Christian = “Christ follower” or more?

In some recent conversations, I’ve listened as people have defined Christians as “those who follow Jesus Christ”.  Wikipedia has a better definition: “A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament and interpreted by Christians to have been prophesied in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.”

But for me, there is something essential missing from both these definitions.

It matters who is Jesus Christ.  For me, Jesus is more than the teachings and the miracles he performed.  It matters to me that when I say “Jesus” and others say “Jesus” that we mean the same person.  Pointing to the New Testament and saying that “this is the Jesus I worship” isn’t sufficient.

Maybe I can illustrate that from my conversation with Mormons.

As a Lutheran, I accept, with other Christians, the historic trinitarian formulation of the Christian faith that the One God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The three “persons” of the Trinity are not three separate beings, but three ways in which God has revealed himself and continues to reveal himself to us.  Therefore, the Jesus Christ I worship is God incarnate…the One God incarnate.  This One God is the creator of the universe and exists eternally (in both directions of time).  The beginning of the Gospel of John has a soaring “hymn” that includes Jesus Christ as participating in creation as the “Word of God”.

Mormons believe that the father, the son, and the holy spirit are three distinct and separate gods.  (They are excluded from Wikipedia’s definition of “Christian” at the very least because they are not a monotheistic religion.)  God the father and god the son have tangible bodies (implying a beginning and an end), and god the holy spirit has a spirit body.  They also believe that god the father and god the son have fathers and mothers who are also gods (polytheism and again, implying a time when god was not).

These cannot be the same “persons” of God that I worship and have witness to in Scripture!

Now, one might argue that at least Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is divine.  OK.  I’ll give them that.  But that becomes clear polytheism, not monotheism.  When I’ve engaged in discussions about this, many Mormons, who have been trained well in presenting their faith, will point out that the ancient Hebrew people were not monotheists either, and that they acknowledged the presence of other gods.  It isn’t quite as simple as they present it.  Yes, there was acknowlegement of other gods, but the worship of any of them subjected God’s people to punishment.

One more comparison between Lutherans and Mormons when it comes to the identity of God.

There has been considerable controversy throughout the history of the Mormon Church about the nature of God.  Brigham Young, the second President (Prophet) of the church, taught that Adam was actually the god who made the world and who “fathered” the whole human race.  This was held to be a true doctrine of the church for a time, but has since been officially rejected.  Mormons do believe that god is flesh and bone as we are, and that god has earned his place through his own merit.  It is a very short step from there to the goal of each Mormon is to become gods themselves.

Lutherans believe that God is the eternal Creator of all things; we therefore are his creatures, as distinct as possible.

Being Christian is so much more than being a “Christ follower”.  The title “Christian” is rightly bestowed on only those who identify themselves with the Jesus Christ revealed to be the second person of the Triune God.

Anything else is something other than Christian.

Pondering Pastor

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6 responses to “Christian = “Christ follower” or more?

  1. You’ve taught me something that I already knew. That is not meant to be a disrespectful statement; on the contrary, I want to thank you for doing so. I had it in my mind, but it was in an unreachable place. You taught me how to put in words what the holy trinity is. Thank you.

  2. So, by your View of the Trinity…

    How did God visit Mary and “Inpregnate” her with Jesus?

    How did God speak from the heavens when Jesus was Baptized?

    Did Jesus Pray to Himself?

    Who was this Father Jesus Spoak of in the New Testament?

    When satin was tempting Jesus Who was he speaking of when he said that the Father would send Angels to his aid should Jesus jump from the high place?

    In Genisis, Who is the word? The word was with God and the word was God…

    So far, these questions remain unanswered in the view of the Trinity you have presented.

    Thank you,
    -D

  3. ponderingpastor

    Ditchu – (with my head shaking slowly from side to side) We’ve had similar conversations before. The answers to your questions, as directly as I can. Actually, the real answer to all of these is that God can do what God will!

    1) By the power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. (Actually, in those times, and quite late into the middle-ages, the father of a child was thought to place the “seed” into the “ground” of the woman’s womb. The woman was thought to be the vessel and the ground of nurture only, not contributing her “genetic material” as we might call it today. So the concept of “conception” was foreign to those of the 1st century. When you realize this, “conception” was not necessary in the understanding of how the Word of God became flesh.)

    2) Just because Jesus was God incarnate does not mean that God ceased to exist. Why do you insist on anthropomorphizing God and limiting God to one place or time? Mormons don’t do that with Jesus.

    3) See answer 2 above.

    4) See answer 2 & 3 above.

    5) Ditto

    6) The Word is the second person of the Trinity in Genesis (proper spelling of the biblical book name), that through which the world was created. The quote, “The Word was with God and the Word was God” is from John’s Gospel, and it and the rest of the Prologue to John connect Genesis to the incarnation of Jesus.

    You may no longer claim that these questions remain unanswered. They are probably not answered to your satisfaction however.

    Pondering Pastor

  4. “God can do what God will!”

    Yes but in the context of these events you can see how your view of the Trinity is at best confusing. It seems to me you really do not understand who these things can be and relate to your Paradigms so you use the ever ready explaination : God can do anything so he can be in 2 places at once (in multipul manifestations). However this does not explain why Jesus refers to the Father if he is just another face of the same being.

    I do not get the logic of Jesus Speaking of his Father in heaven if he is the exact same personage. If he is in deed another personage than God the Father, then we are not so differing in our views after all. But then again how do we diversify these Personages if they are inseperable in any way? How do we see any distinction amoung them? It all seems over complicated when we try to fit God into the rigid ideals of these Orthodox Docturines. They tend to tell us to stop asking questions, as not to challange the preset Views.

    Thank you for your attempts to express your logic.
    -D

  5. ponderingpastor

    Explanations of the Holy Trinity confusing? Certainly! Just as much if not more than many other parts of scripture. Scripture is replete with instances where God gives only part of the story.

    With respect to Jesus speaking to his Father in heaven and that being a “stumbling block” for your understanding of the Triune God, there are several logical explanations. It’s not a huge stretch to think of some.

    You write, “It all seems over complicated when we try to fit God into the rigid ideals of these Orthodox Docturines (sic)”. But you see, it is not trying to fit God into the rigid ideals of the doctrine. It is to develop a doctrine which reflects all of scripture, and that is what the doctrine of the Holy Trinity does. Mormons have been convinced that the doctrine does not arise out of scripture, when that is truly it’s source.

    I start with the Holy Trinity being orthodox Christian doctrine. I’m not trying to recreate the wheel here. I know you are pretty well educated and have thought about these things a good deal. However, when you write about “personages” with respect to God, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity maintains that yes there are three persons, in one God. The Athanasian Creed tries to not say too little about the Trinity:

    (Part of the Athanasian Creed)
    Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

    For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

    But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

    What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

    Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

    The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

    Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

    Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

    Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

    Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

    As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

    The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

    Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

    And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.
    (End)

    Pondering Pastor

  6. Ok.

    “Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.”

    So you do see 3 personages in the Trinity. All Equal, Good.

    I do not see how that differs so greatly with the Mormon Philosophy of the Godhead. Except that some “Mormon” teachings go further than most other Christian groups would attempt and try to understand, and not except the idea that “we are not to understand so don’t try…”

    I think the reasoning is mostly sound but the understanding and scope of vision of most Trinitarins is limmited, not by God but by their own unwillingness to question further than their Churches Docturine. God created me with an unsatiable curiosity, and I seek to understand him as much as I can. This has caused me to put into question the ideals of prior Christian understanding and I have found it to remain limmited, possibably by fear, I do not think it is by lathergy as it could easily be seen.

    Thank you for this consice refelection on the Trinity.

    God Bless,
    -D

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