Who Jesus Really Was

I think Jesus was a very important messenger sent by God to remind people of the importance of loving and caring for each other. As he advised others, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37.

Mural painting from the catacomb of Commodilla in Rome. One of the first bearded images of Jesus, late 4th century.

I also think if Jesus were to came back, he would be horrified by how twisted his message of love and compassion had become.

I was raised as an Episcopalian (Anglican) and had to recite the Nicene Creed as part of the service. This credo covers a lot of ground. Let’s review what it says.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The idea of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Ghost—is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible and was first developed by church leaders at the Council of Nicaea in 325. The creed’s current form is thought to have been hammered out at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

This Nicene Creed doesn’t strike me as divinely-inspired spiritual truth but rather seems to be a collection of beliefs put together by a committee of men to argue that Jesus was “the only son of God,” and that he, God, and the Holy Spirit were who people should be worshipping.

Unitarians like myself reject the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We believe God is one being and that Jesus is not the incarnate deity.

In fact, British theologian John Hick, regarded as one of the most significant philosophers of religion in modern times, wrote that “the historical Jesus of Nazareth did not teach or apparently believe that he was God, or God the Son, Second Person of a Holy Trinity, incarnate, or the son of God in a unique sense.”

Hick proposed instead that Jesus was not literally God in the flesh (incarnate), but was effectively channeling the presence of God. “Jesus was so open to divine inspiration, so responsive to the divine spirit, so obedient to God’s will, that God was able to act on earth in and through him.” This channeling of God, Hick wrote in “A Pluralistic View,” is the true doctrine of the incarnation.

Hick’s ideas make so much more sense to me than the traditional Christian Church’s doctrine that Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary, died for “our sins” and that only by accepting Him as our personal savior will we gain eternal life. This point of view presupposes that anyone holding a different view of Jesus won’t be gaining entry to heaven. But if God, the source of all, represents love and acceptance, why would he discriminate against certain peoples’ religious beliefs? That is, Trinitarians only get eternal life, not Unitarians or non-believers. It seems like an artificial human construct to me that is used to frighten people into acceptance of existing church dogma.

Hick opposed this approach. He noted in More Than One Way? and God and the Universe of Faiths that as he came to know people who belonged to non-Christian faiths, “he saw in them the same values and moral actions that he recognized in fellow Christians. This observation led him to begin questioning how a completely loving God could possibly sentence non-Christians who clearly espouse values that are revered in Christianity to an eternity in hell.”

Hick published many scholarly works over his long life, having been born in 1922 (in England) and dying in 2012. Here is a list of his publications. For more information about Hick and his life and works, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hick

  • Faith and Knowledge, (1st ed. 1957, 2nd ed. 1966)
  • The Existence of God, (ed.) (1st ed. 1964), Macmillan
  • Evil and the God of Love, (1966, 1985, reissued 2007)
  • The Many Faced Argument with Arthur C. McGill (1967, 2009).
  • Philosophy of Religion (1970, 4th ed. 1990)
  • Death and the Eternal Life (1st ed. 1976)
  • (Editor) The Myth of God Incarnate (1977)
  • (Editor with Paul F. Knitter) The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions (1987)
  • A Christian Theology of Religions (1995)
  • An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent (1989)
  • The Metaphor of God Incarnate (1993, 2nd ed. 2005)
  • The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experience, Neuroscience and the Transcendent (2006)

To me, the whole idea that the only way to God is through belief in Jesus Christ is the opposite of what Jesus would have believed. Any person can have their own direct relationship to God without an intermediary.

As far as I am concerned, the most important thing Jesus did was to provide himself as a key role model for how we can love and serve God. He was a living and breathing exemplar of how we can make the world a better place for all.

In conclusion, I am not a Christian who believes in the Nicene Creed. Rather I am a Christian who wants to be a servant for God and believes our job is to make the world a better place for all, just like Jesus tried to do.

2 thoughts on “Who Jesus Really Was

  1. I’m a confirmed Catholic and I used to know the Nicene Creed (as you have it written in your post) by heart. When the Church changed it in 2011, I couldn’t get used to it. I didn’t know what Unitarians believed before I read your post. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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