Last night the phone rang as my wife and I were getting ready for bed. I answered; it was the teen-aged daughter of one of our Bible-study group families.
We see a good bit of “Jane” (not her name). She’s a wonderful young woman. Her parents are close friends of ours. She and our son and some other teens run around together.
Since I never seem to get any calls at the house, I assumed Jane was calling for our son. But no, she wanted to talk to me. She said she had questions. She sounded pretty serious.
I’ve tried to convey the general tenor of our discussion below, working from memory. (Damn, why didn’t I make any notes when my memory was fresh?)
Jane: If you want to be a Christian, do you have to believe Jesus was the Son of God?
Me: I don’t think so, but first let’s think about what we mean by “Son of God.” The New Testament uses the term “son of” almost as an adjectival phrase. Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” He referred to James and John the sons of Zebedee as “sons of thunder.” [For more examples, see also Shortening the Nicene Creed; scroll down to Son of God.]
Jane: Do you believe Jesus was actually God?
Me: I’m not persuaded of that. And the apostles didn’t seem to be persuaded that Jesus was God either. Read the book of Acts to get an idea what they apparently did believe. If the apostles had really believed Jesus was God, surely they would have said so, in no uncertain terms, at least to their fellow Christians. Even if they’d wanted to hide that belief from non-Christian Jews, you’d think the books of the New Testament would practically scream it out.
Jane: If you don’t believe Jesus was God, do you think you can still be a Christian?
Me: I think you certainly can still be a Christian. A lot of people disagree. But to my way of thinking, you have to distinguish between the religion about Jesus, versus the religion of Jesus. Let’s face it: Jesus was a Jew. He didn’t seem to be trying to start a new religion; he already had one, and from what we can tell, it seemed to suit him just fine. He wanted his compatriots to be better Jews by repenting, turning away from sin and back to God.
Jane: Do you think Jesus rose from the dead?
Me: I think that's a distinct possibility. I've got family members who have reported having seen dead relatives. I read the other day that what we see of the world may be just the three-dimensional shadow of an eleven-dimensional universe. Maybe Jesus passed into some other dimension, and somehow the apostles got to see him anyway. We simply don't have enough data to know what really happened. [The New Testament consistently refers to Jesus being raised, not to him rising -- God did the raising, not Jesus.]
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Our conversation continued in the same vein for a few more minutes. I suggested that she might want to take a look at this blog. She said she would.
I’m not sure what exactly prompted her call. I’ll ask her next time I see her. As my wife observed later, it was wonderful that she felt comfortable enough to call.