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The Problem of Claiming Jesus is God

By Wertbag ~ 

Within Christianity there is a split in how Jesus is viewed. By far the most popular position is the Trinitarians, who believe that Jesus was God, while the other, the Unitarians, believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen one or the son of God but not God himself. Each group will point to the others as misled and, in some cases, claim that being misled in this way makes them not a true Christian. The Trinitarians will say failing to believe in Jesus's divinity will mean you don't have faith and in the case of faith only salvation, can lead to failing to reach heaven. While the Unitarians will say God said to have no other God's before me, so elevating Jesus to be God's equal is against God's direct laws.

Some Trinitarian believers will say Jesus had to be God, as that is the only way his sacrifice is worthy of redeeming the world. The sacrifice of just a man, no matter how pure, is not enough to cover the whole worlds sin, while Unitarians will say Jesus made it clear throughout the bible that he didn't consider himself to be God.

Some examples of Jesus saying he wasn't God that Unitarians can point to include: Luke 22:42 "“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” which says they have separate will, Numbers 23:19 "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind." which is repeated in Hosea 11:9 "For I am God, and not a man" says He is not a human, Luke 18:19 "Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good, except God alone." pointing to God being good but not Jesus or John 14:28 "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." stating that God is more powerful.

Jesus is seen at the right hand of God rather than on God's throne, Jesus prays to God while never asking for prayer to himself, Jesus is baptised, yet God would have no need of this, God says over 150 times in the OT that He is God and Jesus never says it even once. Even after Jesus's death you have bible verses saying Peter and the other 11 disciples spoke to the crowd in Acts 2:22 "Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.". So even here the disciples are not labelling Jesus as God.

The Jews believe that Jesus was a preacher, but believe he failed to achieve the prophecies claimed of the Messiah. The main reason seems to be that the Messiah was reported as a figure who would ascend David's throne and rule over the kingdom, that he would destroy God's enemies and be a great political leader. Jesus never gained those heights, being killed while he was only a preacher of a small sect, so the Jews believe he could not have been the Messiah they are waiting for.

The Muslims view Jesus as a prophet of God, a chosen preacher given powers by God. They hold the Unitarian view, that Jesus was not God but still give respect and devotion to him as one blessed by God.

Often Trinitarians will point to the term Son of God, saying that it can be used in a family way to show relationship, while Unitarians will point to the same term being used for others or even everyone such as Galatians 3:26 "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith' or Romans 8:14 " For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.". You also have Adam called the Son of God, so unless the claim is that he too was God, then it doesn't follow that the term means that.

Trinitarians will point to the idea that only God can forgive sin, and Jesus forgave sin showing that he was God. But elsewhere we find others able to do the same, such as John 20:23 where he tells the disciples "If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”, angels can forgive sins such as Isaiah 6:6-7 "Then one of the seraphim flew to me...and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” and of course there were many mentions of the priests in the OT performing animal sacrifice with the result of sin being forgiven.

Possibly the most pointed to passage used by Trinitarians to put forward the idea that Jesus was God is the famous "I am" line, John 8:58 "Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”, which is pointed to God saying "I am" in Exodus 3:14. There are several arguments about this passage. Firstly no one was apparently present at this time to record the words, so to claim Jesus ever spoke them is hard to confirm. The chance they were added as a parable to show Jesus in a certain light, rather than being a historic event seems plausible. It is also pointed out that only the latest Gospel, that of John, recounts this event or the words spoken, so it is possible he is attempting to elevate Jesus to new heights, possibly as a sign of changing views over time. It would be expected that the author of John had a copy of the OT in hand, so writing a story to link to the existing Exodus quote would be a simple task.

We also have scholars who say it was a common idea that preachers or chosen individuals could be blessed by God and given the holy name. This imbuing of power was considered a sign of those blessed as a carrier of the divine name. Jesus saying God is within me, I and the father are one, but also that God could be within everyone, could be seen as an indication that he believed he was a blessed name carrier but not the being the name applies to. Having God in your heart wouldn't make you God, only one with the holy spirit. This can be seen in Exodus 23:20
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him."
Originally posted in the Reasons for Disbelief thread on Ex-Christian.Net