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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bible 3: Jesus Truly Human, Truly Divine

In the early church they composed a creed. This provided information to converts so that before they were baptized they would know what it was they believed. Faith in Jesus (and God) is about life changing trust. It is a matter of the heart. You can love and trust the Lord but be very muddled and simple minded. However, in the best of circumstances, the personal commitment of faith is accompanied by an intellectual grasp of (at least some) of the content of believing. An ignorant Christian may be holy and good, but they are still ignorant. Knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught people. Ignorance is not a goal to seek...

We believe that Jesus was God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made; that for us and for our salvation He became a man. He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. 

The Church has always claimed that Jesus was human. It has also said that He is God incarnate. The word "incarnate" means enfleshed and it expresses the mystery of the two natures (human and divine) existing simultaneously in one person, Jesus Christ. In the Fourth Gospel it says that "the Word became flesh and set His tent up among us." Yet this Gospel also tells us that Jesus got sad and frustrated, he experienced hunger, thirst and even cried. Jesus admits that He does not know when the end of the world will be. While He claims to be "one with the Father" (God the Son) He also declares "the Father is greater than I" (as the human Son of God) Who has sent Him and Whom He obeys. Philippians 2:6-11 helps. There we read He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, coming in human likeness. Emptied. That is the key word and explains how God becomes human--by emptying.

The incarnation is a mystery. When we declare it to be true, we are proclaiming the orthodox faith. When we explain it, however, we get into trouble. The history of the church is littered with "explanations" of the incarnation which are logical and understandable, but have been condemned as heresy. The problem is, when we explain it, we tend to only emphasize one aspect: the human or the divine. 

Many sincere Christians, in an effort to determine if I am trustworthy, ask me, "Do you believe Jesus is God?" They want to hear me say "Yes." The problem is, many heresies declare Jesus is God--they just do not think He was human. They think He just 'appeared' to be human. (confer In reaction to this, others have emphasized that Jesus is human, in fact, so human that he "became" God (called Adoptionism or Liberalism). They think God worked with and through him, but Jesus was just a good human. The truth is He is FULLY both. Fully. Both.

The Bible is not more Divine than Jesus and it is every bit as human. We need to ask if our understanding of Jesus excludes human limitations. We need to ask if our understanding of the Bible is Docetic. When Jesus was touched by the bleeding woman He asked, "Who touched me?" Why?  Could Jesus make mistakes? Did He ever take a wrong turn? or trip over a rock? Did He ever miscount change? Did Jesus think about the world like other ancient Jews, or did He know that the sun was the center of the universe and that the planets rotated around it (and that Pluto was not a planet, though it would be for a while). Did Jesus accept the basic beliefs of His culture about human life or was He aware of germs and microbes, genes and cells, but He just didn't mention it because He knew His contemporaries were too primitive to hear of it? Was Jesus really human and shaped by His time and place (so He spoke a particular language and understood through a common prism) or was He timeless, spaceless and all encompassing spirit without body?

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, but we do not think it meant He was not limited in any way by His humanity. Likewise, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Any doubts that they made mistakes and were still authorities in the church? We will look at the Bible next, but I wanted to mention that if our view of the Bible negates it is a human work and also divinely inspired, we are missing part of the truth. And negating the humanity is also a heresy. You can look it up!

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