I know the name of God has been talked about a few times. Here is a link detailing it in Hebrew further.
Here are the 3 questions that will be addressed:
Did the Biblical writers believe Jesus was God?
Did other people of the day believed Jesus claimed to be God?
Is it necessary Jesus was God?
Let’s initially look at whether the writers of the New Testament believed if Jesus was God or not. Paul in Philippians gives the incarnate description of Jesus coming into human form, but does not stop there. He capitalizes this idea with verse 11 stating “Jesus Christ is Lord”
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:6-11 ESV)
Also, in Matthew 9:2, Jesus tells the paralytic to get up and walk, his sins are forgiven. Matthew obviously sees Jesus as God here in that he mentions Jesus said “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Which only God can do, see Mark 2:7. Secondly Matthew notes the proof or evidence. Anyone can walk into somewhere and claim their sins were forgiven, but only Jesus as God incarnate would have the power to make the life long paralytic walk again. Thus by enabling the man to walk through His power, Matthew is recording that Jesus would also have the ability to forgive sins.
Mohammed, Buhdda, and all the other great teachers could have said thought provoking claims. But none had the ability to forgive sin as Jesus did. This separates Jesus from all the other teachers there have ever been.
Next, let’s look at whether other people thought Jesus claimed to be God. Not only should we expect that the followers of Jesus believed his claim to be the messiah, but others should have taken note too. Josephus, a non-Christian first century historian said:
Antiquities 20.9.1 But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.
Antiquities 18.3.3 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Also, “Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliney the Younger, Thallus, Celsus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara bar Serapion, and certain Jewish rabbinic traditions all contain some references to Jesus and/or the early Christian movement.” See The Jesus Legend by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd
Lastly, does Jesus need to be God? Why can’t he be a good moral teacher, or a very wise person?
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
(1 Corinthians 15:14-19 ESV)
Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians that our faith depends on Christ being God, being raised from the dead. That if Christ has not raised “you are still in your sins”. We have no hope other than that Christ is God as He claimed to be. He must be God if we are to have salvation in God. Otherwise our sin leaves us separate from God, but Jesus has secured our eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12)
To begin to address this issue, I would like to take an excerpt from a debate a while ago. In this debate Dr. Craig addresses some key points.
Taken from the William Lane Craig – Christopher Hitchens Debate at Biola “Does God Exist?”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: For Dr. Craig, what do you think about Epicurus’ argument that if God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, if He knows about kids in Africa, like, that are born with, like, AIDS, what do you think about Him suggesting—like Him not intervening and Him not changing that fact. That’s a question that I’ve always struggled with so I’m just wondering, like, could you expand on that and I’d also like your input on it.
William Lane Craig’s response:
“…the atheist would have to show that it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world and no atheist has ever been able to do that. So, that the logical version of this problem, I think, is widely recognized to have failed. Those atheists who still press the problem therefore press it as a probabilistic argument. They try to say that, given the evil in the world, it’s improbable that God exists, not impossible but improbable. Well, again, the difficulty there is that the atheist has to claim that if God did exist then it is improbable that he would permit the evil and suffering in the world. And how could the atheist possibly know that? How could the atheist know that God would not, if He existed, permit the evil and suffering in the world. Maybe He’s got good reasons for it. Maybe, like in Christian theism, God’s purpose for human history is to bring the maximum number of people freely into his kingdom to find salvation and eternal life and how do we know that that wouldn’t require a world that is simply suffused with natural and moral suffering. It might be that only in a world like that the maximum number of people would freely come to know God and find salvation. So the atheist would have to show that there is a possible world that’s feasible for God which God could’ve created that would have just as much salvation and eternal life and knowledge of God as the actual world but with less suffering. And how could the atheist prove such a thing? It’s sheer speculation. So the problem is that, as an argument, the Problem of Evil makes probability judgments which are very, very ambitious and which we are simply not in a position to make with any kind of confidence. Now, I recognize that that philosophical response to the question doesn’t deal with the emotional problem of evil and I think that for most people, this isn’t really a philosophical problem, it’s an emotional problem. They just don’t like a god who would permit suffering and pain in the world so they turn their backs on him. What does Christianity have to say to this problem? Well, I think it has a lot to say. It tells us that God is not some sort of an impersonal ground of being or an indifferent tyrant who folds his arms and watches the world suffer. Rather, He is a god who enters into human history in the person of Jesus Christ and what does He do? He suffers. On the cross, Christ bore a suffering of which we can form no conception. Even though He was innocent, He bore the penalty of the sins of the whole world. None of us can comprehend what He suffered. And I think when we contemplate the cross of Christ and His love for us and what He was willing to undergo for us, it puts the problem of suffering in an entirely different perspective. It means, I think, that we can bear the suffering that God calls upon us to endure in this life with courage and with optimism for an eternal life of unending joy beyond the grave because of what Christ has done for us and He will give us, I think, the courage and the strength to get through the suffering that God calls upon us to bear in this life. So, whether it’s an emotional issue or intellectual issue I think ultimately Christian theism can make sense out of the suffering and evil in the world.”
I have another point to make I’ll include on the next post regarding evil and suffering in the world.
There are some who would say God is silent, or we do not hear Him or can not know him. If only he would speak or reveal himself in a greater or clearer way, we could know for certain He exists and know exactly what He wants from us.
Richard Carrier, outspoken anti-theist claims:
“The logically inevitable fact is, if the Christian God existed, we would all hear from God himself the same message of salvation, and we would all hear, straight from God, all the same answers to all the same questions.”
“So a God who wanted us to make an informed choice would give us all the information we needed, and not entrust fallible, sinful, contradictory agents to convey a confused mess of ambiguous, poorly supported claims. Therefore, the fact that God hasn’t spoken to us directly, and hasn’t given us all the same, clear message, and the same, clear answers, is enough to prove Christianity false.”
So Carrier makes the assertion that only if God existed, then he could know and so could everyone else, what God is saying. Carrier is pushing us toward the rhetorical answer, “I didn’t hear God audibly speak today”. The conclusion is since God would speak to us if He existed, and He hasn’t spoken to us, therefore He does not exist.
Or put in the form of a logic statement (with P=premises and C=Conclusion). The result is if the premises hold true the conclusion flows. Lets look into this.
P1 If the Christian God existed, we would all hear from God himself
P2 We do not all audibly hear from him, both by experience and evidenced by not everyone agreeing on the same message
C1 Therefore since we do not hear from God himself, He cannot exist
The problem is P1 is not a supported premise. Nothing says that we would have to hear from God. God is not obligated follow what we would like.
Second, it is a fallacy akin to ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ to assume that because some people disagree on God’s message all are wrong. If President Obama gave a speech tomorrow and said this is our foreign policy going forward, we could have 10 people give 10 different summations of exactly what Obama meant. This does not mean we can’t know what Obama said, but everyone knows Obama has an idea(s) in his mind when he gives the speech. Therefore some people’s interpretations will be closer to Obama’s intent than others. This is analogous to God’s word.
In defense of God speaking lets consider a few things.
- God is holy and righteous and we are not. Therefore the theological understanding of relationship between God and man after the fall is a loss of fellowship, communication. And close relationship with God after humanity’s first sin. (Gen. 3:23) This loss includes not a complete removal, but a damage of communication with God.
- God out of His grace and mercy for us reaches out to us (Romans 11:30). God doesn’t need us to survive but we need him (Acts 17:28)
- We humans ask not to speak to God, (Deuteronomy 18:16-17). The people in Moses’ day feared when God spoke. God in His grace appoints prophets to us to speak His words. The glaring question in this is, ‘great, how will we know if someone starts spouting off that God spoke to them?’ God provides us the answer in Deuteronomy 18:19-22, if the prohecy does not pass (I.E. Harlod Camping) then that person is not one of God’s appointed prophets. So God puts regulations in place to keep His word through sinful humanity. So when we or the Israelites’ would have judged prophets coming up, they have a guideline to work from.
- God does send His son Jesus Christ to speak to us. He comes in human flesh to tell us how to live, what to do to follow God Yahweh. It would be irrational to think that because some people have a different view of that than others, we can completely dismiss that the Lord of the universe descended into human flesh to bear our sins, so that we can have a relationship with our Creator again.
- Finally, the Holy Spirit is promised to lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Not only us but the Holy Spirit now will convict the world regarding sin (John 16:9). So even though the anti-theist will not maybe agree with it, it is what God says to us. This personal experience can be evidence (even if just for us individually) that the Holy Spirit does speak to us.
This sounds like wisdom a loving, wise and just God would implement. God speaks, lets open our ears and our minds to hear what is said.
This blog is dedicated to the furthering of Christian thought and through that, actions. As cited in Proverbs 23:7 speaking about a man:
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he
The purpose of this blog to engage others in a way as to help point both hearts and minds to Christ. As has been said, “Good theology leads to good doxology”. Let us take in wisdom that shapes our minds then turns our hearts toward Jesus and others. Let our hearts then prompt us to action in service of the one who served.