My Closing Statement for Debate: Is Jesus Christ God or Not?

My opening statement for this debate is here.

My rebuttal statement is here.

This is my closing statement.

While there is no explicit, emphatic, and indisputable statement in the New Testament that  Jesus is God.  the same cannot be said about Jesus being Lord. In fact, the New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus is Lord: explicit, emphatic, and indisputable.  No one denies that the New Testament declares Jesus to be Lord.  In fact, “Lord” is a much a part of Jesus’ name as is “Christ.”

People may deny that Jesus was actually raised from the dead, but they cannot deny that the New Testament calls Him Lord.  People may deny that Jesus even existed, but they cannot deny that the New Testament calls Him Lord.  People may even deny that the New Testament is itself trustworthy, that any of it can be believed, but they cannot deny that the New Testament documents, as they exist before us today, call Him Lord.

Therefore, regardless of what you think of Jesus’ origin and ontology, there is this issue of His lordship with which we must deal.  That is, given the assertion made by the apostles throughout the New Testament that Jesus is Lord, are you going to accept is as true or not?

Accepting Jesus as Lord means more than mere lip service to the idea.  If you call Jesus Lord but do not obey Him, you have not truly accepted Him as Lord.  Jesus Himself asked in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  Therefore, to accept the claim that Jesus is Lord, we must subordinate ourselves to His will and live according to what He says.

We may serve Jesus as Lord imperfectly.  In fact, all of us who genuinely attempt day after day to serve Jesus as Lord do so imperfectly – and no one knows it better than those of us who are trying.  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” is as true today as it ever was.  This does not excuse us, however, from growing in “the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  That is, we should be showing progress (Philippians 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:15).  If we show no spiritual progress, we prove ourselves to engaging only in lip service to the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 3:9; Matthew 7:21-23).

Progressing in grace means coming to understand our Lord better and better.  “That I may  know Him” was the heart cry of Paul (Philippians 3:10).  Certainly, Paul already knew the Lord – but he wanted to know Him better.  Likewise, we first come to know Jesus at some point in our lives, however young or old we might have been at the time – and growth in grace means coming to know Him better from that time forward.

There is much to know about our Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is in Him that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are to be found (Colossians 2:2-3, emphasis added).  He is “the beginning and the end,” “the Alpha and Omega,” “the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13).  Surely, in our quest to know Him better and better He will reveal to us more about His identity.  How can it be otherwise?

Therefore, let us consider this promise of Jesus:

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  –  Matthew 11:27

To understand the identity of God is not a matter of sufficient formal theological education. Neither is it a matter of random selection by God.  It is a matter of obedience to Christ.  That is, we come to understand the identity of Christ as we progressively actualize His lordship in our lives. The one who trusts and obeys Him comes to understand His identity better and better over time…because that is the sort of person to whom God wants to make Himself better known.

Consider this:  John Doe, being aware of all the Christological controversies, decides to set them aside and merely seek to trust and obey Jesus as Lord.  John Doe prays:

“Lord, I don’t know who is right about Your origin and ontology, but I do know that you want me to trust and obey You.  Therefore, that’s what I’m going to give my whole heart to do, no matter how little I understand about your origin and ontology.”

In following through on this prayer, John Doe is going to find out that for all practical purposes, Jesus is God to him.  That is, Jesus’ commands are the commands of God.  Jesus’ promises are the promises of God.  You cannot truly pursue Jesus as Lord and have any capacity left over to obey any other entity.  At this point, He who is God for all practical purposes reveals Himself to be God in actuality.  No one can teach you that Jesus is God.  He has to reveal it to you.

Even if you disagree with me that Jesus is God, that is okay.  What we ought to be able to agree on is that Jesus is Lord.  If we are both trusting and obeying Jesus as Lord, how can there be any significant difference between us?  Let us say that John Doe is serving Jesus as Lord while believing that Jesus is God, and Richard Roe is serving Jesus as Lord while believing Jesus is not God.  Will they not both be loving Him with all their hearts and souls and minds and strengths?  Will they not both be loving others as Christ loved them?  Will they not both be living lives on the earth that reflect the Christ who rules from heaven?

Let us serve Jesus as Lord that we might come to know Him better.  And even if we do not come to know Him in precisely the same terms, let us serve Him as Lord anyway.

My Rebuttal for Debate: Is Jesus Christ God or Not?

My opening statement for this debate is here.

This rebuttal is in response to this opening statement and this rebuttal of my opening statement.  [Ed. note: Unfortunately, this web site appears to no longer be operational so the links are no longer available.]

I can agree that there is a sense in which the identity of Jesus Christ is ambiguous.  The trinity concept is itself ambiguous. And there are many Christologies – ancient and modern – the very variety of which promote ambiguity.  Just because we are confused and disagreeing, however, does not mean that God is unwilling or unable to make Himself clear.  As Moses wrote, “”The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  The question is, therefore, whether or not God has revealed the identity of Jesus.

I can also agree that perceiving Jesus as an angel is a valid position – just as perceiving Him as a man is a valid position.  For just as God could become a man, He could become an angel.  Speaking more as to sequence, He could become an angel who became a man – which is just what He did.  To say that Jesus of Nazareth was a man is not mutually exclusive with saying He was God, neither is it mutually exclusive with saying He was an angel.

I hold the Scriptures to be the word of God – the prophets producing what we call the Old Testament and the apostles producing what we call the New Testament.  Thus the prophets and apostles spoke in the name of the Lord.  Subsequent “church fathers” claim no such authority.  In fact, even church councils issued their creeds and edicts in the name of the church for they knew they could not honestly say, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Therefore, while I think what Justin Martyr said or what Arius said or what others have said since biblical times has historical value, and in some cases spiritual value, none of their statements carries the weight of Scripture itself – for none of them were prophets or apostles.

What we see in the Scriptures is a progressive revelation of Christ.  This is consistent with the ways of our Creator, which we can view for ourselves in creation.  An acorn becomes an oak tree by a progressive process.  Winter becomes spring by a progressive process.  The night becomes day by a progressive process.  These physical manifestations provide illustrations of spiritual processes, for “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Proverbs 4:18) and “Light is sown like seed for the righteous” (Psalm 97:11).  Thus we should not be surprised if God reveals something to us – especially something so great and wonderful as the identity of Christ – by a progressive process.

We can see the progression of revelation regarding Christ unfolding before us in the Scriptures.  By the time of Christ in the 1st Century C.E., there was built up in the Scriptures of the prophets a large volume of prophecies, foreshadowings, allusions, types, and other references to the Messiah of Israel.  However, it was not clear how all these prophecies fit together.  You could rightly say they were ambiguous.  The scriptural term for such ambiguity is “mystery,” and you can see Paul use it in describing this state of affairs in Romans 16:25-27 (correlate this passage with Deuteronomy 29:29, mentioned above).  Paul’s point there is that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth is the revelation of the mystery, the solution to the ambiguity.

That said, there was more to reveal about Jesus Christ than what is written in the New Testament for the Lord and the apostles themselves spoke of revelation to come (Luke 17:30; 1 Corinthians 14; Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 1:5, 7; Revelation 1:1).  That is, Jesus had been revealed to some as the Messiah prior to His resurrection, but that resurrection event emphatically declared Him to be Messiah to all men (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).  This was not the end of the revelation of His identity but rather the beginning, for it set off a search of the Scriptures to see how all the prophecies fit together in Him (Acts 17:2-3, 11;  Colossians 1:17).  The disciples began learning more and more about the Christ as the ultimate intent of various passages of Scripture were revealed to them one by one (1 Corinthians 14).

There is a consensus among modern Bible scholars that the undisputed letters of Paul (namely: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon) were written 50-60 C.E.  The consensus date for Jesus’ resurrection being 30-33 C.E., this puts 15-20 years between the resurrection and those letters.  That’s how long the Christian movement had been growing when Paul wrote those letters.  What is absolutely stunning in the light of all the Christological controversies since apostolic times is that those seven letters display no evidence whatsoever of any Christological controversy – even while they evidence controversy about a number of other subjects.  The apostles and their disciples knew who Jesus was, but they were expecting to learn more.  In fact, they were constantly learning more.  The big revelation, however, was yet to come when all the New Testament documents were written.

In Matthew through John, Jesus was revealed as a man.  In Acts through Revelation, He is revealed to have been a angel both before and after He was a man.  In what we call the Second Coming of Christ, He was revealed to be God.  The progressive revelation was thus completed in the Second Coming.  The ambiguity need not remain.  God became an angel that He might become a man that He might become an angel again (through the resurrection – see Matthew 22:30), that He might become God again.

For this reason there is no explicit, emphatic, and indisputable statement in the New Testament that Jesus is God.  Those disciples were just beginning to grapple with the idea that He was more than a man.  The dawn has to come first, and the noonday sun later – otherwise we become blinded by too much light too fast.  Blessed be the apostles who put us in a position to receive the truth of Jesus Christ from the prophets.

Eric Liddell Quote – “When I run, I feel His pleasure”

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.  –  Eric Liddell (1902-1945), Olympic champion and Christian missionary

via Chariots of Fire (1981) – Quotes – IMDb.
YouTube clip (2:48) in which this line occurs (at the 1:18 mark)

We know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Eric Liddell is testifying that He could not only please God, he could know when he was pleasing God.  What a great thing – to be able to please God, and to know that you are pleasing Him!

What the Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals Did Not Teach Me

What the Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals taught me can be found here.  What they did not teach me was that godly living was more important than churchgoing.

The Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals are just as big on churchgoing as the Roman Catholics.  To all of them, attending church seems the most essential activity in life.  Do you doubt this?  Consider that if you come to church unbelieving they will welcome you, but if you believe in Jesus but don’t go to church they will consider you deluded, apostate, or heretical.  There seems no virtue more important to them than sitting in a pew.

By contrast, the Bible teaches the importance of righteousness – that is, doing the right thing, practicing godliness, purifying one’s motives and deeds.  The Bible is a book about Christ and His righteousness.  It is utterly insufficient as a manual on how to organize and operate a church.  This is why churches must supplement the Bible with their own take on how church ought to work.

Thus the Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals did not teach me to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:!4) but rather to be zealous for church.  They were therefore professing an allegiance to the Bible that they were not practicing.  This is why I ultimately had to part company with them.  It is better to do right in the sight of God than to appear righteous in the sight of men.

What the Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals Taught Me

I should say first that I was raised a Roman Catholic in the 1950’s.  My first six years of formal education were at parochial school.  I was an altar boy, and, later, a lay reader at Mass.  As a child, I collected holy cards, prayed the rosary, and wore a scapular.  I was at the church six days a week, and was as Catholic as one could be.  The Roman Catholics indeed taught me their religion, but I learned hardly anything about God.  By the time I was in my mid-teens in the mid-1960’s, I had fallen away from church and God seemed distant and inscrutable, if I was conscious of Him at all.

Over a decade after this, in the late 1970’s, the Evangelicals taught me about Jesus and the Bible.  They found me an agnostic in my late 20’s and took pains to tell me about Jesus Christ and His relevance to my life.  They showed me His claims, and the claims about Him, in the Bible.  They proclaimed without reservation that the Bible was the word of God and its central message was Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  By personal testimony and books, the Evangelicals conveyed to me the importance of taking these truths seriously and personally.  I will always be grateful to them, for I hold these truths dear – even to today.

Immediately after, or almost at the same time, the Evangelical were convincing me about Jesus and the Bible, the Charismatics and Pentecostals taught me the Holy Spirit.  They, too, believed Jesus was Lord and Savior and that the Bible was the word of God, but they also believed that God was still active in the world today.  They took seriously the claims of Holy Spirit activity in the name of Jesus found in the New Testament.  By a variety of means – personal testimony, books, cassette tapes, and television – the Charismatics and Evangelicals exhorted me to consider God not only true and reliable, but also active and present.  I will always be grateful to them, for I hold these truths dear – even to today.

Though I hold these particular truths dear, I no longer make any claim to being an Evangelical or Charismatic.  I only want to follow Christ.

For more about my background, see the About section of this blog.