The Present Context|
In recent years, some ex-Chapelites who have retained the anti-Trinitarian theology they learned at the Chapel have moved to a position in which they no longer believe Jesus to be God, saying that the Chapel's "dual nature" doctrine which portrayed Jesus as both man and God was false. They say that their new belief gives them a greater clarity about Jesus' true significance for us, an example of humanity that was obscured by not only Trinitarian doctrine but even by the orginal Chapel doctrine to some extent, which they now say was itself "too Trinitarian." The following postings from the "Community Chapel Gathering" discussion board in the fall of 2005 are typical of this reasoning. I would like to use these postings to show instead why the Trinitarian Christology of one person in two natures is essential to truly Biblical faith:
Participant A wrote,
...I always understood Christ to be a living example for me, not just a supernatural expression of unattainable deified perfection.Participant B wrote in another thread,
...if we can grasp the relationship Jesus had with his father then we too can start a relationship with the father and with Jesus that is much deeper than we have experienced in the last 2,000 years. ie we can be one with them.Participant C wrote in response to Participant B's posting,
This really is what it is all about. So many of the debates bypass the reason for seeking the truth--that is, to have a deeper relationship with God. I agree, there is great transforming power in seeing the relationship of the son Jesus, with his Father God.The point is, however, not our own feeling about what helps us. If it's not what the Scriptures teach, then it is not something that one's faith can or should be built upon, no matter how emotionally appealing any given idea may be to one's own individual outlook.
So many times I hear folks staunchly defending the "deity of Jesus". I understand that we all value holding to the truth of scriptures. But what does the believing in the deity of Jesus do for anyone? I am not sure. When we submit to learning about Jesus' relationship with his father, and conforming ourselves to it--well now there is something to build your faith and your walk.
The reason the church teaches that Jesus is God is not because believing it will meet people's felt needs; the reason the church teaches that Jesus is God (having existed forever as the Son of God) is that's what the apostles taught and what they recorded in the scriptures.
Additionally, the apostles did not teach that our faith is built upon our success in patterning our life after Jesus' life as a man. That would be moralism - Law-based teaching that undermines the gospel that the apostles did teach.
The scriptural gospel is that God gives us salvation because of Christ's perfect life and death in our stead, and because of our faith in that Christ.
The scriptures teach that that faith is a gift given and nourished by the Holy Spirit through the hearing the Word of God, a gift not affected by our frequent failures in loving and obeying the Father as Christ obeyed Him.
That is why the apostolic message is called the gospel - the "good news." We don't have to earn our salvation by a life of obedience, or by always loving as we ought - efforts in which mankind had long proved it was doomed to failure. Instead salvation was given to us by God's grace, through faith in Christ, the Son of God.
It is therefore not just any faith that saves, but faith that has the proper object, the scripturally proclaimed object. That object of faith is the Son of God seen in the Bible. A mistake that prevents us from grasping the Biblical significance of the identity and the nature of the Son of God is a mistake that can misdirect, damage, and ultimately subvert faith into something false.
That is why I believe the correct understanding of the Bible's teaching concerning the Son of God is so important.
Seeing Jesus primarily as a human example for Christian life puts the focus on the believer's own effort in fulfilling that example. That's a mistaken emphasis that leads to legalism, judgmentalism, and frustration.
Seeing Jesus as God who assumed human nature and dwelt among us puts the focus on what he has done for us that we could not do for ourselves. I believe that is clearly the scriptural emphasis, the emphasis that leads to true life and freedom in the gospel of God's grace.