“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my Commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’” (Exodus 20:1-7) (NIV).
The above passage of Scripture is an excerpt from the Ten Commandments, given to the Israelites. All problems of the Israelites emanated from violating the Ten Commandments. There are two authoritative principles, under the sun. One leads to life, while the other leads to destruction. In the history of humanity, some people displayed wisdom, as to draw some following after themselves.
The Greek philosophers, probably, lead the pack, in terms of pursuing wisdom. But religion could guide humanity, more than any other authority. While philosophy bestows responsibility on those pursuing wisdom, religion seeks allegiance to some divine authority. In philosophy, there is no emphasis for worship, necessarily, while in religion worship is embryonic.
There can be an endless debate, on the question of which group is more informed than the other. Though, both hold some semblance of insight. As long as certain of who God is, the religionists can, actually, be associated with wisdom. Yet a philosopher, pursuing logic and understanding of good behavior, also gets associated with wisdom. Nevertheless, none can claim to be wiser than the other. The only dividing line is the inability to listen.
The syndrome of inability to listen also causes division in Christianity. Jesus was God in human form. There ought not to be confusion, as long as accepting Jesus as holding all authority. Confusion arises when some people come to claim to be more informed than others—thereby usurping the authority of Jesus. The power of knowledge serves to eliminate confusion. It can be impossible to deceive a person who holds knowledge.
Philosophers are obsessed in pursuance of understanding, without indulgence in religion, necessarily. A philosopher is interested in acquiring knowledge, towards logical conclusions. The reason why religion does not appeal to philosophers is that philosophy relies on evidence, more than faith in things not logically proven. As a modern religion, Christianity encountered challenges, due to collusion with Greek Philosophers of that time.
The teachings of Jesus were, logically, reasonable to the Greek converts. The only stumbling block was on proving the role of Jesus in the religious equation. Was Jesus God, or one of us? Just as education is given credence, the early Christians had to succumb to philosophic reasoning. This is how the Trinitarian doctrine was brought into the fray. Logically, Jesus could not be equated to ordinary humans.
If Christianity is riddled with all manner of confusion, the source of its confusion is in handling the question of Trinity. The Judeo-Christian Bible is premised on the principle of not having other gods before the one true God. The Trinitarian believers claim to have no doubt about the words of Jesus being infallible. They claim to love Jesus, as to elevate Him to the status of being a member of Trinity, equating Him with God the Father.
Having included philosophy, Christianity appears as most civilized among other religions of this world. Though confronted with Biblical narrative, stating a monotheistic God, Scholars had to come with suitable nomenclature. Terms like Trinity, or Triune God, were to be adopted, even though not mentioned by Jesus. This brings the Philosopher and the religionist into drinking from the same source. Philosophy is given leadership authority, where Theology is highly esteemed.
But, the first Commandment states that God’s people should have no other gods? Theology cannot take the position of the true God, whose word, through Jesus, remains infallible. Nothing appears as wrong with being logical, in pursuance of obeying God’s instructions. The only problem lies in the failure to appreciate what God said to the Israelites (Exodus 20:3).
Basically, the first Commandment proved to be a real stumbling block to the Israelites. They followed other gods, rather than remaining steadfast in one True God, according to the Decalogue. The Israelites found no logic in relying on an invisible God—even though having observed the proof of His Mighty works.
Fast forward to the Christian dispensation. Christians do not doubt Jesus as having been the Messiah, whose imminence the Jews had been guaranteed. If all along, humanity had been ignorant, concerning issues of survival, Jesus brought the light. Logically, one assumes that it became no longer necessary for humanity to continue in darkness. But, as affirmed in John’s Book:
“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:9-13) (NIV).
Apparently, the problem lies in not believing that Jesus, was the Christ? The Jews were clear about the imminence of the Messiah (The Christ). Their problem lay in imagining how Christ should behave and look like. They could not receive someone not fitting their imaginations. This was a clear violation of the Scripture: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4) (NIV).
To the entire world, John attests the assertive reality: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:9-10) (NIV). Here is the hidden mystery: “….and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (verse 10). Though being the true light to every man, the world could not recognize Jesus.
In another of His Books, John gives a little bit of a hint to this revelation: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20) (NIV).
We have to appreciate that His own people, also rejected Him. Because he did not match their imagination of how the Messiah ought to have been like. They clearly violated the Commandment, stating that they ought not to have likened God to anything of this world. Was that Scripture relevant to them, or not?
Well, I suppose those Jews should be commended for having confronted Jesus—serving to test His Messiahship? Jesus gave them perfect answers to their questions. Their accusations could not stand, even before the Gentile authoritarian representative (Pilate). Their stupidity was premised on violating that pivotal Scripture: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4) (NIV).
Looked at casually, one would say, the Jews were right. Honoring Jesus would be another way of violating the same Scripture in Exodus 20:4. The person of Jesus could not match the description of an invisible God. How then could Jesus be granted honor, as though being God? The same Israelites had all along honored Moses. Yet their confusion gets shuttered by the Scripture in Genesis 1:26-27.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (NIV).
Unfortunately, humans have got no slightest resemblance to God, due to the sin of Adam. Humans are generally, the opposite of God’s likeness. To resemble God, one has to possess the mercy that endures forever. This type of Mercy is beautifully narrated in the entire Chapter of Psalms 136. To be God’s child, one needs to similarly be merciful.
What makes God’s mercy to endure forever, comes from appreciating that, though embroiled in sin, humanity was created in God’s image. This is why John stated that one would be a liar, when declaring to love God, yet unable to love one’s own brother, whom one would have seen. The basic personality of another fellow human being, is God’s image, according to Genesis 1:27.
It takes the mind of Jesus, to be able to salvage a sinful brother from his/her appalling sinful condition. As the only begotten Son of the Living God, Jesus was God in the flesh (Matthew 16:18-20); (2 Corinthians 4:4), (Colossians 1:15) & (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus was God in the flesh, yet the same God, could not be seen through physical eyes unless revealed by God, Himself (Matthew 16:18-20).
The same applies to any other human being, in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Ordinary people may not see Godliness in that individual, similarly, as ordinary people could not see that reality, though revealed to Peter. That which could not be likened to anything created—as not seen in Jesus—can equally not be seen in His brothers. This is the only reason why the Jews crucified Jesus.
The Trinitarians are so fixated on Jesus, as assuming that He deserves to be worshipped. They also desire not to lose focus in that there is only one true God—not likened to anything, yet deserving to be worshipped. That same God was in Jesus—also in Peter and the rest of the early disciples. He exists in the lives of true Christians, even today. He is the God who cannot be likened to anything created—according to Exodus 20:4.
Having revealed the cause of confusion, among the religious people—like the Jews—we have to tackle the cause of confusion among Theologians. As stated earlier on, Theology stems from philosophy—seeking to be logical—in order to solve difficult problems. This kind of reasoning can be quite appealing—so far as education is necessary for enlightenment. The only obstacle in learning, for understanding, is the idea that one knows when having acquired knowledge from some wrong source.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10) (NIV).
True data comes from the original source. False data is that which comes from any other informants, other than the original source. Jesus maintained the fact that His source of information came directly from God. The cause of His rejection was simply that those Jews believed in other gods, other than the true God. The Jews could not learn from the experiences of their forefathers.
The logical standard of the Greek Philosophers was appealing. But the knowledge of God does not come in any other way, except through Jesus—the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). A person can only know God, after repentance, which requires rubbishing everything, ever acquired as knowledge, in one’s lifetime. The apostle Paul likened his previous knowledge to rubbish (Philippians 3:8). True knowledge comes by God’s revelation so that no human can boast about having acquired it—as flesh and blood cannot reveal it (Matthew 16:17).
Therefore, there cannot be any other authority, under the sun, except Jesus—as confirmed in what Jesus, Himself, said (Matthew 23:8-12). Jesus is our brother, being God’s gift, meant to lead the way towards our redemption—before reverting to being true sons of the living God. What is required of humanity is humility—allowing Jesus to direct the way, instead of assuming to know when the opposite is true.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
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