The Catholic faith that Jesus is God has been around for almost two millennia. Around the 4th century, this teaching was attacked by a priest named Arius. He preached that Jesus is not God just like what Felix taught to his members. He was able to gain many followers and created divisions within the church. To settle this theological issue, the bishops did the same thing what their predecessors did. The Apostles who also had found an issue within the church convened a council in union with the first pope St. Peter which is called the Council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15). Likewise, the bishops who are the successors of the apostles convened a council, the council of Nicea in 325AD. The council has concluded that Arius’ teaching that Jesus is not God is heresy.
On 1914, this heresy has been revived by Felix Manalo who founded his own church which he named “Iglesia ni Cristo” This old heresy has penetrated within the Filipino community through the church which Manalo built and created a division again. Many Catholics were converted to INC after the persuasive tactics of INC ministers by quoting bible verses out of context. There is one passage that they always bring up in an attempt to prove that Jesus is not God:
v1 – Jesus spoke these things and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You
v3 – This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
How does INC interprets this? Well, they believe that Jesus himself said in his prayer that Father is the only true God, therefore, Jesus is not God. If we accept that Jesus is also God, there will be two Gods and it’s clear that Jesus taught us that the Father is the only true God, only means one and it does not include Jesus Christ.
That’s how the ministers bring it up and it may sound convincing but it is still the same old heresy way back on the 4th century. The doctrinal truth about God should be taken out not from this single passage but from the totality of what has the Bible revealed about the one true God. You will probably hear this kind of argumentation from INC minister on social media or from just a member of INC. The typical response to this interpretation would be quoting other verses of the Bible that proves Jesus is God and there are a lot of biblical passages where you can prove that Jesus is God. Quoting biblical verses is effective but this would often blow up the scope of the discussion and you’d lose track on which particular interpretation of the text you should address.
Here are ways on how to respond that kind of argumentation in a lesser yet effective way.
1. Say Amen.
John 17 and every part of the Bible is the Word of God. So tell anyone who brings up these verses that we Catholics believe that too that the Father is the only true God and Jesus Christ was sent by the Father. By doing so, it is wrong to reject Jesus as God because the totality of the Bible about the one true God tells us that Jesus also in union with the Father is the one true God.
2. It is not Father vs Son
Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews are known as God’s chosen people but they also are prone to falling into apostasy by committing idolatry. They have done this over and over again. So Christ in his prayer was for everyone to acknowledge and believe to the only one true God alone and not to idols
3. The Father and the Son are one.
The Christian faith which proclaims Jesus is God does not mean there are two Gods but only one God. This is because the Bible tells us that the Son and the Father are one (John 10:30). The truth claims of Christ about his relationship with the father was so scandalous for the Jews that they even sought to kill him. (John 10:33). However, INC will tell you that the oneness of the Father and the Son is only limited to works but the profound unity or oneness of the Father and the Son according to Jesus Christ is more than just being one in works or in taking care of the sheep.
When Christ rebuked Philip for requesting “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”. It’s a fair question from one of the Apostles whose faith has not yet reached its maturity. Jesus replied “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”. Through Philip’s question, Jesus has extended the revelation about his unity with the Father for the sake of our understanding and that is when we see the Son we see the Father when we see Jesus Christ, we see God.
4. One does not exclude the other.
The things we say to the Father are also and should be the things we say to the Son and what we say to the Son is what we say to the Father. This is because of their profound unity, we cannot reject Christ as God in John 17:1,3 because we can read word “only” which refers to the Father for we can also read “one” and “only” which refers to Christ while we cannot reject the Father as such. For example:
Eph 4:5 For us there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism
Does this mean the Father is not Lord because there is only one Lord? If the Father is Lord and Jesus is Lord, are there two Lords? Is this passage wrong? No, not at all, because we can proclaim that there is only one Lord Jesus Christ while not rejecting that the Father is Lord. In the same way, we can proclaim that the Father is the only true God while not rejecting Son is one true God.
Jude 1:4 “…They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Does this mean that the Father is not Sovereign and Lord? Hardly. This means that as soon as we attain a firm grasp upon the totality of the Scriptures about the Son and the Father, you’ll learn to understand the proper use of “ONE” and “ONLY” in the Scriptures and that the faith which we Catholic hold and as well as Protestants about the divinity of Christ stands on a solid reasonable grounds which you can bet your life on it.