All posts by unspokenchurch

About unspokenchurch

- Should we follow the rules in Leviticus? - If Abraham was saved through faith, do we need Jesus? - What type of whale swallowed Jonah? - Why do we lift our hands in worship? - Is Genesis 1 literal? Fearlessly treading the line between heresy and truth, this is ‘Stuff We Don’t Talk about in Church’

Jesus (Letter 22)



Greetings to you, Sir Dangerous of Dangeroushire.

A very reverent and sombre SMASH to you.

I guess there’s a sense in which we will never fully know the full detail of how the Godhead fits together. All throughout our discussions I am aware of the Apostle Paul’s words: ‘we see through a dark glass…’ This sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but if it is true that God’s ways are higher than ours, it is inevitable that we won’t be able fully to grasp some of the deeper truths. Without being able to technically define it, I am convinced, like you, that a.) Jesus was God b.) he pre-existed his coming on earth and c.) his existence was in some way irrecoverably changed through the incarnation. As you said, ‘the Word became flesh.’ In the same way, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus’ post-resurrection body bears the scars (probably forever) of his death on the Cross. So you’re right that his earthly ministry defined and changed who he was. Now the book of Revelation describes Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.’ So perhaps, amazingly, Jesus has always, in some way, existed as God’s chosen sacrifice for us. But in another sense, when he became a man, he walked down a path and there was nowhere back.

This leads neatly onto another of your points about how we are ‘flawed Jesuses.’ I frankly think that the most neglected truth in the modern Evangelical church movement is that we are ‘in Christ.’ All he has is ours because we are ‘in Him.’ Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth and he gladly passes it to us. In the same way, because we are in Christ, God sees us as his loved, accepted, holy children and his chosen vessels for his will on earth. I think there is lots of needless agonising (mostly in my own life haha) because we don’t have the faith to see how much God has done for us. As you said, Paul and the other apostles were able to do amazing things in Jesus’ name, not because they were morally stronger than us, but because they had the faith to see that they had everything in Christ. Read Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1.

I liked your point about Hades and I think you’re basically correct that Jesus acts as the go between, allowing us to interact with God. In our politically correct culture, where we love to focus on God’s love for us, we tend to neglect the numerous passages in both the OT and the NT, which basically teach that ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10). The Israelites really copped it if they got it wrong, when they were walking through the desert with God. This is not because God is harsh, capricious or because he automatically burns with wrath for us. It is because he is holy, he is above us and as you say, in his holiness he cannot be in the presence of sin. For me (and this is for me a precious personal conviction as well as a theological point) the only solution is Jesus’ death. Before we know God, we are his enemies (Ephesians 2), although the hatred is on our side, not his –  he still loves us and seeks reconciliation with us. When we accept Christ, we are ‘adopted’ as his children and enjoy the full blessings of his Father love. And what makes this transition possible is Jesus’ blood…again, it’s all over the OT and the NT. In the same way that the Israelites sheltered under the blood on their doorposts, while God’s Angel of Death and Judgment passed over them, we can shelter from the ‘coming wrath’ (1 Thessalonians 1, Colossians 3), as we trust in Jesus’ death for us.

Anyway, SMASHY old bean, I look forward to your response!

Sir Thomas


Jesus (Letter 21)



Sir Tom of Sirtomshire,

Before I say anything I need to clear up a misunderstanding. What I said in my previous letter was that I am not sure that Jesus existed prior to the incarnation in the same form. I really want to stress that. I was not saying that He did not exist, but that through the incarnation He took on a new form, one that he then took with Him back to Heaven.

John talks about Jesus as the Word in the beginning of his Evangelion (or Gospel is you wish to be drab); the Greek word for ‘word’ here is Logos. Logos means word/speech or wisdom/reason. This is SUPER important (in my ‘humble’ opinion) to our understanding of who Jesus was and now is. I think that Jesus existed as God’s thoughts/words rather than as a separate entity (It should be noted that ‘logic’ comes from logos).

You re, of course, right that God created the Universe through Jesus, but when we go back to that creation story what does it say? “God said…”. God spoke the Universe into creation and Jesus is the Word. In that way God created the universe through the Word. John tells us then that the ‘Word became flesh’. Jesus was the embodiment of God’s speech/logic.

When you then take various things Paul says such as Jesus being the first-born amongst the dead, it suggests that it was Jesus (rather than the Logos) that ascended to Heaven.

So, just to make things clear there is the Logos (disembodied) and Jesus (embodied) and we can talk about them distinctly. Therefore Jesus only exists from the conception though the Logos that was His spirit (hence fully God while fully man) existed eternally as part of God.

So, why?

I think it has something to do with Sheol/Hades (the land of the dead). And this is all me, I don’t’ even know if anyone has put this forward before. So, according to the OT we die and go to Hades (not Heaven or Hell) and that means that means we are unreachable by God. Why? Because God cannot be in the presence of sinners. Look at all the stuff they had to go through in the wilderness, all the sacrificial laws put in place because they were trying to deal with God one-on-one. So God can’t just nip down to Hades, but if Jesus dies then that’s where He goes and He can then preach the Evangelion to the dead and stop people from being forever separated from God. I think this is (maybe) the truth behind the idea that Jesus defeated death.

Finally on this train of thought, Jesus is the relatable God. Perhaps we will never be able to interact with God (after all even in our resurrection bodies we won’t be made into God, surely He will always be something greater than us), but we will be able to interact with Jesus as He keeps his human form, or some kind of similar (but better) form as our resurrection bodies.

Finally finally, this has huge impacts for us as Christians. If Jesus is God’s word/wisdom personified then we are flawed Jesuses. We have the law written on our hearts, we have the Holy Spirit within us. In this theory, that is what Jesus had (with the added ability to keep free from  sin) and so we have the ability to do and teach like Jesus did; that’s basically what the disciples did in Acts.

Hmmm….

Peace

Dangerous


Jesus (Letter 20)



Count Dangerous-ula of Dangerous-vania!

Thank you for your kind comment at the head of your last letter. In terms of politics, Jesus is neatly centre-ground, in that his teaching and message have strong strains of both left-wing and right-wing philosophy. This means that people from different political backgrounds can still access and hear him. I always think of his command to “give to Caesar what is due Caesar and to God what is due God.” This sums up his attitude: worship God and do your best to bear with the state. Paul writes similar instructions about praying for and submitting to rulers. When we had the last General Election in this country, we had ridiculous articles on Christian websites about how Jeremy Corbyn was the most Christ-like leader on the ballot etc. I’m all for Christians being politically engaged (I love my politics), but people need to get over themselves and realise that God has called them to something so much higher and deeper. Jesus himself said: “my kingdom is not of this world…”

I liked your idea of putting down ways in which Jesus has been re-purposed by the Church. Here’s one for you. I was in the epic, Gothic York Minster with my family this week, doing some sight-seeing. Although I am safely founded in a very informal, independent Evangelical Church, where we all show up on Sundays in our jeans and t-shirts, it struck me that we could learn a thing or two from the more formal churches about reverence for God. Has the church turned Jesus into a bit of a ‘boy-friend’ like character, who is just like our best mate although a slightly bit more powerful? Certainly some of our worship songs would suggest so (and I say that as someone who leads worship in church and enjoys the more intimate songs in my own walk with God). I always loved CS Lewis’ depiction of the Great Lion, ‘Aslan’ in the Narnia Chronicles (Aslan is a type of Christ). Lewis wrote that the Lion “isn’t at all safe…but he is good.” I would argue that when we approach the risen Jesus in worship, we should have reverence as well as love. And I wonder whether we in the church sometimes major on the latter at the expense of the former. I’m wondering whether we should rework that famous phrase: “be afraid…be (a little bit) afraid.” I don’t mean we should fear Jesus in the sense of being terrified of him. But I do think we should approach him with full respect and awe.

I do think that Jesus existed before his birth, although I respect and understand your viewpoint. Paul writes about him in Colossians 1 as having created the world (or at least that it was created through him) and John writes at the beginning of his Gospel that ‘in the beginning the Word was with God,’ and then he echoes Paul’s words about the world been made ‘through’ the Word. Now assuming John means Jesus by ‘the Word,’ these lines would suggest that Jesus was around before his earthly ministry. I do however think you are right in your assertion (in a previous letter) that I went too far by trying to identify ‘the angel of the Lord’ in the OT as Jesus. As you say, if the Bible says it was an angel who shut the lions’ mouths in the den, then it was an angel.

I’m sure we will cover the ‘Jesus defeated death’ idea in a later podcast/series of letters, but to have an initial stab, there is a fascinating piece of Scripture at the end of the Book of Revelation which talks about there being a ‘second death.’ Broadly speaking, I interpret this as meaning that we die once physically but that we die spiritually as well and it’s this spiritual death that Jesus ‘defeats’ in rescuing us from our mistakes, or sins. When mankind first sinned, we know that physical and spiritual death entered the world and that at least in some way, Jesus was the ‘second Adam’ sent to restore things. Paul in 1 Corinthians: ‘For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive…For Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’ Jesus in John: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’ Paul in Hebrews: ‘Christ too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’ Sorry to quote so much Bible – it’s a sign that I’m dissatisfied with my own words. What I’m trying to say is that without Jesus we would die and stay dead: by rising from the dead – going into death and coming out the other side – Jesus ‘defeats’ this curse which hangs over us.

Love your line about Jesus no longer being simply ‘a vagrant teacher, but the one who already sits on the right-hand of God, the One in power, no longer in humility.’ That sums up perfectly what I was trying to say above!! I also agree with you about the ‘Golden rule’ and reading the OT through this. My problem comes more where you hear things like this. (I have intentional paraphrased this next bit, but I have actually read it in several places in notable Evangelical quarters and it greatly worries me): “Because Jesus never really spoke much about the Cross and Resurrection, we have obviously over-emphasised it in our own church teaching and need to re-examine whether Jesus needed to die for us to receive forgiveness.” Not only do I heartily disagree with this statement, but its main error (in my own view) is to fail to see that Jesus couldn’t teach about his death and resurrection because every time he tried, the disciples threw a wobbly (they weren’t ready to understand). So we need to read Paul, Peter, James and John to understand the deeper significance of the Cross. It’s this slavish idea that ‘all the NT must be subservient to the synoptic Gospels’ that gets my goat, because it fails to understand that Jesus had more to say to us (through the Spirit) after he had ascended. Sorry, rant over 😉

SMASHY

Sir Thomas

 


Jesus (Letter 19)



Sir Tom,

SMASH in all it’s fullness,

Sometimes you make it very hard to reply as you nail it all first time. I have to say I agree with you in pretty much everything.

It’s a fascinating concept, that Jesus has been misrepresented by the church for it’s own agenda. As you say there is a political slant given and I’m frankly surprised at how many politically right wing Christians I meet. I would have thought a left leaning agenda would be more in line with Jesus’ message (especially in terms of the poor). What would be fascinating in these letters would be to put out how you think Jesus has been re-purposed so that we can strip that away.

My only issue comes with your first paragraph. I don’t think Jesus was leading the Israelites through the desert. I think we have another issue of ‘who is Jesus’ and that is that He is not God (the Father). I think when you say something like this you are falling into your own trap of reading the Bible through the Jesus lens. God led the Israelites through the desert, not Jesus, the Bible makes that clear. For all our Jesus and God are the same dude, the Bible goes to great lengths to show they are separate. And apparently no one in the Bible had any issue with that. It is only 300 years later that anyone has an issue with it and run to Greek philosophy rather than the Bible to solve their issue (again an issue that no one in the whole Bible has).

I’ve said this in a previous letter, but I am still of the belief (no one has shown me my mistake) that Jesus did not exist (as the Son) until His birth.

I agree with your summary that He is God’s word, God’s voice, but I think that is in the limited role of what we see Him do in the Evangelion; after that He is granted the place at the right hand of God to be judge of the World. I think the crux of Jesus comes in what we are thinking about this Easter Saturday (as I write), that Jesus defeated death. What does that mean? I won’t answer that here fully, but I think it revolves around the idea that no one can see God and live. I think that might apply even in the Kingdom. Surely to behold God is to be as powerful as He? Are we to gain that in the Resurrection? I can’t think of a verse off the top of my head. Jesus, with His human body can still play the role of mediator even through eternity.

So I take your first paragraph a little differently; that we shouldn’t see everything through the Gospels because we should see God where it is God and Jesus where it is Jesus, though I do believe we should see both the OT and NT through the lens of Jesus’ teachings, particularly the Golden Rule (Love God with all you heart, soul mind and love your neighbour as yourself). If your understanding of an OT passage does not fit within the Golden Rule, then you are reading it wrong.

And I think we should read the Revelation passages on Jesus before we record to keep them fresh in our minds, because that is who Jesus is now. Not a vagrant teacher, but the one who already sits on the right-hand of God, the One in power, no longer in humility.

Peace

Dangerous


Jesus (Letter 18)



Sir Dangerous of Dangeroushire,

Having singularly avoided to address the topic of ‘Jesus,’ in our last podcast, we probably ought to consider it again, this time around. To keep things fresh, I would like to approach the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ from a slightly different angle, considering how (in my view) the modern day church has misrepresented him and (in my view) sought to impose an agenda on him. This letter is likely to be a bit theological for inclusion in the podcast; but the point of our correspondence here is hopefully to ‘clear the air,’ and focus us on what really matters for the subsequent recording. Nevertheless, at the end of each of the following three paragraphs, I have sought to answer the question ‘Who is Jesus’ in non-church language.

– First, there is an (again, in my view) entirely unfair argument doing the rounds that goes something like this: “because our faith is ‘all about Jesus,’ the rest of the Scriptures should be subordinate to the four Gospels and everything we read in the OT/Paul/Peter and so on should be read through the lens of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” I have massive problems with this for the following reasons. First, it fails to take into account that Jesus speaks through the whole Bible. It is HIM who is encouraging the churches (through Paul) in the epistles; it is HIM who is leading the Israelites through the desert in Exodus. Second, Jesus himself acknowledged on many occasions during his earthly ministry that he was unable/unwilling to speak the full truth for political and spiritual reasons. The whole tone of his teaching (paraphrased) is: “I’m trying to teach you guys the way but you are too slow and not yet ready to understand and it’s dangerous for me to speak out publicly; the helper will come after I’ve gone to lead you into all truth.” It’s very cloak and dagger, it’s not open. To bring this (clumsily) around to our question, who is Jesus? Answer: he is a physical embodiment of God’s message to us. He is God’s voice, God’s word, God’s message and he speaks through the whole Bible.

– Along with this goes the idea that: “Jesus was really nice and accepting and gracious, so anything in the Bible which doesn’t seem (to us) to fit that mold has to be thrown out.” Again, this is in my view wrong. First, he was much more multi-faceted than that. His teaching is sometimes very judgmental and sharp; he condemns nearly as much as he forgives; and (as I keep saying) when we see him in the Book of Revelation, he is a frankly terrifying prospect. John falls on the ground as if dead when he sees him. Now I’m not saying we should be terrified of Jesus; his first words to John after this incident are “Do not be afraid.” But in the ‘letters to the churches’ that follow in Revelation he is as critical as he is loving of his people. I’m just keen that we see and present Jesus for ALL he is. He is a friend, a saviour, a servant. But he is also (and the Bible says this again and again and again) God’s appointed judge over us. So he should be revered. To answer our question, who is Jesus? He is also God’s moral yardstick who will judge the world ultimately.

– Last, I feel that many people try and impose a political agenda on Jesus, either from the Right or from the Left. The truth is that he is entirely and fascinatingly apolitical and refused to get involved in all that. As he taught, he ‘came to seek and save that which was lost.’ And as Paul said: ‘here’s a trustworthy saying, Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ He came to save us from our mistakes (sins). That’s what he was about. This explains those bizarre occasions when he heals people of physical problems and then says to them: “your sins are forgiven.” You might say: “the guy couldn’t walk; this has nothing to do with sin.” But Jesus knows our most important need: forgiveness. Again in Paul: ‘God rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of his Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ What is salvation? (a question for another podcast) It is forgiveness. Who offers it? Jesus. So our question, who is Jesus? He is God’s Rescuer, sent to rescue us from our troubles.

Now I know I may have strayed here into ‘What does Jesus do?’ rather than purely ‘Who is Jesus?’ but I would suggest it is difficult to separate the two, simply because the Bible writers rarely do. But nevertheless, three more answers: Who is Jesus? 1.) He is God’s message. 2.) He is God’s judge 3.) He is God’s Saviour.

SMASHY

Sir Tom


Episode 5 – Jesus(ish)



In this episode, the (possibly) Greatest Theologians of the 21st Century attempt to take on Jesus. I say attempt as they stray way off course and talk more about the churches reaction to Jesus and how we just mess it up so much, so often. They do manage to cover what exactly we mean when we say ‘Son of God’ so there’s that… They also look at the problems with church being insular; a social club, rather than an outreach and the problem that causes when wishing to question dogma or doctrine. Not that Dangerous or Sir Tom have any issue doing so as you will hear…


Jesus (Letter 17)



SMASH!

I agree with you, dear fellow, in the broad outline of what you’re saying. I don’t, however, agree with the linking of Jesus to the appearances you mention in the OT. If the Bible says God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths then it was a lion. I also think there is a strong presence for a few archangels doing a lot of work through the OT and into the NT up until Jesus’ birth and I don’t feel the need to detract from that. Jacob had to have wrestled with God because a/ he says he did and b/ his name would make no sense if he hadn’t.

Still you paint a great picture of Jesus and I totally agree with everything you say about how He was hidden yet referenced throughout; though I am currently in a stage where I believe Jesus was hidden because He did not exist apart from God at this time.

My thing, as I’ve said, is that Jesus was the literal word of God; John states that clearly and The Apocalypse 19 v13 – 16 also make that clear, I feel. And actually thinking about it now I wonder if we can never, not even on the New Earth truly see and understand who and what God is and that Jesus takes on a mantle of being the tactile ruler of Eternity for that reason. Hmm. That is deep and needs more thought.

More to the point though, is that, though all you say is true, it does not actually deal with the moniker of ‘Son of God’. It tells us brilliantly who He is and how He is addressed through the OT, but it does not deal with the idea of whether Jesus is a son or not. And this was what I wanted to deal with.

Again I feel that the Daniel verses put a spanner in the works for what you said before as again they talk about, let’s face it, Jesus as being “given authority, glory and sovereign power”, not had it already because He was God. When it comes to Jesus we seem to happily see-saw between theologies on Him. This is Mannish Boy Theology because it really questions our accepted wisdom of who Jesus is, or more accurately questions whether we have a true doctrine of Him.

Still I think you have nailed it in many ways with your window analogy. I guess that links to what I said above about whether He is a tactile ruler of Heaven, i.e. God in a form we can mentally understand. I also totes agree that we need to talk Revelation Jesus, though we should call the book The Apocalypse as it sounds waaaaay cooler. Apocalypse Jesus should be our band name!

I would love to hear your further thoughts on this, but if we run out of time before recording I think we can agree with this. Jesus was somehow God and that through His death and resurrection He somehow bridged the gap between us and God. We won’t talk about how that might have happened as that will be another podcast, one that also includes a lot of doctrine that I find iffy.

What a surprise!

Peace and SMASHY

‘Dangerous’

 


Jesus (Letter 16)



Dangerous, my dear old thing,

The most reverent and humble SMASH to you, sir.

My own understanding of how Jesus’ ‘Son of God,’ status fits in is as follows: the people of Israel knew their God as ‘One’ and worshipped him in awe and wonder (and even sheer fear), largely from a distance. Sure, certain people were called into a closer, more intimate relationship with the Lord (Abraham, Moses, David) and the people knew that God loved them and provided for them, but their understanding of and relationship to God was far more detached than what we now enjoy in Christ. And throughout that whole period, God always seems to be hinting at something else: there’s something further, something deeper, something hidden and secret that is going on in the background. And that ‘something else’ is definitely a person. Think about it: remember the episode where Daniel’s unpronounceable friends get thrown into the fiery furnace? The King looks into the fire and sees a ‘fourth person’ walking about and talking with them, one who ‘looked like a son of God.’ Who is that? An angel? For me, that is too simple. There’s someone else. Or how about Daniel himself when he’s rescued from the Lion’s Den? He tells the king, “God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths.” Angel? Maybe? Or maybe there’s someone else here, who keeps popping up in the story. There are other examples: the man who comes to visit Abraham and Sarah in the desert; the ‘man’ with the drawn sword who appears to Joshua; the man who wrestles with Jacob until daybreak. There are countless other examples. The veiled truth that keeps popping up is that there is ‘someone else’ in the story, another player in the saga. And I’m quite happy to believe that this someone else is Jesus. The hidden truth that Israel isn’t shown is that God has a Son. Now, just how this ‘Son’ came about and how this idea fits with God being ‘One’ I do not know. Maybe we’re not meant to: Paul says that even we ‘see through the glass darkly’ and all that. But there does seem to be that sense in which all the Old Testament dudes are straining to find out this hidden truth. Many of the prophets seem to be foretelling that God will send this person and he will sort things (Isaiah’s ‘Suffering Servant’) and alongside all these prophecies about this mysterious saviour is the truth that ‘God himself will come and deliver Israel,’ so the OT prophets seem quite happy to hold together Jesus and God. Also, in that brilliant passage in John 8 (which I know you love), when Jesus is taking apart the Pharisees, he tells them “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my coming…” which suggests to me that perhaps the likes of Abraham/Moses/David were ‘in on the secret,’ and sensed that God had a Son and that he was going to be sent to Israel and to the world. Who knows?

Maybe you’ll think this too simple, but I believe Jesus’ references to himself as ‘the Son of Man,’ to be to Daniel’s vision when he sees: ‘one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’ I know you know of these verses, but to me, it’s the same picture as what I’ve been describing above. Daniel sees a vision and realises there is ‘someone else’ in the picture who is given ‘all authority’ by God to rule. So when Jesus calls himself ‘Son of Man,’ he is claiming to be that man.

In the spirit of ‘Mean Manish Boy Theology,’ I fear I have muddied the waters even further. Let me return to developing this idea of a ‘Window into God.’ I loved your point about the calming of the storm. And the disciples had the same reaction: “Who is this man?!” They’re starting to ‘get it’ for the first time: the man in their midst is God. And as I said in my last post, we should probably look into the vision of Jesus in Revelation 1-3. Very different from the Gospel picture. There we have the glorified Jesus, with scary apocalyptic features and a loving, but uncompromisingly righteous view of his churches throughout Asia Minor at the time. It flies nicely in the face of the traditional ‘Jesus, meek and mild’ artistic portrayals we have in pop culture. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Jesus’ beloved friends didn’t recognise him ‘at first’ when he was resurrected. On more than one occasion, there is this kind of ‘ahhhh it’s really you,’ moment. Is this because Jesus’ identity while he lived on earth as a man was very different, do you think?


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