This post is long-winded, pedantic and sometimes redundant. I’m trying to be as careful as I can to deal with an issue that may confuse or even offend some readers. I’m trying to dissect an idea that’s an article of faith for millions of people in a way that’s respectful while I remaining determined to explore some “logical unpleasantness” surrounding the question,
Is Christ God?
There are millions of sincere and dedicated Christians who believe that when the Christ walked the earth as if he were a man, he was actually God incarnate. I.e., these people believe that God came down to earth in the “incarnate” (flesh and blood) form of a mortal man. Perhaps they’re right. I don’t know.
But, if the Bible is true, I can’t believe that Christ was God incarnate. My notion of “logic” tells me that the Christ was not God, but instead the “Son of God” and therefore a separate being just as surely as you and I are separate beings from our earthly fathers.
The very description of the Christ as the “Son of God” appears or is implied nearly 200 times in the New Testament. The phrase “Son of God” clearly indicates that the Christ was not and is not God. The words must mean what they say. To say that I am the “son of Alex” necessarily means that “I am not Alex” since, by definitions of the words “father” and “son,” I can’t be my own father. If the words “Son of God” in the Bible are true, then it follows that the Christ is related to God, but he is not actually God—any more than I can claim to be my own “father” or my own “son”.
Similarly, there are nearly 300 instances in the New Testament where the Christ is described expressly or by implication as the “son of man”. If those words are true, we face a “which came first” question: Which came first, God or man? If God created man, God must’ve preceded man. If Christ is God and Christ is the “son of man,” then it appears that man preceded the Christ and later created the Christ/God.
The truth, in my opinion, is that the Christ was both the “Son of God” and the “son of man”. He has a divine father, and an earthly mother. He is a transitional being that was neither fully divine in the sense of being “God” nor fully human in the sense of being a mortal born to an earthly mother and an earthly father.
The Death of God?
In support of my belief that the Christ was not God incarnate, I’ll first offer some speculation concerning my understanding of the Christ’s death and resurrection. I can’t prove any of my conjecture and I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with me. I merely hope you’ll consider my observations.
If the Bible is true, the Christ actually died on the cross. His corpse was laid in a tomb for three days, and then he rose back to life. The salient point is that the Christ was actually and completely dead for three days.
If the Christ was actually God incarnate, then it appears that God was dead for three days, but that God nevertheless overcame death and rose back to life.
I believe that this world, this universe, runs on the will of God. I believe He provides the energy that causes trees to grow, stars to shine and galaxies to spin. If so, it seems to me that if God were absent for any reason, even for a micro-second, the entire universe would disintegrate and instantly cease to exist.
On the other hand, if the Christ were God, and God were truly “dead” for three days, then my notion of God’s necessity to the continuation of the universe would be shown to be false. More importantly, if God could die for three days and the universe continued to spin on without incident, it would appear that the universe can run just fine without God. Thus, if God were truly “dead” for three days, and the universe continued without adverse effect, it would indicate that God is no longer necessary to the mechanical operation of the universe.
Instead, the death of God would suggest that God had created a self-sufficient, self-sustaining, perpetual motion machine called the “universe” that—once created—was no longer dependent on its Creator. Such universe could run “mechanically” in perpetuity, without any further input of God’s spiritual “energy”.
If God can die for three days and the universe continues without adverse consequence, then why couldn’t God die for three years, three centuries, three millennia or even for eternity—while the universe continued to unfold?
If the universe can run without God, why does the universe need God?
You and I would still need God as a means of salvation and to shield us from both death and damnation in the next life (assuming there even is a “next life” if God were dead). But, in this life, our need for God would be debatable. Ohh, if we prayed real hard, God might give us a new house or a spouse that we’re particularly hot for, but if the universe can run without God, God’s utility seems marginal.
I suppose that analysis might be correct, but I don’t believe it. Again, I believe that if God were dead or otherwise somehow absent from this life, the universe would disappear as instantaneously as light from a room when someone hits the light switch.
If the Christ is God, then it should follow that when the Christ died for three days, so did God. Can an “eternal” God die for even an instant? Can a God who claims to be “eternal” nevertheless actually “die” for three days? If God can die once, couldn’t He die again? If He can die for three days, He can die for 300 trillion years. If He can die for any measure of time from a micro-second to a millennium, He is not “eternal”.
If the Bible is true, God is eternal. He can’t die—not even for three days. The Christ, being partially human, could die. You can die. I can die. God cannot. Not even for an instant.
Therefore, if God is eternal and the Christ died on the cross, I can’t believe that the Christ was God incarnate.
(Some will argue that God was merely “incarnate” when the Christ died. Therefore, while the fleshly “person” of Christ died on the cross, God, Himself, did not die. I’ll address that argument below under the section on “God in Three Persons”.)
I proceed on the presumption that the Bible is fundamentally true. I absolutely believe in the “inerrant word of God”. I do not, however, believe in the inerrant translations of man—and neither does anyone else who prefers some version(s) of the Bible and rejects others. Insofar as you prefer (or even demand) a particular version of the Bible, you implicitly admit that you do not trust the other versions that were translated to read differently from your chosen Bible.
I have a computer program that includes at least ten versions of the Bible. I can search out a particular verse in one version of the Bible and then call up the same verse in the other nine versions and compare the text of all ten versions to see the variations. The fact that we don’t have a single translation of the Bible that we all agree to be perfect and “infallible” is evidence that almost none of us believe that all translations of the Bible are “inerrant”. Similarly, none of us can point with absolute certainty at the one Bible that may be “inerrant”.
If I had to guess, there may be twenty to thirty recognized translations of the Bible. But there’s no point to multiple translations of the Bible unless each translation’s author sees some other Bible translations as including mistakes or even lies. These mistakes can be small and merely stylistic, or they can be enormous (the Protestant and Catholic Bibles don’t even agree on the text of the Ten Commandments).
Personally, I doubt that any modern translation of the Bible is precisely inerrant. Nevertheless, insofar as I profess to be a “Christian,” I have to believe that Bible is fundamentally true. If I didn’t believe the Bible was fundamentally true, how could I believe in the Christ? How could I claim to be a “Christian”?
So, operating on the assumption that the Bible is (fundamentally) true, here’s my Biblical “evidence” that the Christ was not and is not God:
Five Major Milestones
• According to Wikipedia,
“The Baptism is one of the five major milestones in the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus, the others being Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.”
Those five major milestones are listed in chronological order. I’ll offer some analysis of each of those five milestones—plus the prayer offered by the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion. However, I’m going to consider those six events out of chronological order with the Prayer in the Garden and the Crucifixion as last.
“Jesus came to the Jordan River where he was baptized by John. The baptismal scene includes the Heavens opening, a dove-like descent of the Holy Spirit, and a voice from Heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:21-22”
Note that, in addition to John, there is evidence of three different beings at this Baptism: 1) the Christ; 2) the Holy Spirit (as a dove); and 3) the voice from Heaven that is presumably the voice of God.
If the Christ were God incarnate (the “Christ-God”), how do we explain the “voice from Heaven”?
Is the Christ a ventriloquist? Does he throw his voice up into the clouds to create the illusion of a “god” other than Himself? What would be the purpose of deceiving the mortals present at the Baptism into believing that the “Christ-God” was merely the “Son” of God and thus separate from and other than the actual “God” speaking from the cloud (and also separate from the Holy Spirit manifested as a dove)?
Are we to believe that a “Christ-God” could and would engage in deception? If God is capable of deception, is God therefore capable of telling lies? Doesn’t the Bible claim that God cannot lie? If so, why would a Christ-God create the illusion of the “voice” of another “god” to fool the yokels?
If the Christ were God, what does it mean when the false or illusory “god” in the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased”? Could that sentence be translated to mean, “I am my own Son and I am well pleased with myself”? Is God schizophrenic? Is He vain?
If the Christ were God, why would God need to be baptized by an earthly prophet like John the Baptist? For God’s salvation? That makes no sense. How could an earthly prophet have authority to baptize God, Himself?
If the Bible’s account of Christ’s Baptism is true, God, the Christ and the Holy Spirit are three different beings.
“The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured (or metamorphosed) and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16 refers to it.
“In these accounts Jesus and three of his apostles go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration). On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called ‘Son’ by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.”
As in the Baptism, at the Transfiguration we also see reports of a mysterious voice emanating from a cloud or the sky. If the “voice in the sky” isn’t God’s, whose voice is it? Joe Jablonski’s? Satan’s? Jeeves, the butler’s? A second example of the “Christ-God’s” predilection for ventriloquism?
When the “voice in the cloud” (Matthew 17:5) says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him,” what does it mean?
If the Christ is the “Son” of the source of the “voice in the cloud,” that voice must be one of the Christ’s parents. There are three possible “parents”: Mary, Joseph, and God. Unless ventriloquism runs deep in the Christ’s earthly family, we can assume that neither Mary nor Joseph was the source of the “voice in the cloud”.
That implies that the “voice in the cloud” should be God’s. More, insofar as the “voice” claims that the Christ is “my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him,” that “voice” clearly distinguishes between himself (“I”) and the Christ (“son” and “him”).
Insofar as the Christ is the “Son” of any being, that parent must have existed before the Christ existed.
Of course, Mary preceded the Christ—at least in terms of their earthly existence. But God, as the Creator of both Mary and the Christ, must have preceded both of them. Insofar as any being preceded the Christ, Christ cannot be the ultimate “Creator”. In any case, if Christ has a Father—and that Father, by definition, existed before the Christ—then the Christ can’t be God—the first and eternal being who created all other things and beings. If Christ is a “Son” of anyone, he can’t be God without changing the meaning of the world “son” so drastically, that that word becomes meaningless.
If the Christ is God, then each of the numerous instances in the New Testament that says he is the “Son of God,” is a lie. If the Christ is not the “Son of God” (but is instead God, Himself), the New Testament and Christian faith may be false.
You can’t claim to have the alleged “Christ-God” standing on the ground and undergoing “transfiguration” while another apparent “God” is speaking from the clouds. By definition, one or the other of those two “gods” must be false. In a monotheistic religion, there can be only one God. If there’s more than one God, then monotheism is false and the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are also false.
As in the Baptism, the Transfiguration also offers evidence that the Christ and God are two separate beings. If the text of the Bible is true, I can’t see an alternative conclusion. If the text of the Bible is untrue, then alternative conclusions are possible, but what foundation remains for the Christian faith?
“God In Three Persons”?
A “person” or “persona” is a kind of character that a man may sometimes assume or “play”. As a very crude illustration, if I dress up in my work clothes, I might appear in the “person” of “Alfred the Construction Worker”. If I dress up in a suit and tie, I might appear in the “person” of “Alfred the Church Goer”. If I dress up in my pajamas, I might appear in the “person” of “Alfred the Sleeper”. In each case—as construction worker, church goer, or sleeper—it’s still always “me” (the same man) but in three different “persons” or “personas”.
Many people believe that God is “in three persons” and can appear at any moment as: 1) the Father; 2) the Holy Spirit; or 3), as the Christ.
OK—I absolutely accept the existence of a Trinity that consists of three beings who are similar but nevertheless, separate: 1) the Father; 2) the Holy Spirit; and 3) the Christ.
I might even accept the “God-in-three-persons” concept so long as God only appears in any particular context as only one “person” at a time. But when I see evidence in the Baptism, Transfiguration and as you’ll read, the Crucifixion, that God and the Christ are both present at the same time and in the same context—but still separate—the concept of the “God in three persons” seems irrational.
Again, in the Baptism (where we see the Christ and evidence of the Holy Spirit and God) we see all three alleged “persons” of God appearing simultaneously. I know that nothing’s impossible with God, but seeing the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as three simultaneous “personas” makes as much sense to me as seeing myself simultaneously dressed up in my pajamas, construction clothes and best blue suit. It just doesn’t make sense.
After all, if the Christ is God, when the “voice in the cloud” says “hear him ye,” we have some second being (either a being that is not God or is an illusion) saying “listen to the Christ”. Why would the Christ rely on some “voice in the cloud” to tell his disciples to listen to him? I guarantee that if I were God and I wanted you to listen to me, I wouldn’t need some mysterious “third person” speaking from a cloud to get you to pay attention. As God, I could convince you all by myself that you had better, by damn, pay attention to me in all things. So, why would a Christ-God employ to the deception (lie) of a “voice in the cloud”?
More, if the Christ and God were one in the same, the stories of the Baptism and Transfiguration are somewhat degrading. I.e., if the Christ is God, but nevertheless chooses to perpetuate the illusion (by means of a “voice” emanating from a cloud) that He is not God but is instead the “Son” of God, is the Christ-God lying? Or is He schizophrenic? Does He suffer from “multiple personality disorder” (God in three “persons”)? If God is the Christ and He is also the Holy Spirit, why pussyfoot around with “three persons”? Why the masquerade?
I understand that belief in “three persons” of the same one God (rather than three separate, divine beings) is an act of faith. I do not expect my notions of logic to overcome someone else’s faith. Nevertheless, when I apply my “logic” to understanding the “three persons” argument, that argument seems irrational and even casts doubt on our understanding of God.
More, doesn’t the Bible warn each of us against being a “respecter of persons”? Doesn’t the Bible say that God is not a “respecter of persons”. If the Bible is true, and God does not respect “persons,” why would He resort to using them?
Can God deceive? Can he lie? If we answer Yes to those questions and ignore the resulting contradictions in the text of the Bible, then we implicitly admit that the meaning of the words in the scripture is unfixed and can mean anything we want it to mean, whenever we like.
If the meanings of words in the Bible aren’t fixed, how can the Bible be “true”?
If the Bible is true, the Christ could not have been God incarnate.
The third of the Christ’s “five major milestones” is his Crucifixion. I’m going to deal with the implications of the Crucifixion (and also with the story of the Garden of Gethsemane) after I deal with two remaining “milestones”: Resurrection and Ascension.
“The New Testament does not include an account of the ‘moment of resurrection’ and in the Eastern Church icons do not depict that moment, but show the Myrrh bearers, and depict scenes of salvation.”
We know that Christ “rose,” but the specific details of that rising took place within the closed tomb and beyond the sight of any mortal witness. Therefore, we can’t know if God was present within the tomb at the moment of the Christ’s resurrection.
However, Acts 2: 29-31 declares, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” No one claims that the Christ raised himself. Instead, the Christ was raised by God and that indicates two separate beings: one being raised (the Christ) and a second doing the “raising” (God).
The apostles “witnessed” the “facts” that the Christ had died on the cross and was sealed in the tomb. Three days later, those same apostles “witnessed” the fact that the Christ was again alive. But they did not witness the “moment” of the actual “resurrection”—they only witnessed the result (the Christ was again alive).
If the Bible is true and God raised the Christ to life, then it’s apparent that God and the Christ are two different beings. Therefore, I can’t see how we could argue that Christ was God and died, and then, in the midst of his own death, raised Himself back to life.
If a “Christ-God” who seemed to be dead could nevertheless still resurrect himself, then he was never really dead. He might’ve closed his eyes and held his breath for three days. He might’ve even stopped his pulse and brain waves. But despite all the apparent signs of mortal death, a “Christ-God” would have to be “playing possum” and somehow secretly alive throughout so he could command his body to open his eyes, start breathing and restore his pulse.
The only way I can see for the Christ to have died and been resurrected three days later is if a separate living force that had not died (God) engineered the Resurrection.
Those who believe in “God in Three Persons” might argue that God didn’t really die at the Crucifixion—that only one of his “persons” (the Christ) died. But that’s a little like arguing that the man “Alfred Adask” didn’t die—only the legal fiction “ALFRED N ADASK” died. Such claims deny common sense. If Christ is God, how could the “person” of Christ die without causing God to also die?
Sure, we could argue that God and the Christ also exist as spiritual beings, so while the flesh of Christ died, the spirit of Christ (and God) survived. But if only the fleshly “persona” of the Christ died, of what value was the alleged “sacrifice” of the Christ’s life? If only a “persona” of God died, that’s a little like claiming that when I last took off my construction clothes that Alfred the Construction Worker died. Well, what difference would that make if Alfred continued to live as Alfred the Writer, and Alfred the Radio Talk Show Host, and Alfred the blue-suited Church Goer?
If Christ is God, but God didn’t really die, then did the Christ ever really die? If not, was the Christ’s sacrificial death real? Was his Resurrection real if he didn’t first, actually die? If there wasn’t a real and complete death, could there have been a “perfect sacrifice”? If there were no “perfect sacrifice, and no real Resurrection, can the Christian faith be true?
The only way that I can see for the Resurrection to work as described in the New Testament, is if the Christ is one being who truly died and another being—God, who never died—brought the Christ back to life. That means two separate beings, but not two “persons” (or “personas”) of the same, single being.
The Bible doesn’t provide express witness of the moment that God raised the dead Christ back to life, but that scenario is clearly implied. If God (who was still alive) raised the Christ (who was dead) back to life, then it seems logical to conclude (as in the Baptism and Transfiguration) that God and the Christ must be two entirely different beings.
After his Resurrection and then being seen on earth for another 40 days, the Christ ascended to heaven. Four sections of the New Testament describe the Ascension:
• “after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”—Mark 16:19:
The “person” of Alfred the Construction Worker cannot sit at the right hand of Alfred the Church Goer. Similarly, I can’t see or imagine how God in the “person” of the Christ could sit at the right hand of God in the “person” of the Father.
• “And he led them out until [they were] over against Bethany: and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”—Luke 24:50-52:
In those verses, Luke offers no indication of whether the Christ is God or separate from God.
• Acts 1:9-11 also depicts the Christ’s Ascension:
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
There’s that mysterious “cloud” again, but we don’t see express reference to God (as a second being) in addition to the Christ at the Ascension.
• However, John 20:17 has been interpreted as a reference to the Ascension. There, the Christ tells Mary Magdalene,
“Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’”
If the Bible is true, and if Christ is God, why does he expressly say that he is returning to his (and our) “Father” and especially to his (and our) “God”? If the Christ is the one true God, he can’t have a “Father” and certainly can’t recognize another “god” above Him.
As in the Baptism, Transfiguration, and Resurrection we see evidence in the Ascension that the Christ himself recognized that he is not God; that God is another being greater than the Christ.
Garden of Gethsemane
The night before he was crucified, the Christ brought his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed to our Father YHWH ha Elohiym. This moment is not regarded as one of the “five major milestones” in the Christ’s earthly life, but it offers powerful evidence that the Christ was not God incarnate and was not a mere “persona” of God.
Matthew 26:36-43: “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” . . . He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
Luke 22:39-44 “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. . . . He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Mark 14:32-36: “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” . . . .
If the Bible is true; if the Bible is the “inspired word of God”; if the “word of God” is inerrant—then how can anyone read the three accounts of the Christ praying at Gethsemane and still argue that the Christ is God incarnate?
I recognize that some brilliant philosophers and biblical scholars may have devised astonishing rationales to argue that Christ is God, but the plain language of the three reports of the moment in Gethsemane make clear that (unless the Christ is lying or delusional), the Christ himself recognizes that God is someone other, and greater, than himself.
• First, consider the adjectives and pronouns in the Christ’s prayer: “My Father,” “I,” “me,” “my,” “you,” and “your”. The Christ’s vocabulary makes clear that he regards God as a being other than himself.
So, who’s mistaken or lying? The Christ? Or the people who subscribe to the belief that the Christ was God incarnate?
• Second, consider the context: The Christ knows he is about to face great pain and probably death. He is so anguished that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Even the idiot apostles couldn’t stay awake while the Christ was praying. He had no reliable earthy support. He was under so much stress that, according to Luke 22:43, an “angel from heaven strengthened him” implying that the stress was more than the Christ could bear on his own.
If the Christ were God, why would He be so anxious? If there’s one being in all the universe who should never be anxious, it should be God. The fact that the Christ is clearly anxious is evidence that he is not God.
If the Christ were God, how could any angel “strengthen him”? By definition, there can be no source or reservoir of strength in the universe greater than that of God. So, if the Christ is God, who could have more strength than he? God may strengthen angels. He may strengthen mortals. But no angel can provide “strength” to God. Thus, if it’s true that “an angel from Heaven strengthened” the Christ in his moment of anxiety, the Christ cannot be God.
When Christ prays “everything is possible for you” (God), he implicitly admits that not “everything” is possible for himself (Christ). With that admission, the Christ admits that he is not God and not even equal to God. If God is more powerful than the Christ, then the Christ can’t be God or even a persona of God.
• Third, what was the Christ doing at Gethsemane?
He was praying.
Does anyone “pray” to himself? Don’t we necessarily “pray to” some being other than ourselves?
And who do we pray to? A colony of ants? A new-born kitten? A rock?
By definition we “pray” to that which we recognize as more powerful than ourselves. There is no point in asking some ants, a kittens or a rocks to grant some personal request. Those entities have no power to grant your requests. Therefore we pray to someone who is more powerful than we are and therefore able to grant a request that is beyond our own power to achieve.
Who else could the Christ have been praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane, if not to God? If the Christ was praying to God, it follows that the Christ is not God and that he and God are two separate and distinct beings.
If the Christ were God incarnate, then it would appear that his prayers in the Garden were directed to himself. If so, when the Christ prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” did he really mean “My Self, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as I will”?
That doesn’t make sense. It’s irrational. It’s crazy. Are we to believe that the world’s Christians follow a savior who was in the habit of praying to himself?
If the Christ were God incarnate, and the Christ-God didn’t want to suffer the pain of crucifixion—guess what?—He didn’t have to. As God, He could do whatever He pleased and nothing could compel Him to do that which He doesn’t want to do. If the Christ were God incarnate and he was so appalled by the prospect of being crucified that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground,” all He had to do was say “To Hell with that!” and the crucifixion wouldn’t take place.
The separation between God and the Christ is evident throughout the New Testament. I’ve spotted scores of such instances. In every case, we see evidence that the Christ himself did not think of himself as God and instead recognized God as a being other than, and superior to, himself. I haven’t seen a single instance in the Bible where the Christ clearly claims that he is God. Insofar as such verses may arguably exist, they contradict scores, even hundreds of other verses, that indicate that the Christ is not God.
If the Christ didn’t believe that he was God, why should we?
If the Bible is true, the belief that the Christ was God incarnate is only a “doctrine” or “custom” of “man”.
Although the Crucifixion is the third of the “five major milestones” in the Christ’s earthly life, I’m going to comment on it last because, for me, one moment in the Crucifixion is the most important and revealing event in the Christ’s life:
“The crucifixion of Jesus is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross. Collectively referred to as the Passion, Jesus’ redemptive suffering and death by crucifixion represent the central aspects of Christian theology, including the doctrines of salvation and atonement.
“Jesus’ crucifixion is described in all four Canonical gospels, attested to by other ancient sources, and is regarded as a historical event. Christians believe Jesus’ suffering was foretold in the Hebrew Bible, such as in Psalm 22, and Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant.”
If Christ is the one, true God, there can be no other god. But, if the Christ-God acted as a “servant” in his crucifixion, who did He “serve” when suffered on the cross? Who was the Christ-God’s “master”?
If Christ were God incarnate, he couldn’t have served God (himself). So who/what did He “serve” by his sacrifice and recognize as His master? Satan? Mankind?
The idea that the Christ-God would die as a servant to Satan is blasphemy. But the idea that Christ-God would die as servant of mankind is just as unnerving. It would indicate that the Christ-God exists to serve mankind; that man is the master and the Christ-God is the slave. That idea is an appalling contradiction of the very concept of “God”. God, by definition, is the master; He cannot be the servant. We, the creations, are necessarily the servants of our Creator: God the master.
“Christians have traditionally understood Jesus’ death on the cross to be a knowing and willing sacrifice (given that he did not mount a defense in his trials) which was undertaken as an “agent of God” to atone for humanity’s sin and make salvation possible. ”
A debt was owed to God by Adam and his descendants. The only way the Crucifixion works as a “perfect sacrifice” made as payment for the debt owed is if the Christ is someone other than God. If the Christ is God, who is His sacrifice being made to? Himself? That makes no more sense than me pulling $50 out of my right hand pocket, putting it in my left hand pocket, and calling it as “sacrifice”. Are we to believe that the Christ’s sacrifice was made to mankind? “God incarnate” sacrificed Himself to mankind?!
Of course not.
The whole idea of the word “sacrifice” presumes that one being makes the sacrifice and another, completely different being receives the sacrifice. One suffers a loss; the other experiences a gain. There must be two distinct beings to achieve a genuine “sacrifice”.
If the Christ and God were a single being (God incarnate), the Crucifixion could not have been a “perfect sacrifice” to God. If the Christ did not make a “perfect sacrifice” on the cross, the Christian faith is false and you and I should seek another path to salvation.
• But there’s the moment in the midst of the Crucifixion that absolutely rings my bell. For me, this moment communicates the essence and wonder of the Christian faith. For me, this is the key. While suffering on the cross, the Christ said:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34
For me, this plea and the following moments leading up to the Christ’s death mark the most important episode in the Christ’s life and the Christian faith.
• First, when the Christ says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he again—at the most stressful moment of his life—clearly indicates he and God are two different entities.
The Christ is not praying to himself. He is not saying “My Self, my Self, why have I forsaken me?”
• Second, the Christ believes that he has been “forsaken” and thereby indicates that he’s lost his faith in God and God’s protection. The Christ’s plea implies that he has no expectation of any reward for his suffering or approaching death. He feels “forsaken” and abandoned and he does not understand why.
• I believe that if the Bible’s reports that Christ had previously walked on water, turned water into wine, healed the sick and raised the dead are true, then the Christ had sufficient personal power to get down off that cross any time he chose to do so. He was not crucified as a helpless prisoner but rather as a voluntary, self-sacrifice.
But, even if the Christ could not dismount the cross under his own powers, I have no doubt that Satan was present at the Crucifixion in hopes that the Christ would lose his nerve and ask to be released from the cross and death. Satan had to understand that if the Christ consented to be crucified, that the Crucifixion would guarantee Satan’s eventual destruction. Satan would passionately desire that the crucifixion fail. Therefore, if the Christ had asked Satan to get him off that cross, Satan would’ve done so in a heartbeat.
In the end, the Crucifixion was not about killing the Christ—it was about the Christ’s voluntary sacrifice of his own life. If the Christ could not somehow remove himself from the cross as an act of his own will, then the crucifixion was not a true act of self-sacrifice, but merely the murder of a powerless man.
Surely, the Jews and Romans who participated in the Crucifixion did not regard the Christ’s death as a sacrifice. They saw the Christ as a blasphemer and political dissident who challenged the established power structure. They saw the Crucifixion exactly as they saw all other crucifixions: as punishment to the offender and as a public warning to anyone else who dared to engage in dissent. For them, the crucifixion was a murder, not a sacrifice.
If it’s true that a profound sacrifice had to be made, and the Powers That Be didn’t “sacrifice” the Christ, who did?
I think most people might say the answer to that question was “God”. After all, aren’t we taught at John 3:16, that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”? Thus, it appears that God sacrificed His son, the Christ.
Maybe so, but it doesn’t make sense to me. If you owed me $1,000, why would I voluntarily sacrifice my own son to me to pay your debt? I might accept the sacrifice of your son to pay your debt, but I certainly wouldn’t accept the sacrifice of my son to pay your debt. Why would God do otherwise?
It seems to me that no one can make a sacrifice to himself. If the Christ’s life was sacrificed to God in atonement for Adam’s original sin, how could God make that sacrifice to Himself? Again, that’s like me taking money from my left pants pocket and claiming that I “sacrificed” that money by putting it into my right pants pocket. For me, by definition, a sacrifice must be made by one begin to another being. You can’t truly “sacrifice” to yourself.
If so, how could God sacrifice his own son to Himself? I don’t think He could. God allowed His Son to be sacrificed, but the sacrifice had to be a voluntary act by the “Son”. If so, the Son had to have the power to choose to make, or not make, that self-sacrifice.
If the Powers That Be didn’t sacrifice the Christ to God, and God couldn’t sacrifice the Christ to Himself, then who’s left to make the sacrifice? Only the Christ.
The Christ had to make the required sacrifice. Not the earthly powers. Not God. The Christ had to voluntarily suffer extraordinary torment and then voluntarily die under painful and humiliating circumstances in order to provide a basis for each man’s salvation.
Obedience vs. Choice
Some believe the Christ did not approach his death “voluntarily”. As evidenced in his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but thy will be done,” the Christ did not want to go through all the suffering that he knew was coming. Nevertheless, the Christ agreed to endure that suffering as an expression of his subservience to God’s will. God wanted his son to suffer; the son would therefore suffer out of obedience.
But a sacrifice made out of obedience is not voluntary. If God orders you to make a sacrifice, it’s certainly not “your” sacrifice. You may be “the sacrifice” (the being that’s being killed) but unless you voluntarily sacrifice yourself, you are not the being that’s making the sacrifice. An “involuntary sacrifice” is an oxymoron.
So long as the Christ was “just following (God’s) orders,” he wasn’t truly making a sacrifice—at least not to God.
Nevertheless, it’s apparent to me, that the Christ approached his Crucifixion as an act of obedience to God. (“Not my will, but thy will be done.”)
However, at the moment on the cross when the Christ thought he’d been abandoned by God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), I suspect that the Christ’s commitment to “just follow orders” (“not my will but thy will”) was ended. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Christ had already expressed his intense desire to avoid the torment and painful death of crucifixion. Once the Christ believed that he’d been abandoned by God, wouldn’t that abandonment terminate the Christ’s obligation to obediently remain on the cross?
If it’s true that the Christ had the power to escape the cross or that Satan would’ve gladly released him if asked to do so, why didn’t the Christ escape his torment once he believed that God had abandoned him?
Answer: Because, even without hope of reward or salvation (“why have you forsaken me?”), remaining on the cross was the right thing to do.
Irrespective of God’s will, or Satan’s temptations, or even of the Christ’s own mortal impulse to avoid pain and death, the Christ voluntarily chose to remain on the cross because it was the right thing to do.
When the Christ lamented, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,” he revealed that he believed he had no hope of reward for remaining on the cross. He’d been abandoned by the apostles who slept at the Garden of Gethsemane. He seemed convinced that God had also abandoned him, without cause, on the cross. He was completely alone, suffering intensely, and without hope of relief, reward or resurrection—and yet he stayed!
For me, this is the central miracle of the Crucifixion.
The Christ had power or opportunity to get off the cross, and yet he stayed.
He voluntarily chose to do the right thing, at great cost to himself and—feeling “forsaken”—without hope of reward. In doing so, he made a true and perfect sacrifice. The Christ sacrificed his own life of his own volition to God as an expression of love for the God who had seemingly “forsaken” him, and in order to provide an opportunity for the people of the world (who were to greater or lesser degree responsible for his crucifixion) to find salvation.
Once the Christ, of his own volition, voluntarily sacrificed his life to God without hope of reward, the debt incurred by Adam was truly paid.
Without any supporting evidence, I believe that it was at that point that God said (figuratively), “That’s my boy! . . . THAT’S MY BOY! . . . Bring my son unto me and he will sit at my right hand!”
And God allowed death to end the Christ’s suffering.
I certainly can’t prove it, but I doubt that the Christ fully understood the crucifixion process until after he’d died. I suspect that the crucifixion wasn’t merely a sacrifice; it was a test to discover if the Christ was fit to sit at God’s right hand and to discover if any mortal man was worthy of salvation.
• It’s one thing to obey God when He has a gun pointed at your head.
It’s another thing to obey God when the promise of reward is huge. (“Look kid, you hang on the cross for a couple hours; I’ll make sure you don’t feel a thing; but y’ moan, y’ groan and put on show for the yokels. If you agree, I’ll fake your death, get you the best plastic surgeon money can buy, and then you’ll get to rule the world! And—as an added bonus, I’ll even throw in eternal life! Whadya say, kid?” . . . . Well, what could anyone say besides, “Such a deal.”)
It’s another thing entirely to choose to do “right” when God seems absent or even appears to have abandoned you. When the Christ (or you or me) is prepared to do that which is right without hope of reward, and while suffering huge personal loss, that’s evidence of a love of righteousness that makes doing the same act out of fear or greed look silly, trivial and absurd.
• I can’t imagine that God is seeking a few, good slaves who will “just follow orders”. I believe that our Father YHWH ha Elohiym seeks men and women who, in an almost mystical manner, come to love righteousness without fear or hope or reward. They love righteousness for righteousness’ sake.
The fear of God may be the beginning of wisdom, but it’s not necessarily the end. Perhaps, the “end” of wisdom may be the love of God.
But I doubt that God is so vain that He seeks to surround Himself with a bunch of “yes men” who “love” Him. Instead, based on my reading of the Crucifixion, I suspect that the end of wisdom is not even to “love God” but rather to “love that which is right”—righteousness—even when such love generates no hope of reward. To the extent that I am capable of truly loving “righteousness,” I may become less of a servant to God and more of a “friend” worthy of salvation.
• I strongly suspect that the object of the Crucifixion was to torment and drive the Christ (who was at least partially mortal) to the point where he felt abandoned and alone. In that desperate condition, the Christ might be reduced from the status of one who merely obeys God as a kind of “yes man,” to the status of one who can freely and voluntarily choose between 1) doing right without hope of reward; or, 2) choosing to do wrong in order to avoid much personal suffering. If so, the object of the Crucifixion was to discover if any man (or “Son of man”) was capable of voluntarily choosing to pay an extraordinary price in order to do that which is right.
• As an aside, I’m reminded of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah:
“And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” Genesis 18:26
Abraham bargained the LORD down to just ten righteous men. If just ten righteous men could be found in Sodom, God would not destroy Sodom. Ten could not be found. Sodom was destroyed.
So I wonder if the Crucifixion paralleled the story of Sodom. Was God so sick of wicked people that he determined to destroy mankind unless just one truly righteous man could be found? And, if so, was that man’s “righteousness” tested on the cross?
I don’t know. But I wonder.
• The Christ demonstrated in the last moments of his earthly life that he loved the “right” more than he loved his own life. The Christ loved that which was “right” even if God was not there to enforce that “right”.
And that, I suspect, may be what God is really looking for in you and me: a personal determination to do right out of love for that righteousness rather than fearful obedience or even love of God, himself.
• Wikipedia describes the “four major milestones” in the Christ’s earthly life as his Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. They may right.
But for me, the quintessential moment in the New Testament occurred in the midst of the Crucifixion when the Christ cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
At that moment, I believe the Christ lost hope of personal reward or even salvation, but still believed that by his death, others might one day be saved. Therefore, determined to do righteousness, even at the cost of his own life and believing he’d been forsaken and would not be saved or rewarded, the Christ still chose to stay on the cross. I doubt that in the midst of his passion, he truly understood that his sacrifice was thereby made perfect by his decision to do right without hope of reward.
It was at this moment of decision and evidence of his determination to do right without hope of reward that the “Son of man” proved himself (and you, and even me) to be worthy of salvation to the God of the Bible.
If you believed you were damned to Hell and had no hope of salvation, would you celebrate and embrace all the wicked temptations of this life? Or would you nevertheless choose to do that which is right?
If—believing you were damned and without hope of reward or salvation—you would still choose to live a righteous life, then you may be exactly the kind of man or woman that our Father YHWH ha Elohiym seeks.
• Finally, if the Bible is true and there are scores or even hundreds of verses that indicate that the Christ is not God and few if any verses (to my knowledge) that absolutely indicates that Christ is God, I am left to wonder about the motives of those who teach that the Christ is God or even was “God incarnate”.
For me, the idea that the Christ is God is so wrong and so unsupportable, that I can’t believe this idea is a mere mistake. This idea appears to be a lie. The father of all lies is Satan.
I always stand to be corrected. But until I am, I will presume that those who believe that the Christ is God or a “persona” of God may be walking a very dangerous and potentially self-destructive path.