January 09, 2012
Muslim Objections to Jesus’ Deity
Hello Dr. Craig. You are an inspiration to us all in defending Christianity in such a humble manner. You may just like to answer one question but if so you wish and time allows it would be nice to hear your thoughts on all the questions I have asked. My question(s) to you are:
1/ You believe that Jesus was God, so what does the Bible tell us as to the reason why God himself died on the cross?
2/ When Jesus was baptized and ascended from the waters God said "You are my beloved son in whom i am well pleased" Was God pleased with himself?
3/ Jesus ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. Does God sit next to himself?
4/ Jesus said the "Father is greater than I". Can God be greater than himself?
5/ At certain times Jesus prays to his father and also prays to his Father in private. Does God pray to himself and pray to himself in secret and why?
6/ We always read Jesus is the 'Son of God'. We never ever read 'God the Son'. Why is this?
7/ Why do you think that the Bible mentions that Jesus is our true high priest and mediator between God and man?
8/ Why do you think that God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus before he was to die on the cross?
9/ Jesus is the seed of David. If Jesus was God do you think God is the seed of David and by what logic?
So you have probably realised by now that I certainly don't believe a Trinitarian view, because I don't believe for a moment that it is taught in the Bible. It would be nice to hear your thoughts to these answers and possibly engage in future discussion on this most important part of the gospel message in the Bible, that being Jesus is the 'Son of God' and not 'God the Son'.
Your questions are obviously disingenuous, Michael, and I wouldn’t normally have chosen them except that these are the same sort of simple-minded objections which Muslims have been taught to repeat as refutations of Christian theism. Therefore, for the sake of our numerous Muslim readers, and unitarians everywhere, I’ll say a brief word about each question.
1. Crucial to an understanding of the Christian doctrine of Christ is that the incarnate Christ had two natures, one human and one divine. When Christ died he did so, not in his divine nature but in his human nature, i.e., his soul was separated from his human body. He gave his human life as a sacrifice for sin to redeem us from sins.
2. Equally crucial to an understanding of Christian doctrine is that God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, at the baptism of Jesus, as at many other junctures, what you have is the Father’s speaking to the Son. Confusion can arise because often in the New Testament the Father is spoken of simply as “God” rather than as “God the Father.”
3. The Son sits next to the Father. This metaphor is a way of expressing the exaltation of Christ, the right hand being a position of authority and honor.
4. Again the Son is speaking of the Father, probably with respect to his state of humiliation during his incarnate life. But however you interpret the Father’s being greater than the Son, two persons are being spoken of, so there is no contradiction.
5. The Son prays to the Father. He is not talking to himself; two distinct persons are involved. During his state of humiliation, in which Jesus was subjected to the human condition, he needed to rely moment by moment of his heavenly Father and on the Holy Spirit to discharge his mission. He thereby becomes our model and example.
6. “Son of God” is typical for Judaism. It is not, in fact, the most important of the divine titles ascribed to Christ. What you do have in the New Testament is amazing expressions like “the only begotten God” (John 1.18) for Jesus and other cases of his being called “God.” (See Murray Harris, Jesus as God [Baker: 1992]).
7. In his human nature Christ is both the sacrifice for our sin and the high priest who offers that sacrifice to God the Father.
8. As explained, in his human nature Jesus was just like you and me and so needed strengthening to carry out his dreadful task.
9. Jesus’ human nature is David’s seed, that is to say, Jesus’ human lineage traced back to David, as a DNA analysis could have revealed.
Now as a unitarian, you may not like the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, but given those doctrines your questions are easily answered. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to explain what is the problem with those doctrines. I have sought to defend the philosophical coherence of both these doctrines in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview and to explain the exegetical basis for these doctrines in my Defenders lectures on Doctrine of God: The Trinity and Doctrine of Christ: The Person of Christ. As a seeker of God, Michael, you owe it to yourself to plumb more deeply into these deep subjects and not rest content with simplistic objections.