The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is worshipping Jesus idolatry?

I know there are some non-trinitarians on this forum. For the non-trinitarians: Do you think it’s idolatry to worship Jesus? Do you think the trinity is idolatry?

No. Worshipping Jesus - and I’m not clear as to what people mean by ‘worship’ as used here and elsewhere - is perfectly fine; it does not mean they are calling him ‘God the Father’ or even ‘God the Son’ - but they believe all the glorious things about Jesus that the scripture teaches, which evokes thanks, and praise and worship. As to ‘worship’, here is a very concise short essay that addresses the OP directly.

Quoting Larry Hurtado: "But, whatever the means/process, the key point is that earliest believers seem to have come quickly to the conviction that Jesus had been exalted to a unique heavenly status, had been given to share in the divine name and glory, and must now be reverenced in obedience to God.
In short, we have to reckon with two distinguishable convictions: Jesus as Messiah and Jesus as rightful recipient of cultic devotion. Both erupted early, perhaps simultaneously. But resurrection, by itself (i.e., restoration to life and a vindication of Jesus as Messiah), didn’t suffice for the latter conviction or the devotional practice in question. For that, a “glorification” of Jesus seems to me to have been necessary, a glorification understood as by God and requiring that Jesus be reverenced. " -end of Hurtado

Here’s the whole post from Hurtado … d-worship/.

A couple of observations: (these are from Tuggy:)

  • Note that this “mutation” of Jewish monotheism, that is, a change in the core religious practices, specifically in the corporate worship of the earliest Jewish Christians, doesn’t require any change in OT theology. We have the one God, and the human Messiah. And the former raises and exalts the latter, effectively commanding his worship with, but in a way, under himself. Honor given to one raised goes further on, to the raiser.

  • Nor does the change Hurtado describes require the speculation that Jesus has a or the “divine nature.” If Hurtado is right, and I think he is, then it is an interesting question how mainstream catholics (or the proto-orthodox) or at least some of their theological elite – got to be so convinced (over the course of the second century) that in the ministry of Jesus there was not only an anointed, empowered, virgin-born man at work (working together with God) but also a man with a “divine nature” in addition to his human nature.

  • To make the point more pointedly: it seems that what Hurtado describes is perfectly consistent with unitarian theology (aka belief in a “unipersonal” deity). Indeed, the most famous early modern unitarians, the Socinians, believed in worship of and prayer to the Lord Jesus. Hurtado’s point is compatible both with what I call “humanitarian” unitarianism (Jesus is a man, and doesn’t also have a divine nature) and with what I call “subordinationist” unitarianism, on which Jesus pre-exists his human life, as a divine Logos – and after this Logos becomes a man, then this being has both a divine and human nature. (But this Logos isn’t divine in the same exact way that the Father is; his divinity derives from the Father’s.)

  • What this development does require is getting rid of the traditional requirement to only worship YHWH.

  • Did they think Jesus then was a second god? No, in the monotheistic sense of “God” they still believed in only one God, the one Jesus called “Father,” and affirmed as the only God.

  • They did think that Jesus was a second “God” – that is, a second being who can be properly addressed as or described as “God” – so long as he’s not confused with YHWH. (Note that Paul is careful not to confuse them – see the start of all his letters.)

  • Did they think Jesus was a lesser god? They wouldn’t say that. Being Jewish monotheists, they reserved nearly all god-talk for YHWH, as a way of emphasizing his uniqueness. (See my paper coming out in May in the Journal of Analytic Theology on this rhetoric of monotheism.)
    But, by some definitions of “god,” yes, we can say that they thought of Jesus as another god, and the second greatest of gods, behind YHWH, who was both a god in the generic sense and also the only GOD in the monotheistic sense.

  • This is why 2nd and 3rd c. mainstream Christians – now largely out of the Jewish context – had no scruples about calling Jesus a “second god” (Justin) and saying that though Jesus is called “God,” he’s “different in number” than the one God (Origen), and even, many thought that the monotheistic God was literally older than this newer god (even though the latter existed before creation). (Tertullian) As time went on, with increasing emphasis they applied god-terms to Jesus, even while firmly distinguished him from the one true God. That is basically what all of them (laying aside “monarchians”) did when challenged about their monotheism – emphasized the uniqueness of the Father.

-And also note that this fits well with the total lack of theological agonizing in the NT. No one argues there about redefining God, or including more selves within God, redefining the sense in which God is “one,” or the claim that “God” now refers to a group of deities, or even assertions that Jesus is the ontological equal of the Father. The big disagreements concerned whether Jesus was the Messiah, whether indeed he’d been raised and exalted, and whether or not one could join his ekklesia without firm committing to a Torah-observant, Jewish lifestyle. Like the early Christians, we should say “Yes” to all of those!

  • Is this an early “high” christology? If that means a christology on which Jesus must be worshiped yes. But if it means insistence on Jesus having the divine nature, it would seem not. Really, this “high” vs. “low” terminology isn’t all that helpful.

    • Is it consistent with trinitarian theology? It may depend on what that amounts to. But it is inconsistent with this assumption shared by many trinitarians: if any being is properly worshiped, this is solely because of that being’s essential nature. Such would make free divine actions and commands irrelevant to whom we should worship.
      This is not a recent change, by the way; Dr. Hurtado has been making his point about the early worship of Jesus for some time now. - Dale Tuggy

So the μαγοι (“magoi” or magicians) worshiped Jesus when he was but a newly-born baby. How often are newly-born babies worshiped? There was something special about THIS baby that evoked worship by the magoi.

Here are five instances recorded in the gospels where people worshiped the adult Jesus, both before and after his resurrection:

When you examine these verses in context, you find that in no case did Jesus reject their worship. On the other hand, when Cornelius worshiped Peter, Peter did NOT accept it, on the grounds that he was merely a human being:

Now I believe that from the time Jesus was born until the time of His death, He was fully human. However, Jesus was begotten by God, the first of God’s acts, marking the beginning of time. Then “all things were created THROUGH Him” and so He was co-Creator with the Father. When humans beget or give birth to children they are human just as their parents are. Similarly when God begat or gave birth to His Son as His first act, that Son was divine as His Father was—indeed JUST as divine as His Father, though He is NOT the Father, nor part of a divine Trinity. Doubtless you have noticed that I capitalize “He” and “Him” when referring to Jesus. That is the reason—His divinity. As a Person of divine parentage, He is as worthy of worship as His Father. But He is not the Father; He addressed the Father as “The only true God” (John 17:3). He didn’t address a Trinity as “the only true God.” Yet, He is a divine OTHER who ESSENTIALLY exactly the same as the Father, while POSITIONALLY being secondary to the Father.

According to Justin Martyr [A.D. 110-165], the Son shares the name “Yahweh” with the Father. In his dialogue with Trypho, Justin quotes Genesis 19:24 to prove it:

The Son of God was the Yahweh who stayed behind to converse with Abraham and was addressed by Abraham as “Yahweh” while the other two angels went ahead to Sodom. Then God, the Yahweh who was in heaven, used His divine Son, as the agent to bring down the sulfur and fire from heaven.


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I’m kind of in Dave’s camp as far as the trinity, but my thinking is that Jesus himself tells us that he was sent to bring God’s people back to him. Jesus reconciled Israel to the Father. Worshiping Jesus, at least to me, would not be Idolatry but would be counter intuitive to what Jesus himself came to do … to draw his people to the father. Once again, I would have to throw out the caveat that IMHO Jesus came for a specific reason for a specific people.

From my view (once again beating a dead hoarse) Jesus accomplished his atonement for Israel, and we are reading history. qaz for you this part of it should be academic if you are a full preterist.

The church insisted to control the masses, and this has had an insidious affect on people from the early times.

I’ve said more than my 2 cents worth. :wink:

Many Jews would argue that it is. The OT says some interesting things regarding Christ. Both Jews and Christians interpret them differently. I actually don’t think Jesus sought or seeks the worship of anyone. I believe his character to be far higher than that of a common celebrity or king.

Well said, Gabe.
Here’s a good unfolding of that idea.
Happy New Year’s all!!! … pg=GBS.PA7

edit - btw if you do follow the link, the page that appears will have a symbol Tt in the upper right.Click on that and check ‘flowing text’ to get the most readable format.

Indeed Gabe, the Orthodox Jewish belief is that it’s idolatry to believe in Jesus’s divinity. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the Trinity. I believe Jesus is the messiah, but whether or not he’s God, I’m not sure. I was raised trinitarian, but have been questioning it. Where do you stand on the Trinity and Jesus’s divinity?

That is the reason—His divinity. As a Person of divine parentage, He is as worthy of worship as His Father. But He is not the Father; He addressed the Father as “The only true God” (John 17:3). He didn’t address a Trinity as “the only true God.” Yet, He is a divine OTHER who ESSENTIALLY exactly the same as the Father, while POSITIONALLY being secondary to the Father.


Is it okay to pray to Jesus? Very often when I pray, I address my prayer to Jesus Christ.

If you claim Jesus to be your… “Advocate with the Father” then is there a problem?

Davo, I know you’re not trinitarian. Do you think “orthodox” Christianity is idolatry?

No not really.

So do you think it is proper for us here in 2018 to pray to Jesus? :smiley:

So do you think it is proper for us here in 2018 to pray to Jesus? :smiley:
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Jesus told us to pray to the Father, why not listen to him?

Has anyone here ever prayed something like… “Come into my heart Lord Jesus” — would you call this proper?

steve said

:open_mouth: I tend to agree with you Steve.

Has anyone here ever prayed something like… “Come into my heart Lord Jesus” — would you call this proper?

Sure just as Stephen said “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” but that’s when we have a specific message meant for Jesus, but otherwise i think we should pray to the Father. A few days ago i heard a lady pray to “The Virgin Mary” to heal someone and i know Mary can’t heal anyone but the thought is that Mary will talk to Jesus and Jesus will talk to his Father. Of course in Hebrews it tells us to march boldly into the throne room of God.

Therefore you agree, the answer to Chad’s question… “So do you think it is proper for us here in 2018 to pray to Jesus?” can indeed be… YES

How can you not think it’s idolatry if it means treating someone as God who is not (in your belief) God?

Qaz - that’s why I stated above that I"m not clear on what different people MEAN when they use the word 'worship". It’s not clear.

Here is a partial answer, with a link to the fuller essay:
“In short, the Lamb (Jesus) is worshiped because of his unique service to God. There is not any confused and confusing statement here about Jesus being ” worshiped as God.” No, the monotheism has been carefully left intact, even though the man Jesus here has been exalted to the highest possible place under God himself, and is as it were worshiped alongside him. Yes, it is remarkable that anyone should be worshiped alongside God. And yet, we already know why God is being worshiped, and it is a more foundational or fundamental reason than the reason for worship of Jesus. Jesus, having fulfilled his divine commission, has now been exalted, and this is why he must be worshiped, to the glory of the God who sent, empowered, raised, and exalted him. God’s sponsoring agency is assumed here in the background, when the Lamb suddenly appears in the throne room. This has all been the working out of God’s plan, so this amazing exaltation must be understood as God’s will.” … t-fallacy/