What was it about this humble carpenter from Galilee that has set the world aflame? What was it about the teachings of this itinerant carpenter that have persisted for centuries by both those who oppose and believe in him? What makes this God Man figure so unique as to inspire countless masterpieces, in both music and art?
Without bias the simple truth is that Jesus Christ is the most influential man in human history.
In these posts I will try to give several lucid reasons why one must believe in him. I am not a scholar or a theologian. I am just a man in love with the truth which I found through Jesus Christ. It is my hope that through reading these posts that my readers will also come to some type of appreciation of the figure of Jesus Christ. I will be drawing heavily from Karl Adam's spiritual and scholarly masterpiece The Son of God.
In this post I will be focusing on the uniqueness of Jesus being both God and man. Karl Adam writes
in the beginning of the work:
"For the mystery of Christ does not lie in the fact that he is God, but that he is God-man. The great wonder, the incredible thing, is not only that the majesty of God shone in Christ's countenance, but that God became true man, that he, the God, appeared in human form. The Christian gospel announces primarily not an ascent of humanity to the heights of the divine in a transfiguration, an apotheosis, a deification of human nature, but a descent of the Godhead, of the divine Word, to the state of bondage of the purely human." pg. 1Adam is on to something when he writes these words because the central tenant of the Christian faith lies in the person of Jesus Christ. I asked earlier why should one believe in Jesus Christ? Karl Adam begins his answer by drawing upon the distinction that God condescended and became a human being just like all of us.
It is very much en vogue to believe in spirituality and enlightenment today, however elusive these terms might be. Our quasi new age mindset views spirituality as something that is attained through effort, certain practices, and rituals. In psychology it is believed that the highest level of human functioning comes when a person reaches the point of self actualization. These practices might be viewed as acceptable if they have to deal with certain types of human behavior. But the problem with these prevailing mindsets is that they prejudice the way one views Christ. If Christ is viewed through a self actualization lens then all of his wisdom was attained through his own effort. Worse off, if Jesus attained self actualization then there must have been a point where he wasn't God. In short this view negates the divinity of Jesus. What makes Christ unique is the fact that God acquiesced to humanity in the form of human flesh. But that's only half the equation since Jesus is also the source of all divinity. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. He doesn't need to attain holiness - he is the source of it.
This view of "deification" is not unique to Christian belief since many of the early pagan and Greek myths involved humans becoming deified. But what made their transformations different was the fact that when a person was deified they lost most of their human attributes. While in Jesus he didn't lose his humanity through his divinity, each one fed on the other as Adam reflects,
"Hence it is just as important to establish that Christ is full and complete man, that for all the hypo static(both human and divine) union with the Godhead, he possessed not only a human body but also a purely human soul, a purely human emotional life, that in the full and true sense he became as one of us, as it is to establish the other proposition, namely that this man is God. Indeed, the doctrine of the divinity of Christ first acquires from the other doctrine-Christ is full and perfect man-its specifically Christian imprint and its specifically Christian form; its essential difference from all pagan apotheoses and savior gods."
The contemporary danger is emphasizing either of Jesus' humanity and divinity at the exclusion of the other. If one only emphasizes Jesus' divinity then one will arrive at the sobering conclusion that his way of life is unattainable. But if one only emphasizes Jesus' humanity, then you'll be left with just a historical figure who was a teacher of certain truths, like Confucius or Buddha. However, the most unique part of Jesus being human lies in the fact that through his humanity he draws us into his divinity. The humanity of Jesus isn't just a way of making the divine visible. The humanity of Jesus has it's own distinct form just as his divinity does as Adam theorizes,
"The humanity of Christ is here not an illusion; it's purpose is not merely to make the divine visible; it is not simply the perceptible form in which the Godhead presents itself to us, the perceptible point at which the divine flames forth. On the contrary, the humanity of Christ has its own distinctive form, its own distinctive function. It is precisely in virtue of its human quality that it is the way, the means, the sacrament by which God draws near to us and redeems us." pg. 3
This hypo static (both human and divine) union is what makes Christianity unique. Other world religions are based on either a deity, or a deity working in conjunction with a founder or prophet. Still other religions may only have a mystic figure at their head. But none of these religions are based on being a deity and man in one.
In my next post on the matter I will speak about how faith plays a central role in understanding Jesus.