Chapter Ten Again

In the 50’s, after an illuminating religious experience, I was a seminary student, for the first time keenly interested in theological and biblical matters. One of the books that came into my hands was a small treatment of John by a man named Ingle or Ingalls or some such name, emanating from the Univ. of Chicago, I believe. He expressed negative feelings about John, which I found shocking; it was the only discordant note I had seen in the midst of much adulatory material. He felt that John had altered the shape of Christianity, away from the purer synoptic gospels.

50 years later I can appreciate his feelings better than I could then. I’ve come to believe that the Trinity and the Nicene Creed, supported to a large degree by John, came forth in the 4th Century and appear to have been politically motivated theological instruments.

I wish I could remember that man’s name; his book was once in my library, but that was long ago.

I frequently quote Blake’s reply to Crabbe Robinson’s(?) query whether Jesus was the son of God: Yes he was, and so am I, and so are you. My eastern oriented friends (notably Meredith) have helped me see how Jesus was one with God (in essence) without ever claiming that he was God.

Ellie reminded me that John Sanford’s Mystical Christianity is here (A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John). Reading his treatment of Chapter 10 has to a large extent relieved my feelings about the Trinity and the Nicene Creed.
What I object to (the same thing the Unitarians and Mohammed objected to) is the implication that Jesus was God in the sheerest, most actual and material sense as the Father.

Sanford pointed out (p 215) that the idea of deification was important in the early church: “Biblical references in support of the idea include all those passages that refer to the spiritual life as the completion of the soul”, and he named specifically Heb 4:12-16, 2 Peter 1:4, Luke 20-35-36, Romans 8:29 and Gal 4:9. He seems to be saying that all these passages (and many others) refer to the ‘christification’ or deification of you- and me.

Athanasius: “he was made man that we might be made God.”
Gregory of Nazianzen: “We become like Christ, since Christ also became like us; we become gods on his account since he also became man for our sake.”
“Gregory of Nyssa also expounded the same idea in his great work “On the Soul and the Resurrection” (there it is, Crystel).

What this means to me: I can stop kicking the Nicene Creed and proclaiming myself a unitarian. That’s real progress, and you have all played a part in this conversion. Thank you for being my friend.

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3 responses

  1. I think your quotation from Athanasius reflects my beliefs — Jesus was God become human so we humans could become God — by growing more Christ-like.What Jesus revealed is that the attribute that makes God – God is not ominpotence but giving of self for the sake of others.

  2. Thanks to you, Larry 🙂

  3. A meaty, thought-provoking post…I’m no longer sure what to make of the creeds. I don’t really have a problem with them, but reciting them does feel a bit like indoctrination and an over-simplification. I’m so glad to read your thoughts on the matter, Larry.

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