The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is Jesus God or What?

I know this topic has already been addressed here, but this is something I’d like to see more discussion on by this community. Every time I see an article like this one I begin to wonder…
I’d post it here but it’s too long, so I’m going to post the link instead. I’d like as many perspectives on this subject from the community as possible. If possible, ignore some of the side comments made by this author and simply focus on the scriptures he presents and his reasoning based on those. Thanks!

It should be the first article with the same title as this topic.

Yes, He is God; but He is not the Father.

Most people do not understand Trinity doctrine, only because it gets lost in translation. It is rather simple, God is Spirit and His followers will worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24
God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

So the question is, does anyone know what Spirit is?

The error is to believe that the physical image of the man, Jesus is God and that is what Jacob erroneously does. Most people have a concrete, visual, and linear description of Spirit, and so will always error in their understanding on Who and What He is and when they do this, they refute their erroneous understanding of the Trinity which true Trinitarians do not believe in the first place. Just like many in ECT refute UR but are in fact refuting UU, they just do not understand the doctrine in the first place to refute it.

Example Jacob uses this Scripture to prove that those who believe that Jesus is God, are in error.

Romans 1:22-25 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an IMAGE made like to CORRUPTIBLE MAN, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and WORSHIPPED AND SERVED THE CREATURE more than the Creator.

The key here, however is exact words Paul used, the UNCORRUPTIBLE GOD into an IMAGE made like CORRUPTIBLE MAN…the key word is CORRUPTIBLE. Trinitarians do not believe Jesus is a corruptible man in the first place. If Paul said the glory of God into the image of a man… then Jacob would have support. However, Paul himself confirms that Jesus is the image of invisible God.

Colossians 1:15 He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

So further complicating Jacob’s support using at least Paul’s letters to disprove that Jesus is God.

I think the answer is, “It depends.” Being a unitarian (in the Biblical sense, not in the liberal sense :slight_smile: ), I don’t think Scripture teaches that Jesus is ontologically God, or that Jesus and the Father share some sort of self-existent divine “essence” or “substance.” But there is a sense in which I think Jesus can be called “God.” In several instances in Scripture, certain human beings are called “God” in a functional and representational sense (though not in an absolute and ontological sense). In Exodus 7:15 (cf. 4:14-16), for example, God tells Moses that he will be “God” (elohim) to Pharaoh, because he would function as God in giving Aaron the message to tell Pharaoh. Moses was thus “God” in a representative or functional sense. The judges of Israel were called “God” in a representative or functional sense as well (Ex 21:5-6; 22:8-9; Psalm 82:1-8), as they were invested with God’s judicial authority to uphold justice among the people.

This secondary sense in which the word “elohim” was used is also found in Psalm 45:6-7, which is a wedding Psalm in which the Psalmist speaks of an ideal king of Israel. We know that the Psalmist’s own understanding of the nature of this Messianic figure is that he would be just as human as you and I, for he speaks of him as being “the most handsome of the sons of men” and as being blessed by God (v. 2). He is also said to have been anointed by God with the “oil of gladness” beyond his “companions” (v. 7). But the one Jesus called “the only true God” (i.e., the Father) has no “companions” beyond whom he can be anointed; consequently, the Psalmist must have in mind a human being who, were it not for God’s anointing him, would have been equal to his “companions.” The Psalmist also describes this ideal Messianic figure as being victorious in battle and slaying his enemies with arrows (vv. 4-6), as being dressed in fragrant robes and dwelling in ivory palaces with music being played for his enjoyment (v. 8), as having the daughters of kings as his “ladies of honor” and with a queen standing at his right hand in “gold of Ophir” (v. 9), as desiring the queen’s beauty before they are married (v. 10-11), and as their bearing children who will be princes (v. 16). Even so, this human king is addressed by the Psalmist as “God” (elohim) in v. 6. But as in the other examples above, the most natural and reasonable interpretation is that the Psalmist is employing the word elohim in a representational or functional sense. The Psalmist was no doubt familiar with the flexibility with which the word could be used, and, being conscious of his specialized use of the word “God” to describe this ideal king, he quickly adds that the God of this Messianic figure (i.e., Yahweh) has granted him his royal privileges (v. 7). Thus we see that this Psalm is a good example of how the word “God” could be used in Scripture to describe both Yahweh as well as those to whom Yahweh has given a degree of divine power and authority to act and function as his representative.

Since Jesus both fully reveals the Father and has been given all authortity in heaven and on earth to carry out God’s will, he can rightfully be called “God” in the sense above.

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The virgin birth contradicts those conclusions. The early fathers didn’t argue for divine sperm in the birth of the God/man. Very God and Very man. I see their working through of Christology as a marvel - it’s bullet proof - it can be denied but not dismissed - without dismissing thousands of years of Christianity itself. Where was the Paraclete? Hiding? Waiting for a ‘unitarian’ to have the final word?


Could you elaborate a bit? Especially on the “erronious understanding of the Trinity, which true Trinitarians don’t believe”? What’s that? and what do true Trinitarians believe? [never mind, I think you edited while I was typing :sunglasses: ]

I’ve considered this in the past, and am undecided. I’m not sure I want to go with standard Trinity doctrine, but I don’t think I can go with this guy either. For now, I like to stick with what is clearly scriptural, which is (in simplistic version): Jesus is our Lord (and elder brother) and together with him we worship the Father (our God). The Spirit of God is in us, working to teach us, and lead us into the knowledge of truth and righteousness and to do the works of God through us.

Some thoughts off the top of my head:
Jesus made a real point about his humanness, calling himself “the Son of Man” – which inclines me to think that was how he wanted to be known.

Paul says in Philippians that Jesus, “although he existed in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped …” but lowered himself to become a man. I’m not sure I quite grasp the full implications of that.

Thomas called him “my Lord and my God” – to which Jesus did not object.

That’s all I have time for now, but I’m looking forward to more from others on this,

I think the logical absurdity of the doctrine of the “double nature” of Jesus Christ (i.e., that he is both fully God and fully man) is articulated well by 19th century Unitarian minister, Charles Morgridge:

Couldn’t have said it better myself! :mrgreen: Another Unitarian author (Andrews Norton) notes that

So if Jesus is God in an ontological sense, he is not also man. And if he is man, he is not also God. Of course, he could be something else entirely (neither God nor man), but I think I’d sooner become a Trinitarian than believe that. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure how the virgin birth contradicts my position, Ran. We aren’t told that the sperm by which Jesus was miraculously conceived possessed a self-existent divine nature that made Jesus a “God-Man.” In fact, there’s no indication that the sperm was supernatural in any way other than the fact that it was (evidently) created directly by God. Which is what I believe. :slight_smile:

What if there was no ‘sperm’ used in His conception? Transmitting divine essence and substance then lies somewhere else - the soul itself - which is closer to the father’s understanding. While they didn’t understand DNA - they knew it was more than that and exactly that, as well, to be in the line of David through Mary.

This stuff is over my head - I don’t find it logically indefensible at all - but I do find it a mystery. So, I’ll leave it there. The Eastern Orthodox have wonderful insights on the question - that’s where I go to learn more.

Hi Sonia,

I think the meaning of this passage (Phil 2:5-7) is at least partly illustrated by Hebrews 5:8: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” What does it mean to say that Jesus was in the “form of God” (v. 6)? Elsewhere in Scripture, the word “form” (morphē) refers to outward appearance and not to one’s “essence” (Mark 16:12; 2 Tim 3:5; Mark 9:2; Rom 12:2). Here, I think Paul is saying that, although Jesus (being the Son of God by birth) was invested with extraordinary divine powers and authority by God (which I understand the word “form” to express here), he did not presume upon his divine privileges and use them to his own advantage. Instead, he lived as a humble servant, and used his divine powers and authority to serve others and bring glory to God. Why? Because being a human being and not God, he owed God service and obedience, even unto death (v. 7-8). It is significant that the other word that is typically translated “form” in v. 8 is actually a different Greek word (schema), and emphasizes Jesus’ humanity (“schema” denotes a transitory appearance; as is common to all humans, Jesus’ body and appearance kept changing throughout his life as he aged, from the time he was born to the time he died).

The virgin birth is not necessary for Trinitarian doctrine, but it a consequence of it.

Jacob’s view of the Trinity is not what Trinitarians believe, so he refuting his own view of what he thinks Trinitarians believe, not what Trinitarians believe. He can make all the convincing arguments he wants, but he isn’t refuting Trinitarian doctrine, he is refuting his own imagination of what he thinks Trinitarian doctrine believes. He doesn’t know what Trinitarians believe to refute them.

What is full, all, or for that matter one or three, in light of Infinity which is but another name for God? The fullness of God actually dwells in us, just not being realized yet.

Maybe we can learn a lesson in measurement of the things of God by conceptualizing a perpetual circuit of the seven and the eight in Hebrew terms. In the Hebrew “7” is “full, perfect and complete”. “8” is “more full, perfect and complete.”

In the Hebrew, seven is (shevah). It is from the root (savah), to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Seven is full and complete, and good and perfect.

Then you have following seven the eight. In Hebrew the number eight is (sh’moneh), from the root (shah’meyn), to make fat and to super-abound. Eight is the superabundant number.

As seven is full and complete, and good and perfect. Eight is above the fullness, completeness, goodness and perfection of seven. Lending support to this you have the jubilee which is seven sevens with the next being the jubilee.

Personally, in simplest terms, I believe the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus. He was God come in the flesh.
The Father and Jesus are one in Spirit, however of different dimensions.
Beyond the ages Jesus is Father and Father is Jesus in the world.

John Gavazzoni who is one of my favorite Christian thinkers has a pretty interesting view which I think worth contemplating below. John is a Universalist.

Mystery of Deity:

I believe that we can be true to the Deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet not be bound conceptually to the classical model of the trinity. I believe we should be free to challenge that theological premise and, indeed, ought to. I am not stridently anti-trinitarian. In fact, I sincerely admire the attempt----operative word, “attempt”— on the part of the early church fathers to explain the oneness of God while maintaining the plurality and complexity within God, yet properly distancing themselves from pagan polytheism.

I really do not fit in either the trinity camp or the oneness (Jesus only) camp, for I find that trinitarianism, per se, falls short of explaining the nature of God’s internal relationship, and the over-reaction, on the part of dear oneness brethren to trinitarian doctrine, very unsatisfying. God is One, to be sure, but that Oneness clearly includes an internal, relational dimension. Deity relates to Itself, and does so with a co-gender, paternal and filial delight. There clearly, and most certainly, is the oneness factor of God, and yet also, the “and” factor. Jesus said, “I AND the Father are one.” As I’ve said on a number of occasions, "what is it about “and” that you don’t understand?

How should our concept of God be structured? I am struck by a sense of artificiality when God is explained as one God in three Persons, and three Persons united by and sharing one divine substance, or essence. It lacks what is implied by the truth that Deity has a Son, not a Son in name only, but a unique, only-single-generated Son.

It does not address adequately, at all, the implicit impregnation, conception and birthing that is intrinsic to God having a Son, and the underlying divine romance that constitutes God’s relational disposition, which can be traced as a golden thread from the opening chapters of Genesis where Deity images itself in a man and woman in the Garden of Eden (delight), to Revelation, where the garden has become a community adorned as a bride for her husband.

So allow me, if you dare, to take a fresh approach to how we conceive of the vitality and structure of Deity. The following will obviously have to do with what is called, “Systematic Theology,” (though I prefer, “Cohesive Theology.”) and not an exercise in biblical exposition. It is what I have to offer at this time, after years of immersion in scripture and being called by the Spirit to reflect deeply on the nature of the One Jesus called, “Father.” The following, I assure and pledge to you, is subject to revision as the Spirit directs.

I have chosen as a title for this treatise, a phrase from Col. 2:19, “the increase of God,” and my understanding of that expression is that it does not mean merely an increase which is from God as someTHING He has given His church, but very literally, Paul is affirming that, as applied here to the body of Christ, the body grows by the “increase of God,” literally "grows the growth of God or, "is growing the growth of the God or, “growing (in) the growth of God.” Even if we just take it simplistically as increase from God, since God shares with His Son all that He is, and the Son gives Himself completely to His Body, the church, then increase is integral to Deity.

Deity, rather than being a static threesome in oneness, or oneness in threesome, is Being itself dynamically increasing or growing by the internal communion whereby the Spirit searches out the things of God, yea the deep things of God, and finds a Her to match Him.

Personhood has proceeded out from Pure Relational Being in the unfolding of God. From this divine “knowing,” this Spirit- conjugal union, there is a procession out of God, from the Primal Origin (Barth) of Being, or the Ground of Being (Tillich), a growth of God by reproduction, as the Personhood which proceeds from Being becomes Father/Mother by bringing forth an Eternal Son, the first-born of many brethren.

The Father, who includes Motherhood, is greater than the Son, not by nature, but as the Origin of the Son. But since the Son originates from the fulness of the Father, the Son is given equality with the Father as the Father/Mother Deity reproduce in the Son, all that Deity is. “The Father has life in Himself, and gave the Son to have life in Himself.” (Jn. 5:26)

Thus, the equality that the Son enjoys with the Father is a matter of the reproduction of Deity. God gives His best to His Son, His best, which is the fulness of Himself, and we, born by the extension of His Seed, share the same Family Oneness. In this light we can begin to understand the apostles definition of the church: “…the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”

From Eternal Being proceeds Eternal Personhood, a Personhood that fulfills Being’s disposition for congugal union and reproduction, so that Being has become Persons, Persons of a familial nature. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God, and indeed we are.”

We are the family of God, by which God multiplies His/Her Being so that by us, in us, God is increased. The commission to “be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it,” is rooted in and constituted by “The Increase of God.”

[size=85]Note: Some terms in the seven and eight measurement were borrowed from Bullinger.[/size]

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How strange it should be,
That we who seemed four,
Are now become Three.
And We Who are Three
Are yet become One,
Father, Spirit and Sons in the Son.


I thought the article was pretty confused. With Craig, I’d say a lot of his criticisms are misdirected.

You’re better off reading Jason’s work on the Trinity. :wink:


I agree - at least, that was my initial assessment based on the following sentence at the beginning of the article (after which I stopped reading):


Or this: … rton&cd=1#


To be fair, I think I still owe Mel some comments on that topic, going back at least as far as FREAKING AUGUST 31! :open_mouth:

(Uh, sorry, Mel. Distracted etc. :blush: Among other defenses, the beginning and ending of Sept is arguably the worst time of year for me to be able to concentrate on anything at all.)

Most people here will already be familiar with my forum work on the Trinity–which, although I consider it to be theologically more important than universalism, I try to restrict myself to talking about in connection to universalism when I’m on this forum. :slight_smile:

But for newcomers, here are some of the highlight pages:

metaphysical argumentSword to the Heart, which I am (or was until recent distractions) editing and revising to a 3rd edition here on the EU forum. (This link can also currently be found at the bottom of my forum signature for most posts.) It’s over 500 pages worth of systematic metaphysics leading up (last time I went through it anyway!) to orthodox trinitarian theism, without appeal to the authority of scriptural testimony per se. I’ve only posted up the first 175 pages or so here yet. But I’m trying to clear my desk enough to get back to posting up one small entry per day.

A (currently) 76 page digest of scriptural testimony. This puts forward the case in a relatively brief fashion from scriptural exegesis. (Note: ‘relatively’ brief == 76 pages. :mrgreen: ) Substantially more could be adduced; I haven’t even included a section on the Riddle of Psalm 110 yet, for example.

A set of replies to metaphysical criticisms of trinitarianism. Based on what were, at that time, recent crits launched against ortho-trin here on the forum. Should not be considered topically complete, but many standard issues are there. (This thread, incidentally, is where Mel and I were last discussing the topic, so far as I can tell.)

Another set addressing scriptural criticisms of trinitarianism. Ditto.

Quite a bit of discussion on why I believe ortho-trin is important for universalism. (I should really revise the title of that thread, which isn’t quite specific enough.) While this thread features loads of material, the two most pertinent posts might be here where I formally parse out a deductive argument from ortho-trin to universalism; and here where I parse out a deductive argument, not that ortho-trin must be true if universalism is true, but that the hope for universal salvation is logically greatest if ortho-trin is true.

As much as I want to jump into this discussion directly, though, I am almost-literally covered over with work at ‘work’-work today (and probably until the weekend). So I’ll just watch from the sidelines after this point. :slight_smile:

(By the way, Mel: I’m almost done reading through Klassen’s book on ‘What the Bible Says About Hell’. I’ll post up some remarks on it afterward, though again that probably won’t happen before the weekend at the earliest.)

Thanks everyone for your input so far. All of the comments have been good. I’m going to try going back through some responses and pick out certain comments for further discussion.
Hopefully, I’ll have time to read through some of that material, Jason. My time has become much more limited of late; and while I do want to get to it, I’m not really sure at this point how much time I’ll actually have to devote to it. Thanks for the links though, to make the search simpler! I’m also looking forward to your comments and insights on Klassen’s book.

I agree that the article is a bit confusedly written, which is why I asked that some of his more peripheral comments be ignored and just to focus on the actual biblical quotations and his direct commentary on those (which occur more toward the middle and especially the end of the article, for those of you who didn’t make it that far :wink: ).
Craig, I’m less concerned about Jacob’s apparent straw-man misunderstanding of Trin. doctrine than I am about his actual individual points. In other words, I guess I don’t see the real issue as a question of whether trinitarianism is logically internally coherent or not (I think when well-presented, it is logically internally consistent, even if some of the implications don’t appear to be), but whether it actually makes sense in light of what Jesus actually did and did not say about himself.

And that’s certainly what I understand trinitarians believe (having been raised as one myself).

Noted; however, the problem as I see it is that if Trinitarians believe that Jesus is not a corruptible man, then how is it that he is able to be tempted? In other words, as Aaron pointed out, it seems to be a logical problem (on the trinitarian position) for Jesus to be dualistic in nature, yet somehow not dualistic.

It is clear that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, and the firstborn over all creation. So my question then, is how would you answer Jacob’s charge that the image is not the thing, but rather a representation?

edit double post.

I think I would agree with this; and it seemed to me that Jacob’s point was similar, that there is a sense in which Jesus can be called God, in that functional and representational sense.

Jesus was given all power and authority as God’s representative to man in much the same way as Joseph was given power and authority over Egypt as Pharaoh’s representative, though not being Pharaoh himself.