Theology

Reply to “The Word” (John 1:1)

Dear Biblical Unitarian,

I have to say this paper was quite confusing as it meandered all over the place. It made it difficult to follow any particular train of thought. There’s a rather long excursus in the middle which has nothing to do with “the Word” of John 1:1 which is, in and of itself, a topic of its own. So I’ll just get that out of the way first in order to concentrate on the more salient points.

Here’s a list of the verses brought up in the excursus (Gen 1:26-27; Mark 10:6,9; Col 1:16:17; Mark 13:19; Eph 3:9; Acts 17:24-25; Mal 2:10; Psa 33:6; Rev 4:11; Acts 4:24; Psa 50:10-12; Rom 8:17; Matt 4:8-10; Rev 3:21; Luke 1:35; Rom 1:4; Matt 28:18; Heb 1:3; Col 1:19). (more…)

Biblical Unitarian on The Word (John 1:1)

The Word

 1 In The beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

…And the Word became flesh…

This passage is one of those really contested ones. I will start out with the most common Trinitarian interpretation and then give my rebuff. On average a person interprets it something like “Jesus is the Word, Jesus was in the beginning, Jesus was with God, and Jesus is God” “Then Jesus created all things”. Basically as Jesus=Word. Then we read the incarnation where Jesus takes on the human nature and becomes a man.

Let’s start with John 1:1 – So here is the first problem, everyone agrees that the “God” in the second clause is the Father, which I totally agree. All the arguing is about how “God” is used in the third clause. Now the standard Trinitarian argument is that it is qualitative. That part I agree with as well, I think it is qualitative. [I’m not going to go into explaining why right now] Meaning the qualities of the “word” = qualities of God. The departure I make here is that most people think of this as “divinity”. So a better way to say the standard argument is that Jesus is “divine”, as God is “divine”. This is where the famous “substance” in the Trinity comes from. My problem is that it turns the one God into a “substance” or “divine quality”. This is how the Trinity works though. Now each person can be fully God because they share this divine nature. I don’t think that John meant that, I think he just wanted to express that the Word is fully expressive of God, just as my words expresses myself. This is a much better interpretation since in order to view the Word as “divinity” it changes God into a quality, God fundamentally becomes one “it”. (more…)

Reply to a Biblical Unitarian

My response to a Biblical Unitarian’s paper.

Dear Biblical Unitarian,

My friend and ministry partner, Rev. Charlie Koo, forwarded your material to me requesting some help to respond from a (shall we say) more orthodox Christian perspective. Rev. Koo also gave me a little background on your short term mission to Iraq. I have no doubt you must have had some invigorating and heated—unfortunately, they often turn out that way—discussions with the Muslim community there, which probably re-shaped some of your theological thinking.

I just returned from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland after doing some postgraduate studies in scripture & theology. One of the topics of interest we studied, relevant to our discussion here, is Early Christianity, and, more specifically, the worship of Jesus and its development from monotheistic Judaism. By the early 2nd century, there can be no historical doubt that the Christian community did in fact worship Jesus. But how did this develop? And can we trace that development in the 1st century, and within the pages of the New Testament? (more…)

I am a Biblical Unitarian

No! Not me! I am referring to something written by a friend of a friend. Before posting this on my blog, I asked for his permission so that we could have an open, public discussion. After all, Christianity is not a secret, private religion, but its doors have always been open to the public. He has agreed. So I am posting his initial paper explaining why he thinks being a “Biblical Unitarian” makes the best sense of the scriptures. I will followup with my response shortly. Feel free to comment yourself, I only ask that we keep things civil, and I reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. Here is his paper: (more…)

Did the Early Christians Worship Jesus?

My first question in my first ever Post Graduate seminar at the University of St Andrews, St Mary’s School of Divinity: “Did the Early Christians Worship Jesus?” It’s actually a question from James D. G. Dunn’s book, written primarily in response to Larry Hurtado’s “Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity.

Hurtado answers with a vehement “yes!” Dunn replies with a “maybe, but improbable.” So how did two eminent theological heavyweights, both experts in christology, come to such different conclusions? The answer is quite complicated, requiring deep reflection and careful analysis of relevant biblical texts (both Old and New Testaments), extra-biblical material, 2nd Temple Jewish and Hellenistic materials, as well as scholarly work up to modern times.

Underlying the question is an even more basic one: How on earth did Jesus become a divine figure since Judaism from which he emerged was radically monotheistic? That basic question has confounded biblical scholars for a long time.

So, actually, we might have to begin with the old German History of Religions School which answered the question with an emphatic “no!”

(more…)

Theology of Culture in a Japanese Context – Dr. Atsuyoshi Fujiwara

Had the chance to sit in at a Postgraduate Seminar in which Dr. Fujiwara presented a paper on Theology of Culture in a Japanese Context. He presented elements of his doctoral thesis from the University of Durham regarding the Christian faith and its tension between its transcendent nature and the surrounding culture, specifically within Japanese culture where Christianity has had a difficult time finding adherents. Less than 1% of the population is Christian.

It is no exaggeration to say that two millennia of church history have continually demonstrated the struggle between Christian faith and culture. In an effort to address this struggle, this book explores relevant issues pertinent to the relationship between faith and culture in the particular context of Japan. In this unique work, the context of Japan, well known as a desolate swamp for Christian missions, provides the setting for a re-exploration of issues pertaining to theology of culture. As such, Japan provides both a concrete and challenging context to work out a theology of culture.

Dr. Fujiwara began his paper with a brief sketch of three main encounters with Christianity in Japan (1549 Jesuits, 1859 several Protestant Missions, and postwar 1945). In each instance Christianity was originally received favorably but then rejected out of a growing suspicion with the agenda of Western Imperialism externally and cultural nationalism internally. (more…)