- - Endorsed
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- - Contested
|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| Why The Humanity of Christ Matters To Me...
|You have probably heard the term Docetism, and maybe you knew what it meant once upon a time, but unless you are an apologist, or have an exceptionally sharp memory, you probably remember only this much: Docetism is/was one of the many heresies that the early church had to deal with.
Let me begin therefore by refreshing your memory, should you require it. Docetism is what happens when you try and inject gnostic teaching into Christianity.
The Docetist believes that all matter is temporal/evil/corrupt, and that all that is spirit is eternal/pure/incorrupt. Thus the gnostic who hears that Jesus is God, concludes, according to his Gnostic presupposition, that Jesus only seemed to be a man, but was in fact a Spirit all along. His flesh only appeared to be flesh like everyone else's, but was only an impenetrable divine illusion. The Docetist's understanding of Christ's humanity was that the incarnation was an illusion - Christ was not really a human, He did not really come in the flesh, but came only in Spirit dressed up as flesh.
Now, those who are lazy (or perhaps arrogant?) amongst us, or even just exceptionally dull witted, might say to this sort of thing, "Big deal! Docetism isn't very popular today, and we don't think anyone really buys into that kind of junk anymore. We have already solved that problem, so why would any right thinking person waste their time knowing or studying such a thing; Such a study can't possibly benefit us and so we see no value in it." - or something similar. But, as I say, that would be foolish, because in order to understand the doctrine that corrected this notion (the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union), we need to understand what the doctrine was that was being corrected. And in order to understand why the humanity of Christ matters to me, you need to understand as much as you can about the humanity of Christ.
Let us consider therefore, the doctrine of the hypostatic union. Yeah, I know...it is yet another one of those theological labels, but we use it because labels make it easier to refer back to something when we are discussing something else later on.
The term "hypostatic union" is used to describe the orthodox understanding of how God (in the person of Jesus Christ) became a Man. We didn't come up with this doctrine by sitting around with nothing better to do than try and think up new doctrines. Theologians weren't lounging about idly one day casually wondering to one another what that "whole incarnation thing" as all about. The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union did not spring out of a long forgotten and pointless discussion about in consequential matters.
Hardly! The doctrine was hammered out because in order to show what was wrong with Docetism (and other applicable heresies), one had to reveal where the heresy went awry, and had to show that this was not just "my opinion vs. your opinion" but rather that this is what the scriptures actually teach.
The reason I think it's rather important to mull over this particular doctrine is because many people don't. They don't know where it came from or why it is there, and conclude something like, "this is orthodox because some people hundreds of years ago decided it was, and now lots of other people do to, and I better be on board with that so that no one can accuse me of not being orthodox." I don't want any reader to accept any doctrine just because other people accept it. I don't admire someone who is towing the line if the only reason they tow the line is because they don't care enough to see if they should be towing it or not.
Doctrines that are held without an understanding of what they were meant to guard against leave the person who holds those doctrines at risk of embracing the error the doctrine exists to guard against. Most of us, at some point or another have driven a nail with something other than a hammer. In the same way when doctrine isn't fully grasped, it can never the less be used here and there in ways it was never intended.
The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union is a well thought out apology that reveals the errors of such heresies as Docetism - but make no mistake: If you don't understand the apology, you're probably not going to rely upon the doctrine. It'll be a tool you don't know how to use.
Okay, I have talked about this doctrine a bit, but I haven't really expressed it, so here goes, and I will try and keep it simple. The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, in a nutshell, states that Jesus took on a genuine human nature during the incarnation. Or said another way, Jesus became 100% human, while at the same time remaining 100% God. This union preserved the two natures, the human and the divine, in such a way as to not mix them together.
That is an important note - a lot of people have a picture of Jesus as being a mixture of man and God. People like that reason that Jesus was a man, so He would bleed if you cut Him, but He was God so He could do miracles.
What a lot of people don't realize is that an understanding like that actually blends the humanity of Christ with the divinity of God. That presumes that Jesus the man, could (and did) make use of His own divinity during the incarnation, when scripture teaches that Jesus did not.
I want to stop there and talk about the difference between the Humanity of Christ, and the humanity that you and I live with.
Jesus wasn't the only human to live without sin.
Oh, come on now. You know Adam lived without sin for a time. That is who I am referring to. Prior to the fall, Adam was in a state of sinlessness, and as such enjoyed privileges that were lost after the fall. The most important privilege was not that Adam could live in the garden, or that the land wasn't cursed, etc. No, the greatest privilege is that Adam and Eve also, could see God. Now, God is a Spirit, and so when I say "see" - I do not insist that they were seeing God with their eyes, though God may well have walked through the Garden as a manifestation of Himself in the Shekinah of glory. The point isn't to try and hash out what God looked like to them - but to note that prior to the fall Adam had free and open fellowship with God the Father, and this fellowship was an experiential thing. Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, knew where God was when His presence was with them, they could talk to Him, relate to Him person to person, etc. After the fall, this was lost.
I mention this because when Christ was formed in the womb of Mary, it is quite accurate to say that He, that is, as a human, enjoyed the same "pre-fall" prerogatives that Adam had once enjoyed. Christ was very much like a second (pre-fall) Adam.
I hate having to stifle the many detours this post could take, but I do so out of love for what I write, so bear with me. I know a lot of you who are reading have already formed your own understanding of how Jesus could be born of Mary. Some will say that the "seed" that was implanted was a fully fertilized egg, containing none of Mary's DNA, so that Mary's role in the incarnation was that of a human incubator and an eventual caregiver - a surrogate mother who was privileged to raise the Christ child as her own.
Likewise, some imagine that the Holy Spirit inseminated Mary with special "God" DNA - so that Jesus, while human, was fundamentally different than us being made of better materials. I expect that fewer people actually believe that Mary was simply the biological mother of Jesus, even though scripture makes that point clear and plain.
Christ was the descendant of David, a descendant of Abraham. He didn't just appear to be the descendant of David. He was David's descendant - a physical ancestor of David. There is no room for debate on the matter, at least not sober debate. For the sake of this discussion, it really doesn't matter how Mary was impregnated, all that is pertinent is that she was really Christ's biological mother. That Mary certainly was a virgin when she bore Him won't play into this discussion, but I affirm it in case anyone was worried or concerned on that matter.
On thing differentiated Christ from other men - that I think a lot of people overlook.
It wasn't the fact that His mother was a virgin when she bore Him - though that in itself is so profound we could talk about it at length. It was that Jesus remained fully deity during in the incarnation, even though He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Said another way, it wasn't that Jesus lived entirely as a man even though He could have (at any time) chosen to exercise His divinity and lived in a way that no man (who wasn't divine) could have lived. Jesus did not live as a demigod (half man/half God). He did not live as more than a man.
Let's be clear, the humanity that Jesus took on, was not the post-fall version. Jesus was certainly born into a sinful world that itself was cursed on account of Adam's sin. But Jesus was the second Adam. He was not under the Adamic curse. Jesus was born into the world just as the first Adam, but what differentiated Jesus (for the purpose of this article) was not that He was God, or that He was born of a virgin - but rather that He was born into a world where every other person was separated from God being under the curse by God. Every other person had been born into this world (you and me included) were born into a world where we are experientially unaware of God's presence. When we pray to God, we don't hear his voice answering us back. Our senses are not aware of God's presence.
There is no reason why Jesus, who was not under the curse of Adam, would have been separated from God in the same way sinner are. Jesus would have been was fully aware of God's presence - not "because He was God", but because He was like Adam was before the fall.
Let's called that an important even foundational point.
Recall that after Adam sinned In the Garden of Eden, God cursed Adam, and through Adam, all of creation, and all subsequent procreation. Where previously Adam and Eve were experientially aware of God, now they were driven from God's presence, as it were. Not that God could no longer see them, but rather that they could no longer see God. They knew God was there of course, creation itself testified to the fact, even as it continues to testify today - but the children of Adam did not have first hand experiential knowledge of God, they could not experience His presence directly - for that is one thing that was taken away from Adam and his race in Eden when mankind fell.
Christ did not inherit Adam's curse, even though He lived in a world that was suffering from that curse. What we need to understand if we are to proceed here, is that Christ, in His humanity, as the second Adam did not need to "be" God in order to see God and talk to God, anymore than Adam needed to be God (prior to the fall) to see and talk to God.
Everyone else upon the earth was living under the curse, but Christ was living as one who had never been cast out of God's presence. We, so far from the Garden, do not imagine it to be a "normal" human experience to see God - this is so cut into us, that we automatically presume that the only reason Jesus could see and talk to God was because Jesus was God, who among us stops to consider that Jesus could commune with God the way He did because He was human (i.e. He was not a fallen human)?
Being experientially aware of God, being able to converse with Him directly and to hear Him speak with our ears - these were all normal experiences prior to the fall.
When scripture describes our Lord as the second Adam, I suck in my breath in awe - for that is an apt and glorious description. He truly was a second Adam, but unlike the first who brought sin and death through one act of rebellion, this "Adam" would bring reconciliation and life through one act of righteousness. Don't get all caught up in the "one act of righteousness" thing there either. I know, as well as you, that Christ lived His whole life righteously - that every act He ever did was righteous, and that had He failed to do everything righteously, His final act would have been moot and void. When I say "through one act of righteousness" I trust that the reader understands that this by no means suggests it was the only righteous act He ever did - but rather that it was this particular righteous act that brought redemption to God's chosen people.
I make this point because when I say that Jesus was 100% human, I don't mean to imply that He lived this life in a relationship with God identical to a sinner's relationship to God. I mean that Christ lived this life like Adam lived prior to the fall. Christ was made from the same DNA that the rest of us are made from. There was no special "God" DNA. His ability to sense God, to speak with God directly, etc. was not the product of His divinity - it was "normal" for a sinless human.
Now, that is not to diminish Jesus' participation in the Triune Godhead, or to suggest that Jesus was in some way diminished in His divinity. He came to understand Himself to be whom He was through both the scriptures, and through His earthly relationship with God the Father - even as Adam had before the fall.
I know that some (Most? All?) would say that Jesus knew that He was God because He was God, and as God He would have been omniscient, and therefore God the Father, and/or God the Holy Spirit didn't have to tell Him that He was God because as God the Son He would have already known these things (in His divinity). But I think that is as unnecessary as it is wrong. I don't believed Jesus exercised His divinity even once while on the earth, and I think that because nothing that Jesus did in this life required him to exercise his own divinity - and we see in several places where the miraculous is ascribed not to the person of Jesus but to the Holy Spirit.
Consider this: scripture says that Jesus cast out demons by the Holy Spirit; and again that He healed when the Spirit was present to heal, etc. Consider I say, the incongruence of the picture of Jesus, sometimes doing something in His own divinity, and at other times doing something in the power of the Holy Spirit's divinity. if we insist that Jesus did anything divine in the power of His own divinity, then we ought to agree that Jesus only did some things in the power of His own divinity. Scripture does not explicitly say that Jesus did anything by His own divinity - but it does explicitly say that Jesus did things through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thus we are left with a riddle. Why would Jesus, if He were exercising His own divinity to perform some miracles, etc. not do so exclusively? Why burden the Holy Spirit but only sometimes? And why not exercise His own (lazy?) divinity when the Holy Spirit wasn't present to heal?
One might ignore or dismiss this line of thinking because they've read passages about how Jesus knew something that a normal man couldn't possibly know - and that Adam (prior to the fall) would not have known either. I mean, Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men, right? He knew who would betray Him, etc. Doesn't that prove that Jesus was (at times) omniscient?
I say at times, because Jesus spoke plainly about how only the Father knew the day and the hour of the end. This is a point of contention for some deny the divinity of Christ - if He was God, they reason - He would have known that. Like many Christians, these atheists have no category for a Christ who was 100% man.
Of course, Christ wasn't living as a sinner separated from God. Can we imagine Jesus going through life being the only person aware of God, and not having once asked God, or had it explained to Him that all men were sinners in need of the salvation that Christ was sent to bring them?
Do not the scriptures tell us that Elisha didn't physically travel down the road with his servant Gehazi when Gehazi ran after Naaman, nor was Elisha physically following Gehazi as the same returned with bags of silver and new clothes? Did not Elisha says to the Gehazi on his return, "Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you..." (c.f. 1 Kings 5:26).
Was Elisha God? How could he have known those things? Said another way, was this kind of knowledge something that was only available through one's own personal divinity.
If fallen, Old Testament prophets could be made aware of such things, Christ - who was in perfect fellowship with God - could know such things without depending upon or drawing upon His own divinity to furnish them.
Which again is not to deny Christ's deity, but rather to point out that nothing Christ did, assuming He acted in the strength of the Holy Spirit (as scripture records Him doing) throughout his earthly ministry, would require Him to exercise His own divinity. Didn't the Holy Spirit drive Christ into the wilderness after Christ received the Holy Spirit in the Jordan river? Did not Christ's earthly ministry begin immediately at that time, and not before? Why didn't Jesus do any miracles for the first 30 years or so of His life? etc.
There has never been a single reason for Jesus to exercise His own deity in performing any of the extraordinary things He did while upon the earth. People simply conclude that because Jesus was God, He could do miracles. His sinless life, and the miracles He did certainly testify that Christ was the Messiah. The only reason anyone thinks that Jesus performed miracles in the power of His own deity is because they know that He was and is God the Son.
If you've been thinking that Jesus did His miracles "because He was God" - you need to rethink your theology. Answer for yourself why Jesus didn't know somethings, and why He was unable (as opposed to unwilling) to do miracles at times. The doctrine of the Hypostatic union is not half man and half God - a blended mix of each - it is 100% man and 100% God, with no mixing of either in the single person of Christ.
Just because you know already that Jesus is God is NOT a good enough reason to assume that He did miracles "because" he was God.
Consider the temptation that the devil plied Christ with in the wilderness - if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread - The temptation is what exactly? The temptation is (don't miss this) to prove that He really is the son of God. How? By exercising His divine power and turning stones into bread for himself. Yes he was hungry. Yes to make himself loaves out of stones would have been to depend upon himself and his own ability to supply for himself rather than to trust in God's provision, and continue to obey the Holy Spirit who had led Him out into the wilderness on this fast - but if that were all there was to the temptation, there would be no reason to premise it with, "If you are the Son of God..."
Surely if Jesus was wandering around making use of His omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. He would have been perfectly aware of, and experientially certain of His own divinity. The devil wasn't tempting Jesus to prove to him that Christ really was the Son of God - what kind of temptation would that be? The temptation was to prove it to Himself, rather than to trust the God whom Christ was aware of. What a great victory that would have been for Satan! He used the desire to eat to tempt Eve to distrust God, and hoped to do the same to Christ.
I don't hear a lot of teaching on this.
When most people think about the Hypostatic Union they think that 100% man means that Jesus was "really" a "real" human - but he was "also" 100% God, which is why he could do miracles. But think that through. Was Elijah personal divined power to raise the widow's son from the dead (c.f. 1 Kings 17:17-24)? Of course not. Elijah was 100% man. He didn't have the power to do that, but relied upon God to do it. I suggest to you that this is exactly how Jesus lived His life here upon the earth.
I don't think Jesus exercised his own divinity during the incarnation even once. He went to the cross by faith - trusting God that He truly was the Son of God. Trusting God to truly raise Him from the dead.
Tell me, if Jesus truly lived as a man, utterly dependent upon God during the incarnation - how does that inform and affect your walk with God?
When I speak of the Hypostatic union, I probably mean more by that than many who parrot the "Christ is 100% human and 100% God" party line.
I believe that when Christ became incarnate, He utterly emptied Himself of every divine prerogative, He remained God, but He did not take up and exercise His divine mantle during the incarnation. He could have, but instead he trusted God even as we are to trust God.
Had Christ exercised His divinity during the incarnation it would have meant that His flesh was merely a ruse - a sheath for His divinity. He would have had the appearance of a man, but would have been -only- God. That is difficult to see if one has been programmed since Sunday School to think that Jesus did everything in His own divinity. But when you see it, you see it.
Why do I bother making such a fuss about the humanity of Christ?
Am I overstating Christ's humanity?
I don't think I am, in fact I think most people are trained to understate Christ's humanity. On the other side of the horse, because I am talking about Christ's humanity, some might expect me to balance that out by giving the same attention to Christ's divinity - lest I present too much humanity, and not enough God. But I am not writing today to present the picture of Christ's deity - I can do that another time, even if I risk presenting what some might imagine to be a lop sided picture of our Lord. I have explained that I am speaking of the incarnation, and because I have framed my discussion thus, I beg some leniency from my readers in the matter.
The picture I want to paint of our Lord is that He lived His earthly life as the second (pre-fall) Adam - living in perfect harmony with God, unhindered by sin, but not without temptation. He lived by faith and even performed miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit just as other earthly prophets have done, but His ministry was not like theirs, for He was the sinless Messiah whom was sent by God to redeem God's people.
Good doctrine answers difficult questions. Here is one application of this doctrine that strengthens me in my weaknesses.
The Jesus portrayed in the scriptures lived each moment in harmony and fellowship with God, yet we are told that He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
How could an omniscient Jesus have ever been tempted not to trust God?
My walk of faith runs up against temptations that I need Jesus to have faced if I am going to continue to be a Christian - if I am going to continue to believe the bible.
How can an omniscient Jesus truly understand the very common and natural - even foundational - temptation we all experience to doubt God?
Only if Jesus was 100% human could He experience that kind of temptation. If my "version" of the Hypostatic Union merely pays lip-service to Christ's humanity, then where do I draw my strength from in a temptation to doubt God - certainly not from an omniscient Christ by virtue of his deity was incapable of doubting God's provision.
The purpose of this post isn't to address this singular temptation that we all - I hold that up as one application of a sound and solid teaching. How many of us excuse our own sin on the grounds that "no one is perfect" - Christ was perfect, though He truly experienced every kind of temptation we could ever receive. This is the man who sits at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the true and heavenly Holy of Holies - it is He is is our High Priest - the one who mediates on our behalf - the more Human he is to us, the more we can trust him to sympathize with us.
Oh for the love of God - how many of you reading worship the whole Christ, and how many of you only worshiping His divinity? How many of you have so focused on the deified Jesus that you cannot and will not appeal to His humanity when you're before the throne of grace in prayer?
Those of us who call on the name of the Lord will be tempted even as Jesus was tempted - to believe that God isn't really for us - to believe that in spite of His promises God may not save us. How many of you are crippled spiritually by the shame of your sin, and stay there because you're too ashamed to come to God for cleansing?
How did this post get to the place where I find myself able to encourage you dear reader, to draw near to Christ? We got here by examining the reality of Christ's humanity. The reality of Christ's humanity should emboldens us trust in his sympathetic compassion for us at the throne of grace - but more than this - it should inform us of what can be done by a faithful follower of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. More on that in a bit...
You see, when Christ was united on the cross to every sinner who turned to God in faith - when Christ's sinless life was knit to our sinful lives in a union stronger than death - in that moment Christ entered, for the first time, experientially, into the curse that we live under. In that moment Jesus experienced - as a man - first hand the separation from God that all of us were born into. In that moment - the moment when Christ most "needed" intimate fellowship with God - in that moment as He hung there humiliated, and dying - in that moment Christ knew the same struggle we struggle with - is God there? Has He abandoned me? Am I truly His Child? Have I messed up? Have I failed? Is this happening to me because I failed? Will God really save me?
When we use the phrase: being baptized by fire - we mean that we come into some understanding through an all out, and typically jarring, immersion into a thing.
I think that it is colloquially viable to say that Christ was baptized by fire that day. He was suddenly, after a life of perfect fellowship with God - cast (by our sins) into the vacuum in which we live - cast out of God's presence. As a man, Jesus found Himself alone for the first time, in a situation that can only be described as profoundly horrible - would there ever have been a moment in Christ's life where the certainty of God the Father's presence would have been more welcome?
Yet there Christ suffered, suddenly cut off from that fellowship He had always enjoyed.
Prior to this moment, we might have been able to weakly argue that Jesus didn't really suffer the same temptations as we do - we might be able to say that Jesus, knowing He was God, and living in constant fellowship with God, didn't know what it was like to face fear and doubt, but in that moment when we were united together with Him in the way Paul makes clear in Romans 6 - in that moment when Jesus hung on the cross and God began to pour out His wrath us our sin - in that moment of complete and utter separation from God, Christ stepped out of the humanity that knew God's presence, and into the humanity that each of us lives under. A place where faith isn't answered by seeing God in person, but by trusting Him on His word. A place Christ had never been to until that moment and a place where Christ suffered more than any of us can possibly imagine.
I say, the reason Christ's humanity matters to me, is because I know that Christ identifies with my suffering. I know that there is no fear, no doubt, no amount of suffering I can muster that can compare to what He suffered on Calvary (I am not thinking about the physical suffering or the humiliation either). I am thinking only about the compounded, jarring struggle of faith that took place on the cross -IF- Christ was truly human.
In that moment, Christ either suffered what I suffer, or He did not. Either my hope rests in the clinical knowledge that I suffer, or in the first hand sharing of my suffering - either Christ has compassion because He has experienced my suffering, or He has compassion because He can intellectually appreciate my suffering.
The bottom line, and the point of this post, is that theology makes Christ real to me; theology magnifies Christ in my life - theology - knowing the truths of scripture, knowing the truths of God - theology edifies me. The humanity of Jesus is life to me - it feeds my soul when I am weak, it keeps me humble when I imagine I am something - it is more than just a lesson, more than an intellectual footnote - it is life itself, as all good doctrine ought to be.
My encouragement to you, whether you follow my opinion or not, is to make sure that you relate to Christ personally - on a person to person level. Jesus is not a faceless force, but a person: God - a person we can relate to if we stop praying to a vague idea, and start speaking to a real person. Make certain that you are pursuing Christ in your religion, and not pursuing religion in your Christianity.
As a final note - the moment you understand that Jesus was as human as you or I, and that He did what He did, not in the power of His own divinity but rather in the power of the Holy Spirit - you should gain strong assurance that you will succeed in whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to accomplish for Christ's glory.
I doubt the Holy Spirit is going to empower you to do any of the signs and wonders that Christ did. I say that because that's been my experience, and it's been your experience too. But that doesn't mean an obedient Christian won't see miracles. Christ fed sinners with food from God. He healed and restored the health of sick or crippled sinners. He raised dead sinners back to life. We who have the Holy Spirit through Christ today routinely do greater miracles than these daily. Which is greater? The people that Christ raised from the dead, died again. The people whom you've led to the Lord, though the die, they will be raised again never to die thereafter. Which is greater? To open the eyes of a person so that he or she can see the things in this world, or to open the spiritual understanding of a sinner so that they can comprehend the gospel and be saved? To feed a man with bread that perishes or to give a man truth that feeds his soul for all eternity?
If you're the kind of Christian who says, well. Jesus did that because he is God, and since I'm not God, I can't do that and I never will be able to do that - you are living a life of justified failure and defeat - you can't do it, so there is no point in bothering. I will tell you right now it is your unfortunate theology that is sapping the life out of your faith, and keeping you comfortable in your inactivity.
But if you understand that Jesus did everything that He did here upon the earth entirely as a man, and that you're able, as a man to do the same - maybe, just maybe, you'll do something with the talents that Christ gave you.
Labels: humanity of Christ; personhood of Jesus
posted by Daniel @
Sorry about the length btw. I considered making it two posts, but decided to just put it out in one.
"I am odd"
"I don't think our Lord ever exercised His own divinity during the incarnation"
How, then, do you explain the occasions in which the Gospels tell us that "Jesus knew," e.g. John 6:64?
Is there anything in the text that says that the only way Jesus could have known was if He was God, or is that just an assumption you are making - that "because Jesus was God, that is why He knew"
Did Elisha know what Gehazi was doing because Elisha was also Christ?
Jesus didn't claim to be omniscient on earth - in fact He showed that He wasn't when He said that God the Father knew something that Jesus the man did not. If Christ knew things "because He was God" it must follow, with all the same force, that Christ failed to know things "because He wasn't God", if we are going to be consistent.
If on the other hand, Jesus knew because God made Him aware of it, then there is no inconsistency.
The problem when people read that Jesus didn't exercise His divinity on earth, is that typically they read into that - they say, "This man is denying the divinity of Christ!" when no such thing is happening.
I contest the idea that the only possible way that Christ could know such things is through His own divinity. I don't deny that He "could have" I just deny that it is the only possible way to understand it.
It seems obvious to me that if "that" presumption requires inconsistencies, and nother presumption removes every inconsistency - that the latter is more likely.
Does that make sense? These things didn't come quickly to me, so I doubt that, no matter how I articulate them, they would come quickly to anyone else.
And as an afterthought, I replied rather quickly, and didn't bother reading my response for tone. In my second, post submission reading, I decided that I didn't come across as warm and conversational, but perhaps more abrupt and confrontational. I hope that you know me well enough to see through the veil of text to my heart, and know that if I sound abrupt, it is only because, in my haste to answer, I failed to communicate the tone of my soul. You know I am not challenging you, in any sort of adversarial sense, I am just chatting.
Daniel, you surely have no need to reassure me regarding your "tone." My feelings are not so sensitive. Furthermore, cannot friends exchange straight talk, even occasional harsh words (though there were none here), without fear of offense?
I want to reply to your reply, but, being American, I have to eat turkey and take a nap. Catch you later.
Oh, that's right, Happy Thanksgiving sir.
We have a day up here that we call "thanksgiving" but I think it is just a stolen holiday - like how the Romans, instead of inventing their own Gods, just renamed the Greek ones.
In this same way, I am convinced that we in Canada, instead of actually being thankful for something our selves, just co-opted your holiday and said, yeah, we are also thankful, but we we're thankful in October in order to avoid the charge of plagerism.
I hope you are still reading the comments on this entry.
I find this discussion fascinating.
I am reminded of Philippians revealing that Christ "made himself nothing", so in a sense I agree with you that he did not "use" his divine attributes during the incarnation, while retaining his divine nature.
But where does the Bible say God the Father "told" him anything? Two examples. Jesus knew the thoughts of the disciples in John 6, and that of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. It is one thing to anticipate the reaction of someone, or a group of people, as it is the case of the former, but it is entirely another thing to tell someone "everything they ever did" as in the case of the latter. With the woman at the well, Jesus' abilities appear to have no other explanation than that he was omniscient. So I am left a bit confused.
I have always struggled with this doctrine. I do not deny the doctrine of the deity of Christ, of course. I just don't think I have a good understanding of it.
Jibbs, to be sure, we have no record of God speaking directly to, say, Elisha the prophet, and yet he knew what Gehazi did when Gehazi chased after Naaman. Do we (because we are consistent, right?) assume that Elisha must have been omniscient?
Now there is one thing recorded, that when read without presupposition or apology, tells us whether Christ's seeming omniscience, was in fact divine (i.e. perfect and without limit).
Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 - "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."
If Christ was drawing upon the omniscience of His deity during the incarnation - then this verse tells us that either Christ's divine omniscience was limited - or Christ could only make use of it in a limited way.
Were these two verses (the wording is identical in both Matthew and Mark) the only hint that Christ's humanity was untainted by His divinity, I think they themselves would suffice - providing we do not have a life's work of wrong theology that we are unwilling to divest ourselves of - but there are other passages which, while not as obvious/blatant, do paint a picture that harmonizes with these texts, all of which, I might as, does not rob Christ or God of glory, but magnifies it a trillion-fold.
Recall that Christ prayed to God the Father? Why? Why would an omniscient man pray? He would already know everything God would have him do, right? He would already know that God knew this, prayer would be redundant (at best). The JWs have figured that out too. They say, "if Jesus was God, why did He pray to God?" - and our textbook answer is that Jesus prayed to God because being found as a man He had to act(?) just like a real man would while He was here on earth... We don't say it that way, we say, being a man, Jesus behaved as a man, that is, He did what God commands men to do, and men are commanded to pray to God - and so Jesus, as an obedient man, prayed to God - but really, it was a necessary redundancy - Jesus didn't receive any info that He didn't already know, etc.
In Matthew 11:27 and again in Luke 10:22 Jesus says that, "all things have been handed over to Me by My Father..." Surely prior to the incarnation Jesus already had "all things" so this is talking about God the Father revealing things to Jesus during the incarnation. If Christ were exercising His own omniscience during the incarnation - that is, if it were not something He had received from God, as men receive gifts from God, then one should presume (if they are consistent) that Christ was not exercising just some part of His deity - but the whole of it.
That is, it is inconsistent to say that Jesus used bits and pieces of His deity, if He used His deific prerogative, He used all of it.
Now, think that through - if He emptied Himself, but continued to use everything, what could God possibly have handed over to Him?
Christ did not exercise His own deity to be omniscient while here on earth, for if He had, He would certainly have known the hour and time of the end.
Christ -did- know things, but scripture offers better explanations than the faux spiritual knee-jerk: "because He was God".
The last thing I want to do is rob Christ of glory, or teach something that scripture doesn't teach. But after studying the scriptures, I have found that the presumption that Jesus exercised His own divinity while incarnate is not only unnecessary, but it is inconsistent, and even robs Christ of glory, and the Christian of strength.
For consider this; if Christ walked in the strength of the Holy Spirit, rather than in His own strength, if He did what He did not "because He was God" but rather, "Because He relied entirely on God" - then He truly was the first amongst many brethren, and we can look to Him directly to see that relying on God does in fact work. etc.
That isn't to say that we will be able to raise the dead, heal the sick, and cure the deaf, blind, and mute - but rather that we will be able to live as scripture directs us to live, rather than have a theologically correct ideal that we fail to live up to every day.
I gotta run off to work, but we can pick this up if anything I have said sounds flaky.
Thanks, Daniel. That definitely helps me understand it a bit better. In a nutshell, it is not that Christ ceased to be God when he took the form of a man, but rather, he forfeited all the attributes of God. I am going to continue studying this.
Jibbs, that is how I see it. Scripture says that Jesus cast out demons by the Holy Spirit, and even that he could heal because the Spirit was present to heal. Basically Jesus lived, up until the Jordan, like Adam before the fall - sinless, and uncursed (living with an awareness of God that we who are cursed do not have). In the Jordan Jesus was born from above - the first Christian - annointed like every believer, with the fullness of the Holy Spirit who was thereafter with Him, and through Whom Christ was able to perform those miracles that God had prepared beforehand for Christ to do.
It all makes perfect sense once you see it.
I should add that this view that Christ ministered through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit can be sorely misconstrued.
In saying that this how I believe scripture paints the picture, I am not suggesting, as some might imagine, that Jesus was two people: God on the one hand, and the "man" Jesus on the other, being a body that inhabited two distinct personalities in the same flesh; one of which was active (His humanity) and one of which was dormant (His divinity). God forbid! No, my understanding is that Christ was ever and only one Person, before, during, and after the incarnation.
During the incarnation the divine Person (Christ) was found to be in the likeness of a man. In order to be in the likeness of a man, and not merely God walking around dressed up like a man, Christ had to humble Himself - that is, to set aside all deific prerogative, but by this I by no means suggest that Christ set aside His personhood during the incarnation to take up another.
So I do not believe that Christ was two persons (man and God), but one Person, and has always and eternally been only one Person, before, during and after the incarnation. When Christ humbled Himself and became a man, He did not cease to be God, but for the duration of His humanity, ceased to exercise His divinity - that is, He did not dip into the well of His own divinity to drink, as it were, while here on the earth.
Having said that, I would be remiss if I did not mention that one of the 12 anathemas Cyril of Alexandria pronounced against Nestorius (the ninth anathema to be precise), reads:
If anyone says that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Spirit, as making use of an alien power that worked through him and as having received from him the power to master unclean spirits and to work divine wonders among people, and does not rather say that it was his own proper Spirit through whom he worked the divine wonders, let him be anathema.
As I understand it, Cyril of Alexandria, having understood the Holy Spirit as preceding from both God the Father, God the Son, concluded that (in the words of Petavius), "When Christ worked wonders through the Holy Ghost, He was working through a power which was His own, viz.: the Third Person of the Holy Trinity; from whom He never was and never could be separated, ever abiding with Him and the Eternal Father in the Divine Unity."
I do not and cannot disagree with Petavius - for when Christ worked wonders through the Holy Spirit, He was not drawing from some power that was alien to His own divine Personality - but was working through a power that was truly His own - by virtue of the Trinitarian nature of God. Notwithstanding, I make a distinction that here which, while separating me from a clear charge of Nestorianism, does not so separate me that one can examine it without extreme caution and careful discernment. The distinction I make is that Jesus, during the incarnation, after having been baptized into the Holy Spirit in the Jordan, did not personally direct His access to, and use of, His own divinity, but did so only according to the direction given Him by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. That is, everything Christ did, that was divine in nature, was done in accord with the Holy Spirit's leading, and relied upon the Holy Spirit's power (which remained Christ's power by virtue of the Trinity, but is differentiated here of necessity on behalf of the incarnation)
The bottom line is that I believe something here, that when misunderstood, can easily be painted as Nestorianism.
Not that everything about Nestorianism is all bad.
Most protestants would agree that while Mary is the mother of God incarnate, she is not (carte blanche) the mother of God (which implies that she is the Mother of the Trinity).
These things, while clear to me, are easily misunderstood, misapplied, misconstrued, and misrepresented. When I had this conversation with a knowledgeable Catholic, and he condemned me as an anathematized heretic. I was concerned of course, having been anathematized by several other Catholic doctrines as well, not the least of which was the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But I don't want to present this to you as an orthodox teaching.
"It all makes perfect sense once you see it."
Isn't that what we all think about our nutty ideas?
Daniel, I did mean to get back to you on this, but I see JIBBS has beaten me to it. I'm reading this discussion with interest, and you are making sense. Thanks to boyh of you.
David said, Isn't that what we all think about our nutty ideas?
The crypto-kenotic controversy began in the fifteenth century when Balthasar Mentzer, a church elder from the German township of Giessen, in criticizing the reformation, argued that Jesus was not omnipresent, being confined as He was, during the incarnation, to the flesh. That is, Mentzer argued that you can't have it both ways, either Jesus was in all places simultaneously, or He existed in a localized capacity as all men do - and Mentzer argued for the latter, concluding something like this: The divinity of Christ was set aside during the incarnation and resumed after the resurrection.
You can imagine no small controversy erupted over the matter (they gave it a name after all). The problem was bigger than answering the question of whether or not the incarnate Jesus could be in two places at the same time - it was whether or not Jesus was (functionally) God during the incarnation.
The controversy obviously orbited around the text in Paul's epistle to the church at Philippi, specifically where Paul writes that Christ did not cling to His divine simultude with God, but "emptied" Himself in becoming a man. In fact the controversy gets its name from the Greek word for empty: Kenosis.
The argument, as I understand it, had to do with the nature of the incarnation. If we affirm that Jesus was 100% man, and at the same time 100% God, does that mean that Jesus (because He was God), was physically everywhere simultaneously? Does that mean that Jesus was immutable? etc. Clearly Jesus' body didn't encompass all creation, and clearly Jesus aged, and even learned new things during the incarnation - that is, it was clear that some of those attributes that we understand belong to God, were not being physically manifested during the incarnation.
The solutions proposed varied in scope, but retained what I believed to be a flawed, but underlaying presumption - that Jesus actually set aside either some or all of His divine nature/attributes during the incarnation.
On the one hand you have some saying that Jesus set aside *all* of His deity during the incarnation, and that He picked it up briefly at the transfiguration, but ultimately only after the ascension. On the other hand you have some saying that Jesus laid aside a good measure of His deity - and all of His heavenly glory, and yet a third group argued that Jesus gave up none of his deity, but only gave up heavenly glory.
The controversy reimerged in the nineteenth century, and I think it was Warfield who argued that the notion that Christ set aside Hid deity was plain and simple heresy, and anyone who doubted that did so because they had emptied their heads of reason, or something like that.
I agree with Warfield: the notion that Christ set aside His deity during the incarnation is -not- biblical. That would mean that Jesus stopped being God for a while, and frankly, only an idiot would buy into that.
I mention all this, because I don't want to be misunderstood. When I say that Christ set aside His prerogative, I mean it in the sense that I set aside my ability to see every time I purposely close my eyes. It is not that I no longer have eyes, nor is it again that I am blind - but rather having eyes, I have emptied myself of the prerogative to use them.
I play this game with my little children where, as we leave a store, I hold their hand and close my eyes making them lead me to the car. At any time, if I think I am about to be lead into danger, I can open my eyes and end the game - but as I trust them, I am able to keep my eyes closed even until we get to the car. They enjoy leading me around in my self-imposed pseudo-blindness, and I enjoy building them up in the knowledge that I trust them implicitly with my life (and their own). To be sure, I am usually peeking, but that is beside the point. I imagine the incarnation to be just like that. Jesus is God, and doesn't set anything of His divine nature aside - and yet having full access to all of it, I believe He sets aside the prerogative to use any of it, and instead trust Himself entirely to God (in the Person of the Holy Spirit) and His perfect guiding will and ample provision, both in earthly things, and of course, in the miraculous, allowing Himself to be led and gifted just as any other man is, even though He was all the while God.
I make the distinction because I don't want to be misunderstood, or more properly, mislabeled. In examining these things, one might wrongly presume that my opinion is founded upon such things as other men's opinions - as though I had read these things somewhere and chosen a side in an already ancient and controversial discussion. Not so. I had no idea anyone had ever discussed such matters in the past, nor had I any inclination to adopt any previous doctrines to my own way of thinking. What I have come to believe, I have come to believe in the same manner in which I came to be a five point Calvinist. I saw the things in scriptures, and only later learned that other men thought otherwise.
So it is with this.
If that helps at all.
Deepest thanks to you for taking the time to spell all this out for me. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with everything you have said and am thankful you were able to put this into thoughts that make sense to me. I've never been "sure" of this doctrine, or at least I've never been sure of how to express it. I hope I will now be better equipped the next time the topic comes up, particularly with the JW door-to-doorers that frequent this area.