Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making Jesus God?

Someone in my comment section has suggested that I am making a god of Jesus![1] Or perhaps he means I am worshiping him as though he was God. Or maybe this person thinks that because I put Jesus above all other gods and lords I believe he is the only Lord. I do.

He also gave thanks that those who hold the kind of views I hold are few in the Presbyterian Church USA. He is grateful for this, I guess because he is a retired Presbyterian Pastor.

I referred him to the story of Elisha and his attendant? They were surrounded by an army, but Elisha was not frightened. He told the attendant “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” He prayed that God would open the attendant’s eyes and God did.“And the Lord opened the servants eyes and he saw and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6)”

We are in a strange time in our denomination. But it is not different than other times. It just happens to be the time and place where God has chosen to place us. And the joy of following our Lord is quite sufficient.



[1] If you are that curious and have not been following our dialogue see the comment section of Elephants and gods: writing about an article in Hungryhearts. But that is a lot of reading.

29 comments:

Debbie said...

Yes, I "make a god of Jesus", because he is part of the divine Trinity. Yes, I worship him as though he is God, because he IS God. Yes, I put Jesus above all other gods and lords, because, like Viola, I believe he is the only Lord.

This is the most important thing in my life, and I would give up everything else for it.

It is from this that everything else depends.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Viola Larson said...

Amen, Debbie!

Pastor Bob said...

I think the answer to the question is not quite the right way to say it. You aren't making a god of Jesus. Jesus IS god. You are responding to the truth. I think it's an important difference.

Viola Larson said...

its just a play on words Bob. And I agree with you. So does Debbie I am sure.

Anonymous said...

And what ever happened to Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures? Neutered by his Son? Is Jesus superior to the other persons of the Trinity, the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead? Harold Bloom calls Jesus the American God.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Anonymous said...

Jesus is LORD . . . don't they get the meaning of this most basic of Christian confessions? (Romans 10:9)

The links of the New Testament Greek "kyrios" (Lord) to the Hebrew "adonai" (Lord), which is used in the Old Testament to ooch around the use of the tetragrammaton, are pretty tight. The Septuagint consistantly translates "YHWH" as "kyrios."


The New Testament writers knew what they were doing when they called him "Lord."

Jesus is Lord = Jesus is YHWH

Sure it's shocking. It always was. That's why people throw rocks, verbal and otherwise, at those who say it.

Elliott Scott
Houston

Viola Larson said...

John,
This is not about insisting that there is no Father or Holy Spirit, but rather it is an answer to someone who wanted to see Jesus as less than God. It is also about honoring Jesus as Lord. Also to deny the Son is to deny the Father. After all there is an essential oneness there.


Read a lot of John 14. Remember, Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John:2:23)

I wonder if Bloom said that because he is not a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Viola

I am relieved to learn that this is not about “there is no Father or Holy Spirit" but rather your inquisitiveness about whether or not the faith of others meets your standards for orthodoxy.

John 12: 44…‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

Good verse John.

Debbie said...

John McNeese, I don't see how you could even begin to think that this post is about "there is no Father or Holy Spirit."

As for me, I said in my first comment's first sentence that Jesus is part of the divine Trinity. That certainly doesn't leave God and the Holy Spirit out.

However, I'm afraid there is a tendency in the church today for many people to leave Jesus out. They want Christ but they don't want Jesus, except as a man who was an expression of Christ, just as, some say, other people can also be an expression of Christ. That is not what Viola and I and many, many, many others are opposed to (both now and through the ages) when we say that Jesus (with the Father and the Holy Spirit) is the only Lord.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Dwight said...

Debbie
Kind of defeats the point of a a qualifier, as in Jesus is the Christ, if they are simply one in the same. I'm not sure how to limit God's salvific power to a person even if that person is a decisive revelation of that reality to us.

Debbie said...

Dwight, so you couldn't say "Obama is the President", because there's no point in a qualifier, if they are one and the same? There have to be multiple people who are expressions of the President, otherwise it couldn't be said that way? Obviously, I reject your argument.

And I don't limit God's salvific power to a person, because Jesus is not a person. He is part of the Trinity. He is God, just as the Holy Spirit is God. It sounds like you don't believe that, however, and to you, Jesus is just a person. If that's true, you and I believe different faiths.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Viola Larson said...

Dwight,
think of it as a tautology: as a bachelor is an unmarried man. (the definition is in the thing itself) Of course in some ways that, to me, demeans who Jesus is. Because Jesus the Christ tells us so very much, that Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father.

You write, “I'm not sure how to limit God's salvific power to a person even if that person is a decisive revelation of that reality to us.” First, Jesus Christ is not the “decisive revelation” he is the revelation.

Second, Scripture does not limit salvation to one person but to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is in Jesus Christ alone through his death and resurrection. But he is after all the eternal Son and in essence one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are co-equal-co-eternal-etc. But it is only through the Son and his death. No other God. No second unknown God behind the back of Jesus Christ. In Him all the fullness dwelt. (Col. 2:9)

Pastor Bob said...

A couple of comments:

One of the reasons we have such a problem producing words to describe Jesus as the Christ is that the Church has always had such problems. Human language does not have the words to describe Jesus the Christ as the God/Man.

The closest we can get, I think is the Chalcedon. Jesus IS a person - one person. He is fully God (the second person of the Trinity) and fully human, one person two natures.

To come at it from a different direction Jesus the Christ is the person through whom salvation comes but his work cannot be separated from the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Dwight said...

I think the example of Obama as president is a good one. Obama is the president. Jesus is the Christ. Of course the office of the presidency predates Obama. And there will be presidents after Obama. I think the difference though is that in Jesus having the office he decisively represents that office and the meaning behind it to us so much so that they appear as almost shorthand for each other but not in a way which confuses or limits one to the other. and my concern about the language we're having is we're doing just that. Though Bob's language seems least likely to fall into that.

Pastor Bob said...

Dwight

That's why I like Chalcedon. It uses negatives to say "it isn't this." Our attempts to put Jesus in a box always fails.

Anonymous said...
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Neil D. Cowling said...

I came to look at this blog by the back door once again. I read naminghisgrace.blogspot only when ChurchandWorld.com links to it. Much of it drives me nuts, but I am sure that you already knew that, Viola. But the latest link from my buddy Hans's website made me pause not from anything you said but rather that there seems to be a debate about whether or not Jesus is God. To affirm what others have said here, but to say it differently perhaps, I thought that issue was settled back in the 4th and 5th Centuries. That Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us!” is undisputedly biblical since the Annunciation to Mary. That it matters can perhaps be illustrated by a recent experience.

A couple of weeks ago I sent out via email an appeal to the congregation to give, by whatever means at their disposal, to the relief effort in Haiti. Happily, that appeal has resulted in some $1600 given by this rather small congregation. It also resulted in a note from a woman who wrote back with a question about theodicy. She wrote:

“What a horrible horrible thing to happen to these poor people. But this is exactly where my problem comes in.

“There are so many people on TV saying, "Thank God he/she was saved. God was surely watching out for him/her." Does this mean God didn't like the rest of the people?

“When a fireman rushes into a burning building and saves a child, the family always says, "Thank GOD". What about the fireman???? Why did God let that child be in the building in the first place?”

I responded in part as follows:

“I understand what you are saying and the problem, as I see it, is dealing with bad theology. Bad theology first of all tries to define an idea of God and as all powerful, all loving, etc., and then tries to fit reality into it. We do not worship an idea. The God whom Christians worship immersed himself in human life and like most of us suffered and died. In the face of every suffering child we see the face of God and that face is the face of Jesus on the Cross, helpless, sharing human existence. That is the meaning of Incarnation, the very meaning of Christmas, the very meaning of Good Friday. God weeps with those who suffer. That is what we mean by Jesus other name, God is with us!’

“The God whom I worship is with us but not in the way people want. We want a God who is all powerful and what we get is a Cross of suffering, even to the extent of God-forsakenness, a crucified God. I worship God who suffers with the suffering. There is no other God worthy of our worship. The God that you see displayed in those comments is just an idol.”

Not quite satisfied with my response, which I did not really expect, she said, and I paraphrase, “Why didn’t God jump in before the earthquake.”

I responded in a somewhat flip manner by saying, “Because it is hard to jump when you are hanging from a cross.”

I may be flip, but I was trying to be truthful and to say differently what others have said here, “Jesus is Lord” and if that is not precise enough, “Jesus is God.” The church has been saying that for 2000 years in the story of the man born blind who worshiped him, in the appearance of Jesus to Thomas who confessed, “My Lord and my God,” and in the story of the Ascension: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

I guess what we have seen in this exchange is exactly what happened on that mountain. Some worship; some doubt. But let there be no doubt that Jesus is God with us has always been and is the confession of the church of Jesus Christ.

Peace!
Neil D. Cowling, Pastor
Kirk of Our Savior
Westland, MI

Debbie said...

Dwight, I later realized that you would come back at me with the comment about other people being president at other times. But your comment still doesn't make sense even if that's not an appropriate example. How about "Washington is the first president of the United States"? No one else is the first president of the United States. Does that mean that it doesn't make sense to say it that way? Of course not. So we can say "Jesus is the Christ" and it's perfectly logical that no one else can be the Christ.

Neil, on theodicy, very simplistically, God in his wisdom that is greater than ours allowed humankind to choose either obedience or sin. I don't know why God did that, but God did. And when humankind chose sin, the creation became broken, which meant that it was possible for there to be disease, crime, and devastating earthquakes, among other things.

The way God's goodness and power is shown in these situations is, for example, the faith of the people of Haiti who unselfishly help others in God's name, or the people from elsewhere who rush to help them, etc.

And it's perfectly fine for people to thank God when there is a good outcome to some dire situation. Their thanking God, however, doesn't always mean that they know exactly how he worked in a situation. They may or may not be right about God's agency, but it's always appropriate to give thanks to God; it is certain that God will bring good somehow out of any evil. He does not cause the evil, but he does bring good out of it.

And this world is not the final answer. God has ultimate joy and peace and rest and healing for all those who love him, waiting for us at the end.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Neil D. Cowling said...

Debbie, I believe that God created the world with massive tectonic plates that preceded the problem of human sin. Are you suggesting that there were no earthquakes before the Fall? As I recall it Luther argued that there were no thorns and thistles until after the Fall (Lectures on Genesis, which I do not have on hand at the moment to verify). Surely, you are not making a similar argument are you?

If you wish I will pass your comments to the person who wrote me, but I doubt that she will find that very satisfying. It verges on blaming the victims.

Viola Larson said...

Neil,
How could you not read this blog all the time!:-] kidding of course. I am extremely happy that you are affirming that Jesus is God. The issue does come up in almost every century. Both Harnack and Schleiermacher did not think he was. Funny how those who either are extreme rationalist or romantics like Schleiermacher tend to lean that way. Schleiermacher was attempting to work out an apologetic that would affirm Christianity to the enlightenment-no wonder Barth was constantly working against his theology.

I think we should thank God when he brings any kind of deliverance into our lives and we should seek his gift of comfort and thank him for that in the midst of awful tragedy when there doesn’t seem to be any deliverance. I am thinking of several verses in the Bible. “Though he slay me I will hope in him” and yet “Nevertheless I will argue my ways before him.” (Job 13:15) and “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection….” (Heb 11:35) Jesus is really our comfort- Romans 8:28-39.

God is all powerful but he is also all-wise and knows above all else what his purposes are.

I like what you said here: “The church has been saying that for 2000 years in the story of the man born blind who worshiped him, in the appearance of Jesus to Thomas who confessed, “My Lord and my God,” and in the story of the Ascension: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

But I do believe it is not just the Church saying it but also God.

Viola Larson said...

Bob,

I have always wished that the full creed of Chalcedon was in our book of confessions. It is affirmed in the Second Helvetic Confession. (5.078-9)
The Puritan Flavel in the Fountain of Life writes It is a doctrine [the two natures of Christ and his one person] hard to understand, and dangerous to mistake. As Prosper has well said, 'It is better not touch the bottom, than not keep within the circle."

Debbie said...

Neil, I guess that yes, I'm saying that there were no destructive earthquakes before the fall. Before the fall, creation was perfect. Sin is what made creation imperfect.

I suspect that I would be far more likely to agree with Luther than with you, although I haven't read his writings.

You could try passing my argument along to that woman if you like. It would be interesting to see if she finds it comforting. It's not exactly blaming the victims, except in the sense that it's somewhat remotely blaming all of humankind in an extremely general sense. But there's no direct correlation between the people of Haiti and the earthquake, not in the sense that Pat Robertson meant. It's just that since the creation is broken, bad thinggs happen.

I've had cancer and I have a bad heart. If humankind didn't sin (including me), I wouldn't have those physical infirmities. But there's no direct correlation between my sin and my cancer/heart problems. It's just a general consequence of the state of the world. What I'm more aware of than I am of the bad things that have happened, is God's mercy and love in working through those bad situations to deepen his relationship with me and show me new avenues of joy and new life, and to go from there into ways of helping others. Despite the hard times, it's actually quite amazing, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Neil D. Cowling said...

Debbie, Thank you. Interesting qualifier in saying that there no "destructive earthquakes" before the Fall. I take that to mean that there might have been earthquakes but no destructive earthquakes. Who can tell? I guess I hold to the view that God's creation, God's good creation means, geologically speaking, a world with moving tectonic plates which would mean that God's good creation included earthquakes, i.e., a changing dynamic earth and not a static earth as your holding to the word "perfect" would seem to suggest. I will agree to the word "perfect" if that perfection includes the dynamism of tectonic plates. Ignorant of the science of geology humanity has made cities, such as San Francisco and Port-au-Prince on fault lines that God has created.

Peace!

Debbie said...

Neil, I'm not going to limit God to having originally made the earth with tectonic plates that were moving before the fall. Maybe he made them that way, maybe he didn't. I don't know. I'm just going to say that before the fall, creation did not include sickness and disaster. But I'm not going to stipulate what God must have made creation like other than that.

As for the term "God's good creation", God's creation was good when he created it. But we (humankind) messed it up with the fall. So it's not the case that everything in creation now is good. It would have been, had there not been the fall, but now there are genetic abnormalities and birth defects and diseases and bacteria and viruses and tornadoes and tsunamis, and on and on.

I'll agree that humankind has often built cities on some pretty dumb places, including flood plains as well as fault lines. :-)

Debbie
Bellevue, WA

Bruce said...

Debbie,

Interesting thoughts, and I can't resist providing some more grist for the mill...

While the sin of Adam (and Eve, of course) was humanity's original sin, it was not the original, original (if you will), as Satan's sin preceded it. This could have impacted God's good creation before Adam's sin. It's all speculation of course, but Satan's sin might have preceded Adam's sin by billions of years (in creation time, so to speak). If so, the creation could well have been marred by sin long before humanity appears on the scene. Perhaps the garden was an oasis within which God protected Adam and Eve from the rest of an already sin impacted world until they joined his rebellion.

Just some thoughts...

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Bruce Byrne said...

Opps.

That last sentence should read: ...until they joined THE rebellion.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Dion Houston Sr. said...

Hi Bruce,

It's not a bad thought, but I don't think scriptures really give us that option. For example, Romans 5:12-21 makes it clear that Adam alone is responsible for sin entering the world. Romans 8:18-22 and Genesis 3:18-19 tie this in with creation.

Obviously Satan and Eve's sin influenced Adam, but I think scripture makes clear that responsibility for Original Sin is all Adam's...

Dion Houston Sr.
Pearl Harbor, HI

Debbie said...

Hi, Dion! Greetings from NLG!