Jesus the God-Man or Jesus the Man-God?

Studying the Gospels for an exam forces one to study Christology. The Christian faith is full of tensions; tensions that most Christians are OK to hold together. One of the biggest tensions we have to face and deal with is the tension of Jesus Christ being Man and God. Is Jesus a mix of being man and God? Absolutely not. Which makes this doctrine even harder to hold together in our minds. No, the orthodox Christian position is that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. An amazing doctrine, but nonetheless mind boggling to get our heads around and I’m sure that I am completely under qualified to substantially explain this amazing doctrine.

In fact, I would maybe dare to say that trying to get our heads around this doctrine can cause some to fall into heresy if we try too much. Ouch. Not a nice word, but nonetheless true if you don’t subscribe to orthodox Christian beliefs about the nature of Christ and who he was.

This is what the Nicene Creed says about Jesus Christ:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father; 
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary 
and became truly human. 
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

So there we have it. One creed holding the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Indeed, the Gospels also support this view. However, the gospels tend to focus on different parts of Christ. For example, the synoptic Gospels (that is Matthew, Mark and Luke) really focus on Jesus’ humanity, whilst still showing Jesus to be God. To look at Mark as an example:

Mark tells us that Jesus is “the carpenter” (Mk 6:3).  He also tells us about Jesus’ emotions; he moved with “compassion” (Mk 6:34); he “sighed” (Mk 7:34; 8:12); he “marveled” at the unbelief of his own townsfolk (Mk 6:6); he “looked” upon the rich young man and “loved him” (Mk 10:21).  Mark also adds vivid details that the other gospel writers leave out.  For example, he describes Jesus’ tenderness as he took the little children “in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them” (Mk 10:16).  On another occasion Mark describes Jesus “asleep on a cushion” in the stern of the boat as the apostles feared for their lives when caught in the storm at sea (Mk 4:38).

However, in John’s gospel, Jesus is seen as God who is in complete control of everything. For example:

Jesus can be seen giving eternal life (John 10:27-28); is described as the bread of life (John 6:35,51); is described as the way the truth and the life (John 14:6); is the light of the world (John 8:12); is proceeding from the Father (John 8:42); he is described as being being the ‘I am” (John 8:58); he is seen as being one with the Father (John 10:30); he shares the glory of God before creation (John 17:5; note that God shares His glory with no one, Isaiah 42:8); Jesus is seen as calling His own Father making Himself equal with God (John 5:18); he is portrayed as receiving the same honour that you give to the Father (John 5:23); he knows all things (John 21:17); and in John 18:5, in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus answers those who came to arrest Him with the statement, “I AM”, they fall back to ground – again another sign that Jesus is in complete control. Even on the cross, Jesus isn’t seen as the one who cries out in desperation as in Mark, but with a triumphant cry he says ‘It is Finished!’.

Yet both Gospels portray Jesus as both Man and God. That is, fully man and God. But it seems to me that some branches of the Church seem to forget that Jesus was both fully man and fully God.

I don’t want to use labels, but I think for this post it may be helpful. Many very conservative Christians can see Jesus as the all powerful God to the point where the humanity of Jesus is pretty much non existent. The problem with this is that Jesus can be seen as someone who is very much at arms length with the world, and especially the Church to which he is ‘married’. He doesn’t seem to understand human situations, he doesn’t seem to have to have learned anything, he seems to have known everything from the minute he came out of the womb. This causes problems in the Church. I don’t need to tell you why, but I will. The reason why it causes problems is because we’re missing out on Jesus’ humanity if we put all our focus on Jesus’ deity.

In the same way, ultra Liberals may focus too much on Jesus’ humanity to the point where his deity is never talked about. This turns Jesus into some hippie peacemaker with the long hair, white robe and classic sandals making a ‘V’ sign that you may comically see on TV shows and in films. Whilst this may be great to stir a church to social action, it doesn’t do very much in terms of salvation. Because it is the deity of Jesus that is needed in order to save the world.

Both of these extremes are, to be frank, heresy. Well, at least they are in my eyes. I say it again, Jesus is FULLY God and FULLY man. There can be no pick ‘n’ mix when thinking about his identity! It’s like thinking of only half of you but even worse. Because, when we concentrate on either his humanity or deity and forget about the other, we’re not just taking half of Jesus away… we’re taking the whole of him away!

I know, it’s mind boggling and crazy, but it’s true. I wish I had all the time in the world to try my best to go through this doctrine and the whole subject of Christology. But as history has shown us, it requires LOADS of work and this work is by no means finished. It is only something we will understand in eternal glory. Until then, we have to live with the tension! I often think of the Incarnation Hymn by Charles Wesley when thinking about Christology: Let Heaven and Earth Combine.

 

The full lyrics are as follows:

Let earth and heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid His glory by,
He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye,
The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days He here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

Unsearchable the love
That has the Savior brought;
The grace is far above
Of men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh to appear,
Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near,
And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed,
And man shall all be lost in God.

So there we have it. Christology in a hymn!

What do you think about this doctrine? Do you focus on one aspect of Jesus more than the other? Why or why not? How do you think we can, as the Church, make this doctrine clearer in our teaching? Let me know!

Resources:

How can Jesus be God and Man?

The Athanasian Creed

Is Jesus a blend of God and Man?

The Divinity of Christ

Did Jesus think he was God?

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about