Patheos blogger Dayne Batten on the General Christian Channel has a post dated October 26, 2022, and entitled “Seven Reasons Why Christians Believe that Jesus Is God.” Well, I was a Trinitarian Christian like Dayne for 22 years and read myself out of that in the Bible. I undertook a massive study of the subject over the next 28 years in which I estimate that I read about a thousand books on the identity of Jesus and looked at a greater number of commentaries than that in examining the critical texts that Trinitarians cite to support there viewpoint that Jesus is God.
In this process, I wrote a book about what I learned entitled The Restitution: Biblical Proof Jesus Is Not God. It is now available on amazon.com in both paperback and digital. This book is 568 pages in length and cites over 400 scholars. Dr. James Tabor endorsed it saying it is “a mortal wound to the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . a towering work that will stand for a long time to come.” New Testament Professor Sir Anthony Buzzard’s endorsement says this book “needs to be read by every pastor in the land” and that it is “a tour de force.” Pastor-teacher David Burke’s endorsement says the book is “thorough and systematic, . . . very readable . . . . it’s the best Unitarian apologetic on the market.” New Testament Professor Scot McKnight is not convinced of the book’s thesis yet says of it in his endorsement, “No one can read this book without being challenged.”
I maintain that Jesus died for our sins as Savior, God raised him from the dead, and believing this, plus making Jesus Lord in our lives, is what makes us Christians. Thus, whether Jesus is God has nothing to do with salvation, and I believe a close study of the Bible reveals this. It is the ABCs of the gospel: A. Acknowledge our sin; B. Believe Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead; C. Confess Jesus as Lord. That’s the gospel that saves and results in our entering the kingdom of God and inheriting the promise of eternal life at the yet future resurrection.
So, I will now seek to refute Dayne Batten’s seven reasons why Jesus is not God and do so by first relating each of the seven headings in his post as follows:
- Jesus Claimed to be God: This is not true, yet it is often made especially by evangelicals and many other Christians as well, often under the title, “The Claims of Christ.” Here’s what happened to me that led to my christological change–that Jesus is not God and God is the Father, thus not triune. One day in 1980, I was sitting in my study room at my home, reading Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, a text that I knew quite well since I had specialized in the study of biblical eschatology seen my late teens. I read Jesus’ statement (in the NASB) about his second coming in which he said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,” referring to himself, “but the Father alone” (Matthew 24.36). I pondered that for a moment and blurted out aloud, “What! That makes Jesus look like a liar. He said he didn’t know, but he really did because he is God.” What did I mean? My church had taught me the doctrine of the Trinity and that Jesus is one of the three members of the Trinity by having two natures: a human nature and a divine nature, called the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ. All of this had been determined by church fathers in the ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church held in the 4th and 5th centuries. And I had been further taught that when Jesus said this, he was speaking only from the perspective of his human nature, since his divine nature had to know everything just as God the Father did. And what I meant was that that made Jesus look like he was lying since he knew the time of his return in his divine nature. I then said to myself, “I must look into this.” That was perhaps the biggest understatement of my life, as I revealed above. I then asked myself how I should begin this study in the Bible. I decided the most important thing would have to be to find out if Jesus claimed to be God anywhere in the four gospels. So, I bought a red-letter New Testament and read only the sayings of Jesus in it, which are set in the red color. I was much surprised to learn that Jesus never made any express statement about his identity that could be construed as a claim to be God. I already knew about John 10.30, wherein Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” But the claim that this means he was God ignores the context. Jesus was talking about him and the Father being unified together in their work with God’s people, and the following verses represent Jesus’ denial of his opponents accusing him, “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (v. 33). I again said to myself of Trinitarians, “If that is all they’ve got,” meaning their assertion that Jesus claimed to be God, “I’m on the right track of looking into this.”
- Jesus Worked Miracles. This shortsighted assertion shows the grasping of straws that Trinitarians sometimes exercise in their strenuous efforts to support their doctrine. How so? Sometimes, the Old Testament prophets did miracles. And Jesus twelve apostles did miracles as well. The apostle Paul even wrote that this was the mark of a true apostle of Jesus (2 Corinthians 12.12). Thus, if Jesus was God because he did miracles, then the prophets and apostles were Gods/gods as well, which is most ludicrous.
- Jesus Showed God’s Character. Dayne states, “Jesus’ supreme example of love as the self-revelation of God’s own character in human flesh” is evidence that Jesus is God. No! This is evidence that God indwells Jesus, as he indicated when he said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9 NRSV). He did not mean he was God or God the Father. Rather, he explained that he meant, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (vv. 10-11). Many Christians get mixed up by thinking that God being in Jesus means Jesus is God, which is wrong. Showing God’s character merely indicates a belonging to God, not being God.
- Jesus Exercised God’s Authority. Indeed he did, not because it was intrinsic to his own being, but because God gave him this authority. For instance, Jesus revealed, “Just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and he has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of Man” (John 5.26). Many Trinitarians wrongly claim Jesus is God because he said to the paralytic, “‘Child, your sins are forgiven. . . . But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’–he said to the paralytic–‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat, and go to your home'” (Mark 2.5, 10-11). The man did so and we read further of the crowd that witnessed it, “they were all amazed and glorified God” (v. 12). They did so because they correctly recognized that God had given Jesus that authority and thus power. Again, many prophets and apostles of God have exercised God’s authority, but no sane person says that indicates they were Gods/gods.
- Jesus’ Followers Believed He was God. [Dayne keeps making typos, in which “was” and “be” in #1 should be capitalized.] Dayne offers no scriptural support for this important, but quite wrong, assertion. Read the book of Acts, for example, and you will find that it has about 23 evangelistic sermons or portions thereof, and none of them say Jesus is God. Rather, they say of Jesus identity mostly that he is the Messiah. What Dayne does here is relate some history in which church fathers decided Jesus is God, mostly at the Nicene Council of 325. But in doing so, I believe they went astray and that the church has been saddled with this false doctrine ever since. No, this patristic error represents a departure from the New Testament and a false addition to the Christian gospel, and the church has wrongly believed it ever since. Dayne is quite wrong in then saying, “Jesus’ followers considered him to be God, even at the very beginning of Christian history.” Not at all. Ignatius, in 110 or 117, became the first church father to explicitly write several times in letters that Jesus was and is “God.” There is no evidence any Christians believed this before that since I believe nowhere in the Greek New Testament does it say Jesus is God. Most of the few texts Trinitarians cite to say otherwise have grammatical problems in which the text has been rended either way by linguists.
- The Church has Historically Concluded Jesus is God. Indeed it has, but it has been wrong in doing so.
- Jesus was Resurrected. This incorrect assertion has been made by many Christians and even a few of its scholars. But the preeminent New Testament scholar, and former Anglican bishop, nowadays is recognized as the UK’s N. T. Wright, a friend of mine who is a Trinitarian. He has corrected that error several times in his books. In The Challenge of Jesus (pp. 108-09), Tom says of Jesus’ resurrection, “Again and again one hears it suggested that the resurrection somehow proves Jesus’ divinity.” Tom says this is a “mistake,” adding, “it did not in and of itself ‘mean’ the Jesus was therefore divine.” Plus, we Christians believe we will be resurrected at the end of this, when Jesus returns, but that does not mean we will become God/god or Gods/gods. But if Jesus resurrection proves he is God, then our resurrection would have to prove the same of us.