For the record, I don’t believe that God had sex with Mary and so produced Jesus. The very idea is appalling.
Why do I write this?
Because when I tell my Muslim friends that I believe Jesus is the son of God, they often assume a very human conception. And yes, they’re appalled. They should be. Mary was a woman and God is, well, God.
If we don’t explain ourselves, then how can we expect our Muslim neighbors to be anything but appalled?
So what does it mean that Jesus is the son of God?
Here, our Muslim neighbors can help us considerably.
The Bible calls Jesus the “Word of God” and so does the Quran. In Sura al-Nisa 4:171, “Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, is God’s messenger and His word.” Our Muslim neighbors recognize that God’s word is eternal, uncreated and is made of God’s very essence. Muslims recognize that God created all that is through his eternal word.
A word, of course cannot be separated from the speaker of the word or the breath with which it is spoken. And here, we see the triune God; Speaker, Word and Breath. Jesus, son of God is the eternal spoken word of the Father, not a son born after the flesh. To honor Jesus, the word, is to honor God, the speaker. To see Jesus, the word, wrapped in human flesh is to see the father who is spirit.
From Scripture, we understand Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the son of God by the breath of God and the son of man by the seed of Mary.
So in this, Muslims are correct; God does not beget, nor is he begotten, nor is there anyone like unto him.
Son is our metaphor to express the closest relationship a human being can have; a son to his father. We don’t understand that very well anymore because our society has shifted and sons no longer walk in unity with the will and authority of their fathers.
If anything, Jesus is more than “son”. And certainly more than our understanding of what it means to be a son. Jesus is God’s very word eternally spoken, uncreated, the exact representation, the essence of God the father.
Jesus is the son of God.
How do you explain what it means that Jesus is the son of God?