Q&R: Is Jesus the Son of God – Brad Jersak
Thank you so much for your honesty and generosity in sharing your walk with Jesus. I have a question: I thought I was done with deconstructing and had started to move forward again, but I now wonder why I have accepted for so long that Jesus is the Son of God. I think he is, but is this just a belief bubble that I have inherited? How did the early church come to this conclusion? Are there any good books that help on this journey?
The early church came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God because of the authority Jesus revealed in making that claim, particularly through his resurrection and in the first Christians’ experience of the risen Christ in their lives.
By the early 300s, the answer given by Athanasius (in his book, On the Incarnation) was (and I’m distilling and paraphrasing him here), “We know Jesus is the Son of God because he is (not was) risen. And we know this because we experience the risen Christ in our lives.”
The evidence he offered was not an empty tomb in the Middle East but rather, the transformation they experienced in their own lives as they related to Jesus Christ “as if” he truly is alive and “as if” he truly is who he and his friends claimed he is (the Son of God).
The chief evidence of this transformation for Athanasius and his cohort was how the fear of death had been eradicated from their lives, even in the face of impending martyrdom.
I see this dynamic at work today in other ways: Jesus is revealed as the Son of God in people being set free from fear, shame, resentment, hatred, self-centeredness, compulsions, addictions, and so on. Their lives are testimonies of the life of Christ in them.
That said, we can go further. I see this same evidence in many who don’t claim Christ. And when I do, I rejoice because my experience of transformation suggests that neither their faith claims nor their religious branding is the active ingredient in their liberation, but Christ himself, often long before they know who he is. He is, after all, not just a historical figure from a particular ancient religion. Christ is the Light of the World who seeks and finds those in need of him, even while they’re still groping their way to the Light. That is, Jesus not only redeems those who have faith in him but is redeeming those hungry for redemption to generate trust in him.
Said another way, Jesus is the Good Shepherd in search of us, rather than waiting for us to disentangle ourselves to search for him.