WE CALL this week Holy Week because it commemorates the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The 1.7 billion professing Christians worldwide, however, worship Jesus Christ in different ways. While his presumed resurrection is no doubt the main reason why most Christians think of Jesus as God transformed into flesh, there is one sect in the Philippines that preaches he is just “Son of God.”
One childhood memory reminds me of my late father Juan, a Seventh-Day Adventist, disagreeing with his friend Gerardo, an Iglesia ni Cristo follower who had tried to convince him that Jesus was “not God but Son of God.” My father retorted, “If Jesus were not God, why do you worship Him?”
I listened to the “debate” that dragged for an hour with no one giving up his position. Their friendship instantly soured. Tsk-tsk, they should never have argued over Jesus.
One of the wise words I’ve ever read was Dale Carnegie’s in his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
To this day, scholars and clergy debate over the godhead of the central figure whose alleged death and resurrection we recall in church masses and services this week. A growing number of them have rejected the dogmatic doctrines in their quest for a scientific, verifiable understanding of their faith. So far, they agree only on one historical nugget: That Jesus, a Jew who lived in the 1st century in Palestine, was crucified to death —a mode of punishment reserved for common criminals in his time. But the resurrection of Jesus has remained a matter of dispute since the first century of the Christian era.
In that century, the Gnostics – members of a variety of related movements possessing “secret knowledge of God” — rejected the notion that Jesus had an ordinary, impure human body. The priest Arius of Alexandria postulated that Jesus, although the Son of God, was not equal in status, or nature, with God the Father.
In AD 451, this debate over Jesus’ nature was largely put to rest when leaders of the Christian church at the Council of Chalcedon – near the modern İstanbul, Turkey – declared that Jesus possessed both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature. All other notions of Jesus’ nature were declared heretic.
Even during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation in Germany, ex-priest Martin Luther stressed the divinity of Jesus as “Biblical.”
It was not until 1778 when another German scholar, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, begged to disagree. His book The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples presented Jesus as “entirely human” and his disciples as “deceivers.”
Friedrich Schleiermacher, another German theologian in the 18th century, portrayed Jesus as “divinely inspired, but not God incarnate.”
Albert Schweitzer — French theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary – argued in his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906) that “Jesus was an apocalyptic-minded Jew who preached the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom within a wholly Jewish context without intending to launch a new religion.”
Former Roman Catholic American priest John Dominic Crossan, who now teaches philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, no longer believes that Jesus came out of a virgin birth, died and resurrected. He now believes “he was just a charismatic shaman or an expert in healing the sick.”
Filipino televangelist Apollo Quiboloy would disagree, having “promoted” Jesus as “God the Father” and he (Quiboloy himself) as the new “Son of God.”
Oh my God! ([email protected]/PN)