Revisting the question, “Is Jesus God?”

Is Jesus God?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The Trinitarians will unanimously sing “Yes” and if we were to ask notable Trinitarian personalities like the heavyweight Christian debater James White, he will surely tell you, “Yes, the Bible says so.” They will unhesitatingly and gladly tell you that Jesus is a member or one of the persons in the Triune Godhead. What is that? That is the belief held by the majority of Christians which says that “The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but they are not three gods, they are one God.” To some, this may sound like a rather wonderful formula, but however magnificent the human intellect, even an Einstein would find this theological equation rather taxing on the mind and indeed it is. So taxing is the doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church has for more than a thousand years relegated it to the realm of “mysteries” — one that the most brilliant of souls can never unravel. Ask a Catholic theologian what the Trinity is, a most typical answer that will be readily given is that “it is a mystery”. As “one of America’s most popular interpreters of the Catholic faith and the Bible”, Father Lukefahr writes, “That there are three persons in one God is a mystery we cannot fully understand…” [1]

Though the question “Is Jesus God” seems rather simple and straightforward, the answer or answers that follow — coming from the lips of Christians — are generally varied, many a time haphazard, complicated and even confusing. Is it only confusing to non-Christians and disbelievers of the Trinity? No, it is confusing for not only non-Christians but believers and disbelievers across the board. And this is rightly observed by Greg Deuble (a graduate of the Churches of Christ N.S.W. Bible College in Sydney with pastoral ministries experience around Australia): “To many Christians the doctrine of the Trinity is confusing but accepted “on faith” because the Church “has always taught it.” [2] As someone with a broad experience in evangelical ministries, there is no reason to doubt or contest Deuble’s observation. And Deuble is not alone in testifying to that fact. The great confusion that Christians suffer as they try to explicate the doctrine to themselves and others is perhaps no better articulated than by Professor Millard Erickson, who is one of the most respected Trinitarian systematic theologians of modern times:

“This doctrine in many ways presents strange paradoxes…It is a widely disputed doctrine, which has provoked discussion throughout all the centuries of the church’s existence. It is held by many with great vehemence and vigor. These advocates are certain they believe the doctrine and consider it crucial to the Christian faith. Yet many are unsure of the exact meaning of their belief. It was the very first doctrine dealt with systematically by the church, yet it is still one of the most misunderstood and disputed doctrines. Further, it is not clearly or explicitly taught anywhere in scripture, yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine, indispensable to the Christian faith. In this regard, it goes contrary to what is virtually an axiom[that is, a given, a self-evident truth] of biblical doctrine, namely, that there is a direct correlation between the scriptural clarity of a doctrine and its cruciality to the faith and life of the church.” [3]

But is a doctrine’s validity disproved simply because it is so complex that it befuddles the best minds? James White, Father Lukefahr and a wide range of other Trinitarian personalities, thinkers, theologians and the edified proselyte certainly do not think so, because if they did, they would have long abandoned the belief in search of greener pastures.* To White, Father Lukefahr, E. P. Sanders, so called pope emeritus Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and we can name numerous other Trinitarians, however difficult and perplexing the Trinity doctrine may be, the biblical scriptures, particularly the New Testament necessarily point to the belief. **

But what would one of the world’s foremost biblical expert say to answer this seemingly rather simple question? What would Emeritus Lightfoot Professor in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham and Visiting Professor at King’s College London, Professor Dr. James D. G. Dunn say in answer to this seemingly simple question that so often often produce bewildering, perplexing, confusing and complicated responses? Writing in his latest work on this very topic, the eminent New Testament scholar answers the question quite emphatically:

“Jesus is not the God of Israel. He is not the Father. He is not Yahweh.” [4]

Some Trinitarians may be quick to allege and discredit Dunn as a heretic and an anti-Trinitarian but that is not the case. Despite his own personal belief in a Triune Godhead, his scholarly analysis of the historical material has led him to the firm conclusion that the early Christians, believers in Jesus and even the New Testament writers did not in fact identify Jesus as the God of Israel — as Yahweh. In Dunn’s intellectual and scholarly estimation, Jesus was God’s unique apostle that bridged the spiritual chasm between the physical and the divine. He was the unique mediator between men and God.

For a more detailed treatment of the topic, please proceed to Is Jesus Almighty God?

 

Notes:

[1] Lukefahr, O. (1998). The Catechism Handbook. Missouri: Liguori. p. 16

[2] Deuble, G. S. (2006). They never told me this in church!: A call to read the Bible with new eyes. Georgia: Restoration Fellowship. p. 73

* But the question remains: Why would a loving God of unimaginable intellect reveal Himself in so ambiguous a manner (in the scriptures) and leave His believers in utter bewilderment without clear and easy-to-understand instructions and guidance? It took 400 years for the early Trinitarian philosophers, sophists and theologians to formulate the belief and finally arrive at the so called “Athanasian Creed” that did not really clear the suffocating dust of confusion that enveloped the doctrine anyway. And it should be pointed out that the question of Jesus’ godhood is not only bewildering within the Trinity but its utterly perplexing nature is compounded by the equally bewildering hypostatic union — Jesus as 100% man and 100% God simultaneously — within the incarnation.

[3] Millard J. Erickson. God in Three Persons, A Contemporary Interpretation(1995). Grand Rapids: Baker Books. p. 11

** Erickson is not as confident as many evangelists in their overt claim that the scriptures direct or lead believers to the doctrine of the Trinity. To Erickson, “…it is not clearly or explicitly taught anywhere in scripture, yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine, indispensable to the Christian faith. In this regard, it goes contrary to what is virtually an axiom[that is, a given, a self-evident truth] of biblical doctrine, namely, that there is a direct correlation between the scriptural clarity of a doctrine and its cruciality to the faith and life of the church.” (Ibid.)

In his view that we may discern from the quotation, a doctrine should have behind it clear scriptural evidence that substantiate its reality. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Trinity.

[4] Dunn, J. D. G. (2010). Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 142

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Revisting the question, “Is Jesus God?””

  1. DefendChrist says:

    Hi Ibn Anwar
    You answered me the other day in regards to my question about prophet Muhammad going to the cave to pray to God.

    So I have another question this is to do with a scripture in the book of Isaiah.

    Isa 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

    Isa 48:12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
    Isa 48:13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
    Isa 48:14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.
    Isa 48:15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.
    Isa 48:16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.

    Who is the speaker in these verses?

    V12 surely Isaiah is not the first and the last.

    V13 surely Isaiah’s hand didn’t lay the foundation of the earth.

    V14 this could be Isaiah speaking here.

    V15 this cannot be the prophet Isaiah or it could be.

    V16 here the Lord God and his spirit sent me…is that Gabriel sending Isaiah?

  2. Mustafa says:

    لسَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ

    Onomat, hows it going? email me if you can.

  3. Marcus Ampe says:

    The Christian Bible is very clear that there is only One True God, Allah, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah, Who has created and allows everything to be. Human beings are made in His image and all come from the same root, Adam and Eve and as such can be called children of God, children of Abraham. In this way the sent one from god, whom the heavenly Father called His only begotten beloved son is Jeshua (Issou/Ishi/Jesus/Chesu/Jezus). That man of flesh and blood who is better known as Jesus Christ is a man of flesh and blood and bones, who was seen by many and was tempted more than once. Whilst the bible, the infallible Word of God, tells that God is a Spirit and can not be seen by man. In the bible Jesus is called the son of man, a rabbi (master teacher) and a prophet. Never is he called to be The God. Those Christians who take Jesus to be God follow a false human doctrine which entered humankind in the 4th century.

    Jews, Christians and Muslims should all keep to the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Leave a Reply