Sunday, January 07, 2007

Divinity of Christ

Just a thought to posit to anyone who cares. As some of you may know, the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently decided that an ordaining body within the church (i.e., the Presbytery in the case of ordaining ministers, the session in the case of ordaining elders or deacons) may allow a candidate for ordination to express a "scruple" to any particular part of the ordination requirements. In other words, if someone who is a candidate for ordination says that they simply cannot accept one of the beliefs in the church Constitution that ministers, elders or deacons are supposed to believe, the ordaining body has the discretion to ordain them anyway.

My question is this: Should any ordaining body allow the ordination of someone who does not accept the full humanity and the full divinity of Christ? My answer is "no". This is one belief that absolutely must be held beyond scruple. There have to be some basic provisions that identify what is a "Christian Church".

You can use any other religion for the purpose of this illustration, but I will use Islam. Suppose a Muslim comes into your church and says, "I want to become a member, but I don't accept Christ as my Lord and Savior and I want to continue in my Islamic beliefs." Are you going to allow that person membership in the church? I would hope the answer is "no", but once you say that, you are acknowledging that there must be certain fundamental truths that distinguish what is a "Christian" church and that those truths are "beyond scruple."

I understand not wanting to make a "laundry list" of "essential tenets" so that we are welcoming Christ's children into the church instead of dividing ourselves based upon small details (on which people could have honest theological differences). But there are a few basic truths that we cannot be afraid to acknowledge. Even Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was very exclusive when it comes to how we can come to the Father.

If the divinity of Christ is one belief that defines what it means to be "Christian", and I believe it is, then the people who are shepherding God's flock must not only personally acknowledge it to be true, but must also acknowledge that it is beyond scruple so that they will not compromise on this point in their teaching. After all, they are responsible for sending God's people out into the world to bring others to Christ. If those people do not believe Christ was wholly man and wholly God, are they really bringing people to the true Christ?

God bless.

4 comments:

Dolphison said...

Ken,
I think you are raising a very important point here. I believe that simple logic itself dictates that for a person to be "Christian" they must accept the divinity of Christ. A Christian must accept the testimony of the Bible as it relates to Jesus. Anyone who does not accept the implications of Jesus's words: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." should not be considered Christian.

I was having a debate with a friend of mine who is a Catholic. She was telling me about the message from the Virgin Mary delivered to a woman in Medjugorje Yugoslavia. The woman said the Virgin Mary told her if a prayer was spoken for a person on their death bed (to the Virgin Mary) then that dying person would go to heaven. The woman from Yugoslavia was made a saint and Catholics are now accepting her testimony. I told her that it didn't make any sense because a person does not gain salvation through the prayers of another. Under the Christian belief a person must accept Jesus Christ as thier personal lord and savior. She disagreed and our debate stagnated as I tried to point out, over and over, that Jesus's own words contradicted the supposed word of the Virgin Mary.

Later on I found out she was right, and that Catholics really do accept this woman's story and really did make her a saint. It is clear to me now that many people who consider themselves Christian are not. It seems that most Catholics believe in some sort of hybrid of Christianity mixed with contradictory nonsense handed down from the Vatican. These people are abandoning the central tenant of the Christian religion by accepting testimony that contradicts that very same tenant.

I happen to be an agnostic and a former Catholic. In the aforementioned debate I was trying to explain why I believe Christians worship an evil god. My entire arguement was based around the the core belief of Christianity: A person must accept Jesus to be granted salvation. The implications of such a belief are staggering since the majority of people die without accepting him. I even presented a senario:

"A young woman is born in Iran and is raised as a Muslim. She travels and meets many people and learns all about Christianity. She remains a Muslim and never accepts Christ, rejecting him in fact. It turns out that Jesus really is the son of God and one day she dies and goes to Hell.

A young man is born in Maryland where he is raised a Christian. He grows up rejecting others because they don't belive in the same God as him. He kills 20 people on purpose one day because he is angry with them. He causes pain to everyone around him and then one day he lies dying. He says a prayer to Jesus and asks for forgiveness for his sins. It turns out that Jesus is the Son of God and he hears this man's prayers and can tell that the man is truly sorry. Through the salvation of Jesus the man rises to heaven."

Almost all the people who are raised under other religions will die without accepting Christ. They will burn in Hell. Why? Because they were born in the wrong country or had the wrong parents? They deserve eternal torture because of a different upbringing? It is wrong and evil and it happens to be the consequence of the most basic tenant of Christianity.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Let me ask you a question that will hopefully get us both thinking. Why do you believe it is evil to send people to hell? You seem to be appealing to a moral law (i.e., a law that would state that it is wrong to cause suffering). So my question would be, where does this law come from?

Think of it like the civil law. If I punch you in the face out of the blue, you would probably believe that I was legally wrong for doing so. Now suppose I say, "No, I think I was legally right." We go back and forth like this for a while, getting nowhere. In this particular scenario, though, there is an outside source to which we can appeal (and to which we are both subject) in order to resolve our dispute. We can open up a law book and look to see what it says. And lo and behold it says that you are right and I am wrong. Of course, if there was no such thing as that law book, we would have no way of ever resolving our dispute about the legal rule. We would be talking in circles forever with no way to determine which of us, if either, was actually "right".

Now take this analogy to the field of morality. You have claimed that it would be morally evil for God to send non-believers to hell. So obviously you seem to believe that there is some moral law that governs our behavior, including God's. So my question to "pick your brain" is "where does this moral law reside?" Where does it come from? Just like the civil law resides in the law book, the moral law must reside somewhere as well. Do you have any thoughts about where that could be?

If not, then you are in the same position as we would be in our punching dispute without a law book. There would be no way for you to tell me I'm wrong and no way for me to tell you that you are wrong because there is no outside source that makes my opinion any more "right" than yours (or vice versa).

Similarly, if there is no objective source of the moral law, then there is no way for you to tell God He is wrong because there is no outside source that makes your opinion any more "right" than His. So what is the source of this moral law to which you appeal?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Ken

dolphison said...

Ken,

Your question reguarding moral law and your arguements revolve around moral relativism. From my point of view God is immoral for sending the majority of people to hell. From God's perspective perhaps he believes that sending most of us to hell is a moral action. This subjectivism is dangerous because a person can justify any action and claim a moral defense.

Your question can also be applied to the attacks on Sept 11th 2001. From the terrorist's point of view they were doing the right thing by killing thousands of innocents. From the perspective of a person who lost a loved one, the terrorist attack was an evil and immoral act. If you sat them down in the same room and allowed them to argue they would go in circles. The terrorist would argue his belief in Alah justified his actions as moral. The family member of the victim would condem the actions claiming them immoral and down right evil.

When it comes down to it we are all moral relativists. Each and every one of us has his or her own ideas about what is right and wrong. Some people choose to claim a higher moral authority because of their belief in God. These people assume that God's moral authority is higher than their own and higher than that of other people. This just happens to be the type of thinking that caused the attacks on 9/11. (It would be unfair to single out religious people as the only ones taking violent actions based on moral relavitism.)

You are 100% correct that my disgust for the Christian God is morally subjective. By no means is my sense of morals perfect. Any objective claims that I make against your God's actions will only be an appeal to the moral sense of another.

Because of moral relavitism there is no "moral law" for me to point to and claim superiority. My arguement simply revolves around two points:
1. That the vast majority of people do not wish for others suffer unreasonably. and...
2. That by worshipping the Christian God you are worshipping a God that causes unreasonable suffering on such a massive scale that it is hard to fathom.
It is up to the individual to decide whether or not God's actions are moral. If an individual comes to the conclusion that such actions by God are wrong than they should no longer recognize God's moral authority.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Thank you dolphison.

I would agree that we are all epistemologically relativists, in the sense that we all come to our own set of beliefs about what is moral and what is not. That is basically a psychological phenomenon. However, this does not mean that morality is ontologically relative. In other words, our perception of morality and the reality of morality are two separate things. The mere fact that we arrive at different conclusions does not mean that there is not some objective rule that is "right".

In practice, relative morality is unworkable, among other problems. After all, if no one is ever "right", then it is impossible to make any moral judgments whatsoever. I would be interested in having your comments on the article on the Ten Minas site titled "How Morality Proves the Existence of God." It is my position that morality must be objective, and the only viable explanation for objective morality is theism. If morality is objective (whether from God or somewhere else), then your comment that "It is up to the individual to decide whether or not God's actions are moral" is incorrect. There would be a "right" answer, regardless of what the individual believes to be true.

If you have the time, I think you may be interested in that article, and I would certainly be interested in your thoughts. Thank you for you comments.

Ken