Many humans through history have prayed to our ‘Father in heaven’. Knowing that we are His creation, we stand before Him like servant before Master and like child before Father. When Jesus prayed, in the same way, other people could see this communication taking place with their own eyes: it looked like a conversation from one to another.
Things became complicated when some people believed the coming moshiach would be the revelation God’s glory, and took their fervour for Jesus to the point of worshiping him as ‘God incarnate’. Christianity first emerged in the context of Judaism, which declares that we should only worship our Creator. Many Christians ever since have defended their beliefs in light of this. They consider it a heresy to say that there are no distinctions between Jesus and the Father, because that would ignore the New Testament writings. But it is also called heretical to say that Jesus was not fully God and fully human, or to say that there are three creating deities. Nearly all Christians who worship Jesus consider ‘both persons’ to be ‘one’. Mysteriously one.
Instead of appealing too much to mystery, they actually respect it too little.
We can’t see into the essence of God. Nothing our eyes can see or our minds consider is the same as Him. His heart and His actions He reveals to us, but if we could compare His very self to anything in creation, to any form or relationship between entities, we’d be looking at created forms rather than at Him.
That doesn’t mean He’s distant; no, He is very close as our hearts can know Him intimately and undivided while we perceive more externally His blessings, including the blessing of existence in which our whole being relies on Him. But to say there is a relationship ‘within God’ that we can know about but “never fully understand” is wrong, because that implies that we can partly probe into His very being. Please know that if you see a conversation between a man and God you are not seeing ‘into God’s mysterious reality’; you’re just seeing the worship and devotion that are owed by servant to Master, creation to Creator.
What the early worshipers of Jesus should have done is not only try to emphasise the oneness of God as a concept, but also try to emphasise the caution to worship God alone that we find in the Torah, especially Deuteronomy, and in the heart of traditional Judaism. Because they didn’t, we find no record of up-front teaching about this topic in their early evangelism. If Jesus claimed it people should have been cautious beyond any doubt, not because of skepticism but because of their faithfulness to God alone. And if he didn’t, to slowly start assuming so is a slippery thing to do.
We know that we are small and that God’s ways are beyond our own. What is the place for logic like this in faith and faithfulness? The important distinction is based on respect. In respect for God’s greatness, we do not try to pin Him down to anything we can see in the world. And in respect for the importance of His truth, while we do not seek intellect as an idol, we must use it as part of the way in which we hear His truth; His reality, His commandments.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal