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Is Jesus God?
By Norton Herbst
According to recent studies, the majority of the world’s population believes in God or a universal deity.1 Of course, people describe God in very different ways: personal deity, transcendent divine, higher power, or universal spirit. Nonetheless, we believe something or someone is above humanity and the universe as we know it. So when a particular person professes to be God, it’s a big deal. And Jesus—the Jewish teacher who lived in the first century CE—did just that.
There are more than enough reasons to believe that Jesus was not and is not truly God. For starters, it’s hard to imagine any human being actually embodying God. What would that look like? How does God become a person? Does this God-person go back and forth between spirit and human? Can this God-person get sick and die as a human? That wouldn’t be very God-like.
Besides, doesn’t Christianity believe in only one true God? Then how could Jesus be God? Does this have something to do with the Trinity? And why would God become a person in the first place?
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These are all mind-blowing questions. But let’s suppose for a minute that God can become a human. He is God, after all.2 If he can create the universe, he can certainly enter into it. If he did become a human, how would he act? What would he do? What would he say? And are the things Jesus did and said the kinds of things we would expect from God?
Is Jesus God? Billions of people believe so. And his life has certainly altered the course of human history. Let’s explore the possibility.
The first thing to take into account is character. What was Jesus like? Two characteristics leap from the pages of the recorded accounts of his life: self-discipline and compassion.
Jesus demonstrated tremendous self-discipline in order to accomplish his task, taking pains not to be distracted by this world. He shunned crowds to spend time alone in prayer, refused to be crowned king by enthusiastic but misguided followers, and stood silent before his scheming accusers. His compassion was exemplified in his gracious attitude toward outcasts; his association with Samaritans, Gentiles, and Romans—all of whom Jews despised; his embrace of the poor and ritually unclean; and his forgiveness of those who executed him.3
But while these are admirable qualities, they don’t prove anything yet…