Monthly Archives: February 2018

Jesus (Letter 15)



Sir Tom,

SMASH to you, dear boy.

Absolutely agree with everything you said. Feel I should qualify my position on the ‘Son of God’. I do agree with everything you say, but even in what you said, the waters begin to be muddied.

You see the Son of God really has the connotation of being a separate being, this becomes worse when we start to think of quotes such as the one you provided from Romans. This is because for such a verse to hold weight then Jesus must be someone separate from God in the way a son is truly separate from his father. Obviously this is an issue because it clashes with the doctrine of the Trinity.

And now we fly close to the Sun, if that Sun is heresy.

If we are to say that, according to the Bible, Jesus is in some way enough of a separate person from God to be like a son, a son that it would pain Him to sacrifice (and was it sacrifice if they all knew he’d just raise from the dead and head back to Heaven?) AND we wish not to stray into semi-Arianism (or even full blown) we need to find a new doctrine of Jesus.

Would you be surprised to find I have one?

This is my (not yet fully tested) thesis: Jesus doesn’t exist prior to the incarnation. Beforehand He is something else, most probably the Word of God (as in actual words) and only after the resurrection does He ascend to Heaven in a body to sit on His throne. I feel that this ties both strands of Christology together in an actual working doctrine.

But let us ignore that for now; or hammer it out in more private messages.

The point being that we quickly, if we are to think of it fully, find ourselves in deep theological waters when we talk about the Son of God. It is difficult to tie together the idea that it is only a moniker (God did not have sex and his partner did not give birth to a son) and the idea that God acted sacrificially in sending His Son because He actually is.

The second area of Muddy Waters (known now as Mannish Boy Theology) is with the New Testament understanding of the Trinity. Though the writers seem happy to acknowledge Jesus as God (to fuller or lesser extent) there is no reference to Him being so as part of a Triune God. In fact the NT writers seem quite happy with Jesus being God without some form of doctrine. It is only later that people need to try and put something together.

I realise you may throw in some objections and point to verses that suggest the trinity, but it still seems very out of place not to explain it outright. I mean the Disciples were incredibly thick and had to have things explained in Primary school language. There’s that passage where Jesus talks about the yeast of the Pharisees and the Disciples think Jesus is talking about actual bread and He has to explain again and then they’re like “ohhhh, right, ‘yeast’. Like teachings, huh, Jesus? It’s a metaphor… Good one…”

And yet they understand the Trinity with no recording teaching on it?

Third Mannish Boy Theological point is that according to my (not yet complete research) Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man more than Son of God and yet there is still no agreement on what that title means. Honestly, Jesus tells us to build our house upon the rock, but our whole theology and doctrine is built on sand. We know almost nothing about anything!

If Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man more than anything else then this should be a big part of our theology, but it isn’t. If that’s who Jesus identified as then we should follow His lead.

(But does it suit our doctrine? Ooh…)

So. All of this just to say. Hey. Let’s leave Son of God out of this for now.

And your final paragraph nails it. “Window into God”, love it. Absolutely. We can know God by looking at Jesus. We can see a perfect example of what the Bible calls us to be in Him.

I’m reminded of when Jesus calmed the storm; when He was asleep and they Disciples wake him up, terrified. His response? “Seriously? You really think we’re going to sink when God is right here in the boat with you? Come on, guys.”

If only we could nap through the storms, what a difference to the world we could make…

Peace

Dangerous


Jesus (Letter 14)



My Dear Dangerous

SMASH

I agree with your point that ‘Son of God,’ is only one of many titles used by and given to Jesus in the Scriptures. But I still think it deserves its place in the picture and I would myself nudge it forward as of particular importance. There are a few reasons for this. First, it shapes Peter’s confession of Jesus in the Gospels (“Who do you say I am?” – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”). This episode was crucial and Jesus affirms Peter in his conviction. Second, the ‘Father-Son’ image is used by Jesus throughout his parables to explain his own mission and calling. The main example I have in mind is the Parable of the Tenants, where the landowner keeps sending his servants to the tenants to collect the harvest and they keep killing them. Then he sends his son thinking that the tenants will give him greater respect but they kill him too. Now I know that a.) this is a parable, not a theological grid and b.) the context is Israel’s rejection of God, but in the parable, Jesus definitely sets himself apart from the prophets who have come before him by framing himself as the ‘son’ of the landowner. This to me is a strong hint that Jesus has a way more intimate and prominent relationship with God than all the other seers/prophets/teachers who have been sent. Third, God ‘giving us’ his Son provides the context for many of the Apostle Paul’s most inspiring descriptions of God’s generous love. For example: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ In other words, there was a sacrificial element to God’s mission to save us and it has something to do with giving up his Son, his most precious possession.

OK, let me take a step back here. Having defended the ‘Son of God’ moniker, I want to say two things in qualification. First, as you rightly point out, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’ So it might actually be more helpful, as you put it, to ‘say that He Himself came to Earth and took our place.’ This truth certainly helps clarify all the messy models of atonement we have inherited where you have ‘an angry God upstairs sending his poor innocent son to do his dirty work for him.’ Second, I’m reminded that we are meant to be approaching this through the perspective of someone completely new to Christianity, so let me have another punt below.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the God who made us, calls us and loves us. We spoke before about how God’s ways are ‘high above’ our own. Jesus makes him knowable. The character of Jesus gives us an insight into God’s character (and we should never neglect the Risen Jesus who teaches throughout the first three chapters of Revelation: he is just as awesome, mighty and scary as he is gracious, loving and tender). The work of Jesus gives us an insight into God’s love for us (because he sacrificed himself for us). And the teaching of Jesus gives us a moral framework for what pleases God. So, leaving aside all established theological titles, Jesus is a window into God.

SMASH, old chap!

Sir Tom


Episode 4 – God



In this episode, “A Despicable Human Being”, ‘Dangerous’ and Sir Tom talk about God and who He is. Or at least they try to, but they veer off into cricket and The Kinks back catalogue a fair bit. Still they make some good points about what, if anything we can understand about the Big Man and the proof that He really does exist…

Ask questions; leave comments; accuse us of heresy on Facebook (unspokenchurch); Twitter (@unspoken_church) or email (unspokenchurch@gmail.com)


Jesus (Letter 13)



Sir Tom,

SMASHY, Old Boy,

Soooo, tough subject. I think we need to agree on what our theological basis for Jesus is. A basis that we can pin our discussion on (as I’m well aware we will meander around the topic, if not get off it completely!). But here’s the twist, it can’t be the Son of God.

Whaaaaat?

Here’s my issue with the whole Son of God thing. He’s not, we know He’s not, it’s just a moniker. That being said we hear (an awful lot) in church people talk about God’s sacrifice in sending His only son to die. Like if I sent my daughter to die. But it’s not like that is it? It’s closer to say that He Himself came to Earth and took our place.

It’s one of those examples where we as Christians take an idea that we all know is not theologically sound and bump it up to prime of place. It’s like when people say ‘Jesus defeated death’. What does that even mean? In order to believe or even understand that phrase requires a lot of theology that most church goers don’t have. But they still bandy it about.

We don’t theologically believe Jesus to be God’s son, but in our working, day to day theology, we basically do. And in fact, I think we do Jesus a disservice by focusing on that particular title (he uses Son of Man just as much, if not more) as we tend then to focus less on the other things He may be.

So that is the question. Who do you think Jesus is?

Peace

‘Dangerous’


God (Letter 12)



Dangerous, old fruit!

You make an excellent point that the formal, established doctrine of ‘The Trinity,’ is unhelpful at the outset. We are meaning, after all, to present the Biblical God to those who have little or no interest in the church; so we should start from the ‘ground up,’ so to speak. However, even if you disregard the dogma of the historical Church at this point, the Biblical data does seem to hint that God is multi-faceted or even living in community. For example, I reference God’s words in Genesis when he resolves to make man ‘in our image.’ But I concede to you that this is perhaps, overall, a subject for another time.

When it comes to defining and understanding God philosophically, there is so much in the Bible narrative about God declaring, ‘My ways are far above yours…you only see in part, one day in full,’ and so on, that a certain amount needs to be taken by faith, or in other words, at face value, with the attitude of a child, as Jesus taught. I am not seeking to devalue asking the deeper questions, only to remind us that we can only know God by faith, which is when we in effect say, “I don’t know all the details and perhaps never will, but I think this is real, so let’s go for it!”

Turning to our big question, yes I think that God is innately loving, or to use more helpful synonyms, innately giving, sacrificial and servant-hearted. As you say, it is tough one to call, but as we have discussed, our creation might not be the first or only ‘world,’ through which and into which God has expressed this love of his. The Old Testament poets certainly hint at other ‘spheres,’ and this is the fascinating premise for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales: he wrote that, rather than a straight Christian allegory, Narnia was the answer to a hypothetical question of ‘what would Christ look like if he showed up in another world?’ As you rightly outlined, the other qualities flow from his love. Also, remember that the same apostle who defines God as ‘love,’ also defines him as ‘light,’ which I take to mean truth, clarity and without any hint of double-mindedness.

I really strongly agree with your point that systematic doctrine has to come second to Biblical data: too often the Evangelical Church has sought to ‘straighten out’ God and so neglected key Biblical themes. The one value I think doctrine does have in the Christian life is to ground the likes of me: as a serial doubter, ‘blown about on the waves,’ and never trusting God or taking him at his word, it helps me to rest in key, objective truths I believe God to have shown me (to take a slightly silly but safely uncontroversial example, God has promised always to be with me, so any Biblical story or life experience that seems to suggest the opposite needn’t worry me).

You rightly challenge my explanation of evil with the Genesis story. Could it be that Satan had already fallen from heaven at this point (which is outlined in the OT and NT), so setting himself up as God’s enemy? And then Adam is subsequently created into a universe which already features God’s adversary?

SMASHY, my dear friend,

Sir Tom