Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jesus is God

It’s a common Muslim argument that Jesus is not God.  It’s a fundamental tenet of their faith, because if Jesus was God, then everything Muhammad said was a lie, since Muhammad elevated himself to the status of a prophet above Jesus.

First of all, Jesus was not a prophet. In all of our accounts of prophets, even Islamic accounts of Muhammad, it’s clearly recorded that God spoke to the prophet in question. The prophet heard and responded to the voice of God, or in Muhammad’s case an angel that he identified as Gabriel (Note that Muhammad is the only case of a prophet being spoken to through an intermediary. All of the Hebrew prophets heard God directly). There is no record in any of the Gospels that Jesus heard the voice of God or was instructed by God in what to do or how to act. There are references in the New Testament that may suggest he was a prophet if taken out of context. These cases fall into two categories: either someone has identified him as a prophet (John 4:19, 6:14, 7:39, 9:17, Luke 7:16, Matt 21:10, 21:46), or Jesus has made an observation about prophets that are also applicable to him (John 4:44, Luke 4:24, Mark 6:4, Matt 13:56 ). Indeed, Jesus can not be a prophet, because “out of Galilee arises no prophet.” (John 7:52).

Four hundred years before Christ, Isaiah foretold the coming of God as Man: Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “But,” Muslims cry out with glee, “His name was Jesus, not Immanuel!” Hold on just a second, Matthew teaches us non-speakers of Hebrew that Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." (Matt 1:23)  It’s not a proper name, but a title. Matthew is very clear that Jesus represents “God with us.”

John is even more direct in the opening of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.   John1:14

I know that Muslims are kind of weak in drawing logical connections, so to spell it out:  The “Word was God” is followed by “ the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”.  Now if A=B and B=C, then A=C .  The Word is God.  The word walked among us.  God walked among us.  It’s quite simple, really.

Now Muslims will trot out ad nauseum scriptural references that Jesus is the Christ (true), and that his followers referred to him by a variety of titles: Rabbi, Messiah, Christ, Lord.  And they point out that he never says he is God. 

Well, no, he doesn’t say it, but more than once he’s called God, and he doesn’t rebuke the speaker.  You see, God is not like Allah, he doesn’t have this narcissistic need to blow his own horn.  Allah insists that he is God over and over again, to the point that it becomes tiresome.  As Joseph Goebbels said, if you tell a lie often enough and loudly enough, people will believe it.  It serves God’s purposes better if people come to the correct conclusion on their own.  The God of Abraham is a thinking man’s God.  He’s not going to take you by the nose and lead you to every tiresome article of faith.  He gives you the information you need and then lets you figure it out.  The lesson is learned by the ones who understand much more effectively than by the ones who follow because they don’t know any better.

But the apostles who lived with Christ were too close to the event, entrenched in their own prejudices and beliefs, and couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  Jesus got a little frustrated and gently chided them for not seeing what was in front of their faces:

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.(John 14:8-15)

Here Jesus makes it very clear that he and the father are one.  “Whatever you ask in my name, I shall do.”  Who can answer prayers but God?  Jesus equates himself with God.  “…Keep My commandments.”  Whose commandments?  Only God gave commandments.  Jesus again equates himself with God.

In a definitive scene after the resurrection, Jesus is identified by the scientist of the group, Thomas, who is reluctant to believe anything that he can’t feel, see, hear, touch and measure.  Note that when Thomas identifies him, Jesus is not angry, does not rebuke or correct him, but indeed seems pleased, satisfied that the truth is sinking in.

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.(John 20:27-29)

Does Jesus rebuke Thomas?  No, he instructs him, and acknowledges his belief.

Throughout Christian history, it has been acknowledged that Christ was God in the form of man.  This is a fundamental article of faith stated in the Nicene creed: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  This belief is not disputed by any Christian community that maintains a tradition of apostolic succession from the original twelve disciples.  This is what they believed, and this is what they taught.  Throughout the letters they refer to Christ as "Lord" (in the Greek, "Kurios", Master, Authority -- a title also given frequently to God.).

 John unabashedly states that Jesus is God. John was one of the twelve, often described as the “most beloved” apostle of Christ. Who would know better than John? An illiterate seventh century poet from a thousand miles away who converts from polytheistic paganism says Jesus could not be God. The man who was closest to him throughout his ministry, who took his mother as his own and cared for her for the rest of her life, says Jesus was God. This is not even a close call.

This is very difficult for Muslims to grasp, since from the cradle they are trained to think linearly and uncritically.  They are immersed in a faith that is at time contradictory and makes little sense.  This faith controls every aspect of their lives, right down to toilet habits.  It does not allow for questions or independent thought, but blind, unthinking obedience.  The penalty for not observing this obedience includes death.  But Jesus was an intelligent man.  He played word games to amuse himself, and spoke in riddles and metaphor to make his followers think.  The Muslim response to a metaphor from Muhammad’s time is to take a sword and cleave it in two.  Muhammad was too one-dimensional to think in symbolic terms, too controlling to let people figure the truth out for themselves, because it would be bad for him if the truth they found didn’t involve him as the center and spokesperson of God.  Muslims today are faced with a dilemma of relating to a world where Western values dominate, and logic is required to function, yet they must maintain an intellectual blind spot with regard to faith, because one dare not peek behind the curtain.  As a result, their arguments consist of ad hominem attacks, derision, often foul language and threats, and yet seem completely incapable of disassembling a logical argument.  In the marketplace of ideas, they are bankrupt.

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