It if first critical to note that the Ten Commandments (of the Old Testament) are absolutely and entirely supported by Christian Theology. Nothing that Jesus Taught ever challenged any one of them! Of those Ten Commandments, virtually everyone agrees that the First is the most important. It states (paraphrased): "There is One, True God, and I am Him." One God. One God! One God? Many Christians seem to forget this important First Commandment!
It seems appropriate to now present a rough "history" as most Christian scholars understand it today.
I realize that few modern Christians will believe any of this, although ALL Biblical Scholars and Theologians do completely! There is a way to aid in this understanding. YOU can recite the Nicene Creed, which describes the basics of Christian beliefs. But the MODERN wording of the Nicene Creed is significantly different than the ORIGINAL WORDING of it! Here is the ACTUAL original wording as recorded during the Nicene Council of 325 AD.:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father;
God of God; Light of light; very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father,
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Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, and was made man:
He suffered, and rose again the third day:
And ascended into heaven:
And shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.
By the Council in 381 AD, there were FIFTEEN changes made in that text, all of which were additions, which then fairly closely resemble the Nicene Creed as we know it today.
But when we look at the ORIGINAL wording, in 325 AD, notice that there is NO reference to the Virgin Mary or of the Holy Spirit being involved, but equally important, ALL wordings of the Nicene Creed include the phrase "came down". That not only meant that Jesus came down from Heaven, but that HE ALREADY EXISTED!
THIS concept had to be very confusing to Jesus. Was He to tell people that He Alone was the One God of the Universe (which was true)? But who would believe such an outrageous statement and no good could come of it anyway. Or should He instead refer to Himself as the SON of God, which seems a lot easier to believe, both for Him and for others. In the Bible, NO ONE ELSE ever referred to Jesus as the SON of God, only Jesus (rarely) did. But such references caused immense confusion in the later Church, which struggled to try to figure out whether Jesus was human or Divine? The popular answer to that is in Monophysitism, where Jesus contained BOTH Personalities in a Composite form, where He was TRULY Human and also TRULY Divine. The reality seems to be that both were true but not in any Composite form. He certainly WAS and IS Divine, since He IS the One True God of the Universe. But in the process of arranging the Bilocation, of being in BOTH Heaven and on Earth simultaneously, He arranged to have a 100% HUMAN lifetime, where He suffered pain as any human would.
That text, in Luke, presents an important statement. Jesus told His parents that He had been involved with the "work of His Father". This comment seems to suggest that Jesus didn't realize that He was God but that He was somehow a Son of God. This concept and theme was often repeated later in life when Jesus began His public Ministry, "Son of God". If Kenotic Theology is valid, such comments were due to an incomplete realization on Jesus' part. He did not yet realize that He WAS God, but close, that He was a Son of God.
We happen to have a relatively similar situation with the BELIEVE web-site. With five million visitors each year, we get immense amounts of e-mail. So far, there have been well over 900 different individuals who have each "announced" to us that he was Jesus, having Returned! We never like to insult anyone, but we DO often respond by telling them that at least 899 of these people MUST be wrong! So we tend to now be especially skeptical each time a new person makes this announcement to us. The point is, if someone came up to YOU and told you that he was God, what would be your reaction? Whatever it might be, it seems likely that it would NOT involve you actually believing such a claim. Now "Son of God", hmmmm, it might be possible to believe such a claim. The point here is that God probably knew from the start that it would be foolish for Jesus to ever say that He IS the One True God, the God that Abraham worshipped. It seems reasonable to me that Jesus saying "Son of God", and therefore referring to "the Father" makes a lot of sense.
Please note that Jews were outraged at the statement "King of the Jews" applied to Jesus. Imagine if the claim was "Creator of the Universe"! In combination with the Kenotic Theology concept, therefore it seems reasonable that the Bible contains regular references to "Son of God" and not "God Himself".
We humans are an odd lot. While on the Cross, Jesus was taunted to do a Miracle and Save Himself. Imagine what sort of requests would have been made of God by the people around. Make my crop bountiful. Give me six sons. Make me powerful. Make me wealthy. Etc, etc. It would seem that the way God brought Jesus (or Himself) into human culture, was beautifully well thought through! Also for His Life and even His Death on the Cross.
Now consider another thing: God could easily have provided ABSOLUTE evidence and absolute proofs of everything related to Jesus. He chose not to. As a result, we do not have a "mathematical equation" that defines how one can become Saved. No, it entirely rests on each person deciding whether to have Faith or not. The whole point of NOT providing any proofs is to REQUIRE each person to either have Faith that certain things are true, or to not have such Faith. Isn't that a beautiful thing? God arranged things so that we necessarily participated, and in a really exquisite way! What a God!
The point of this Essay is to try to clarify that Christianity absolutely believes in One True God, the God of Abraham, the God specified as the Only God in the First Commandment. As soon as Christians start describing Jesus as the "Son of God" then anyone listening counts one-two, two Gods, a direct and sacrilegious contradiction of the First Commandment. Christians don't seem to realize that that is the PRIMARY reason why Muslims immediately dismiss Christianity as worthless, because they understand Christians to worship at least TWO distinct Gods (Father and Jesus). If that were a correct assessment, the Muslims would be absolutely correct in severely criticizing Christians. The Muslims worship the very same One True God Whom Abraham worshipped, and they absolutely know what we call the First Commandment. In fact, every Muslim Prayer begins with the statement that there is One True God (the God of Abraham). There is massive confusion on both sides, but the reality is that both Christians and Muslims believe that the God of Abraham is the One True God.
If Christians would ever clear this issue up (and this Essay is meant as a part of such an effort), then most of the reason why both Muslims and Jews consider Christianity to be "heretical" would disappear, and maybe calm discussion might be possible!
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C Johnson, Pastor
A Christ Walk Church