Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jesus fufilled the Law.

The claim is often that Jesus did what we couldn't do -- he perfectly followed the Law in our place, as that is what God demands.

However, if the claim is also that Jesus is God, then does saying he fulfilled the Law hold any validity?

This isn't a matter of if Jesus was perfect, he lacked the ability to break the Law. It's a matter of if Jesus was God, then some of the Laws had a hard time applying to him in the first place.

For instance, take the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." If God is in fact the Creator of all, and He's made everything, and anything you own is in fact provided to you by God, then God "owns" everything. How, therefore, could Jesus even begin to go about stealing, since it was all his to begin with?

Same with not being allowed to covet -- we again go back to the idea that it's all God's by default. He made it, He owns it, He has the rightful claim to everything. If you own everything, how can you covet something your neighbor has? It's already yours.

"You shall not murder." I'm not going into a debate on some of the acts committing by God in the Tanakh, but the idea is often that if God does kill, it's not murder, it's something He's allowed to do, the same way a painter is allowed to destroy a painting. If God killing is in a completely different category, and His right since He is just and righteous, then where does God even begin to have the opportunity to break that commandment?

If Jesus is God, can we still say he did what we couldn't do? How do you perfectly follow something that doesn't even apply to you? God wouldn't have a chance to even try and break the commandments, because if there's something out there that God can steal, then you lose the very definition of 'God' in a Christian sense. I'm sure the duality of Jesus would come into play here, with the man aspect of Jesus actually under this restriction, but there's no way to make that make sense. You'd have to fall back on the "It's a mystery" idea.

16 comments:

D said...

I tend to fall back on the Jesus wasn't actually God idea, personally, though I know it's not as popular. I don't think that Jesus was God made man, but a man-made God.

Mystical Seeker said...

Interesting points. I never really though of it that way, but it is true that many people grant to God certain exceptions that they think don't apply to us. For example, we are told to forgive everyone without exception, but if God sends people to hell for breaking any jot or tittle in the law, then God is not as forgiving as we are asked to be. God's standards seem to be different from our own in that sort of theology, which does pose a problem for incarnational theology.

I think that there is another way of looking at the supposed divinity of Jesus, though. If you think that there is something of God in everyone (this is a Quaker notion, by the way), then Jesus did not differ from the rest of us in kind, although perhaps in degree. Maybe he had a little more of God within him than most of us do, in the sense of being more of a "spirit person" than most of us are (to use a term from Borg). In that sense, the divinity that he expressed was simply that he was more in tune with God's will (or that his will matched what God wanted it to be) than most of us are, the divinity within him was more manifest than the divinity within us is, and therefore he disclosed something of God's will to the world. In that sense, it isn't that he is "God incarnate" who dropped out of heaven, but that he is a human like the rest of us who happened to have a closer relationship to God than we do. If you assume that God desires for all of us to act and think in certain ways, then Jesus happened to be someone who actually listened to and heeded what God wanted more than the rest of us. So in that sense, he was more in tune with God's will. Since God doesn't will for us to covet or steal or murder, any human who was particularly in tune with God would not do those things either.

This, it seems to me, addresses the idea of divinity within any human being better than the idea of a Trinitarian God who comes down to earth and lives like a person for a while.

OneSmallStep said...

D,

** tend to fall back on the Jesus wasn't actually God idea, personally, though I know it's not as popular.**

That's putting it mildly. :) I also hold the Jesus wasn't God view (which you can probably tell).

Mystical,

**) than most of us are, the divinity within him was more manifest than the divinity within us is, and therefore he disclosed something of God's will to the world.**

Or perhaps we do hold the same divnity, and were unaware of it until Jesus showed it?

**human being better than the idea of a Trinitarian God who comes down to earth and lives like a person for a while.**

If we want to get really grammatical, I almost find the idea that "God became man" to conflict with "Jesus was both God and man."

If thing A becomes thing B, then by use of the word "become," isn't thing B something different/seperate from thing A?

For instances, if I become a tree, then I can no longer be human. I'm one or the other. I've "come into existence" as a tree, or I've "undergone a change" from human to tree. I've forsaken one for the other.

Shouldn't the same apply to the sentence "God became man?" If God became man, then isn't God no longer God by default, since He's changed to a man?

Mystical Seeker said...

If God became man, then isn't God no longer God by default, since He's changed to a man?

You get no argument from me. There are certain characteristics of being human that are inherently contradictory with being God. It makes no sense, as far as I'm concerned.

Lorena said...

First, I think your comment, below, is profound. Thank you for saying that.
For instance, take the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." If God is in fact the Creator of all, and He's made everything, and anything you own is in fact provided to you by God, then God "owns" everything. How, therefore, could Jesus even begin to go about stealing, since it was all his to begin with?

I also like this other comment:
Or perhaps we do hold the same divnity, and were unaware of it until Jesus showed it?

I believed that for a long time, maybe in a way I still do. But when you look at it that way, you realize that Jesus isn't greater than the Buddha, the Greek philosophers like Plato, or the Dalai Lama. These are just people who are born once in a while with an "evolved" understanding of the universe and its human component. Then following Jesus, to me, becomes futile, because what was good about his thinking has already been absorbed by the race. We have evolved past the enlightenment point Jesus was able to achieve in his lifetime.

societyvs said...

Great points about the God becoming man idea - and the contrast with the law. I love the kind of talks because - like a few of you here - I also believe Jesus was a human.

I am not sure why believing Jesus to be human takes away from the Christian faith for many - maybe they never actually reason it out nor think about from this angle or something.

I recently did 2 blogs with Shane Vanderhart on his site about taking on the top 10 questions to 'who Jesus says Jesus is'. They were the top 10 proofs to Jesus being God. I think they tried - I think it was a Mark Driscoll post - but it's flawed also. I rebuffed each point as easy as I could...and it really didn't take much time. Also debated the CS Lewis thing on that same blog.

I just tend to feel the debates from the side of the idea of Jesus being a human messiah makes more sense - and also means just as much. I do not feel Jesus is less addressed by the fact he is not God - it just doesn't change much for me. I mean, I have a lot of questions on various doctrines - but the teachings stay intact/meaningful and always will.

For me, the biggest problem with Jesus being God is scripture itself contradicts the point more than it helps it. Even within John - if John thinks Jesus is God - he does it in such a flip flop way...in this passage he is - in this passage he ain't. I mean, we have to decide what John is saying - and some lean to Jesus being God and some (a way less amount) lean to the other side. But even within the gospel that promotes the idea it is not crystal clear.

Also we can get into the problems of breaking the commandments and I just had to argue a new one with Shane - about Jesus' trial. Jesus is charged with blasphemy at that trial. Now Jesus never once claims to be God - he does admit to the Messiah title - but never God. However, if Jesus is convicted of the actual sin - then he sinned and is no longer 'sinless' (since it a sin to claim God status). To me, the trial only makes sense if it's a trumped up charge and nothing more (of which Jesus is innocent).

But we know one thing - we will have this theological debate a few 100 more times before either of us are finished blogging!

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

Thanks for the comments.

**We have evolved past the enlightenment point Jesus was able to achieve in his lifetime.**

I wonder if the Jesus is the best! viewpoint is inevitable, in a way. If we took the same instances in the Bible, and replaced the names, would we still find that everything Jesus did was glorious? Or even good?

I would find Jesus more relatable if he was in fact exactly like me -- and part of that includes the whole flawed aspect.

Society,

**I am not sure why believing Jesus to be human takes away from the Christian faith for many - **
I don't know, either. I think it has a lot to do with God become very personable, and God actually dying for you, as opposed to a human dying due to the will of God. It might have something to do with the type of love demonstrated.

**Also debated the CS Lewis thing on that same blog. **
I did see that one.

**I do not feel Jesus is less addressed by the fact he is not God - it just doesn't change much for me.**

It doesn't for me, either. The key components in Bible in terms of Jesus are Messiah, Son of God, and Lord. None of those automatically translate into "God." You can believe all of those, and yet what your status as a Christian hinges on is something that is brought by inference, more than anything else.

Like the examples you bring up with John -- he does flip-flop a lot. ONe minute he's giving the Logos divinity, the next he's saying that people should believe on the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the one true God sent.

One thing you might find interesting. Go to Wikipedia and type in "Logos." It gives some background on the usage of that time, as well as Christian applications.

Lorena said...

"I would find Jesus more relatable if he was in fact exactly like me -- and part of that includes the whole flawed aspect. "

Very interesting insight, indeed. Maybe the reason why, to me, he always seemed so unrelatable was the fact that he was a Jew. Me being Latina, I would relate better to a salsa-dancing, huggable, talkative, outgoing prophet.

In fact, I find that now that I no longer follow Jesus I learn better from Latin writers and poets, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Silvio Rodriguez.

When I was a Christian I learned a few universal truths from Jesus that I keep, like the golden rule. But now, I feel I need guidance for the here and now from individuals who understand my culture and my reality--and that are as flawed as me, for I can learn from their mistakes. There isn't very much I can learn from a perfect person, really.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**There isn't very much I can learn from a perfect person, really.**

The only thing I think we can learn from a perfect person is how perfect we're not, and that would set up a huge guilt complex.

It's one of the things that puzzles me about Orthodox Christianity. Jesus was tempted like us, and yet never sinned.

How, then, can Jesus understand what we go through? How valid is his temptation, if he was never going to succumb? Part of the whole idea of doing wrong is dealing with the guilt that comes with it, and accepting personal responsibility. In some cases, the wrong thing can help us grow.

Yet Jesus never encountered any of that, never had that aspect of growth. If this is suppose to be a best friend, then wouldn't we all want a relatable best friend?

I, for one, would have an incredibly hard time confiding in someone who can do no wrong, because how would they know how to help me pick up the pieces, or repair anything?

Lorena said...

"I, for one, would have an incredibly hard time confiding in someone who can do no wrong, because how would they know how to help me pick up the pieces, or repair anything?"

That's probably why it is so hard to be friends with a fundamentalist Christian. Because many of them haven't realized that, even if Jesus was perfect, his followers are not. Yet some fundamentalists parade their non-existent righteousness around, as if they were Jesus.

These Christians I speak of never admit to doing wrong, and no matter what argument you through at them, they're always right.

I was like that. I left the faith when I realized I was imitating my idol, my role model. My only chance of changing was improving my role models. I resorted to imitating the actions that most remarkable people show as a common denominator.

Well, I am trying to imitate those people. They're individuals I strive to be like. I still have a lot of work to do, though.

SocietyVs said...

"When I was a Christian I learned a few universal truths from Jesus that I keep, like the golden rule. But now, I feel I need guidance for the here and now from individuals who understand my culture and my reality--and that are as flawed as me" (Lorena)

I am a First Nations person from Canada - I can really relate to this sentiment...it's honest and very valid. I relate more strongly with my culture also and I don't think Christianity is incompatible with the culture...my opinion anyways.

As for the fundies, don't even get me started on those peeps. I get judged to high hell each time I try to converse with them...they lack something concerning God's grace and the reality they claim they are in. Therefore, every judgment they make is skewed and useless in society.

I just finished talking with a young dude - a fundie - the other week...I found his perspective very skewed and un-even. After a while, I thought his thoughts about God were absurd and very unthought out...due to lack of experience likely. But it revealed to me - even people that claim to know God so well - can be mistaken and off the wall with their views. Apparently, even the best of religion does not even save sometimes.

OneSmallStep said...

**As for the fundies, don't even get me started on those peeps. I get judged to high hell each time I try to converse with them...**

What's more, there's always a sense of entitlement that seems to be attached to that judgement. Because they are so "in" with God, and have confessed all the right things, their judgement is impeccable. And even when challenged to point out the flaws in their judgement, using the Bible -- that's never acknowledged on that side, because we are always the one distorting, or taking things out of context, or fill in the blank. It's very, very rare to see a person of that nature admit when he or she has misjudged.

The only nice thing about those encounters, in retrospect, is that it makes me take a close look at my behavior, to see if I'm doing the same thing, just because such behavior is off-putting, and arrogant.

Mystical Seeker said...

The only nice thing about those encounters, in retrospect, is that it makes me take a close look at my behavior, to see if I'm doing the same thing, just because such behavior is off-putting, and arrogant.

Wow, I had never managed to find any value in any encounter I've ever had with a fundamentalist before. I'm impressed that you came up with one! :)

Roopster said...

A casual reading of the gospels would not immediately lead one to the conclusion that Jesus was God. Even the epistles contain very few references to this ever so important doctrine. You would think that Paul would be championing this idea every chance he got. Church history, also shows an evolution of this belief over a span of time. In essence, Jesus was not always God but became that over time.

OneSmallStep said...

Roopster,

**A casual reading of the gospels would not immediately lead one to the conclusion that Jesus was God. **

I agree. It's more a matter of inference, which I've always found curious. Paul lays out some specific criteria as to what the Gospel is, and he never mentions the idea of Jesus as God, or God dying for humanity. Rather, it's that Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected.

If this was an idea early in Christianity, surely the letters themselves would've focused on honing that idea, fine-tuning it, dealing with it from outside attacks. It would have to be one of the reasons why many Jews did reject Paul's teachings, and yet he doesn't mention it at all.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think any sensible reading of church history recognizes that the elevation of Jesus to fully divine status was a theological development within Christianity. Whether or not it made sense to develop Christianity along those lines is another question altogether.