Musings on Jesus and the Abrahamic faiths

It’s been awhile since I last posted a blog entry. However, I’ve been thinking a bit about Jesus from a theological view when it comes to the Abrahamic faiths, particularly Islam and Christianity. What I am about to write may anger some people, but it is not meant to do so. Rather, it consists of thoughts that I’ve had based on life experience, the brief formal theological training I’ve had, and my own theological training through reading on my own.

First, most people, especially fellow Christians, seem to forget that Jesus never once said to pray to him as if he were God. Rather, the prayer given as the model prayer states that when we pray, we are to pray to Our Father/Allah/Abba. Most Christians consider the Lord’s Prayer to be the perfect or model prayer for our faith. It is simple. It is succinct. It covers all the major areas a simple prayer to the Creator should cover. Praises the Creator. Asks for His Kingdom to come to earth to save us from our human troubles. Asks God to grant us food. Asks God to forgive us for our sins. Asks God to help us to not be tempted to sin, even though we will be tempted since we are human and, as such, imperfect. Asks us to forgive others as we forgive them, which we try to practice, but rarely accomplish due to our imperfect nature. Ends with more praise to the Deity. A good prayer. However, it never says to pray to a Trinitarian Godhead, just to God/Allah/Abba.

So, why do Christians consider Jesus to be God? If Jesus never said he was God, then why do we? One argument uses the passage where Jesus says no one can come to the Father except through him. However, many of the prophets of the Torah or Old Testament also say they need to be heeded if people are to obey God and follow His commandments. One particular event in history occurred to make the theological statement that Jesus was and is God. That event was the First Council of Nicea in the year 325.

The First Council of Nicea was called together by Emperor Constantine the Great to bring about unity in the Church when it came to the nature of Jesus as either being the Son of God or actually God in the flesh. One one side were those who were led by St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius who stated the doctrine that Jesus was God, rather than separate or even a prophet of God. The term they used was ‘homoousios’ which meant that Jesus and God were of the same “essence”. The other side, called the Arian side due to the primary debater of the side being named Arius, used the term ‘homoiousios’ meaning that Jesus and God shared a ‘similar essense’. This one letter difference brought a substantial change to Christianity in that by deciding that Jesus and God were essentially the same rather than similar, then Jesus was God rather than just one of God’s prophets. Let me break this down a bit for you.

St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius, hereafter known as the Orthodox side, argued that God the Father always existed and God the Son always existed along with Him in an equal manner. They used the scriptures where it quoted Jesus as having said phrases such as, “I and the Father are one”(John 10:30), and the “Word was God” (John 10:30).

Arius, and those who followed his idea of God, argued that God was God alone and that the Son of God was created by God and therefore could not be God due to his being a creation of God. As such, there was a time when the Son did not exist. That would make the Son separate from the Father and therefore inferior to the Father. To use Arius’s words, “were He in the truest sense a son, He must have come after the Father, therefore the time obviously was when He was not, and hence He was a finite being”(M’Clintock & Strong, 1890, p. 45). They also appealed to scripture by using phrases such as, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and stating the Son was “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

In the end, the Arian side was branded as heretics and the orthodox side held sway over time as a whole. They adopted what Christians know as the Nicene Creed which declares that Jesus is and always has been God, rather than just God-like.

Yet, if you think about it, for the 325 years leading up to the First Council of Nicea, Christians varied in the belief of Jesus as being God. That would have made them much like the Jewish and Islamic faiths of the time in that Jesus was considered a prophet, albeit a major prophet. In a way, it makes the early followers of Jesus much like our cousins of the Muslim faith in that Christians see Jesus as the last of the great prophets and Muslims see Mohammed as the last of the great prophets. For them, God was God. One God. Allah. Abba. Father.

It becomes even more ironic when you consider the fundamentalist branch of Christianity which says it longs for faith like the early Christians in that the faith they long for is more in tune with Islam and Judaism than it is with what is now seen as Christian theology.

If one looks deeper into the Islamic faith, it is also seen how Muslims view Jesus with reverence as a prophet. I have a long way to go to fully understand my cousins of the Islamic faith, but I can say that they and our cousins of the Jewish faith are closer to us than many Christians realize. It just takes all sides wanting to open the door to dialog and understanding rather than simply believing all that is given to us by media outlets. Our common heritage through Abraham exists. Sure, we have different theologies and variations on those different theologies, but we share in the common belief of one true God as Creator of the Universe.

Just food for thought in a world where there is too much negative stew.

Peace-Salaam-Shalom

References:

M’Clintock, John; Strong, James (1890), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature 6, Harper & Brothers.

Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention about their stance on the Boy Scouts of America

Dear Southern Baptist Convention Members and Leaders:

I am certain you have heard a great number of people commenting on your recent non-binding resolution to sever ties with the Boy Scouts of America because they are now choosing to allow openly homosexual boys to join its ranks. I am responding in kind as well; however, I will try to not rant at you, but rather be more Christian in nature and try to appeal to your theological nature.

I will start simple. Certainly, you agree with Jesus’ words when he stated that the two greatest commandments were to “…love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NRSV). You even state within your resolution that you continue to hate the sin, but love the sinner as evident in your resolution when you state, “we declare our love in Christ for all young people regardless of their perceived sexual orientation, praying that God will bring all youth into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (SBC Resolution 6, 2013).

The issue here with your response though seems to be your use of the word “perceived” when it comes to their sexual orientation. That would infer that homosexuality is a choice. Many studies have shown that homosexuality occurs in the natural world. Since humans are part of that natural world as we are the highest form of primate, should it not follow that it could also be a natural occurrence in the human race for some people to be born homosexual? If it helps, Jesus does say something to this effect as found in the Gospel of Matthew when he states:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:12 NRSV)

Could it not be that those who were “eunuchs who have been so from birth” are what Jesus knew to be the homosexuals of his time? The Jewish culture that Jesus would have been familiar with did not see eunuchs as simply being those born without testicles, but those men who exhibited characteristics that were more in line with females of the time, much like what is seen sometimes among modern homosexual men. Therefore, it could be seen that Jesus believed that even homosexual men were valuable to God and not an abomination.

I would like to offer another perspective as well. The Apostle Paul has some issues with the Galatians due to the law versus faith. It seems Peter did not want to associate with the Galatian Gentiles because they were not circumcised. This angered Paul, who himself was if you recall a very orthodox Jew prior to his conversion. Paul states in his letter to the Galatians,

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:23-29 NRSV).

Just looking at these verses sets the tone as to what God’s kingdom should look like, doesn’t it? People lived under the law until Christ came and saved all who believe in Him. Christianity was meant to bridge the space between men and women, races, and even gender preferences. “No longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV), what a wonderful world for Christ we would have then, right?

I do not expect that you will change your position on the Boy Scouts of America or even on homosexuality, but it would be nice if you would just pay closer attention to the Christ in whom you profess to believe. He ate with sinners. In fact, he hung out with them and even made some his disciples and apostles. He did not come for the elite or for those who held themselves tight to the law as seen through eyes that refused to change. Even Paul had to be blinded by Christ in order to see His kingdom more clearly. I, along with many others, will keep praying for your denomination to have a road to Damascus moment as well. Peace be with you.