The Deity of Christ (pt. 2)
I: I, for one, am catching on fast. I wonder why I took so long? Now that I do see it, it’s very plain. I get your point that there is no following the moral teachings of Jesus Christ without recognizing who He is. It’s really strange to me that just a few minutes ago it would have seemed self-evident that a person could follow the commandments of Christ, regardless of what he thought about Christ. I guess that’s because I thought it similar to following Socrates or the Buddha or any other teacher without believing anything particular about the man himself. But a moment’s reflection shows me that Jesus Christ is different from these other teachers.
C: Indeed He is. The others can understand certain moral principles and articulate them excellently and strive to fulfill their own moral ideals. You can join with them in recognizing the ideals and trying to fulfill them also. But once you realize that you’re a sinner, you know that you do not have the internal power to make your ethics rise up and walk. That’s because you’ve become acquainted with your own heart and with the Christian doctrine. These other teachers have not and, therefore, remain superficial in both their understanding of commandments and their understanding of their own ability to perform them.
I: That’s precisely the case. And it was the case with me, also. Now that I am awakened to this truth, I realize that Christ, even in His moral teaching, implies His very—should I say, deity? That’s certainly what you’re driving at. But how does that follow? Granted that He presents Himself as the power by which His own morals are realized; how does that prove that He must be divine?
C: I don’t suppose it does.
I: You don’t’? Well, if not, what’s all this about? Aren’t we talking about the person of Christ as supernatural?
C: We are.
I: I don’t get it. That’s what I thought this was proving, that He is divine because He dwells in us to make His morals come alive through us. Yet you say it does not prove that He is divine. I’m confused.
C: It would prove, as you have observed, that He Himself must empower us to fulfill His own laws by somehow indwelling us as the vine indwells and energizes the branch to bear fruit. But could you imagine Christ’s being used by God in that role?
I: You mean as a spirit of some sort, while God would ultimately be the actual source of our morality? I guess that would be a theoretical possibility. Of course, Christ would have to be superhuman. He couldn’t dwell in disciples as one person of a finite character.
C: Indeed no. (Remember, we’re just trying this idea for size.) If that wouldn’t be possible, then He’d have to be a spirit, would He not?
I: Yes. And moreover, He would have to be more than finite, would He not?
C: I would certainly think so.
I: So aren’t we back where we started? That is, for Christ to indwell every Christian who bears moral fruit, He would have to be spiritual and not material, and He would have to be infinite. What else would that be except deity itself?
C: I couldn’t agree with you more.
I: Well, I thought you said it did not prove that He was deity.
C: I meant that it did not at first glance prove it. Theoretically God could have used some agent. But as we have probed that concept, we have realized that the agent Himself would have to be divine. So, at a closer look, it does indeed require what you say, and does vindicate your original supposition.
I: In other words, I’m correct after all?
C: I think so; but, I think you do have to prove it, in the way you have just done.
I: In other words, we must conclude from the teaching of Jesus Christ about morals that He Himself is the fulfiller of them, and that, therefore, He Himself must be the infinite divine spirit. We have our first proof, then, that Jesus Christ is God. Although it’s an indirect one, it’s a very impressive one for me. Let me see if I have this right. He teaches the way of morality and furthermore teaches that He is the way. Even if He said nothing more, that much would imply that to fulfill His own role He would have to be God.
C: I think that’s exactly the case. Obviously He may say much more than that. But, as you put it very well, if Christ said nothing other than that, we would have to conclude that this was a veiled allusion to His deity.
I: I find that most interesting, because I’m still thinking of my friends who consider themselves Christians precisely because they follow the morality of Christ. The next time I talk with them, I’m going to start the conversation right along that line and see if I can’t get them to see that the very moralism they regard as Christian would lead them inevitably to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is God, contrary to what they now think.
C: I wish you well. That is a fine approach to mere moralists who think they can be Christian without believing that Christ is God.
I: You did say that there were other, more direct indications of the deity of Christ?
C: Yes, many others. Christ says directly that He is God.
I: Directly? I don’t know the New Testament as well as you do. But I can’t remember ever hearing Christ say, ‘‘I am God.’’ And that’s the sort of thing I don’t forget. Where does He say that?
C: Nowhere to my knowledge does He say in so many words, ‘‘I am God.” But He says the obvious equivalent of it. For example, He says to His apostles, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” There’s no question in anybody’s mind that the word “Father” there refers to the Deity. So when He says those words to Philip, His obvious meaning is, ‘‘He who has seen Me has seen God.’’ That’s the same thing, is it not, as saying, “I am God”?
I: Yes. It could hardly be plainer. I don’t know why I didn’t notice that before. Strange, isn’t it, how we can read the New Testament and not notice things. We can look at certain words and not see them. I must at some time or other, though I don’t remember when, have read, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Yet it never struck me as “He who has seen Me has seen God.” If Jesus had put it that way, I think it would have shocked me the first time I read it, and I’d never have forgotten it. Yet, until this moment, I didn’t realize what He actually said. Now that I’ve gotten over that shock, there’s something else that puzzles me.
C: I have an idea what that is, but tell me anyway.
I: It’s just that Jesus of Nazareth was the one speaking those words, ‘‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’’ The first thing one would think is that God is a man. After all, there talking to Philip was this man, maybe six feet tall, 165 pounds perhaps, and thirty years of age. I guess that’s why I didn’t see it the first time I read it. It sounds so absurd to say a six-foot-tall, 165-pound, thirty-year-old man is God. Yet, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’’ What are we to make of this? The more I reflect on my past, the more I suppose that I simply must have shaken my head when I read that. I must have thought, ‘‘I don’t know what He means, but He can’t mean what He seems to mean”—and let it go at that. Now that you make me stop and look more carefully at it, I have to admit that Jesus is seriously and unmistakably saying that to see Him is to see God. But what does that mean, if it can’t possibly mean that God is six feet tall, 30 years old, weighing 165 pounds?
C: You’re quite right that Jesus didn’t identify deity with His human nature or any other human being.
I: I’m relieved at that, but I still don’t know what He does mean.
C: Well, what else can He mean except that, in uttering those words, He is in union with God? In other words, we have here Christ’s own reference to the Christian doctrine of the incarnation.
I: Incarnation, meaning ‘‘in the flesh.” God in the flesh, Immanuel. I remember that is one of His names, and the Bible itself interprets that as ‘‘God with us.” What we have is ‘‘God in Jesus,’’ I take it you are saying.
C: That would certainly seem to be His meaning, would it not? If so, that would be coherent.
I: I see what you are saying. That man who says, ‘‘He who has seen me has seen God,” is in union with God. Seeing that man is seeing God, though not with literal eyes, but with the eyes of the mind. Am I right?
C: I think so.
To be continued…