Not long ago, my youngest asked a question at bedtime: “If Jesus is God, then how did he create dinosaurs before Jesus was born?”
A really great question. Not one to get into at bedtime. Someday, we will have a fun discussion and seek to explain that if Jesus is God then he preexisted his own birth which, based on my experience with teenagers, I suspect will then lead to more questions and possibly a slight existential crisis. Before that can happen, her mind needs to expand to allow some gray spaces between the black and white. This will happen naturally over the next few years, and we will encourage that gray space to grow when we see the seeds begin to germinate. I’m sure all follow-up conversations will also happen at bedtime.
The first part of her question, “if Jesus is God,” is one that it seems too many Christians were not encouraged to wrestle with enough.
If Jesus is God…
This was hugely debated in the early centuries of Christianity, and it is the reason we have had the Nicene Creed for seventeen hundred years.
A divide happened within Christianity in the 1970’s when The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was adopted by many evangelical churches; “inerrancy” means that the Bible is “wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history…”
Today, many of those churches pride themselves on being “non-credal;” they don’t believe in or teach the Nicene Creed. They don’t begin with the presupposition that Jesus is God.
The belief that the Bible is wholly without error in all things seems pretty harmless by itself.
The problem is that for a half century, this doctrine has been used to convince millions of Christians that everyone else is lying to them.
- The science community is lying. It started with evolution, then climate change, then Covid.
- The mainline churches are liberals who don’t believe in the Bible.
- The mainstream media lies, is full of liberals and spreads the lies of the scientists.
- Biblical scholars, theologians and historians are lying when they question the historicity of some Bible stories and characters. If they’re lying about Abraham, then it follows they would lie about American history and figures.
If they believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, or lying, then they are superior to us and have a responsibility to seize power. And that’s where we are today.
But, if Jesus is God then maybe the Bible doesn’t have to be perfect. (Of course, one does not need to believe that Jesus is God to question the authority of Scripture in all things.)
If the Bible does not have to be “inerrant” then…
- Maybe the scientists aren’t lying.
- Maybe the mainline churches are “liberal” because they seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.
- Maybe the mainstream media is biased, but not part of a vast conspiracy to undermine Christianity.
- Maybe the biblical scholars, theologians and historians aren’t lying, but seeking truth.
- Maybe the Bible is far more interesting than it reads at face value.
If Jesus is God, and therefore preexisted the universe, then God preexisted the Bible and therefore will not be confined by it. God will not be confined by the Nicene (or any other) Creed either.
If Jesus is God, then there is hope. Jesus’s God is not the god of eternal death, but of eternal life – the God of Resurrection, of new life.
If Jesus is God, then God is still working in the world to bring healing and restoration.
If Jesus is God, then God is not interested in condemning the world, only in saving it.
I love the Bible. I want you to read the Bible in order to get to know Jesus’s God. I believe in the authority of Scripture to reveal the character and nature of Jesus’s God to us.
The version of God taught through the lens of Inerrant Scriptures is a small, black and white God. That version of God is knowable and predictable. Predictability gives us comfort and a false sense of control.
The God revealed through Christ Jesus is beyond human comprehension and dwells in the gray space. Jesus’s God is always doing a new thing and is therefore unpredictable.
It grieves me that so many good people have fallen into this web of lies. It saddens me that it has become so widespread that this perversion of Christianity is all many outside the church know.
It’s okay to believe that the Bible is wholly without error in all things; we can disagree on that point and still serve the same God. It is not okay to use that doctrine as a means of breeding fear, anger, hate and violence, which is what’s happening in some churches today as well as from political stages.
This is not who Jesus is and goes against the Spirit of Jesus.
Too many of us have quietly watched as the Bible and the name of Jesus have been used to perpetrate evil while we’ve continued to try to teach the biblical values of love, justice, mercy and humility.
If we believe that Jesus is God, or if we’re open to believing in Jesus’s God, then we must stand in contrast to this other god to whom altars have been built. How do we do that when the voices of fear and hate are so loud?
We need to bring Jesus into the conversation.
As I’ve been writing this, I keep wanting to pull quotes from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The church in Galatia had been corrupted by fear. They wanted their freedom in Christ, but they also wanted a black and white god who was bound by the Law. Paul was writing to tell them that they can’t have both. And neither can we.
I invite you to read the Letter to the Galatians this week and ask God how you might be a voice to those who have turned to another gospel.