Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Romans

--Warning: Heavy Theological Topic--

About a month ago I finished The Grand Paradox by Wytsma, which as I mentioned talked about having doubts. As most people know, doubt can be healthy and can help us grow. Due to how my brain functions, I typically do not have doubts. Once I comprehend a truth, I can fall back on the rationality of it when emotion tries to override. For instance, although I cannot say for certain whether direct creation or theistic evolution occurred, I know unguided evolution is it not possible based on the intricacies of things such as the human eye.

However, there are definitely times when non-Christians make very convincing arguments in terms of doubting points such as the divinity of Jesus. I recently finished reading The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Wilken. In it he reviews what the Romans wrote regarding the Christians as they learned about the new religion. About a week or so ago I read the chapter regarding Celsus' views. Wilken says “Now Celsus had no difficulty accepting the idea that a man who had performed wondrous works or distinguished himself by his life and teachings should be given adoration... In principle Celsus had no objection to the elevation of a man, even Jesus, to divine status. But was Jesus really deserving of such honor?” As Wilken continues, he explains how Celsus felt Christians elevated Jesus too much, because they made him equal to the most high God. At this point he references Origen's response, which most Christians view as heretical, “we do not hold that the son is mightier than the Father, but inferior.”

At this point I had to stop reading and seek out input from a few friends and mentors because this caused a mental and theological roadblock to proceeding with the rest of the book. I could not think straight. All the thought I could gather in my mind was this: I understand we interpret the “I Am...” statements by Jesus as him revealing that he is God. But, what if that's a wrong interpretation? What if the hypostatic union is not true? What if Jesus is just an empowered servant of God, not God incarnate? What would be the theological implications? If Jesus lived a perfect life, but wasn't God, that would seem to me that he'd still qualify as the perfect sacrifice.

Thankfully, I received responses that removed the roadblock. One friend reminded me how the OT points toward Jesus, another reminded me of John 1:1-3, and my mentor advised Philippians 2. While the OT reference was helpful, the John verse was what I needed at that moment. As John very eloquently writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” No need to try to interpret statements, considering when you move to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father...” With this in mind I continued reading the book.

Last night I finished the book and the last chapter was regarding the views of Emperor Julian. What I did not know about him was he actually grew up in the Church, grew up acting as a believer and being taught the Scriptures, and even being baptized. With this background, as he was swayed by his pagan teachers, he became a most formidable opponent (earning him the title Julian the Apostate.) In this chapter I encountered another roadblock. Wilken writes:

“Like Porphyry, Julian argued that the notion that Jesus is divine was a fabrication of his followers, not the teaching of Jesus himself.... Only one of the disciples, John, taught the new idea that Jesus was divine. The other Apostles did not. Further, Julian, who realized how important the Christian appeal to the Jewish Scriptures was, makes clear that there is no basis in the writings of Moses for the idea that Jesus is divine. Moses 'taught that there was only one God' and the idea that the 'Word was first-born son of God or God was was one of those ideas falsely constructed by you [Christians] later.'”

As one of my friends had aptly replied regarding my earlier consternation, the same would apply to this, “remember when you read that stuff, just because they are ancient doesn't mean they have more knowledge. It just means they were just as dead in their sins as we are now.” However, I have to admit that my rational side and emotional side are being confused at this moment, because Julian and Celsus and others make good arguments.

I realize this is an extremely heavy post. If you are thinking I am on the brink of apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, or the unforgiveable sin, I pray you give me more grace than that. Even as a Christian college graduate, I am allowed periods of doubt through which my faith can grow stronger.



Jace said...

The subservience of Jesus doesn't take away from His deity. It's a key characteristic of His role in the trinity, by very nature a relationship of reciprocal love, praise and submission. Other gospels show Jesus accepting worship from other people. He did not chastise them for doing so, like many angels did when they were worshipped.

Karl said...

Yeah, that's definitely one of the points that definitely gives me hope. It's also one of the main reasons I believe Melchizedek and Jesus are the same person.

Karl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl said...

(btw, thanks for reading!)