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Cadet David Dale | Paper | TSA Doctrine #4

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David DaleThe following paper has been written by Cadet David Dale, Heralds of Grace Session.  It was written as a requirement for the Salvation Army Theology course.

Doctrine 4

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that he is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.[1]

There are many varying opinions among Christendom and throughout other faiths, philosophies and disciplines as to whom and what Jesus of Nazareth is. Some believe he was a good man, some say a prophet, some say lunatic, some say fairy tale. Salvationists firmly believe Jesus was and is the Son of God and is “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6). We believe in the divine inspiration of the scripture, and therefore believe: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3).

The belief that Jesus is truly and properly God and truly and properly man is foundational to all of our beliefs. Salvationists are unconvinced that Jesus is anything less than entirely God and entirely man. There are many scriptures supporting this standpoint.

We are told in 1 John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This scripture informs us that the Word, a living being was there when God created and the Word is also God, indicating God is one with the Word. Later in the chapter we are told, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father” (1 John 1:14). It is clear when this text is read in its entirety the Word is referring to Jesus.

We are assured through many passages of scripture that Jesus is not just man, but the Son of God. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God” (1 John 1:18). His disciples, although uncertain at times recognized who he was. In John 20: 28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  In Matthew 16: 15-16 Jesus asked “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus never denied who he was, although he knew he would be put in precarious situations for accepting the title.

Even after his death he was still referred to as, “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Simon Peter called him, “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). The idea that he was the Son of God didn’t fizzle out after his death and resurrection, instead it was reaffirmed.

The Old Testament makes numerous references to the coming Messiah as Son of God. One Messianic text, Psalm 89:26-29 says 26“He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’  And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.  I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail.  I will establish his line forever.” Christians are convinced this reference, and several others pertain to Jesus, while Jews have a hard time believing Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Jewish people do not accept Jesus because they were expecting a more literal fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah. They hoped for a political figure in the lineage of David who would be more concerned with the earthly kingdom of Israel. Cleopas said, concerning Jesus: “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19). Jews would expect a literal king in fulfillment of Psalm 89:27 “the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” This is why they have a hard time making the Son of God connection to Jesus.

Gentiles readily received the Messiah while Israel rejected him. Paul laments for the people of Israel in Romans 9: 4-5 “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all…” Although Jews doubt Jesus was the Son of God, Christians welcome Him as Messiah and accept the parallels in the Old Testament prophesying His coming.

An understanding of this doctrine is significant

Many heresies, disagreements and differences exist in regard to Christology. Knowledge of the different beliefs and ideas that surround the incarnation of Jesus is necessary for a minister of the gospel to adequately defend the doctrine of Jesus Christ. One must be aware of heresies myths and false doctrines in order to dispel misunderstanding.

To be a proper representative of Jesus, one has to know scripture that assures us who He is. Jesus makes it clear that He is the Son of God throughout scripture. He communicates with God using the Aramaic term Abba which is translated as daddy, showing us an intimate father and son relationship.

John the Baptist taught people Jesus was the Messiah, and the Son of God, and furthermore assured us that He is divine.  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). This verse alone shows that John knew who Jesus was. John’s gospel is overflowing with allusions to Jesus’ divinity.

The problem in the days while Jesus walked the earth was recognizing that Jesus was truly God. Since His death and resurrection people have entertained the question: Was He truly human? This question was not an issue for people of the early church since they walked with Him, talked with Him and saw Him. They witnessed his suffering and crucifixion. “It would not have occurred to anyone to affirm that Jesus was human, for the obvious reason that it would not have occurred to anyone that He may have been anything else.”[2] It would have been taken for granted that Jesus was fully human. His actions and words would point to His divinity.

Heresies exist concerning Jesus’ humanity. “Docetism heresies affirm that the human body of Jesus was not real and only seemed to exist.”[3] This belief argues “Jesus was totally divine, and that His humanity was merely an appearance. The sufferings of Christ are thus treated as apparent rather than real.”[4]

Proponents of Docetism argue that the gospel of John suggests Jesus was not human. There are defenders of the divinity who state “It (John) does not set out to prove that Jesus was truly human or that He possessed a real body of flesh and blood. Instead, this is exactly what the gospel assumes.”[5] John 1:14 actually presents an argument against Docetism; “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”  When John is evaluated in its entirety Docetism can be debunked.

The father of Arianism, Arius, an Alexandrian priest (250-336 ad) presented ideas proposing the Father and Son do not have the same essence, the Son is a created being and there was a time when the Son did not exist.[6] Arianism saw Jesus as “neither human nor divine, but as a demigod of sorts.”[7]

Adoptionism purports Jesus had the messiahship placed on him at some time during His human life. The gospels indicate messiahship wasn’t conferred upon Him, but that He was always Son of God.[8] The Bible assures us in Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” It would be impossible for the Adoptionism idea to be true since there would be no worthy candidate who is without sin to be adopted as messiah.

Many other fallacies and heresies exist, such as Ebionitism, the belief that Jesus was purely human with charismatic gifts. These heresies were dispelled with the advent of the “creeds established at Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, and respected to this day…those creeds were designed to refute popular heresies about the person of Jesus Christ.”[9] “The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the divinity of Jesus, applying to him the term God.”[10]

The Niceneo-Constantinopolitan creed of 381 declared Christ was “of the same substance” with      the Father. This affirmation has become widely regarded as a benchmark of Christological         orthodoxy within all the mainstream Christian churches, whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox.[11]

A common misunderstanding among other religions and non-Christians is that Jesus was a good man. This disregards the notion that he is divine. People have come up with many theories, comprised of mainly uneducated assumptions. C. S. Lewis offers a retort for the idea Jesus was only a good man, stating that a man who made the claims Jesus did would “Either be a lunatic…or else He would be the Devil of Hell…either He is the Son of God, a madman or something worse…let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”[12]

How an understanding of this doctrine will contribute to my future ministry:

In ministry people will look to me as someone who has the answers regarding doctrine and scripture. I need a thorough knowledge of this doctrine since it is foundational to salvation.    My main purpose as an officer is to lead people to salvation in Christ. To present Jesus to people and to see them accept Him, they have to believe he is the Son of God who came to earth, died and rose again to ascend to the right hand of the Father. If people are unsure of his divinity, they can’t make a confession of faith. I have to be able to recognize false belief and false doctrine so I can properly lead people to true confession and repentance in the Christ we know, not a misrepresentation of Christ.

In our pluralistic society there are many ideas about God. Some religions have their own idea of who Jesus was in light of their own holy books. Muslims respect and revere Jesus, and consider Him one of the greatest of God’s messengers (prophets) to mankind. “They (Muslims) believe neither Muhammad nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in one God, brought by earlier prophets, but rather to confirm and renew it.”[13] In the Islamic view Jesus wasn’t divine, He was a great prophet.

Hindus believe Jesus was a great moral and spiritual teacher, and an avatar of one of their gods, Vishnu. He is described as a limited one of many incarnations of Vishnu that have come to earth.[14]  They believe that upon Jesus’ death He became enlightened and merged with the Godhead (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). Some Hindu sects teach that the divine and human side of Jesus are radically separated; others believe the human nature was absorbed by the divine.[15] Hindus do not see Jesus as the Son of God, but one of many sons, and do not believe He is the only way to God.

If we are to minister to people with backgrounds in other faiths we have to recognize that people have different concepts of who Jesus is. We have to present him in the Christian sense to people with false conceptions so they will know the truth of His divinity without any hindering misconceptions. When we know what their beliefs are we can draw from our knowledge to present Jesus more effectively.

People like to be respected and to be accepted with their beliefs. We have to be aware that some religions honour and revere Jesus, but do not have knowledge of him as we do. He holds a lower status among other faiths, and may not be considered divine. People of these faiths may say they believe in and love Jesus, but the Jesus they believe in isn’t the Jesus of our Bible. To receive salvation in Jesus one has to accept who He is. The Jesus of Christianity said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

When we teach people about faith in Jesus, we have to be sure people know salvation depends on faith in one God, who exists as a trinity. If people are not taught that Christianity is monotheistic they may not realize this. Christian leaders need to know that people from other religious backgrounds may believe it is acceptable to worship other gods, as well as Jesus.

People believe they have to search for God, or earn their way to him. The fact that God became human in Jesus demonstrates his desire to know us. “Instead of people coming to God, he came to people in the person of Jesus, who came to earth to find lost people. He was also a genuine human being.”[16] Jesus differs from other gods. He came to meet us on our level as one of us instead of requiring that we earn acceptance of a distant God through good works. He gave himself for us, showing true love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

How the divinity is perceived in the universal Christian church

 In 451 the Council of Chalcedon achieved a definition which occupies a position recognizing Jesus as divine and human. This was in opposition to Alexandrian beliefs and was not universally acceptable causing a rift that is unhealed to this day.[17] Although Christian denominations all accept Jesus as divine, some disagreement exists even within denominations.

The Moderator of The United Church of Canada, Rev. Bill Phipps has stated “he does not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and that in fact, Jesus merely embodies all of the divine that can be embodied in a human being.”[18] His statements have caused dissension in the church.

Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham stated: “Jesus encountered people of other faiths respectfully.” In his book, Mansions of the Spirit, the Vancouver cleric calls for a new vision of a God who reveals himself in all the great religions. Adds Ingham: “The task for Christianity today is to remove some of its inflated claims for itself.”[19]

The Catholic Church is holding steadfast to its beliefs; “Scholarship begins with the creed,” says Bishop Faber MacDonald of Grand Falls, Nfld. “When you start moving away from the foundations of faith, as the United Church is, you get on a slippery slope and all of a sudden, Jesus becomes a prophet.”[20]

Modern society still debates the humanity/divinity of Jesus. The Jesus Seminar, a controversial biblical think-tank with headquarters in Santa Rosa, Calif., “acknowledges the existence of Christ, but questions many of the sayings attributed to him in the Bible.”[21] Michael Steinhauser, professor of New Testament studies at the Toronto School of Theology, says “The virgin birth and the Resurrection are theological beliefs expressed in narrative form,” states the Roman Catholic, also a member of the Jesus Seminar. No scripture scholar, he says, would say they are accurate accounts of what happened.”[22] Christology is challenged among feminism, liberation theology, the black freedom movement, the environmentalist and even New Age philosophy.

People of all faiths, philosophies and disciplines are trying to figure out who Jesus is, and some in the process are creating their own perceptions and attributing them to him in effort to be politically correct. I am proud to be a member of an Army that knows and accepts who Christ is. “He possesses every attribute of the Father; He is distinctly said in the scriptures to perform works which only an almighty power could accomplish.”[23] “All things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)  We have enough scriptural evidence to support our stance.

Bibliography

Brinkman, Martien E. The   Non-Western Jesus. London, Oakville: Equinox, 2007.

Driedger, Sharon Doyle. “Jesus   Divinity Debated.” The Canadian Encyclopedia : The Encyclopedia of   Music in Canada, 2012: 1.

F. I. Andersen & D. N. Freedman . The Anchor Bible:   Amos. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Garrington, Major Jim. Equipped   for Battle. Central Territory, U.S.A.: The Salvation Army, 2002.

General, The. The Doctrines of   The Salvation Army. Toronto: Territorial Headquarters Printing and   Publishing House, 1892.

Knox, John. The Humanity and   Divinity of Christ. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Glasgow: Fount   Paperbacks, 1989.

McGrath, Alister. Christian Theology. London: Wiley   Blackwell, 2011.

McLeod, Margaret. “Class Notes   REL 126 Salvation Army Theology 1, Nov.1: Class 9.” Class Notes,   Winnipeg, 2013.

Prabhavananda, Swami. The Sermon   on the Mount according to Vedanta. California: Vedanta, 1964.

Scott McCormick, Jr. Behold the Man. New York:   Continuum, 1994.

The Salvation Army Handbook Of Doctrine. London: Salvation Books, 2013.

Thompson, Marianne Meye. The   Humanity of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press,   1988.

Thurmer, John. The Son in the Bible and the Church.   Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1987.

http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10.htm

http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/version=NIV



[1] Handbook of Doctrine, 79

[2] Knox, 5

[3] Class notes

[4] McGrath, 273

[5] Thompson, 122

[6] McGrath 274

[7] McCormick, 20

[8] Knox, 7

[9] McCormick, 19

[10] Class notes

[11] McGrath, 277

[12] Lewis, 52

[13] http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10.htm

[14] Prabhavananda, 17, 37

[15] Brinkman, 56

[16] Garrington, 61

[17] Thurmer, 62

[18] Driedger, 1

[19] Driedger, 1

[20] Driedger, 1

[21] Driedger, 1

[22] Driedger, 1

[23] The General, 8