Was Jesus Christ the Son of God? (A Very Short Answer)

(This is Neil). I’ve been busy lately, so you’ll have to forgive the infrequency of my posts until the new year. But I did want to post something that I read on Newsweek‘s blog, On Faith. Several figures were asked if they believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, what that might mean, and, if not, who he really was. This short answer comes from the Yale theologian Miroslav Volf. At first, I worried that the brevity of his comment meant that it had to be insufficient, but, after a few rereadings, I have come to like his answer. What do you think?

Here is Volf:

The short answer to the first question is “Yes.” The long answer to all three questions would take a book or two, and very thick ones at that.

What do I mean by “son of God” when applied to Jesus Christ? Roughly what the great teachers of the church meant by this: Jesus Christ is not the product of God’s sexual relations; neither is he a member of a small family of non-physical gods. And he is not God’s son in the way in which every human being is God’s child.

As God’s son, Jesus Christ is unique. Was he a great moral teacher? Yes, but so were some others (e.g. Socrates). Was he a compelling embodiment of goodness? Yes, but so were some others (e.g. Francis of Assisi). Was he an extraordinary history-shaping figure? Yes, but so were some others (e.g. Gandhi).

What’s unique about Jesus Christ is this: He is the perfect self-revelation of God. Simply and audaciously put, the one who encounters Jesus has encountered God in God’s own very being. That’s what it means for us to say that Jesus Christ is the “son of God.”

Can I prove this astounding conviction about Jesus Christ? I cannot. Can one fit this conviction into a plausible account of reality as a whole? Yes, one can. Indeed, it is from the perspective of the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that everything else we know about the world can make excellent sense.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Was Jesus Christ the Son of God? (A Very Short Answer)

  1. Talmida says:

    Neil, I like Volf’s answer.

    I read in a novel recently, “…for there to be real loving, the giver must become the gift.”

    That summed up the Incarnation for me. But when I think of how the early Jewish Christians must have struggled with the idea of YHWH’s Oneness and the presence of Jesus (who himself prayed to the Father, and prayed the Sh’ma), it strikes me as very reasonable that they would settle on the concept of “son.”

  2. Neil says:

    Dear Talmida,

    Thanks, as always, for writing. I like that line in the novel as well. Which novel was it, if I may ask?

    Your description of the early Jewish Christians strikes me as reasonable as well, although I haven’t read all the right books.


  3. Talmida says:

    It was Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s “Kabbalah: A Love Story.”

    It weaves the Zohar (the major text of Kabbalah) into a modern love story. And somehow manages to explain the Incarnation to me at the same time. :)

    I blogged about it quite a bit at the end of November (click on Books in Categories and there are 3 or 4 posts about it).

  4. Neil says:

    Dear Talmida,

    Thanks. I’ll definitely take a look at it when I get a chance.

    Merry Christmas.


  5. JimC says:

    Honestly, that answer is simply mental gooblygook and only one prone to thinking as irrationaly as the author would find such pablum remotely interesting.

  6. Michelle says:

    Hmm…not sure, JimC, what was specifically irrational about Neil’s post, or Talmida’s comment, but I just wanted to say that I appreciated both.

    I’ve found myself struggling so much with what I understand “God” to be. Now, on some level, I should be struggling. I’m human and finite and incapable of ever grasping someThing/someOne so great. But I always come back to Christ’s words that “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” And I chew on those words a lot. Volf’s words have given even more texture to whatever it is I’m chewing on. ;)

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