In several posts on the Trinity I have talked about the Christian claim that Jesus, born of Mary, is really truly God — the eternal Second Person of the Trinity walking among us.
In our time is that not a very strange claim? With our current mish-mosh of scientific and post-modern assumptions, will people be able to believe that the Jesus they see in the Gospels is actually the God who created heaven and earth?
Christians seem to do one of two things to defend the traditional view on this topic.
- Some look to the Gospels for evidence of his deity. He does God-like things, and he says he’s God. Therefore, he must be God.
- Others look to the Epistles and elsewhere to see what salvation means — then they point out that it only actually works if Jesus is really God. If he is merely a human being, he just can’t do what needs to be done to save us.
The first one works if you already believe. It will never convince you if you doubt the Bible’s credibility.
For those without faith the second may be more convincing. It reflects the experience of struggling toward faith which is actually our encounter with the living Christ. Jesus is somehow changing everything and giving us new life. We know nobody but God could do these things in our lives.
When the Heidelberg Catechism talks directly about the deity of Christ, it does something a little like this second approach. Here’s the question and answer in full:
17 Q. Why must the mediator also be true God?
A. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.
We need Jesus, our mediator, to be true God so that he can do what needs to be done. Only a divine Christ can save us. Woven into that short answer are three useful things only God can do.
1. Only God can bear God’s “wrath”.
That’s a whole ’nother issue, that wrath thing. Talk about an unpopular concept for post-moderns. More on that in some later posts, but for now let’s just say the Catechism sees our bad behavior as really, deeply, bothering God. It seems disproportionate, like a grown-up really angry at a kid. Only a grown-up can handle grown-up sized displeasure.
2. Only God can make us “righteous.”
As well as God’s displeasure, the mess we have made of our lives has tarnished us. We don’t have the innocence, the goodness we need to be in relationship with God. Only God can give us the kind of shining purity that belongs to God alone.
3. Only God can give us “life”.
The natural consequence of the way we live is our own destruction. Life was God’s gift in the first place. Once we’ve messed it up, only God can start it over again.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What do you see as the key reason we need Jesus to be truly God?
I won’t be wrathful if you don’t and it won’t make you righteous if you do — but it would give this post new life if you shared it using the buttons below!