emphasis is on God sending His son.

In #6: Thomas calls Jesus 'My Lord and my God.' But how was Thomas understanding the 'my God' portion? As we see, Jesus earlier tells Mary that he is now ascending to his God and her God. Wouldn't this also be the same God of Thomas? But this 'God' that Jesus describes cannot include himself, for he's not ascending to himself. And when Thomas refers to Jesus as 'my God,' it cannot be that God whom Jesus ascending to. I also wonder if Thomas really meant Jesus as God Himself. I know there are parts in the Tanakh where regular people are referred to as God ... and the idea/concept of 'God' there ironically depends on context.

I could keep going, with New Testament verse after New Testament verse. When I'm told about a crucial aspect of Christian theology, in terms of Jesus being God, and how it's obvious in the Bible ... is it really? Take any New Testament verse that gets into explaining God and Christ. How easy it is to find a clear-cut definition? More so, it seems that the idea of Christ as God relies more on inference, and the theological underpinnings for the last 1,700 years.

Jesus as God is presented as a simple fact. Defining 'God' in Christian orthodoxy is not a simple process. Too often, it gets answered by saying that the Trinity is a mystery, that we simply can't comprehend. That's fine. But how well can one "know" a mystery? If you say that you know Jesus is God, that God died for you, that God loved you that much, and yet can't explain the process past the fact that Jesus is God, then how well do you really know it at all?


Mystical Seeker said...

I think you've documented the problem pretty well. What's going on in a lot of passages is that the Trinity is retrofitted (often with great difficulty) back into passages that were not meant to be formulated as Trinitarian theology. So that is why you end up with a hodgepodge of ways of expressing the Trinitarian God in those passages you cited. It really is not consistent or coherent.

SocietyVs said...

I have the same problems when looking into the trinity doctrine - Jesus and God the Father are very seperate and this abundantly clear in any and all of those passages. They are 2 different people also - meaning if Jesus is God - then there are 2 gods (since Father and Son are seperate in many passages)?

Plus, no matter how much you point out the obvious in some of these passages - Christians have some deafness complex going on when it comes to addressing their orthodoxy - they cannot hear it seems (or refuse to think it through). It becomes like talking to a 'brick wall' - they are not open on this point (they are restricted by the fact they cannot be truly free in thought - not allowed in church doctrine).

I see Jesus as the Christ - someone very close to God (like a son and has God's right hand) - very close. But that being said - I don't see him as the essence of God - but also a creation of God. Maybe the greatest creation of God - but a creation nonetheless. And trying to make this distinction is where I lose everyone that thinks Jesus is God.

Also, I would say Paul and John's gospel allow for this Trinity view - certain aspects of what both authors say point to this idea. That's why it's a no win scenario for us - if there is even one scripture that points to Jesus being God - that's all they need for proof.

OneSmallStep said...


And the fun part is that I could've kept going. The whole Trinitarian idea starts to unravel for me when I break down a huge portion of Biblical texts.


**That's why it's a no win scenario for us - if there is even one scripture that points to Jesus being God - that's all they need for proof.**

It's not only that, but that one verse gets used to interpret all the other verses. It we can to get techincal, perhaps we can say that we're the most Sola Scripture of them all -- you can't come anywhere close to the current Trinitarian understanding, just by reading the Bible alone. It gets blurry with Paul and John, but even in those two, I see a definite hierarchy. You pray to God through Jesus Christ. God works through Christ, God raised Christ, we are hid in Christ with God, people will bow at the name of Jesus to the glory of God the Father, and so on.

** It becomes like talking to a 'brick wall' - they are not open on this point (they are restricted by the fact they cannot be truly free in thought - not allowed in church doctrine)**

That's another frustrating thing, and you've alluded to this before. You are exploring what you see in the Bible, and get told that this "heresy" is nothing new and was resolved with Arius, or anyone else. That's fine, but you aren't raising these questions because you've read church history. You're raising these questions because you're reading the Bible.

The standard response to this is that the Trinity is a mystery, but I see that as a cop-out. I really do. I've raised these verses before, and am told that I have to look at the entire Bible, and not just one or two verses: focus on the message as a whole. ANd then to prove that Jesus is God, I get one or two verses used as support. So we can clearly understanding the Jesus=God passages, but not all the blurry ones that need a definition of God? Because the latter by far outweights the former.

Mike L. said...

Maybe God is more of a question than an answer?

The God we were taught about in traditional christianity is the answers to the problems people have faced over the centuries. Doctrines, like the trinity, are attempts to gloss over some of the less intelligent answers of our faith ancestors.

my 2 cents