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When Christ Became God

When Christ Became God

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Published by: Find the Light on Oct 23, 2008
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11/09/2010

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www.findthelight.org
When Christ Became God by Rodney Bowen
 
If there's one thing that Christians today are not short of, it's a church to go to. There are literally thousands of different churches or religious denominations open and available to today's Christians. Among all of these churchesthere is a wide spectrum of differing views and diverging practices that makes each church unique in its own right.However, there is one founding principle, a common thread that unites the majority of these various sections of Christianity, and that is their concept of God.Whether the believer is a Roman Catholic, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, a Presbyterian Anglican or Methodist,virtually all share the view that God is a trinity composed of three persons - God the Father, God the Son, and God theHoly Spirit. And they believe that the Son, Jesus Christ assumed human form and came down from heaven to earth forthe salvation of the human race.The doctrine of the Trinity is largely considered to be the single most important belief for the Christian Church. In theCatechism of the Catholic Church (their Statement of Faith commissioned by the late Pope John Paul II) it states that"The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life...It is the most fundamental andessential teaching in the 'hierarchy of the truths of faith'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, p. 62).Mainstream Christian churches believe that the belief in the trinity is so fundamental to their understanding of Christianity, that they use it as the gauge to measure whether someone is really a Christian. Those Christians andchurches who don't subscribe to the doctrine of the trinity aren't considered Christians at all. And this is the positionthat groups such as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Christian Scientists and myself as Christadelphian arein today.However, there is increasing agreement among religious historians, commentators, and church theologians, many of whom themselves believe in the Trinity, that the belief in a triune God is not taught in the Bible but was introducedinto the early church during the first four centuries after Christ.And this is exactly the proposition I want to put to you today, that:
 
That the belief that Jesus and God are the same equal and eternal being (part of the Trinity) has no basis inthe Bible
 
And that this idea developed during the first four centuries following the ministry of ChristAnd the purpose of this presentation is to show you some of the evidence I use to make such a claim. And to do this:1.
 
First we're going to see what modern Catholic and Protestant churches believe about God and Jesus Christ'srelationship2.
 
Compare this with what the Bible teaches3.
 
Then were going to look at how the idea of the Trinity became part of accepted Church belief So that there is no confusion about my theological stance, I am a Christadelphian; that is a Christian who believes thatJesus is Gods Son and is both distinct and inferior to Him. And I believe the Bible, which is God's inspired message,tells us just this. I believe this is a true representation of what both Jesus and the early apostles taught. And I hopethis will become clearer for you as we move through this presentation.The Catholic and Protestant understanding of the TrinitySo what do Modern mainstream churches believe about the Trinity? And I should say here that there is going to be awhole range of beliefs among individual members of church, what I am interested in is what the basic Church belief isand what belief they are founded on.
 
Protestant positionStarting with Protestant churches such as Anglican, Presbyterian, Apostolic, Elim, Open Brethren, Baptist,Methodist etc... Murray Darroch (1984) a Protestant member of an open brethren Assembly wrote thefollowing about the roots of the Protestant churches:"To consciously be a Christian as Protestants have traditionally understood this term involves a positiveattitude towards the doctrine of the Church concerning the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead and the natureof the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most protestant denominations in New Zealand have writtendoctrinal statements and in all cases these...are emphasized in these written statements...This indicates thatthey understand the Bible within the basic Christian and Catholic heritage of doctrinal understanding..."(Darrock, 1984 p. 2).By way of summary he goes on to describe protestant denominations as those that:1.
 
See themselves as being part of the Protestant heritage [i.e. their roots are in the ProtestantChurch]
 
 
www.findthelight.org2.
 
See the Protestant heritage as being derived from the Catholic heritage through the ProtestantReformation of the 16th century3.
 
Share with the Roman Catholic Church (and the Eastern Orthodox Churches) a basic Christiandoctrinal heritage as typified in the Christian doctrines of the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead andthe person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ... (Darrock, 1984, p.3).So from this we can see the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity to Protestant Churches, and also thatthe Protestant understanding of the Trinity is shared with and actually derives directly from the RomanCatholic Church.
 
Catholic understandingWhat then is the Catholic position on the Trinity? The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the stockstandard Athanasian Creed which says:"Now this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without eitherconfusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, theHoly Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, theirmajesty coeternal" Athanasian Creed (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, p. 70).In summary, the doctrine of the Trinity as understood by both Protestant churches and the Catholic Church teachesvery simply that:
 
The Father and Jesus are two parts of the same God, (the Holy Spirit being the other part that were notdealing with today)
 
They are equal
 
And they are co-eternal - they both have always existedBasic Catholic understanding, and therefore also what Protestant churches believe.What does the Bible teach?First we should point out that the Bible never explicitly mentions the Trinity, and that in itself should make anyTrinitarian question the basis of their beliefs. However, they would reply that the Trinity although never mentioned isimplied in many places.Old TestamentWell were not going to look at verses from the Old Testament, if we did we'd be here for hours, suffice to saythat it's widely recognised that the Jews in Old Testament times believed in one God - they weremonotheistic; and there's no room in monotheism for a triune God. And perhaps the cornerstone of theJewish faith in the Old Testament is what is called the 'Shama Yisrael,' it became like a mantra to the Jews:"Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut. 6:4).To show you that I'm not making this up, and that it's not a new idea, L. L. Paine, a Professor of ecclesiasticalhistory wrote at the start of the 20th century:"The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to befound there, or even in any way shadowed forth, is an assumption that has long held sway in theology, but isutterly without foundation."And more recently, The Encyclopaedia of Religion (1987):"Exegetes and theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of theTrinity, even though it was customary in past dogmatic tracts on the Trinity to cite texts like Gen. 1:26 'Let usmake humanity in our image, after our likeness.' Although the Hebrew Bible depicts God as the Father of Israel and employs personifications of God such as Word, Spirit, Wisdom, and Presence, it would go beyondthe intention and the spirit of the Old Testament to correlate these notions with later Trinitarian doctrine..."(The Encyclopaedia of Religion, 1987).There is no room in the Old Testament for the Trinity. It tells us about one God, and that's it.New TestamentSo what about the New Testament? Because the New Testament records the life and teachings of JesusChrist, it's the best place for us to look at what the Bible teaches regarding the relationship between Jesusand God. So how does Jesus talk about his relationship with his Father? Did Jesus teach that he was God orpart of a three-part God? Or did he teach that he was the Son of God who was under his Fathers authority.And as I hope you will see shortly, the consistent claim of Jesus is that he was not equal to God.Jesus' comments about himself 
 
 
www.findthelight.orgFirst we're going to look at the Gospel of John which is interestingly enough is used so often by Trinitarians to justify their beliefs.
o
 
John 14:28 "If you loved me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for MyFather is greater than I."
o
 
John 10:29 "My Father...is greater than all"These statements of Christ effectively demolish any Trinitarian idea of equality between Jesus Christ and God.John 14:28 has always been a thorn in the side of Trinitarians, and the way they explain it away is that onlyduring his incarnation (his life on earth as a human) was Jesus temporarily inferior to God. Now for startersthis idea contradicts their own Athanasian Creed, and it also falls down when we find out that the Bibleteaches that Jesus was still not equal to God after he had ascended to his Father in heaven - after hisincarnation. Speaking after Jesus had risen to heaven, Paul the Apostle tells the early church in 1 Cor. 11:3"...the head of Christ is God"Early Christian writings as we will see shortly confirm that the belief that Jesus was not equal to Godcontinued on after Christ and the Apostles for a number of centuries before being corrupted...Throughout hisconversations with the Jews, Jesus went to great lengths to stress that he was not acting on his ownauthority. This in itself implies that Jesus didn't have an equal relationship with his Father. And if Jesus wasGod - part of the three part Trinity, that's what you would expect. Instead Jesus shows us that he was anobedient son who was subject to the greater position and will of his Father.
o
 
John 5:19, 30 "Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can donothing of his own accord...I can do nothing on my own authority. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is righteous, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me..."
o
 
John 7:16, 28 "Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His [God's] who sentme....I have not come of my own accord" What could be clearer? How could Jesus say that hisdoctrine wasn't his but God's who sent him, when he was himself part of that God. It wouldn't makesense.
o
 
John 8:28 "I do nothing on my own authority, but speak thus as the Father taught me"
o
 
John 13:16 "Most assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is hewho is sent greater than he who sent him."These verses speak for themselves really. Jesus says that:
o
 
He is taught by God
o
 
He shows others his Fathers teaching,
o
 
He doesn't act on his own authority, but his Fathers
o
 
He says his Father is greater than he isThere isn't any hint here of an equal relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus is obviously the exalted Sonof God, but he never claims to be of equal rank, equal power, equal authority as God. He clearly makes thedistinction between him and his Father.As well as the gospel of John, the other Gospels also have evidence from Christ's own lips that he neverclaimed to be equal with God. For example, when the mother of James and John asked that her sons begranted places of honour to sit on either side of Jesus in his kingdom, Christ's reply shows that he recognisedGod's higher authority (Matthew 20:23) "...To sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but itis for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."On another occasion, referring to the timing of the second coming and the future kingdom, Jesus says "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mark13:32If Jesus was equal and always existed with God, then how could this be possible? I find it impossible toconceive that one part of the all-knowing trinity concealed information from the other. Another example iswhen a ruler addressed Jesus as "good teacher." Jesus immediately replied: "Why do you call me good? Noone is good but God alone." Luke 18:19What can this mean but that God is superior to His Son. On other occasions Jesus asked his disciples whothey thought he was, "Who do men say that I...am? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God..." Matthew16:13-16 (Mark 8:29)And in answering Jesus never claims to be God or part of a Triune God. The only claim he makes is that he isChrist - the Son of God, the saviour. And as the final quote we'll consider in this section, in Mark 14:36 whenJesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion we see the possibility of a conflict of will

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