Evangelical Misunderstandings of the Person of Christ-

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by a SATS prof, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. a SATS prof

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    By "The Person of the Son," I mean His two natures and how each nature relate to the other and to God.

    MISUNDERSTANDING # I. The Eternal Role Subordination of the Son. (in 3 anticipated parts)

    Isn't it astonishing that the Bible is said to be understandable and yet agreement about the Person of Christ --the very Center of our Faith-- cannot be reached by Evangelical experts on the Bible?!!

    I.1: The Misunderstanding Stated.

    GROUP 1 Bruce A. Ware,Wayne Grudem,Bruce Demarest, Gordon Lewis,Stephen Kovach, , Scott Horrell, John Dahms, Dennis Ray Burke Jr and others assert that Christ as God is eternally relationally subordinate to the Father.

    i.e., GOD MUST ETERNALLY OBEY GOD!!!

    GROUP 2 On the other hand, Millard Erickson,JO Buswell, RA Torrey,BB Warfield, Loraine Boettner, Robert Reymond, John Feinberg and others reject that tenet holding that the Son's obedience is temporal only.

    I AGREE with this 2nd group.

    But OBVIOUSLY,one group is wrong and by them Christ is partially misunderstood!

    Now the temptation may be to believe that Christ is the God-Man is quite enough, and that "digging " further into Christology is unprofitable. However, each group bases its arguments on Scripture. To understand Scripture includes understanding Scripture about Christ! What is revealed belongs to us!

    Toward that goal, I will assemble and review my thoughts on this subject and will soon respond to arguments of Group 1 and explain my arguments for my agreeing with Group 2.


    It's great to have this place to unload.
    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Grover,
    BA, ThB in Bible (Linda Vista Baptist) ; MA in Theology (Point Loma Nazarene) ; Teaching Credentials (Univ San Diego & Oregon State); MDiv (Equivalency) and THM in Bible (Western Seminary) ThD in Systematic Theology (Unizul). Special education teacher 1969-2005; Grad Faculty, SATS 2006-Present.
     
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  2. JonC

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    For my clarification, and i apologize in advance for my ignorance here, but when you say "subordinate" you do not mean "proceeding from" but "submissive" (as in an issue of the will)? Second, regarding these two natures, are you meaning two separate natures within Christ or Christ's nature pre and post incarnation?
     
  3. a SATS prof

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    IMO, Bill: Hello Jon

    The Eternal Generation (proceeding from) is an issue related to the present; It is an argument advanced by Dahm's for the present topic. But it is not identical to it.

    I will blather on with my view on eternal generation in the next few days..I love Christology!

    By "TWO natures, I mean both the eternal, changeless, unlimited, divine nature as one and the temporal (being born in time) , changing, limited, human nature as two.

    Bill
     
    #3 a SATS prof, Dec 29, 2015
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  4. a SATS prof

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    YES: submissive
     
  5. Deacon

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    Oliver Buswell... his was one my favorite Systematic Theology texts in ages past!
    It's been quite a while since I picked it up.
    His text was quite ground breaking.

    "It is true, of course, that our Lord Jesus Christ was exalted to the right hand of the Father after His suffering here upon earth, but this latter exaltation was not in any sense a promotion. Such a thought would radically contradict His eternal deity. His exaltation after His suffering was a resumption of the external equality with God, the scheme of things (schema) which subsisted before the incarnation." Volume 2, Part 3, page 25.
    Rob
     
  6. a SATS prof

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    I radically disagree with Buswell on the Incarnation---but another topic!
     
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  7. JonC

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    Thank you, brother, for taking the time to clarify. At the onset, I will probably find disagreement with your view of the two natures of Christ. Partly because I am not completely convinced that it is correct to refer to the deity and humanity of the Son as “natures” per se (at least not as nature incorporates the will or spirit), much less distinctly separate natures; and partly as I believe Scripture affirms the humanity of Christ (the Son as man) as extending from the incarnation eternally forward. Regardless, I will remain open to your arguments.

    This looks to be a very interesting thread and I look forward to learning of and from your conclusions. Thank you for walking through it here.
     
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  8. a SATS prof

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    I intended in my next post to state 20 arguments for the eternal role subordination of God the Son and suggest counters for each. But after some reflection I think it best to expand on my view that Christ is only temporally relationally subordinate to the Father and defend as best I can my view. Let me say that I hope to offend none and that many learned scholars disagree with my conclusions.

    In my opinion God cannot be the role superior to God. I think Christ in His deity never was or is or will be ruled by the Father. I prefer the view that Christ obeys only in His humanity--thus only temporally.

    But immediately by that affirmation I'm moved into the tenet of each nature being capable of functioning , and this puts me into conflict with many: Apollinarius, eg, rejected the integrity of Christ's human soul and said the higher functions in Christ were performed by the Logos (Fragment 93).JO Buswell taught that Christ's eternal soul became a human Person and that Christ has not a human mind (A Syst Theol, 2:17). There are whole denominations which reject the two nature doctrine of the 5th century Creed of Chalcedon which is widely accepted by Evangelicals. . Such is represented by Waheeb -once of the Coptic Seminary in Cairo- and Sarkissian of the Armenian (not ArmInian) Apostolic Church in Cilicia. These are Miaphysites holding that there is one unified nature in Christ. (Theology of Christ,342) I had the pleasure a couple of years ago of supervising a successful PhD dissertation by an Ethiopian seminary prof who attempted a defense of Miaphysitisam---see? I really am broad minded :).

    And then, of course, there is the Baptist Millard...
     
    #8 a SATS prof, Dec 30, 2015
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  9. a SATS prof

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    ...Erickson who in his Christian Theology denies attributes as omnipresence to Christ because of the added human attributes (751). The divine mind in Christ accepted ignorance as its condition (God in 3 Persons,223).Christ no longer was omnipresent being limited by a human body, Erickson theorizes (Christian Theology 1985,735).Also important at this time is Erickson's view that Christ's two natures"did not function independently.Jesus did not exercise his deity at times and his humanity at other times" (Ibid.) I disagree with that. Were that true, then obviously I am wrong!

    So how can anyone possibly answer Erickson's assertion that because Christ has humanity , He is limited by it? I'm so glad there are many around more expert than I to answer. Calvin, himself, explains : that The Son of God descended BUT never left Heaven! That is , even in the Virgin's womb or on the Cross Christ "filled the world. ..."(Institutes ,II.XIII.4) Further, Calvin opines that Christ's obedience applies entirely to His humanity! (III.XIV.,2). (And you thought I made up this doctrine? Hardly :)).Calvin, of course, is a classical theist in his view on God's qualities. As God, Christ is immutable, (II.XIV.1)therefore, He cannot become limited-IMO. . And the Incarnation is an adding to the Person not a change in the divine nature-again IMO.

    So while many would reject my views, yet, on the other hand, I am in the good company of others in disagreeing with the above. Leo ( Sermon 54;Letter 28) and the framers of the Creed of Constantinople of 681 said that each nature in Christ acts doing what is proper to it. Hundreds of years before Leo, Tertullian also applied individual action to each nature. The divine did not suffer for example (Against Praxeas, 29-30).And Gregory of Nyssa also posits some acts to one nature only. God did not suck milk or die. Each nature has its own will and mind(http://www.bhsu.edu.dsalomon/nyssa) John of Damascus taught that wills and energies abide in the natures and that the Son as God is neither passible nor obedient (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,3).Luther's pal, Chemnitz, also held that the human nature has its own mind, intellect, and energy. Each nature does what is proper to it (The 2 Natures in Christ, 235,236, 223, 237-238).Thus I am in agreement with many of the Church Fathers. (These , of course are NOT the final authority over Faith).

    Moving on to modern times...
     
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  10. a SATS prof

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    ...WE have Shedd (Dogmatic Theology 2:313; Wiley, the Nazarene (Christian Theology , 2:181 and BB Warfield (The Person and Work of Christ, 258) speaking of two centers of consciousnesses in Christ, both experiencing. And Grudem as well likes the two centers of consciousness notion each having its own intelligence and will( Syst Theol,561558,562539,541).Christology makes strange bed fellows as Chas Hodge, the Reformed (System Theol, 2 387,388,389,392-394) and Dorner, the Lutheran (A System of Christian Doctrine concur that the human nature has its own personality. The nature itself is rational and active! Complementary views are expressed by Baille (God was in Christ),Clark (The Incarnation), and AB Bruce (The Humiliation of Christ). These all, and others besides, posit that each nature in Christ wills, experiences, and acts doing what is proper to it.

    To me these thoughts best explain how the NT describes Christ on the one hand as filling the universe, being immutable, and being almighty, but on the other hand as weary, embodied, and changeable.

    Unlike Cyril of Alexandria I both attribute various Scriptures to one OR the other nature and refuse to , understand the limitations often said to be Christ's, as increasing in knowledge, maturing, becoming tired, not knowing, and existing with multiple limitations, as the LOGOS simply pretending weakness..

    And, should I be correct that each nature in Christ wills and acts, the stage is set for me to posit Christ's role subordination only in His humanity as I think might be stated by Paul, "...as a man He humbled Himself" (Phil 2:8, NAS).

    Personally this comforts me for since Christ is to be my example to follow, were He resisting temptation and obeying in His deity, this old man's worries about falling far short in trying to copy Christ's obedience is increasedhopelessly beyond measure.But, IF Christ obeyed only in His human nature, then I am comforted as He (as Man) was made like me (Heb 2:17). I, of course, have a human intellect and will. So, perhaps Heb 2 implies that Christ does too!? You see, I hope, the practicality of such a topic as this.

    Next posts will state 20 arguments for the eternal role subordination of God the Son to the Father. I will try to answer each with a counter. The counters are pretty good.
    At least I think they are. Probably I'll change no thoughtful mind, but I love my Subject.

    God forgive me when I express wrong views.
     
    #10 a SATS prof, Dec 30, 2015
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  11. preachinjesus

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    One of the important points, that I'm sure the OP will note, is the unique difference between ontological subordination vs. functional subordination. How one accomplishes this via an orthodox understanding of the hypostatic union is often telling for the rest of there theology.

    I'll sit back and quietly listen now. :)
     
  12. JonC

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    Ok, I know this is going to sound stupid but I am going to say it anyway. I wasn’t at first because I didn’t think it was the intent of the OP to entertain questions and no one likes to be the dunce in the classroom, but hey….this is a discussion board and I got me a question (and a dunce hat in my desk drawer).

    If I understand correctly, then this tributary of roles within the Trinity does not find its origins within God himself (this subordination is not reflective of God’s own being). My question then becomes, if this functional subordination does not reflect an ontological reality, then from where does it arise?

    I am also curious as to the effect this view holds in terms of the Word becoming flesh. The nature of Logos seems to at least hint of preexisting subordination, at least if it is defined in such a way as to denote somewhat of a “divine expression”. I realize, however, that this may be a mistaken interpretation of the term on my part. In what way is “Logos” defined in terms of alleviating this pre-incarnate trace of subjection?
     
  13. preachinjesus

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    I don't mean to answer for the OP but one of the major differences between functional and ontological separation has to do with the nature of the relationships of the members of Trinity as related to pre-creation and also as they are involved with current creation. As a historical theologian, I would point out that orthodox post-Nicene Christology properly accepts a degree of subordination within the Trinity but it is not ontological subordination. It is, instead, functional.

    Within the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equal in essence and Person and co-exist perfectly without hierarchy in status and are unique, uncreated beings of separate individuality.

    As the Trinity function in relation to Creation, the Son freely subordinates himself to the Father since the Father sends the Son into the world and the Son does what the Father wishes. The Spirit is sent by the Son and functions as the Son has specified while in this world. These are three unique Persons of the Godhead not three different modes of one person. So the subordination is not ontological but, rather functional, within the time of creation. Eternally, the three Persons of the Godhead are equal in essence and unique in identity. They were not subordinate to one another before creation, but within creation the subordination is about accomplishing the perfect will of the Godhead...the salvation of mankind.

    There is something to be said about the nature of Logos-Sarx Christology, but I might wait a touch to see how this convo goes. :)

    Maybe, hopefully, that is an answer to your questions.
     
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  14. JonC

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    A difficulty I have had with this topic has been the implication that equality is related to submission. Your focus on hierarchy in status is helpful. However, to my mind three unique, separate persons of the Godhead apart from interdependence becomes very close to three separate gods coming together at one juncture (Creation) as One. (Obviously, I am not a theologian).

    Removing subjective roles from the Godhead, it seems to me that we are seeking to examine God before thought gave rise to expression (anthropomorphically speaking, and I do not know that there is such a time). What comes to mind is whether or not Creation itself is a manifestation of God’s triune nature or a coordinated event. If reflective of God’s nature (not only explaining, but demonstrating as an expression of Divine nature) the work of Creation would point towards some type of ontological subjection (or at these functional roles are somehow derived from God's ontological nature).

    Anyway, thank you for your reply. I will also sit back and see how this unfolds.
     
  15. JamesL

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    uncreated beings of separate individuality ??
     
  16. JamesL

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    If close to = exactly, then I would agree.

    The problem is that so-called theologians of the past have been nothing more than philosophers who "reasoned" that God is 3 Persons.

    Then for centuries, the church at large has accepted this philosophical position as divine truth and bent the scriptures in that direction.

    One thing I can say for sure is that this "3 co-Eternal Persons" idea does not come from scripture, and I cannot see any way to have 3 Persons without it equating to 3 beings or 3 personalities or 3 forms of manifestation.

    I've asked numerous times for people on this board to define "Person" and there has truly been a shortage of volunteers.

    I believe it's a fear of:
    1) finding out one is polytheistic
    2) being counted as a heretic
     
  17. a SATS prof

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    I m going to wait until tomorrow to begin to offer my attempted rebuttals to 20 or more arguments for the eternal,role subordination of God the Son. But there have been a few insightful questions and comments.Probably I cannot satisfy all of these fine responses with my replies as the topic is very complex and surprisingly broad. I remain puzzled as to why my six years of undergrad theological work at Linda Vista (now a defunct school) two years spent at Point Loma Nazarene , four years at Western Seminary in Portland, did not prepare me content wise to address the subject in the four year Unizul dissertational project from 2000 through 2004. All this while thesubject is deep in theological journals and superficially found in systematic theology textbooks. But if you survey the Faith Statements of modern denominations or seminaries I doubt you'll find this subject with its related issues much broached.
     
    #17 a SATS prof, Dec 31, 2015
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  18. preachinjesus

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    Yep, one eternal Godhead of three distinct (uncreated) Persons.

    This is the accepted Trinitarian expression since Chalcedon really. I'm happy to talk about it and show how, through Scripture, we come to this systematic conclusion. The Trinity is difficult to talk about because too often folks are afraid of controversy and there is enough ambiguity it is intimidating.
     
  19. a SATS prof

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    IMO, l: In my opinion: (1) Scripture encourages the belief that God is somehow both one in nature yet three in --what for want of a better term-- many call "Persons." That term is problematic as we are describing what is Spirit and infinite by a term applied to what is physical and finite. Yet we note that each of the three "Persons" are made distinct by "His" name, relation to the Others and to Creation.(2) As for the absolute deity of the Son , Scripture convinces me of that by attributing to the Son divine qualities, names and titles, relationships, and works. (3) Yet at the same time, Scripture, IMO, describes the Son as man by ascribing to Him human names, conditions, limitations, and characteristics. Many call these two components "natures."
     
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  20. a SATS prof

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    IMO ,(4) these two natures in Christ-deity and humanity-- each with its own set of qualities--seem to result in but one Person . This is evidenced both by the singularity of the parts of speech in the Greek--including adjectives, adverbs, verbs etc--used for Him and that He never is recorded as talking to Himself. Still (5) human powers cannot do divine works. So (6) in my opinion neither did the humanity in Christ Create nor did the Deity in Christ suffer (apologies to those who attribute passibility to God) and die. Yet (7) because Christ is One, actions of either nature-while not attributable to the other nature--ARE attributable to the ONE Person Christ! Christ created. Christ incarnated. Christ died and rose. Christ saves. Christ will return. Glory to His Name!!
     
    #20 a SATS prof, Dec 31, 2015
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