No denial – he was human

Often evangelicals will fight the battle over the divinity of Christ. And too many times pulling on material that is not as strong as it might at first appear. ‘Son of God’, for example does not necessarily mean divinity, as this was a term applied to Israel. Divine qualities do not necessarily imply an identity of deity. The early followers came at things from the other end. This Jesus was human… and came to terms with ‘what kind of person is this that even the winds and waves obey him?’ Human but at another level all together. This extraordinary human then is seen as the Messiah, the Promised deliverer. But I suggest they did not see him as ‘divine’ and certainly not as ‘the second Person of the Trinity’. They had a journey from knowing that he was (truly) human to in what sense was he ‘God’.

The journey of the evangelical is often the other way. He is ‘God’, but in what sense is he human? The early followers seemed to make their journey, I am not convinced that all evangelicals make their journey.

It is interesting that John in his letters strongly argues for the humanity of Jesus as an acid test:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:2,3).

If there is a denial of his humanity (come in the flesh) that is a manifestation of the spirit of antichrist. Not if there is a denial of his divinity! Of course John is pushing back strongly against the Decetist heresy, but nevertheless the emphasis is incredible.

The humanity of Jesus is so key. God affirms humanity at every point. The resurrection, where the rebirth of the Universe is initiated, with the refusal to leave the physical body in the tomb is the greatest ever affirmation of humanity’s value to heaven.

His humanity means…

  • that any maturity I will reach is through the path of becoming yet more human. Of moving from humanity being created in my image to being shaped by his image, the only truly human one.
  • I need to sacrilise all of life that enables humanity to live life.
  • I need to demonise anything that dehumanises.
  • I need to see people, no longer after the flesh.
  • I honour all who work for humanity’s future, as expressed in this life, for it is this-life expression that will determine that-life expression (see my last post).
  • I do not see my identity along the lines of any elitism, be that ethnicity, class or gender.

This aspect of the humanity of Jesus is what has caused us to understand that if someone can truly see the value of people, they are ever so close to seeing God. They might be a professed atheist – and on that we have to ask what is the ‘God’ they do not believe in – but they might have more sight on God than the person who ticks all the ‘Jesus is God’ boxes but can only see others as objects. Maybe to see, and truly see, humanity is to see God… to see Jesus is to see who this God truly is. ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father’.


9 thoughts on “No denial – he was human

  1. Wow Martin, getting pretty radical here. But a big thanks for the post. It articulates a position I had moved to some time ago but never been able to really describe. Now you have given me words.

    This week I did a presentation on the future to a university class. And at the end I had them get into groups and discuss how they would handle what we see coming in terms of climate change – how to be politically active, what kind of lifestyle they intend to pursue, and how to earn a living in the midst of it all. Mostly we talked about how to be human – the politics and economics of living together in this time. Even more so, how do we relate to the planet and care for it together. It was a great discussion and I know they wish more teachers would help them with that thinking.

    So keep on with the radical shift. It is this kind of thinking that will give the next generations the tools they need to address some really huge issues.

    1. Thanks. Appreciate the application in the classroom. Seems that this ‘human’ theology is connecting. Not losing Jesus, indeed far from it, finding his uniqueness more than ever, but in a way in which he is visible in and through all.

  2. Love that, been teaching the Parable of the sheep and goats this week – “when did we ‘see’ you hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison?…. Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”… it seems like its quite a big deal to Jesus for us to recognise that He shares in our humanity.

    1. Thanks Phil. This whole approach has become a large part of what has shaped us. Initially came through many questions about how do we relate to people, what is evangelism, the rediscovery of the church’s responsibility for the world… experiencing major prophetic fulfilments taking place, but no believers visible etc… Been liberating and also challenging to truly live it out!!

  3. “The early followers came at things from the other end” “I suggest they did not see him as ‘divine’ and certainly not as ‘the second Person of the Trinity”

    A couple of issue with you here Martin if you don’t mind.

    First off, I’m not sure how early were the early followers you were referring to above, but the Apostles Creed, so I’m told by Wikipedia ;-), was written around AD120 or so and understands God very much as Trinity. First para God the Father, second para God the Son, third para God the Holy Spirit. Referring to the Son;

    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

    It is possible that the very earliest followers had a more naïve view, but I would say that is a bit of a leap, and based on what? I don’t see anything in the apostles creed out of line with the gospels or Pauls letters.

    My second challenge to you would be to maybe resist forming a position in opposition to where you perceive another group to be (“evangelicalism”). I know you would strongly resist blanket generalisations around ideas of “the other” so I’m just calling you on that. In love of course



  4. It’s a problem of the ‘catholic’ doctrinal tradition as a whole: the cost of parting ways with Ebionites and Arians.

  5. Thanks for pushing this not so easy thinking. Post resurrection his body remained visible to those who saw him, so he was the same Jesus (The one who returns) and remains in his humanity and divinity without loss. Jesus seems to have a lot more fun being human than we do! Heaven doesn’t mean no longer being human children of God does it? but being transformed as He is. If we pray for heaven on earth then should our expectations expand for what we should be now?

  6. Dehumanisation is surely the worst of all sins as God made us in his own image and came in human form in the person of Jesus. I truly believe that ‘revival’ or bringing the kingdom to earth will only happen when Christians see all people through the eyes of love. When parts of the church stop demonising Muslims and honour indigenous peoples and indeed all people. When we stop dehumanising people who dehumanise others too as that is easily done. In anger we can stop seeing them as human but as purveyors of hate that don’t deserve our prayers or consideration.! This morning I prayed for mercy for myself and them. I think only when the agendas and divisions are removed we will see his kingdom truly come. And I agree it will include atheists and people of other faiths and any who walk in his ways the way of forgiveness and laying down of self and even life if necessary. I just think of his words in Matthew 25 are so important when he speaks of feeding the hungry etc. and deeply challenging. I think that is probably his most important priority. This ties in to the issue of the importance of being kind to people whoever they are. His rebuke was pretty resounding when it comes to ignoring the needs of other people especially the poor.

    1. Thanks for both comments… Enjoy the read. Hope it helps you shape your own response. All of us probably have a God in our own image perspective, and we have to be faithful to what we see, but outside perspectives I think can really help us to increasingly see God as reflected in Jesus.

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