Sunday, May 22, 2011

Son of God?

This may seem like an odd question to most Christians, but what do we mean when we say 'Son of God'?

In what way is/was Jesus God's son?

I had a look at the dictionary at what 'son' means, and it says this:
  1. a male child or person in relation to his parents.
  2. a male child or person adopted as a son; a person in the legal position of a son.
  3. any male descendant.
Which doesn't help much. If sonship requires parents (plural) then option 1 is discounted. If sonship requires adoption then option 2 is discounted. If sonship requires a line of descent, then option 3 is discounted. So in what way is Jesus the 'son' of God?

Contemporary theology (and this goes back at least 1800 years) views Jesus as co-eternal with God the Father. So in what sense is Jesus the 'Son' of the 'Father'? If there was no 'time' in which God was and Jesus was not, then the Son is not and cannot be the descendent of the Father.

Sometimes sonship refers to inheritance - perhaps Jesus is the heir to the Father in some way? But this only works if the Father is going to die or otherwise pass on the inheritance, and I don't see that in Christian theology.

Or maybe it refers to authority, somehow? Perhaps the Father has authority over the Son?
But I thought the Son was given the name above all names? Surely that means he has the ultimate authority?

Basically where I'm at is that I can't see how Jesus can be both part of the Trinity and the Son (in any meaningful way) of God. If he's part of the Trinity, then surely 'brother' would be a better human analogy. If he's the 'Son' in some rational way, then he cannot be part of the Trinity.

It would appear that in the OT times, 'Son of God' was a phrase taken to represent God's human representative on earth - generally the king, although I think it may also have been used of Moses, Elijah and a few others.

Why don't/can't we see Jesus in the same way?

Did the early church turn the human Jesus into a God? (But keep the 'Son of God' terminology and just ignore the contradictions it brought with it?)


Anonymous said...

Son of God is a King title. Christ. Anointed One. They all mean king.

Who is God's king for God's people?


So in calling Jesus the Son of God, we affirm him as God's true King. As God himself.

Ricky Carvel said...

So what's the relationship between God the 'Father' and God the 'Son'?

And David was King and anointed one, but wasn't God...?

Anonymous said...

Their relationship is that they are co-substaintial, they are of the same thing. Christians never thought Jesus, or his spirit, was literally offspring of God.

They are just flimsy words used to help.

Do you watch Dr Who? Where the doctor says "Can you imagine a soap bubble with a tiny extra bubble on the side? Good, because its nothing like that"

That's what the Father/Son dynamic does for us.

Does it help? Yes. Good. But its nothing like that.

David was king, but as I remember it, God wasn't particularly keen on allowing Israel to have a human monarch. Hardly a true king. More like the best of a bad situation.

Rev Tony B said...

This comes down to the inadequacy of our language to describe the indescribable. I have serious problems with both the Trinity and the Chalcedonian Definition. I believe what they're trying to say, but not the categories in which they say it: all this stuff about 'Persons' has been so badly translated and handled by the Church because it presupposes classical philosophical terms (hypostasis/persona, etc) no longer in currency, so people get confused. The usual stuff about "three Persons in one Godhead" is simply misleading. (Perhaps I'm a closet monophysite...)

I believe in the incarnation. I believe God came in Christ - terms such as 'Son of God' are attempts to get a handle on that. Of course, they have to be seen in their Hebrew context, terms about kingship or otherwise adjectival clauses which give us some grasp of the mystery. But as soon as we think we've resolved the mystery, we just prove we've lost he mystery.

There is a Tom and Jerry cartoon, where Tom is chasing Jerry round a bowling alley; Jerry dives into a bowling ball, and Tom quickly wraps his scarf around the ball to trap him - he ties the first half of the knot, but hasn't a free finger to put on it so he can tie the second bit. Up pops Jerry from somewhere, puts his finger on the knot: Tom ties it off, waves his thanks - then sees it's Jerry, does the eye-popping routine, and the chase is on again. Classic. And good theology: our doctrines are a handle on God, not a box in which to contain him. Any time you think you've got him contained, he'll pop up somewhere else and grin at you.

To answer the specific question: arguing that 'Son of God' means Jesus is God's biological offspring, is pushing a metaphor too far.