Why Do Christians Find It So Hard to Believe Jesus?

Why Do Christians Find It So Hard
to Believe Jesus?
By Jay Dicken


In John 17:1-3 Christ prayed,

“Father,… this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

The language in which this was recorded has both singular and plural forms for the pronoun ‘you.’ Here the singular form is used. Jesus addressed this prayer to his Father, used the singular form of the pronoun, and described this singular “You” as “the only true God.” Thus, according to Jesus, the Father alone is God. Why would Jesus have said what he said here if God is a Trinity, and he is the second person in the Godhead? If you were one of Jesus’ disciples present when he prayed this prayer, would you have surmised from his statement that God is a Trinity, or only one person?

Paul agrees with Jesus. At 1 Corinthians 8:6 he wrote, “…yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist…” and at Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is… one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

But doesn’t the Bible also say that Jesus is God? True, there are a few verses that refer to Jesus as God. Trinitarians assume –incorrectly– that there are only two options: Jesus must be true God or he is a false god. However, the Bible reveals a third option. In the NET Bible, a translation made by trinitarians, Exodus 7:1 reads,

“So the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.’”

In the Hebrew text the word ‘like’ does not appear in this verse, so here the LORD is calling Moses “God.” The footnote for this verse reads,

{The word “like” is added for clarity, making explicit the implied comparison in the statement “I have made you God to Pharaoh.” The word elohim is used a few times in the Bible for humans (e.g. Pss. 45:6; 82:1), and always clearly in the sense of a subordinate to God – THEY ARE HIS REPRESENTATIVES on earth. The explanation here goes back to [Exodus] 4:16. If Moses is like God in that Aaron is his prophet, then Moses is certainly like God to Pharaoh. Only Moses, then, is able to speak to Pharaoh with such authority, giving him commands.} — www. netbible. com.
[Capitalization added for emphasis.]

At Psalms 82:6 God [Elohim] Himself refers to Israelite judges as gods [Heb., elohim]. Concerning this verse Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., a trinitarian, wrote,

[God] {is addressing the earthly judges and administrators of his law whom he has set up to represent him… But there is no hint of a belief in many gods and goddesses. Nor does God thereby imply they have the divine nature exclusive to the Trinity. It is simply a case where one term, elohim, must do double duty, referring not only to God but also TO HIS SPECIAL SERVANTS APPOINTED FOR THE UNIQUE TASKS described in these contexts.} –HARD SAYINGS Of The BIBLE [Capitalization added for emphasis.]

In understanding Jesus’ relationship to God it would be incorrect to say he, personally, is God, or that he, literally, is a god. But Jesus is God in a representative sense. A ruler can commission a representative with full executive authority. Pharaoh did this with Joseph; his being given the signet ring was like being given the ability to sign Pharaoh’s signature. Nebuchadnezzar did similarly with Daniel. (Genesis 1:39-44; Daniel 2:47-49) And God has done this with His Son. This is shown at Matthew 28:18 where Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Hence, Jesus has been granted … the office of God. As God’s foremost agent, able to ‘sign His name,’ Jesus can figuratively be called God. But this does not mean that he is literally God. [That Jesus “has been given” this authority shows that he did not always have it and, therefore, could not have been God.]

Is Jesus equal to God? Go back to our comparison with Joseph and Pharaoh: Joseph was functionally equal to him, but not positionally equal; people had to obey him as if he were Pharaoh, but he was not Pharaoh. Likewise, Jesus is functionally equal to his Father, but not positionally equal. (Consider John 5:23.) Please note, any verse which calls Jesus ‘God’ should be understood in this representative sense.

If such a teaching were vital Christian truth and the cornerstone of salvation surely Peter would have mentioned it in his Pentecost sermon and in his sermon to Cornelius and friends. — Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43; 3:12-26; 7:2-56; 13:16-41; 17:22-31; 22:1-21; 24:10-21; 26:2-23

Doesn’t the fact that almost all Christians accept the doctrine of the trinity prove that it is true? Consider, two thousand years ago the vast majority of the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah; did this prove that he was not the Messiah? No, it did not. What is important is what the Bible does –or does not– say, not what the majority choose to believe. The Bible explicitly states that the Father is the one God; and Jesus explicitly identified his Father as our Father and his God as our God. He also explicitly said that the Father is the “only true God.” Nowhere does the Bible explicitly say that God is a trinity. — 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, John 20:17, 17:1-3

There is no simple, clear statement of trinity in the Bible. This doctrine can only be “supported” by sewing together a tapestry of proof-texts. On the other hand, we can easily find in Scripture a succinct statement expressing the patertheist doctrine{1}. The unique position in which patertheism finds itself is that it allows Jesus to have told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at John 17:1-3 where he said that the Father is the “only true God.” Trinitarians must either ignore what Jesus said or explain why Jesus did not actually mean what he said! Why do Christians find it so hard to believe Jesus?

{1} Patertheism: The doctrinal position that the Father is the only true God. From the Greek words pater (father) and theos (God). (Accent on the second syllable as in paternity.)

APPENDIX – the author’s response to comments

… Jesus explicitly said that the Father is the only true God. Anyone who believes that Jesus is literally God must explain why Jesus said what he said at John 17:1-3 and how that belief does not contradict what he did say. I believe that Jesus told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at John 17:1-3. The passages which you cite have explanations from the trinitarian, modalist (“Oneness”) … points of view which contradict what Jesus said at John 17;1-3. But the patertheist point of view (the one which I hold) also has explanations for the same scriptural citations but they do not contradict Jesus.

At John 8:58 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you,before Abraham was, I am.” Those who believe that Jesus is literally God relate this statement to the account of Exodus 3:14 where “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel , “I AM has sent me to you.”’” Was Jesus applying the title I AM to himself? Interestingly, someone other than Jesus uses this exact same Greek phrase only ten verses later. At John 9:9 a man whom Jesus had healed also says “I am.”[ego eimi] {In this verse English translations read either ‘I am the man’ or ‘I am he.’ Neither the man nor he appears in the Greek text.} Should we conclude that this man is also God? Certainly not, so the simple statement “I am” does not prove deity.
The I AM title was not revealed to Abraham, the ancestor mentioned by Jesus, but to Moses hundreds of years after Abraham’s death. In his statement Jesus was expressing his
pre-eminence over Abraham in the plan of God. Why, then, did the Jews want to stone him for what he said? To the Jews this self-exaltation by someone they considered a nobody was a blasphemous degradation of Abraham’s position as a prophet in special covenant with God,and they wanted to stone him for it.
(Compare to the situation at Acts 6:11.)
In John 8:24 Jesus proclaimed, “If you do not believe that I am, you shall die in your sins.” Was he now alluding to the divine title? Twelve verses earlier he said, “I am the light of the world;he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So what Jesus meant in verse 24 was simply,
‘If you do not believe that I am [who I claim to be, namely, the light of the world], you shall die in your sins.’
If Paul meant to say that Jesus was God in Philippians 2:6 he could have simply written that Jesus ‘was God,’ and omitted the phrase ‘in the form of.’ What did Paul mean by this expression?

At Exodus 4:16 God tells Moses that Aaron “shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God,” and at 7:1, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh.” God even gave Moses miraculous powers to prove that He had sent him. Jesus was sent by God as His chief representative, one even greater than Moses.He, too, was given miraculous powers, and authority to control the weather and to command legions of angels. So he was “in a form of God” while he was on earth; yet, he “emptied himself,”that is, he did not use these powers and authority to save himself from degrading treatment by sinners and a horrible death. Having taken a “form of a bondservant”Jesus submitted himself to God’s will, thus glorifying his Father and [providing] salvation for us, even at his own expense. {The Greek text does not contain the definite article in either phrase. The texts could have been translated “in a form of God” and “is an image of the invisible God.”}
–Matthew 8:26, 27; 26:53, 54; Philippians 2:7-9; Matthew 20:28

Jesus being an image of the invisible God does not make him literally God any more than Adam’s being made in the image and likeness of God made him God. When you look at your image in the mirror,are you actually looking at your body, or are you looking at the reflection of your body? Colossians 3:10-15 shows that the “image of” the Creator refers to certain qualities among which are compassion, kindness, lowliness,meekness, patience, forbearance, the willingness to forgive, and “above all… love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Jesus perfectly reflected these qualities of God.

As for the title Savior notice Nehemiah 9:27, “Therefore You [God] gave them [Israel] into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer; and in the time of their suffering they cried to You and You heard them from heaven; and according to Your great mercies You gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies.”

Should we conclude that these saviors are God also? Or should we understand that God provided freedom through these people?
Likewise, Jude 25 (RSV) speaks of “the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Joel 2:32 was also quoted by Peter at Acts 2:21 while preaching to Jews who had not accepted Jesus as the Christ (Messiah). At this point in his sermon he had not yet mentioned Jesus; so his audience would have had to understand “the Lord” to mean Yahweh God. His first reference to Jesus was one verse later where Peter calls him “a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.” Next Peter accused, “you killed [Jesus] by nailing him to a cross by the hands of lawless men.” Peter’s audience would have understood that their action of crucifying a prophet of God was the same as rejecting God, the opposite of calling upon His Name. Those convicted by Peter’s words understood that they were in danger of judgment,repented of their sin, and accepted Jesus as Lord and Christ. — Acts 2:14-36

[Regards Romans 10:9-13}
Unlike Peter, Paul was not addressing unbelievers, but Roman Christians. They already understood that ‘calling upon the name of the Lord’ God included accepting Jesus as Lord and Christ.{Acts 4:12 reads,“And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”} Jesus said that “no one comes to the Father, but by me.” Therefore,one has to call upon Jesus (the name means Yahweh Saves) to call upon Yahweh God. So while there appears to be a blurring of the scriptural application in Romans 10:13, there is no warrant for conclusions that contradict what Jesus explicitly stated at John 17:1-3. — John 14:6
I think one reason people have such a hard time believing that Jesus is not literally God is because they think that only the death of God could provide salvation. But consider what the Bible explicitly says:

Paul drew a correspondence between Adam and Jesus at 1 Corinthians 15:21 , “For as by
a man came death,by a man has come the resurrection of the dead.” Concerning the resurrected and ascended Christ, note what Paul wrote at 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is
one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, a man Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 2:14, 17 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect … to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

These verses show that the value of Christ’s sacrifice lay in his human nature. So to insist that Jesus had to be God for his sacrifice to have value flies in the face of Paul’s writings.
If it is within the purposes of God to provide salvation by His human Son, how can we challenge His way of doing things? …

SOURCE: Why Do Christians Find It So Hard to Believe Jesus?