I recently had the pleasant opportunity to engage Blake, an Evangelical friend of mine, in a debate over the meaning of “Son of God” in reference to Jesus Christ. We agreed that the title can be interpreted in both figurative and literal ways.
Laying aside any discussion over the figurative meaning, I pressed him for details regarding how he can ‘literally’ understand the phrase “son of God” in the context of the Trinity. The debate centered around one passage of scripture, Luke 1:35, in which Christ is called the “Son of God” in connection with the unique nature of his conception.
As a faithful LDS I recognize that the infant Jesus was conceived by the union of chromosomes coming from a biological mother and a biological father. Mary provided the DNA from the maternal side, while God the Father provided the DNA from the paternal side. In this way Jesus is “fully man” as Evangelicals tend to put it.
After sorting out our views I discovered that my friend Blake does not believe that the DNA provided by God in any way reflects any biological characteristics of God, for according to the Trinity God the Father has no DNA or biological characteristics. The DNA provided by God was especially created for the event. This certainly allows for Jesus to be “fully man”, but not to the extent that LDS interpretations allow for.
I believe that Blake’s interpretation of the event is alright, if not the best interpretation. The bible authors do not go to any lengths to describe the metaphysical/physical mechanics of the conception of Jesus. It is mentioned quite clearly that the Holy Spirit participated in the event, but his role is not specified.
It seems obvious to me that Luke was addressing an audience who had no preconceived notions about the Trinity, and who would have understood “Son of God” at face value. It was expected that his uneducated readers would interpret his words very literally. What reason would they have to suspect that Luke’s use of “Son of God” was anything but literal?
And so I once again see my Trinitarian friends having to interpret the text of the Bible in figurative ways in order for their theology to make sense. For them, Jesus is as much the “Son of God” as Adam is the “son of God” in terms of literal relationships. There is no real and special father/son relationship in the Trinity.
I of course do not object to interpreting the bible figuratively when necessary, but I feel that Evangelicals need to do it far too often.