Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Key notions defined series: 2. Deity

Having completed my main review of the New Testament (and some Old Testament) texts, cataloguing almost 500 passages, I am "celebrating" that milestone by publishing a part of the paper that helps me in the processing and weighing of these texts, which is currently entitled Chapter 2: Key Notions Defined. It also is an opportunity for me to tidy up these definitions.

Here is the next one.


I have had an increasing sense of wariness about the confusion hanging over this word, which is why it will not feature strongly in this paper. Deity has come to be used like a measuring tape of the degree of heresy and damage you might be capable of wielding on the belief of an individual or even of a church. How much deity does Jesus have? Seven? Fourteen? If we use expressions like “fully divine” or “full deity”, what would it mean to say “partially divine” or “partial deity”?

Dale Tuggy voices a similar complaint here commenting on the sacking of a World Vision employee over the issue of the Trinity:

The words in their doctrinal statement […] fail to clearly express any precise views about God and Jesus. It seems to me that a lot of evangelical talk of the “deity of Christ” (or him “being God” or “being fully God” or “100% God” etc.) functions primarily as a sort of shibboleth, and that’s what is going on here. Their statement also owes something to a distinctively American anti-creedal tradition, which goes back to the founding of [the United States of America…t]he result is a distinctive sort of Christian tradition zealous to police itself for correct beliefs, but without interest in making precise distinctions.[1]

More and more, I feel that the word deity does not really reflect anything we can find in the Scriptures regarding God (except one single verse, Colossians 2:9, which I will not be examining) in the way we use the word. It also places major question marks over the roots of Fourth Century Trinitarianism itself, for the second and third centuries are full of church fathers and writers who would not have professed the “full deity of Christ” in the sense understood one or two centuries later.

The term deity also – in my view – is now spoiled with a misunderstanding of what we now define as monotheism, please see below.

Finally, deity does not even reflect what the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed actually states (or the church movement behind it) in the fourth century. Take the legendary Athanasius for instance, who strategically made the otherwise inconsequential Arius into a heresiarch. This is the same Athanasius who is famous for being such a strong proponent of salvation as deification: Jesus became man, so that men could become gods, deified. There was arguably no-one more central to the creed most churches hold so dearly to today. See “God” for more on the evolution of the word “theos” in antiquity.

[1] See full article No Trinity, No Job – Part 2,

[1] See full article No Trinity, No Job – Part 2,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your feedback, really appreciate the interaction.