Response to Mainstream Christianity: The Nature of Christ
This document is divided into four subsections:
- Precis of the mainstream Christian Position.
- Failings of these teachings.
- Precis of the Christadelphian Position.
- Link to Wrested Scriptures Page.
The Wrested Scriptures Page lists passages commonly used to defend the erroneous views and outlines the correct understanding of these passages.
In referring to 'Mainstream Christianity', we speak of the principal Christian groups, such as Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc.
Please excuse the directness of the sections below; due to the nature of the media, we felt it was best.
Mainstream Christian Teaching
The bulk of all Christianity teaches unequivocally that Jesus is God. This claim is made without qualification. Typically, it is said that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God: that Jesus was fully God, and never ceased to be God while on earth. And usually, when it really gets down to the nitty-gritty, it is said the whole issue (the Trinity) is a mystery.
- The fundamental truth of the Bible is that God is One. Any teaching that in any way appears to deviate from or undermime this profound truth must be very firmly substantiated. The doctrine of the Trinity pretends to be such a teaching, yet it is entirely absent from the entire Old Testament. This doesn't make sense.
- Mortality and Immortality are mutually exclusive characteristics. If Jesus is God, he couldn't have really died, for God is immortal by nature. Likewise, if Jesus died, he couldn't really be God, for God cannot die. Immortality is not a fluctuating quality! A being is either mortal or immortal. You can't have it both ways with this. Either Christ died, and he was mortal during his time of ministry 2000 years ago, or he's God and could have never died. Pick one alternative, as holding both is simply untenable. Traditional Christians typically respond to this point with the idea stated above in the introduction, that Jesus was fully human and fully God. But look at the next point.
- For the temptations of Christ to have been in any way real, there had to exist the
possibility that he could sin. If Christ is God, it is impossible that he could have
sinned, for God is perfect by nature. Jesus pointed this out in Mt 19:17, marking the distinction
between himself and God (only ONE is good...).
If Christ was God, and therefore couldn't sin, all his 'temptations' were faked, and his identification with mankind a cruel sham! And for those affirming the "fully God/fully man" idea, do you really see God locking Himself into a nature that could potentially sin? Finally, James explicitly states that God cannot be tempted by evil (1:13-15).
- Another point: God is all-knowing, Jesus learned (Luke 2:40, 52) during his life, which implicitly means acquiring knowledge or wisdom not previously possessed. In fact, there were some things Jesus never knew until after his resurrection - like the date of his return (Mrk 13:32). Traditional Christian thought (see above) has it that he never ceased to be God, so how did he learn? Did he just 'forget' for a while, while on earth? Did he later "remember" that he was omniscient? Again, omniscience and humanity are mutually exclusive characteristics. And if you are omniscient, you can't shed that quality temporarily.
- God is undeniably all-powerful, while Jesus always acknowledged that his power was received from God, not inherently his own (ie. John 7:16, 8:28, 12:49-50, 14:28). He said this about his teaching as well, in many places. Why would he say this if he and God were the one and same? In addition, when the disciples requested to sit at his right hand and at his left, he said that this was not his to give, but the Fathers' to decide (Matt. 20:23). The usual response to this is that the different persons of God have different domains of authority; but there you would venture out onto thin ice indeed, as it is very difficult to be One, yet have multiple and distinct personhoods, with distinct levels of authority.
- God is by nature invisible and never seen (Jn. 1:18, I Tim. 6:16, I Jn. 4:12); Jesus was of course seen. To say that God was never seen, and then to continue that Jesus is God just doesn't make sense. The idea that Jesus is God isn't a mystery or some profound biblical truth too deep to understand - it just doesn't make sense.
- In the Bible, God = the Father, and no other. See Rom. 1:7, Col.3:17, I Thes. 1:1, II Tim 1:2 and many more (for example, the introductory words of almost all Paul's letters). The appelations "the Father" and "Jesus" are never used interchangeably in the Bible.
- In Matt. 28:10 Jesus speaks of his followers as "brethren". Are we children of God, or brethren of God? We can't be both. It again follows from this simple description of our relationships to them that Jesus and God occupy very distinct stations. And in fact, how can a Father and Son be the one and same? Again, to affirm so isn't a mystery, it's nonsense.
- In Matt. 3:17 God says: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" in a voice from heaven as Jesus rose from the waters of baptism - What is the value of God indicating his pleasure in Christ, if Christ was God himself? And what had Christ supposedly achieved here, if he was God and it was impossible for him by nature to sin or do wrong?
- I Cor 11:3 and 15:28. Here are two more instances (post resurrection!) where Christ is clearly not equal with God.
- And the clincher: in John 8:17-18 Jesus quotes from the law the necessity that evidence, to be valid, must be agreed upon by two witnesses. Jesus states that the two witnesses are himself and God. Two, not one. If Jesus were God, there was only one witness, and if Jesus says there are two, then he and God are not the same being.
- In Ephesians 5:2, Christ is described as a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". This does not make sense if they are the one and same person. And in fact, if Christ is God, could you really conceive as the all-powerful God, the only creator of the universe, supreme in glory and majesty, as a 'sacrifice'? Here is where we Christadelphians really have a problem with the supposed doctrine that Jesus is God: it's a nice idea that God gave himself as a sacrifice for us; but the all-powerful God of the universe as a pitiful sacrifice for me, a human sinner? Somehow we just don't see it. However, the vision of Jesus as a perfect man, the most loved son of God, overcoming the inherent weaknesses of the flesh by prayer and determination: there is an image that makes sense.
What the Christadelphians Believe
We believe that Jesus was a man, born of a woman at a specific point in history. Being the son of God, he was not exactly as we are, though he was subject to the same weaknesses and desires we are. Through prayer, perseverance and strength of character, Jesus resisted the trials of sin to the point of giving up his life, rather than give in to the desires of the flesh. In doing so, Jesus opened a pathway to God for the rest of us, who are kept from God by our sins.
Jesus is the son of God, who ascended to his Father's side 40 days after being raised from the dead. He could not remain dead, for God had said that we die because of sin, and Jesus had not sinned. Jesus will return to earth, at the time appointed by his Father, to start the long work of preparing the earth and humankind for ultimate reconciliation with the Creator.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
- Do you believe God impregnated Mary?
- Was Jesus a hybrid half man, half God or was he fully man and fully God?
- All natural men are born in sin, so if Jesus was just a man, he would not have to sin. He would been born with sin, so did he have sin or not?
- Even if he did not sin, how was it possible for him to be born without sin?