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Is Jesus God according to Christian doctrines?

Christian doctrines are a systematic description of Christian belief and practice. Christian doctrines can be traced to texts of the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as the practices of the early Christians. Christian doctrines can be used as a starting point for a Christian worker to make comparisons between Christianity and Islam, to defend Christianity against objections and criticism from Muslims and to help in the propagation of Christianity. A set of Christian doctrines available:

1. Hebrew Scripture

The first theological support for the divinity of Jesus the Messiah comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. Using Bible verses to refute claims against the divinity of Jesus the Messiah requires not only rational logic, but also spiritual maturity: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus the Messiah himself used Hebrew Scripture verse Psalm 82:6 to confirm he is God: “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’?” (John 10:34). Many verses provide evidence that Jesus the messiah is a pre-existent figure with all power, holiness and perfection who became human in the womb of a woman, live on earth and went back to heaven where he lives forever. The Hebrew Scripture calls the Messiah God in the following verses:

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”. Immanuel means “God with us”. This provides proof that the Son became incarnate. The prophesy in Isaiah 7:14 about a virgin birth to Emmanuel shows both that the Messiah had the same human nature as Mary and that he had the divine eternal nature. The four gospels show the same unity in the Messiah of the human and divine nature. Matthew 1:1 declares that Jesus Christ had a human linage, but in 8:18-34 Christ cast out demons by divine power [1].

Isaiah 9:6-7: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this”.

Isaiah 11:2: “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord....”.

Daniel 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him”.

Messiah is called “Son of Man” and this figure "came with the clouds of heaven", which is a divine title: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.” (Exodus 19:9). See also Exodus 16:10, 33:9 and 40:34-35. Till today, the evidence from the Hebrew Scripture is a successful way to convince unbelievers about the divinity of Jesus the Messiah.

2. Logos: Jesus the Messiah is divine as Word of God

According to the great Muslim scholar Ibn Arabi, the 'Perfect Man' can be known by mystical experience [2]. He believed that every prophet has a relation to a reality which he called Logos (Kalimah). Ibn Arabi called Jesus the Messiah "The Seal of Saints". The Logos is one of the most sophisticated doctrines for divinity. Greek philosophers had developed a theory about the universe we are living in. Abstract ideas as Truth, Goodness and Beauty have been identified as eternal. It has also been declared that those eternal attributes are united and they call the unification Λόγος (Logos). Philosopher Philo of Alexandria († 40 AD, identified the creator of the universe as the Logos [3].

New Testament support

The New Testament describes Jesus the Messiah as God according to the translation of Λόγος (Logos) as “the Word”:

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”. The meaning of “only begotten of the Father” is explained in one of the next chapters of the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The philosophical doctrine of the Logos "took on flesh" in Jesus the Messiah, in whom the Logos was present as in no other man. The Logos acts in divine creation, divine revelation and salvation of the soul. As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God, because he reveals himself as light and through redemption by giving new life. He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man.

Questions and answers

With the doctrine of the Logos some questions can be answered about the divinity of Jesus Christ [4]:
  1. Is Christ eternal or temporal? Before the union there is the eternal Word, but not Christ. The Messiah can only be named after the eternal nature became incarnate by uniting created human nature.
  2. How is it possible for the divine nature to clothe itself with human nature without becoming limited by it? In the same way that the sun gives light to part of the earth without in any way being limited to that space. He took human nature as a temple to dwell in, but he is not limited to that place.
  3. Can you speak about God´s body? We do not speak about God´s body. God the Word became human. This is not to be understood in the same way as we think of a child becoming a man in a natural process of change. Rather the becoming human is like a man becoming dressed or taking up arms or putting on a turban.
  4. Why do you speak of God´s temple but not his body? It is not the temple of God but rather the temple of the eternal Word. The Father and the Spirit did not become incarnate, so it is not appropriate to speak of God´s body.

3. Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ and the Father united as God

The Nicene Creed was published early in 4th century to clarify the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Revelation of Christ is unique and therefore a doctrine was needed to explain. We cannot understand divine content without revelation, because divine things relate to God’s holiness. He must reveal himself before you can talk about him. He reveals his holiness. The name “Son of God” for Jesus the Messiah does not mean that God and Mary had a biological son, because Mary was a virgin. Jesus Christ had no father on earth, but changed his position from heaven to earth by supernatural birth with the Spirit of God.

Divinity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament

That Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God of one substance with the Father is well supported in the New Testament:

John 3:35-36: “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”.

John 10:30: “I and my Father are one”.

John 10:38: “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him”.

John 14:9: “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”.

Colossians 1:15-17: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist”.

Colossians 2:9: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”.

1 John 5:20: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life”.

Philippians 2:6: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”.

Revelation 1:8: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty”.

Divinity of Jesus Christ as part of Nicene Creed

Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Nicene Creed [5]:

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father”

Questions and answers

Some clarifications about Jesus Christ is God [6]:
  1. How is the nature that is created in time called the Son of God? The eternal Son decided that human nature should share his Sonship. He became incarnate, uniting with human nature as a garment for his divine nature.
  2. Why did he want to have a human nature? To unite humanity with himself.

Worship songs

Nicean Creed with the divinity of Jesus the Messiah can be found in some Christian worship songs, including [7]:

We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
The only Son of God,
Eternally begotten of the Father,
God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God,
Begotten and not made.

4. Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed: Holy Trinity (Muqaddas Taslis)

Abraham became the first believer in the unity of God. Christianity is together with Islam and Judaism a religion of Abraham (Millat Ibrahim). This means that it is in a tradition of religious practice from Abraham [8]: “The Messenger of Allah (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that Jesus was handed by his mother Mary over to a school in order that he might be taught. [The teacher] said to him: ‘Write “Bism (In the name of)”.’ And Jesus said to him: ‘What is “Bism”?’ The teacher said: ‘I do not know.’ Jesus said:

‘The “Ba” is Baha’u'llah (the Glory of God),
the “Sin” is His Sana’ (Radiance),
and the “Mim” is His Mamlakah
(Sovereignty).”

Note that divine reality has been described in a 3-fold way: “Glory of God”, “Radiance of God” and “Sovereignty of God”.

Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed

Islam has 99 Attributes of God [9] and it has been published it in 9th century in the document Jamiʿ at-Tirmidhi [10]. In the same way, Christianity has the Holy Trinity of God. This has been described in 4th century in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed [11]:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the virgin Mary, and was made man;
he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one holy catholic and apostolic Church;
we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Holy Trinity in the Scriptures

There is support for the Holy Trinity in the Scriptures. In the Qur’an, the phrase "In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful", has been placed at the beginning of every chapter except chapter 9. This threefold name of God is in 113 places in the Qur’an and reminds to the Holy Trinity [12]. In the same way, there is Biblical support for Holy Trinity, with verses where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are brought together:

Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”;

John 14:15-17: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”;

1 Corinthians 12:3-6: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”;

2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

Clarification

To understand Trinity divine revelation is necessary, there is no rational human way to it. God is holy and by revelation the believer needs to receive God’s attributes and his total being. Because only the Supreme Being is able to tell who God really is, only by divine revelation it can be verified if this doctrine is true or not. The sad experience is that not many people have such revelations, including people who call themselves “Christian” and are member of a Christian church. Even many pastors, priests, evangelists, missionaries and theologians, who proclaim Christian faith to others had to admit they don’t understand Trinity. The solution for this is to follow living faith Christian lifestyle and pray for revelation of the Holy Spirit. It is not possible to discover the Holy Trinity by rational thinking. However, some attempts have been made to bring the concept within reasonable acceptation through illustrations. An example is a human being who is an independent creature [13]. The Bible reveals that man consists of body, soul and spirit. Neither the body, nor the soul, nor even the spirit can make a person of its own; only the three together can do so: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Questions and answers

The doctrine of the Trinity can be an intellectual puzzle and has raised many questions and answers, including [14]:
  1. How could the divine nature unite with human nature while at the same time being united with the other two members of the Trinity? Just as the rays of the sun give heat without being separated from the sun, so the Son could unite with human nature without being separated from the Father and the Spirit.
  2. Why did the Father and Spirit not become human rather than the Son? Since human nature is not eternal, it would not be appropriate for the Father to enter the temporal in the same way as the Son has done. Likewise the Spirit cannot become embodied and remain the eternal Spirit.

Worship songs

Faith revealed by the Holy Spirit in Jesus the Messiah, who has the divine power to forgive human sin, has something distinctive, true, exciting and relevant to communicate to the world. Therefore in Christian worship, the doctrine of the Trinity can be recognized in many songs with The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, such as in the following song [15]:

In the name of the Father,
In the name of the Son
In the name of the Spirit,
Lord, we come
We're gathered together to lift up Your Name
To call on our Savior to fall on Your grace

5. Chalcedonian Creed: Jesus the Messiah has divine nature and human nature

The pre-existent perfect figure of the Messiah who lived on earth in a human body was something not to understand for unbelievers during first centuries after the ascension of Jesus the Messiah. Tools were needed to improve better explanation. From second till fifth centuries, believers studied to bring clarity between the supernatural and human elements of Jesus the Messiah.

Chalcedonian Creed

In 5h century, a theological formulation became available to describe the unity between the divine and human nature of Jesus the Messiah, called the Chalcedonian Creed [16]:

“We all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body;
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the Godbearer;
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.”

The text is saying that Jesus the Messiah is one figure, but can be recognized in a divine nature and a human nature. Disadvantage of this formula is that “Only-begotten, recognized in two natures “ cannot be understood with pure human thinking. To verify this theological description, supernatural revelation is needed.

Questions and answers

The two natures of Jesus can be applied to answer many questions, including [17]:
  1. Are the two natures united? Yes, they are united in Christ. The two natures or the two hypostases are united.
  2. In what way is Christ a unity of two natures? He is a unity of divine and human hypostases.
  3. Does the human nature not affect the divine? No, just as coal receives heat from fire but does not impact blackness to it, so the human nature does not affect the divine.
  4. Was the human nature in the virgin’s womb before the uniting of the divine with a human body? The virgin conceived Christ as a union of two natures.
  5. How can you claim that there can be no separation between the two natures when only the human nature experiences pain and death? The unity of the divine and human means that divine power and authority is truly united with human weakness. There is no separation or distance between them.

Conclusion

Christian doctrines can be a powerful tool to explain the divinity of Jesus the Messiah. The early Christians continued teaching the doctrines of Jesus. The doctrines were causing many people to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In the spirit of a reborn Christian believer, Christian doctrines can be useful to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others, including Muslims.

Notes

  1. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 80-89.
  2. A.E. Afifi, The Mystical Philosophy of Muhyi Din Ibnul 'Arabi, Lahore, 1964.
  3. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome, Chapter XLIV Jewish-Hellenistic Philosophy, Doubleday, New York, 1985, 457-462.
  4. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, p. 70-71, 79, 80-89.
  5. Armenian Apostolic Church Library Online, The Nicene Creed.
  6. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 79-89.
  7. Jason Silver, The Nicene Creed Song.
  8. Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion, Routledge, New York, 2002, p. 3]. A Christian cannot be a true Christian when he is praying to more than one God. In a commentary on the Basmala the great Muslim scholar al-Tabari writes [Moojan Momen, Islam and the Baha'i Faith, George Ronald, Oxford, 2000, 242.
  9. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Hadith 419, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Hadith 489.
  10. Jonathan Brown, The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon, Brill, 2007, 10.
  11. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1877, 28-29.
  12. Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Edited by J. Milton Cowan, 4th edition, 1979, 73.
  13. Ibrahimkhan O. Deshmukh, The Gospel and Islam. GLS Publishing, Mumbai, 2011, 254.
  14. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 80-89.
  15. Paul Baloche, Our God Saves.
  16. Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church. Oxford Univ. Press, 1947, 73.
  17. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 70-71, 80-89.

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