In today’s post I’m not particularly interested in the academic question of whether or not Jesus thought of himself as divine, or of how early the ancient church came to identify him with/as God. I’m more concerned with the modern side of history and what it might mean for us to say that Jesus is or isn’t divine. In fact, I’d like to sketch out two basic models for understanding the “divinity” of Jesus, a traditional authoritarian model and a more subversive model grounded in faith and risk.
The Authoritarian Appeal to the Divinity of Jesus
The classic church approach to this question is, like so many of our traditions, grounded in an authoritarian appeal to an inerrant Bible. A flat, literal, uncritical reading of scripture yields a systematic (and schizophrenic) concept of God which is then retrofitted onto Jesus of Nazareth. Our knowledge of “the God of the Bible” comes first, and then Jesus comes along to confirm and endorse it. In this model, believing that Jesus is God becomes one of many Christian shibboleths, like inerrancy or creationism, load-bearing doctrines that must be affirmed lest the entire house of cards should topple. Continue reading