XFiles Friday: The Indirect Deity

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)

Last time we looked at what Geisler and Turek claimed were Jesus’ direct claims to be God. Considering that one of these “direct claims” consisted of Geisler and Turek asking themselves why Jesus was crucified if he didn’t claim to be God, I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t argue their case as well as they might have. But in any event, they (and we) are moving on to what they call Jesus’ “indirect” claims to deity.

By “indirect,” they mean that they, as apologists, have to work a bit harder to make Jesus’ words sound like claims to personal divinity. Jesus didn’t come right out and say, “Yes, I am God the Father, and you need to worship Me and no other person” (and if he had, that would be quite a problem for Trinitarians!), but according to Geisler and Turek, he left specially coded clues for Trinitarian Christians to ferret out and interpret. Let’s pick a representative sample, and have a look.

First of all, let’s remember that in Trinitarian theology, God the Father and God the Son are not supposed to be the same person. God, in other words, is not a person, God is three persons, and thus ought to be called a Them (third person plural) rather than a Him (third person singular). This fact will make the following discussion, if not clearer, then perhaps at least a bit more enjoyable.

  • Jesus prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5, KJV). But the Old Testament says there is only one God (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 45:5ff.) and God says, “my glory will I not give to another” (Isa. 42:8).

This is a fairly typical example of Geisler and Turek’s apologetic approach. Pick a verse here, then pick another verse there, draw a conclusion, then pick yet another verse from someplace else entirely, and put them all together to get the result you want.

This is short paragraph also gives us a good example of some of the problems involved in Trinitarianism. When “God” says “my [first person singular] glory I will not give to another,” which singular person is speaking? Is that the Father saying He will not share His glory with the Son and the Spirit? But Jesus calls upon God the Father to share His glory, and claims to have shared it already. Does that mean that the Father is not really “another” person relative to the Son, that Jesus is the Father?

But then, if the Father is not another person, it makes no sense for Jesus to speak about one Person sharing His glory with a second person (or Person). If the Father is not another Person, then what Jesus is really saying in John 17 is “And now, O Me, glorify me with mine own self with the glory which I had with myself before the world was.” (Perhaps now would be a good time to ask about liars, lords, and lunatics, if Jesus is going to go around talking to himself like that! But no, that’s coming up later.)

A key element of Trinitarian doctrine is that the Son is “another” relative to the father, so that distinctions like “me and thee” make sense. Comparing Jesus’ words with the relevant passages does not so much establish Jesus’ deity as it contradicts the direct statements of the OT prophets. Rather than prove that Jesus is God Incarnate, such studies only show that Christianity contradicts the Hebrew Scriptures on which it is ostensibly based.

Let’s try another example and see if that makes any more sense.

  • He said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11); but the Old Testament says, “The LORD is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). Moreover, God says, “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep” (Ezek. 34:12).

There’s another “shepherd” verse Geisler and Turek could have quoted, but for some reason they chose not to include it here.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (I Pet. 5:1-3)

Notice, Geisler and Turek see a claim to divinity in the fact that Jesus compared himself to a shepherd, and there are OT passages that associate shepherds with God. If that’s all it takes, though, then apparently the church elders are all gods as well. Trinitarian isn’t going to be adequate, we need a doctrine of “One-to-n-itarianism” to cover all the gods!

  • Jesus declared, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). But the Old Testament clearly taught that only God was the giver of life (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6) and the one to raise the dead (Isa. 16:19; Dan. 12:2; Job 19:25), and the only judge (Deut 32:35; Joel 3:12).

This one might actually be one of the better verses to cite as support for the claim that Jesus considered himself to be God Incarnate. The powers he is asserting as being possessed by the Son are certainly divine-caliber powers. Unfortunately, virtually every verse G & T cite falls rather short of saying what they want it to say. 1 Sam. 2:6, for example, says “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”—a clear reference to the idea that God does kill and/or bring to life, but hardly a declaration that only God can kill and/or give life. And Isaiah 16:19 doesn’t exist at all!

The major lesson we can learn from this section of Geisler and Turek’s book is that they’re bound and determined to reach the conclusion that Jesus claimed deity, and are none too picky about how they get there. They’re no longer even attempting to make a pretense of objectivity, they’re simply flinging up one excuse after another for believing the conclusions they want to believe. It makes for poor theology and even worse apologetics (except among the true believers, of course). But there’s still more to come. Stay tuned.

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