Taking a break from our usual non-theological posts, I thought I'd reflect on something.
Earlier this evening, a man came up to Anna and I and said, "Are you all Christians?" He had a Ukrainian accent and it turns out he was Ukranian. "How did you become a Christian?", I asked. His reply started out good enough, "Well, I used to be Orthodox." He meant upper-case "O", but, according to his next statement, should have meant it to be lower-case. "Then I heard from some Jehovah's Witnesses and I started to get into some of that stuff. Now I'm here in China wanting to preach and teach."
Sickness to the stomach. I was so sad when he belied this information. The one thing everyone knows about JW's is that they follow the Ebionite heresy of denying Jesus' deity. We made small talk for as long as possible. But as we started to get into the conversation (about Jesus' deity), I started to realize how much this doctrine shapes and informs every bit of worship and Christianity for me.
Anyways, I gave him the typical prooftexts (Jesus forgives sins, Thomas calls him Lord, people pray to him in Revelation, etc.) It's true that it's not something the NT ever talks about at length. But it's always there. Recent examples of where I've come across it are Romans 1:1 (Grace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord) and Hebrews 1:8. In Hebrews 1:8, the author takes the passage Psalm 47:6-7 where it says "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever" and applies it to Christ. Of course, in its original context, they were not saying that the davidide was God. In its original context, this was just to specify that the Davidic King was the vicegerent of Israel's God. But in Hebrews 1, the author applies it to the Son as a way of demonstrating that he is superior to the angels. Especially given the immediate context, where we are told that the Son is "forever and ever" and as the "Lord" who created the universe (vv 10-12), this is an attribution of deity to Jesus.
In any case, it was a good experience to realize how much I really am attached to this most core of doctrines. And it really is core. I don't know how or why anyone who doesn't believe Jesus is God could or would call themselves Christian. I told my Ukranian stranger friend the same thing, more or less, in words a little more polite.