Sunday, January 1, 2012

God’s Math or 1 + 1 + 1 = 1

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 1.7.12

What do an atom and an egg have in common?  They are both illustrations (albeit somewhat limited) of the concept of the Trinity.  They are both made up of individual parts that have specific characteristics and purposes.   No one part is subordinate to any other part, and, yet, if you removed or changed one part, you wouldn’t have the original thing anymore.  An egg without its yolk is no longer an egg.

Why is it important to think about the concept of the Trinity?  It’s too hard to understand.  Well, some folks would agree with that.
“Explain the Trinity? We can't even begin. We can only accept it—a mystery disclosed in Scripture. It should be no surprise that the triune Being of God baffles our finite minds. We should be surprised, rather, if we could understand the nature of our Creator. He would be a two-bit deity, not the fathomless Source of all reality.”[1]
And, that’s pretty much true.  We have finite, sinful minds that cannot wrap themselves around the concept of infinity.  I believe, though, that God inspired the Bible Writers to include references to and descriptions of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and that He wants us to stretch our minds as we lean on Him for understanding. In addition, when we start accepting things at face value, without testing them and trying to understand them, we can be led into some dangerous directions.

One of those dangerous directions is the belief that Jesus is not “co-eternal” with God, but is, instead a created being – essentially taking away the divinity of Jesus.  The divinity of Jesus is essential to our Salvation; without that, the Gospel has no significance. 
“Jeremy Bowen, the presenter of a new British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary on Jesus stated, ‘The important thing is not what he was or what he wasn't—the important things is what people believe him to have been. A massive worldwide religion, numbering more than two billion people follows his memory—that's pretty remarkable, 2,000 years on.’
“Bowen couldn't be more wrong. Who Jesus is and what he did is the foundation of our faith.”[2]
If Jesus is not God, just as completely as God and the Holy Spirit are God, then He couldn’t pay the price for our sins – then He cannot stand before God and secure our salvation.  The Trinity, three co-eternal Gods, with one single purpose protects us from being led away into the “Jesus was just a very good guy” theory.  

C.S. Lewis makes it clear that the good guy theory is a dead end.  
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: ‘I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[3]
This is where it gets a little tricky.  We decide we can understand everything there is to know about the Trinity and Jesus; we do make Him into what we want Him to be.  We make Him into a Jesus that’s too much like us.
“The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That's why Jesus' question to his disciples [in Matthew 16] is so important: ‘Who do you say that I am?’
“The question is doubly crucial in our day, because [no one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus]—and not every Jesus is the real Jesus. …
“There's Therapist Jesus—who helps us cope with life's problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
“There's Starbucks Jesus—who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid, and goes to film festivals.
“There's Open-minded Jesus—who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).
“There's Touchdown Jesus—who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
“There's Martyr Jesus—a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
“There's Gentle Jesus—who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash (while looking very German).
“There's Hippie Jesus—who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that ‘all you need is love.’
“There's Yuppie Jesus—who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
“There's Spirituality Jesus—who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding ‘the god within’ while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.
“There's Platitude Jesus—good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.
“There's Revolutionary Jesus—who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on ‘the system.’
“There's Guru Jesus—a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
“There's Boyfriend Jesus—who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
“And then there's Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham's chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Yahweh in the flesh; the one to establish God's reign and rule; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.”[4]
Only God’s Math leads to Heaven.

[1] Vernon Grounds in "Radical Commitment", Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 4.
[2] Alan Wilson, Nyon, Switzerland; source: Alex Webb, "Looking for the Historical Jesus," BBC News Online,(3-26-01 column) 
[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; submitted by Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois
[4] Kevin DeYoung, "Who Do You Say That I Am?" from his DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed blog (posted 6-10-09)

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