Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Should Jesus be worshippped?

Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament EvidenceI just finished reading James D.G. Dunn's book Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence  (WJK, 2010).  A full review will be forthcoming, but before it get to it and since Dunn opens up the question, I'd like to throw it out there for discussion.   The point that Dunn wants to raise concerns whether or not the biblical evidence supports the idea that Jesus should be worshipped directly.  That is, does the New Testament provide evidence that Jesus was worshipped as an entity separate from the Father, or is Jesus the locus by whom and through worship of God is maintained.  The questions are important ones because they have theological ramifications -- such as, is Christianity a truly monotheist religion?  

As a teaser I want to provide a quote from Dunn so you can ponder the question more fully.

That Jesus was central to early Christian worship is not to be doubted.  He was the reason why their prayers could be offered with confidence and the principle subject of their hymns.  It was his name they invoked; they appealed to him in times of personal crisis.  And their praise of God naturally included praise of Christ.  He was himself the sacred space in whom they met as his bodily presence ('body of Christ') still on earth.  It was his day on which they met most regularly.  Their sacred meal was his supper, the key elements his body and blood.  He alone was the priest through whom they could now come to God.  His sacrificial death had dealt with their sins and opened the way to God.  Their entry into the divine presence was possible not only because of what he had accomplished (Good Friday and Easter), but through him.  (p. 57).
But does that mean that we are to worship Jesus separate from God the Father?  As you answer the question, what are the implications of that answer for the way we do worship?

11 comments:

Real Live Preacher said...

Bob, this is something I've thought about many times in many contexts. And I think our claims of monotheism are confusing to other religions because of our elevation of Jesus to a divine state.

I recommend a book called "The early Christians in their own words" by Eberhart Arnold. http://www.amazon.com/Early-Christians-Their-Own-Words/dp/0874860954/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285166362&sr=1-1

I'm amazed by how quickly Christology was elevated. I sometimes wonder, when reading the New Testament, how that happened so quickly.

Mike L. said...

I think the question could probably be answered by asking another question: Do you think Jesus would even want to be worshiped?

Even if we assumed that the Jesus of the Gospels is an accurate historical portrait (which is a huge stretch), I don't see anything in the Gospels that indicates worshiping Jesus would be what he wanted. Is there any evidence that the disciples worshiped Jesus while he was alive or directly after his death. Is there any evidence Jesus encouraged his own worship or taught them to worship him?

In my opinion, worshiping Jesus is a later Pagan idea that infiltrated Christianity as more and more Pagans became Christians. We start to see traces of the "Pagan deity Jesus" in the Gospel of John (60+ years after his death), which means it took several generations of Christians for these ideas to become popular. Even in that later Gospel, he still wasn't a deity who people worshiped.

Colby Cheese said...

Jesus is the first messenger of the Good News and the first example of the Kingdom of God. Because Jesus was effective as a messenger and successful as an example, he was killed.

Jesus is neither divine nor a sacrifice. The Good News message and the Kingdom of God are what are divine.

God is Singular and Solitary. There are neither multiple nor opposing divine forces.

Doug Sloan

John said...

It's complicated. In fact it's too complicated to answer with any authority. Such is the divine mystery. But I agree that in the pondering there is much room for the prayerful reflection of the faithful.

John

C Ryan said...

As I often hear most prayers are tagged with "in Jesus name".. sort of like the stamp on the prayer letter. I would offer it is just as worthy to pray to the Holy Spirit and the Father. However, I am likely off base where the conversation is trying to go offering more options than removing the current.

Worshiping Jesus is in scripture.. Matthew 28.9. Of course there are other forms, like the woman crying at Jesus feet.

Chuck

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Thanks for the comments -- keep them coming. I'll be posting a review, which will open up avenues, but at this point I'm leaving it sort of open. I think the starting point, which is the point of the book concerns the biblical witness. So, to push this further, what texts do you find in the New Testament that would either mitigate or promote worship of Jesus. And here's the kicker -- why do you think these texts support the case?

John said...

I want very much to rely on the prologue to the Gospel of John (which I think predates the gospel itself by who knows by how long?) but I sense that this is too late a text to propose for this discussion. I have always focused on the assertion that no one has seen the Father and that the father is made known through the son who came to dwell among us.

In several of Jesus' parables he alludes to his own identity as the son of the master and the one who was heir to the master' authority. To go back before the gospels, Paul often refers to himself as a slave or servant of Christ, which makes Christ the master, and not merely a high priest in the divine hierarchy.

John

Colby Cheese said...

When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we mean that we have no other Lord, that no person of any social or political or clerical position has dominion over our life. “Jesus is Lord” is a phrase and act of radical counter-cultural non-violent defiance that opposes the oppression and systemic injustice of empire and civic religion.

Doug Sloan

David said...

I love my earthly father. I don't think he expects to be worshiped. I feel close to Jesus as a brother I can easily love without reservation.

I guess to me worship is letting myself feel profound thanks for being a part of creation, and for the guidance and moral support my heavenly brother provides.

Yeah, that's it.

John said...

David,

I like that.

John

Free Child said...

Wow! This is something I really haven't thought of, but after reading your blog and the comments especially David's view as "Jesus as a brother" and "I guess to me worship is letting myself feel profound thanks for being a part of creation", I think of my private worship/quiet times and how I am thankful to Jesus for his obedience...but it makes me think more of the difference and my mindset when "worshipping" or "being thankful" are they one and the same at just different depths...? it certainly has got me thinking
Chris