Unification News for August 1999
Volume 3, Part 9
Much of Christian thought has been devoted to the vexing problem of the Nature of Jesus. For centuries, his own question, "Who do men say that I am?" (Mk. 8:27) has been debated heatedly by both theologians and laymen alike. Was Jesus really God Himself in a human body? Was he only man? If the former, how could God so limit Himself? If the latter, how did Jesus differ from other men? Did he exist before his birth? What is his relationship to the Holy Spirit? The Principle sheds light on these age-old questions and clarifies them.
Divine Principle explains that Jesus is best understood by reference to God's original ideal for man. On several levels a person who fulfills this ideal has special value and significance.
Firstly, with much of historic Christian theology, Divine principle affirms that every person is created as a child of God. When a person matures according to the image of God within him, we may think of him as embodying true personhood; in Jesus' words, he is "perfect as (the) heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48) He becomes a person in whom the spirit of God dwells, a visible manifestation of the invisible God. In this sense we may even say he becomes God's body.
Secondly, since all human beings resemble the universal aspects of God, we all share a common nature. However, each person also embodies unique characteristics from God. No two people are the same. Ultimately, a person who fulfills the ideal of perfection can never be duplicated, throughout all of eternity. He has his own eternal uniqueness.
Same value as the cosmos
Thirdly, Jesus once asserted that a person's life was more precious than the whole world. As the Principle of Creation explains, each human being is a microcosm of the cosmos. His spirit encapsulates the elements of the spirit world, and his physical body those of the physical world. For Divine Principle, since each person encapsulates the cosmos, he has the same value as the cosmos.
Thus understanding a true person's value, let us address an issue that had bedeviled the Christian church for 2,000 years: Is Jesus God himself, or is he simply a human being?
Divine Principle affirms Jesus is an example of a true person - a person who has fulfilled God's original ideal for man. He was a visible expression of the invisible God, a man of unique individuality and a person of cosmic value. As we may imagine, his significance is thus hardly to be compared with that of ordinary fallen man. Jesus was the man for others, the man who, as Emerson put it, plowed his name into the history of the world. He was a true man, and although all of us are meant to be like him, none of us yet is.
The Principle does not simply deny the conventional belief that Jesus is God, because, as we have indicated, a true person is one with God, However, Jesus was divine precisely because he was fully human.
None of Jesus' contemporaries and disciples appeared to have thought he was God Himself. The evidence before them indicated otherwise. Even his own brothers, for example, failed to recognize his identity. And although the Apostle Paul did not meet Jesus during his life-time, his proximity in time to him and his disciples led him to write:
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5)
"For as by one man's disobedience mane were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." (Rom. 5:19)
"For as by a man (Adam) came death, by a man )Jesus) has come also the resurrection of the dead." (I Cor. 15:21)
Nevertheless, many Christians have traditionally believed that Jesus is God, the Creator. In support of their belief, these believers point to several passages from the New Testament, especially from the Gospel of John. One of the most common citations is the fourth gospels' famous prologues:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made," (Jn 1:1-3)
Although it has been the practice of some to interpret the Word as referring to Jesus himself, it is thought by others that the author of the fourth Gospel did not necessarily intend it this way. Historically, the concept of the Word, or Logos, originates in the Greek mystical tradition. The author of the fourth Gospel adapted it to express his won understanding of Jesus' significance.
For Divine Principle, the Word or Logos, was God's ideal for his creation. That the Word was with God in the beginning does not mean Jesus, the man, had pre-existed his birth. It means that the Word, God's ideal of the perfected person, had pre-existed its expression into human form. Jesus existed from the beginning, nut only in the sense that he was the fulfillment of the Word.
Similarly, when the disciple Philip once asked Jesus to show him God, John reports that Jesus replied:
"He who has seen me has seen the Father: how can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" (Jn. 14:9-10)
Again, such a passage has frequently been interpreted to mean that Jesus was God Himself. Nevertheless, this is not the case. As explained above, Jesus was a visible manifestation of the invisible God and is one with God in heart. Therefore, one who has seen him has seen the Father. As the person who realized the original ideal of God for man, Jesus was simply the visible, human expression of the invisible God.
For many the belief that Jesus was God Himself is an expression of a general tendency to deify our heroes. Recently, for example, Professor John Hick's The Myth of God Incarnate, argued that the only way the early Christians could express their adoration and devotion to Jesus was to make him the equivalent of God.
Asserting a similar point, the well-known scholar Dr. Joseph Campbell has noted that not only in Christianity has the original humanity of the founder been obscured, but in Buddhism, as well, "the biography of Gautama was turned into a supernatural life."
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