- The Claim to Uniqueness of Christ as the Son of God
- The Claim to Uniqueness of Christ as the Only Savior
The chief problem is not the moral teaching of Christ. Jesus is regarded by the majority as one of the greatest moral teachers that the world has ever had. In fact, His teachings have made a greater impact on civilization than the ideas of any other man.
In his autobiography, Gandhi confesssed Christ's teachings to have had very strong impact on his life. "But the New Testament produced a different impression," he wrote, "especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart." However, when it came to the doctrine of the uniqueness of Christ as the Son of God and the only Savior, he disagreed. He confessed:
My difficulties lay deeper. It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God, and that only he who believed in Him, would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself. My reason was not ready to believe literally that Jesus by his death and by his blood redeemed the sins of the world. Metaphorically there might be some truth in it. Again, according to Christianity only human beings had souls, and not other living beings, for whom death meant complete extinction; while I held a contrary belief. I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it my heart could not accept. [See Excerpt]
Similarly, Islam also accepts Jesus as a great Prophet sent by God. However, it finds difficulty in understanding Christ's position as the Son of God in the Triune Godhead. The Quran rebukes the people of the book for using the term "Three" in relation to God (An-Nisaa: 171). Certainly, the idea of Trinity cannot find any analogical help for understanding from knowedge of the things in the world: there is nothing in nature that can help us understand the idea of the Oneness and the Threeness of God. However, though in one verse, Jesus prophesies His death and resurrection, another verse states that Jesus wasn't killed by the Jews, though they thought it so. Perhaps, it can be resolved by turning to Jesus' claim in the Gospel of John that no man could take His life from Him, but that He Himself lays it down and takes it back. Also, Jesus is spoken uniquely as someone who worked miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. Further, the Quran affirms the Torah and the Gospel. However, popular Islam in general finds the idea of Jesus as the Son of God and as the Savior of the world offensive. Therefore, the arguments continue that the Gospels have been perverted in the course of history and that Christian doctrines are erroneous. The offense still remains. [See Jesus in the Quran]
For the Jews, certainly, the offense was too great, despite the fact that their Scriptures did prophesy about Christ's suffering and atoning sacrifice. Paul said that the Cross became a stumbling block to the Jews and the doctrine of salvation by grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross became an offense (1Cor.1:23; Gal.5:11).
There are a few groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Christadelphians who reject the doctrine of Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. There are others who hold on to the deity of Christ, but reject the doctrine of Trinity. Thus, even among those who accept the Bible as the Word of God, there are logical difficulties with the doctrine of the Sonship of Jesus Christ. Also, there are disagreements with regard to the nature of the atonement and salvation through Christ. Any group that fails to fully appreciate the doctrine of the deity, humanity, and atoning work of Christ is regarded by Christians in general as being heretic and cultic.
But, why is the doctrine of the Sonship of Christ and Salvation through Christ alone so offensive to many?
- Because the doctrine of Trinity doesn't make logical sense to them.
- Because the Sonship of Jesus as monotheistic looks rationally offensive. Of course, polytheism has stories of sons of gods; but, Christianity doesn't accept the validity of those stories. Christianity is monotheistic; it teaches the existence of only One God; and, Christ is not "son of God" in the sense that polytheistic mythologies speak of the sons of God. Jesus is eternally the Son of God. He was never born. He is not another God. There is only one God who subsists in three Persons; and Jesus is the Third Person of the Trinity. This idea doesn't make logical sense to many in general.
- Because the idea of someone dying for someone else' sins seems impossible to many. The idea of someone dying for the sins of the whole world seems even more impossible. Not that the idea of atonement, sacrifice, covenant, and peace with God is absent from religions. But, there have been difficulties in relating them to the sacrifice of Jesus. In places where one has been able to relate the concepts successfully, people have found no difficulty in accepting Jesus as the Savior. One good example of this is the story of the Peace Child among the Sawi People as told by Don Richardson.
- Because the religions believe that man is responsible for his acts; and that there are other ways in which, through works or meritorious or self-emancipatory acts, man can save himself from his sins. Of course, some of these ways have been found to be too difficult, and some rituals very agonizing as well; and, so other ways (like the way of charity, devotion, and mysticism) have emerged. In essence, the idea of self by self-efforts seems more plausible to some.
However, the logic of the Bible is clear:
- Sin is moral failure with eternal repercussions.
- Since, sin is primarily sin against the Creator; no one except the Creator can forgive sin. The only alternative is to deny the existence of a Creator and turn to natural resources for a mechanical, mantrik, or action solution.
- To forgive sin means to have mercy and love.
- God cannot know love if He was impersonal or was eternally single, since love is a subject-object affection.
- God cannot be eternal if He was not One; since to be infinite means to be without a similar other.
- Therefore, God is both one and at the same time not a monad. God is Love. He is the First, the Second, and the Third Person of Love.
- To forgive means that someone pays for what someone else has incurred. For God to forgive man means that He chooses not to demand of man the debt of his sin; which, consequentially, means that the debt is paid by someone else, God Himself.
- Jesus as Creator brought grace and mercy to man when He incarnated and paid the debts of human sins through the eternal sacrifice He made by the Eternal Spirit.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14 NKJ)
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (Joh 1:16-17 NKJ)