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The trinity – Jesus as the son of God
- the doctrine that Jesus is the son of God in a unique sense
- Jesus is the 2nd person – the Son – of the Holy Trinity – 100% God and 100% Human – as established in the Nicene creed (declaration of Christian doctrine and faith made in 325).
- Jesus said “The father and I are one” – John 10:30, so it looks like Jesus himself thought he was God.
- Also – the very start of John says
- “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God” and then later it says “the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us”. The word is clearly Jesus – and it clearly says the word was both with God and was God – that’s the trinity. Jesus is not the same as the Father – but both the father and Jesus are God.
- Hick: the gospel of John was the last written of the 4 gospels (90-110AD) – casting doubt on its credibility.
- Perhaps the divinity of Jesus was a later invention.
- The earlier gospels don’t include any clear statements of divine self-identification from Jesus.
- Mark was written around 66AD – it starts with Jesus’ baptism, no mention of the divine birth – that was found in the next gospels – Matthew and Luke. Then in the Gospel of John we find the statement that Jesus (the word) existed even before his birth – as a divine being.
- Clearly as time went on, greater levels of ascription of divinity were made to Jesus.
- The divinity of Jesus is clearly an idea that was developed over time and therefore it must be an idea invented by humans who added it to the Bible.
- Jesus is often seen as the son of God because he did miracles.
- His resurrection was also a miracle and also suggests he was the son of God.
- Human beings don’t have miraculous power, nor do they ever rise from the dead.
- E.g. Jesus healed the woman who had been menstruating for 12 years.
- This also suggests Jesus saw himself as the son of God, since it’s not normal for a mere human to have such power.
- Counter: old testament prophets did miracles. Moses parted the red sea etc.
- So performing miracles can’t be enough to qualify someone as the son of God.
- Jesus had a unique level of control over his miracles.
- Moses parted the red sea under direction from God – God said ‘raise your staff’ etc.
- Think about the water into wine miracle – Jesus was reluctant at first to do the miracle – he had to be persuaded (i think by Mary?) – first he said it was not yet time to reveal himself, but then he decided to do the miracle. This suggests a level of control and power over miracles that Moses did not have. So Jesus still is the son of God.
- (technically also a miracle).
- Generally considered to show Jesus was the son of God in a unique sense.
- The resurrection of the dead for humans doesn’t occur until the end of time according to the Bible. Jesus cannot just be merely human, therefore.
- Reimarus was one of the first scholars to try and account for the gospel in historical terms.
- He argued that Jesus was probably genuinely deluded about being the messiah. When he died on the cross, his disciples hid his body and tried to pretend that it was part of the plan by inventing the story of the resurrection.
Optional Further evaluation
- N. T. Wright & William Lane Craig – argue that the resurrection is historically valid.
- The empty tomb, the fact that it was women who discovered the tomb was empty
- Men were believed more than women back then, if the story were made up, it would have been men who discovered the empty tomb, since that would have been more believable.
- So the fact that women discovered the empty tomb in the story makes it more believable
- The appearance of Jesus to multiple people after death.
- Craig and Wright argue that the best explanation of these events is that Jesus really rose from the dead. Hick’s wrong – it’s not just a symbolic story.
Hick – Jesus as only a teacher of wisdom
- Hick thinks Jesus is just a ‘guru’ – just a teacher of wisdom.
- As a pluralist – Hick thinks all religions are true – so Christianity can’t be ‘especially’ true – so Jesus can’t be the only way, the truth and the life – so, he must have just been a human teacher of wisdom.
- Hick is influenced by Bultmann, who thought the supernatural parts of the Bible stories cannot be taken literally by modern scientifically-minded people. We can’t just ignore them however.
- Thomas Jefferson simply cut the supernatural parts of the Bible out with a razor blade, but Bultmann doesn’t think that view is being true to the Bible.
- Bultmann thought the best approach is not to ignore them, nor take them literally, but take them as a record of human spiritual experience which had been put into words fitting ancient culture.
- If we could translate the myths into words which would fit modern culture, we might be able to reveal the deeper truths about spiritual experience that they were intended to express.
- Bultmann called that process ‘demythologizing’, whereby we unearth the deeper meaning the mythic stories were expressing about the early Christian’s encounter with a new spiritual way of life.
- So, Hick and Bultmann argue the incarnation, miracle stories and resurrection didn’t actually happen but are best read as symbolic stories for things like the birth of the early church – the raising of the early church and spread of its message – put into flowery language. Jesus was not the son of God, Hick concludes.
- The purpose of Jesus’ life was a sacrifice to save us from our sins – a mere human wouldn’t have the power to save us from our sins
- Jesus must have been fully human but also fully God.
- Hick said Jesus did save us from our sins through his sacrifice on the cross – but not directly – only by his life and sacrifice being such a great role model that it inspired us to be better – and we were saved from our sins that way.
Teacher of wisdom – Jesus’ moral teachings
- Jesus seems to be a moral teacher of wisdom, because of his teachings.
- The parable of the lost/prodigal son. A son asks his father for his inheritance in advance, and then goes and wastes it all.
- He then comes crawling back to his father begging for forgiveness and a job, and his father accepts.
- The father’s other son is annoyed, saying it’s not fair, but the Father explains that he still has his inheritance and it is good to forgive because his other son was lost but now is found.
- Jesus is clearly recommending forgiveness as a moral virtue.
- During the sermon on the mount, Jesus recommended non-violence.
- Jesus said do not resist an evil person – if someone slaps you, turn the other cheek and let them slap you again.
- Jesus said that the meek, downtrodden and oppressed people are the blessed ones.
C. S. Lewis’ response
- Lewis said Jesus was either a Liar, a Lunatic or the Lord – these are the only three options – you can’t believe he was only a teacher of wisdom – you have to think he was also the son of God.
- This is because Jesus claimed to forgive sins done to others. Only God has the moral right to do that.
- So, Jesus can’t be a teacher of ‘morality’ or ‘wisdom’ as it’s not moral or wise to forgive sins unless you are God (the Lord).
- The only other options are to think Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic. Jesus is either both God and a teacher of wisdom/morality or neither.
Liberation theology paragraph:
- Jesus was a liberator of the poor. Liberation theologians think Jesus showed a ‘preferential option for the poor’ – means that although he came to help everyone, he gave special time and attention to poor people.
- All Christians accept this. However, what is unique about liberation theologians is taking inspiration from Marx. They think Marx was correct about economics – that the cause of wealth inequality is the structure of the economy that capitalism causes – separating people into different classes – workers and owners.
- The solution to poverty is therefore to change the structure of the economy. If you’re a Christian but also think Marx was correct about economics, then you would think that your duty to help the poor includes marxist or left-wing economic policy.
- For example, Jesus said it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter heaven, he said do not store up riches on earth, instead store up riches in heaven – he said if you want to be perfect, sell all that you have and give it to the poor.
- Jesus does sound like an anti-captialist liberator of the poor in those quotes.
- Kloppenberg pointed out that Jesus’ teachings on wealth were aimed at individual people out of concern for their own salvation – they were not aimed at the structures of the society/economy itself.
- Furthermore, there are lots of verses where Jesus seems to be against politics in general.
- In Jesus’ time, Jews were forced to pay an unjust tax due to occupation by the romans – the pharisees asked Jesus whether they should pay the tax – they were trying to trap Jesus, if Jesus said yes he would appear a sell-out to the romans but if he said no, he might be arrested.
- Jesus pointed to the fact that the coins had the face of Caeser on them – and said “give unto caesar what is caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”.
- Jesus is saying pay the tax, but he said it in clever way to avoid the trap – but only by suggesting that there is a radical disconnect between the concerns of God and the political/economic concerns of our society. This quote is devastating for liberation theologians because it was specifically about whether we should resist an economic injustice – an unjust tax. Jesus suggests it’s not God’s concern.
- So, Jesus does not seem like a liberator of the poor
- Ruether’s golden thread argument
- Ruether pointed out that the Bible contains both sexist but also pro-liberation passages.
- Jesus does many ‘pro-feminist’ things – he saved the woman from being stoned for adultery, he healed the woman who had been mensturally bleeding for 12 years, etc.
- Ruther argues that the sexist parts and the pro-liberation/feminist parts are inconsistent with each other – they cannot both be the word of God.
- The sexist parts must have been added by humans due to influence from the patriarchal culture of their time.
- So, we should just get rid of the sexist parts of the Bible.
- Her argument is based on interpreting Jesus’ actions as pro-feminist/liberation.
- Ruether’s argument depends on the claim that Jesus’ actions are best interpreted as pro-liberation, however there are many passages where Jesus seems to be apolitical.
- At his trial, Jesus said ‘My kingdom is not of this world’, which seems to suggest that the kingdom of God is unrelated to the politics of kingdoms in this world.
- Pope John Paul II draws on this verse, arguing that overly focusing on earthly socio-economic progress is “anthropocentric”, meaning human-focused. This leads to secularization and a lack of genuine spirituality. Focusing on our earthly socio-economic needs seems to inspire a tendency to focus less on our more transcendent spiritual needs and purpose.