Truly, truly, it wouldn’t be Lent without 40 days of silliness regarding The Incarnation running rampant.

Comes the esteemed history professor from UNC-Chapel Hill wondering for 38 minutes and 37 seconds about the historical Jesus,  since he never called himself God, how did he become one?

The first thing you have to do? Forget all about that pesky Gospel of John. From the very first verse, see, John’s gospel proclaims the same truth that the Apostle Thomas stated when he stuck his fingers in Jesus’s still fresh wounds.

My Lord, and my God.

Of course, that is recorded as having happened in the Gospel of John, too, so that obviously doesn’t cut the mustard with Professor Ehrman.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Oh yeah, but the gospel of John isn’t valid. You know that other troublesome line, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I think it’s completely implausible that Matthew, Mark and Luke would not mention that Jesus called himself God if that’s what he was declaring about himself. That would be a rather important point to make. This is not an unusual view amongst scholars; it’s simply the view that the Gospel of John is providing a theological understanding of Jesus that is not what was historically accurate.

And do you know what else?

Christians had a dilemma as soon as they declared that Christ was God. If Christ is God and God the Father is God, doesn’t that make two gods? And when you throw the Holy Spirit into the mix, doesn’t that make three gods? So aren’t Christians polytheists? Christians wanted to insist, no, they’re monotheists. Well, if they’re monotheists, how can all three be God?

So there are various ways of trying to explain this, and one of the most popular ways … was called modalism. It’s called modalism because it insisted that God existed in three modes — just as I myself at the same time am a son, and a brother and a father, but there’s only one of me — well these theologians said: That’s what God is like. He’s manifest in three persons, but there’s only one of him, so he’s at the same time father, son and spirit. So he’s in three modes of existence, so there’s only one of him.

Hold it right there, Patrick, I mean Bart.  Modalism?  Dude, that’s a heresy that has been put to bed a long time ago. But behold! NPR makes all things new. *cough*

Modalism, also called Sabellianism, is the unorthodox belief that God is one person who has revealed himself in three forms or modesin contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine where God is one being eternally existing in three persons. According to Modalism, during the incarnationJesus was simply God acting in one mode or role, and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was God acting in a different mode. Thus, God does not exist as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time. Rather, He is one person and has merely manifested himself in these three modes at various times. Modalism thus denies the basic distinctiveness and coexistence of the three persons of the Trinity.

Modalism was condemned by Tertullian (c. 213, Tertullian Against Praxeas 1, in Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. 3). Also known as Sabellianism, it was condemned as heresy by Dionysius, bishop of Rome (c. 262).

Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God (i.e., who God is). “Present day groups that hold to forms of this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus… modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Oh, Bart. You really should watch this little video from our separated brethren over at Lutheran Satire. Remember it?

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You know what? It would be impossible to flesh out God enfleshed in a few minutes on the radio. Or even in one single book.  But look. If you have some time, you might want to check out this little tome written by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, back when he was still an Anglican. It’s got a catchy title too: Arians of the 4th Century.

Back to Professor Ehrman,

One of the things that historians cannot show as having happened in the past is anything that’s miraculous. Because to believe that a miracle has happened, to believe that God has done something in our world, requires a person to believe in God. It requires a theological belief, but historians can’t require theological beliefs to do their work.

Golly. What about documenting all the miracles that have taken place in the past, and right up to the present day? Seriously? Why would one need to believe in the miracles in order to document their occurrence?   Maybe St. Joseph of Cupertino’s exploits of flying around cathedrals, in front of popes, and reported by famous mathematicians is just the work of Industrial Light & Magic.

Ah, well. I reckon I’ll have to just go with what St. Paul recommends, and walk by faith, and not by sight. But don’t forget reason. Oh, and don’t forget too that the Trinity even showed up in plain sight right in Jesus’s name.

“You will quickly be deceived if you look only to the outward appearance of men, and you will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain in them. If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. Likewise, if you seek yourself, you will find yourself—to your own ruin. For the man who does not seek Jesus does himself much greater harm than the whole world and all his enemies could ever do.”
—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, The Interior Life.

Keep fasting, folks. Lent is almost over.

“I am the light of the world.”

 


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