Monday, March 17, 2008

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Incarnate Word

This is a response to the Celtic Chimp's question. In one sense the title of the post is the answer (ie 'yes'!) but a little more can be said - not least because I spent 40 minutes the other night explaining much of this. It ties in with the point about religious grammar as well ('what do you mean...?')

First off, I'm pretty sure that what I mean by saying that I believe Jesus is the Son of God is not what St Peter meant when he replied to Jesus' question. There are two principal roots for 'Son of God' language that I can see:
- the first is a description of the King of Israel, sometimes the whole people of Israel itself - it's another way of talking about the Messiah;
- the other I take from Margaret Barker's work on the Temple, and it comes from the description of the High Priest on his descent from the Holy of Holies, when he takes on the persona of God in order to cleanse the people from their sin.

These two things are clearly the major roots for why Jesus ended up being called 'The Son of God', yet it is equally clear that this language evolved rather rapidly in response to the resurrection and the meaning of the words changed to something more substantial, ending up with what we have in the creeds (of one being with the Father, begotten not made, light from light etc etc)

For me, the most meaningful declaration is the one I have appended to the title of this post - Jesus is the word incarnate. The link of Jesus to the royal line, and his being King of Israel (which underlies the genealogies and much else in the NT) I find mostly irrelevant. The Temple motif I find more interesting but primarily in an academic and theological sense - it makes no difference to how I live.

The confession that Jesus is the incarnate word is different. The 'word' - ie the logos - I see as the point, the purpose, the intent, the nature, the structure of creation. Jesus is that point, purpose etc in human form. He shows us what it is. The universe was made so that Jesus (and his brothers and sisters) could come into existence. Nothing in the universe exists without that potential being present. That intent and purpose cannot finally be separated from the one doing the intending and purposing, so it makes sense (to me!) to call Jesus God, and yet to distinguish the Son from the Father (and also why I think it makes sense to say - now - that we only come to the father through the Son) within the theological grammar of the Trinity.

So I would say: Jesus is the embodiment of God, he exemplifies humanity and the meaning of it, he makes a claim upon us to which we are required to respond (even if that response does not involve calling him 'Lord'). I don't think Jesus is very worried about the language that we use - he is very worried about whether we are selfish egotists or whether we empty ourselves out in service and love to our neighbour.

I believe that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine.

And I want to be like him; I want to conform my life to the pattern of his life, which means conforming my life to the eternal pattern and purpose laid down by the creator, to be holy, to bear fruit, to be his son, his brother, his friend.

Is that enough of an answer Gary?

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