Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God? Do you believe in the Trinity? Do you have a personal relationship with God? All these questions have been set up to distinguish between the ‘sheep and the goats’ throughout Christian history. What however everyone misses when choosing one or all as your shibboleth, or when choosing any/all as your yes/no decision of whether someone is on the inside or the outside of the group, is that these are no more than words trying to describe the indescribable. They are models of how God relates to his/her creation and should not be taken (but unfortunately are very frequently) as hard and fast rules. In fact the more you open your mind to the concepts involved the more you become aware of the limiting nature of each.
‘The Son of God’ can mean, as I suspect the early followers of Jesus meant, that he was special and that he was to God as a son is to the father. Or it can mean like the 3/4C neo Platonic Greeks felt that he, Jesus, was physically the product of a divine intervention in process of procreation. The phrase ‘the Son of God’ describes a range of possibilities.
The trinity – Father, Son & Holy Ghost – is another attempt by the Greeks to tie down what the relationship between God, Jesus of Nazareth and Holy Spirit Jesus said he was giving us. Is it worth while keeping as a ‘must believe’ concept. Or is it better treating as an ancient model of God in his/her/its widest sense – one appropriate to a 3/4C Hellanised world and one that is a useful starting point in our own attempts to think about the divine element in creation.
A ‘personal relationship with God’ – and here we have the ultimate man made creation of a test to decide whether you are ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’; but it means nothing on its own. It tells you more about the psychological make up of the person who assents to that statement. Think about it. Personally I’d rather identify with Mother Teresa and see Jesus in everybody suffering in mind or body than try and conjour up a psychological or a pseudo chemical relationship with the divine when it doesn’t come naturally to me. May be some people are lucky to have that feeling of personal relationship – or maybe they are deluded. I don’t care to adjudicate. It’s not a way of thinking that come naturally to me.
In the end though the only thing that matters as far as Christian belief is that “there is a creator God, that we see his/her/its nature revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and that the nature in question is Love”. Anything and everything else we might say or argue about is merely an attempt to explore those three critical facts in the history of creation. Let THAT become our one and only shibboleth and let us live that ‘loving nature’. Everything else needs to be left for discussion/debate.