Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Person of Christ

As introduced on an earlier presentation here,[1] Dr. William Lane Craig defends both theism and Trinitarianism. As he is an erudite and astute thinker, I enjoy reading his contributions to these important discussions.

On his website he has again defended Trinitarianism, this time in response to questions from a Trinitarian believer on the person of Jesus Christ.[2] Here I will present his response and my counter-response prefaced by “JS”:

Dr. Craig: The orthodox doctrine promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon (451) is that Christ is one person with two complete natures, human and divine. So rather than say that Christ is “fully God and fully man,” which sounds like a contradiction, we should rather say with the Council that Christ is truly God and truly man (vere Deus, vere homo). (italics original)

JS: I appreciate this distinction between “fully” and “truly” with the intention of neutralizing a contradiction with the former. However, if we have a glass that is full of water, we also have a glass that truly holds water. The glass is truly a water glass, as it is full of water. Thus, his attempt to save Trinitarianism from a contradiction only serves to sustain it. If “fully God and fully man” is contradictory, then so is “truly God and truly man.” We can thus be thankful that Dr. Craig alerted us to this contradiction even though his attempt at alleviating it does not hold water.[3]

Dr. Craig: You are right that worship is to be directed to God alone and that worship is properly directed toward Jesus Christ in the New Testament. It follows that Christ is God. Moreover, you are correct in saying that we worship the person of Christ, that is, the person Christ is.

JS: The “worship” that is directed to the Almighty Creator God is in acknowledgment of his majesty and dominion. Additionally, acceptable, non-idolatrous “worship” of a qualified sort is also directed toward people who are not God. I explained this in another blog presentation, which I will quote from:

(quote) At Joshua 5:14 Joshua prostrated himself before the prince of the army of Jehovah, who was doubtlessly Michael the archangel. The Hebrew word here rendered “worship” in the KJV is the same word used in Genesis 43:26, 28 regarding Joseph and 1 Chronicles 29:20 for King David. However, all such prostrations are “to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:11.

At John 20:28, while there is no description of a prostration, Thomas declared to the resurrected Jesus: “My Lord and my God.” The meaning of this is qualified by John's explanation in verse 31: “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” not God. Jesus functioned as “God” to Thomas, like Moses functioned as God to others, but Thomas still believed that Jesus was the agent representing God in God's behalf. (end quote)[4]

An interesting exception is seen in Revelation, once at 19:10 and again at 22:8. Both times the apostle John prostrated himself at the feet of an angel to worship him. His intentions though were evidently headed the wrong way, as he apparently was over-awed by the angel. Thus, both times the angel censured him, and redirected his worshipful, exclusive devotion to God. But Joshua needed no censuring when he bowed down to Michael the archangel because he knew that ultimate devotional worship belonged exclusively to Jehovah God—as he said at Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”

Thus, when Dr. Craig said that “it follows that Christ is God,” he unintentionally declared that Michael the archangel is God. What he and other Trinitarians need to do to rescue themselves from unwittingly espousing things they do not actually espouse is to understand that non-idolatrous, acceptable “worship” is given to ones who are not God. In Jesus Christ’s case, worship directed to him is “to the glory of God the Father.”

Dr. Craig: Christ is the second person of the Trinity, who pre-existed his incarnation. He is God, pure and simple. He is a divine person, not a divine-human person. For that reason medieval theologians were always careful never to refer to Jesus as a human person. He is a divine person who has assumed a human nature in addition to the divine nature that he already had. (underline added) In virtue of having a complete human nature as well as a divine nature Christ is both God and man, human and divine. But he is not a human person. (italics original) He is a divine person who possesses a human nature as well as a divine nature.

JS: First, Christ was not incarnated, but was born from a woman. (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26-42; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4) This is not a minor difference of semantics, but is loaded with soteriological significance that Trinitarians consistently miss. Second, Jesus is called the “last Adam” at 1 Corinthians 15:45 for a soteriological reason. According to divine justice as expressed in the Mosaic Law, soul was to be given for soul. (Exodus 21:23; Leviticus 24:18) Since Adam was created as a sinless soul, another sinless soul had to be given in exchange as a ransom: this ransomer would have to correspond to Adam by being a sinless man. Therefore, the Apostle Paul at 1 Timothy 2:6 used the word literally meaning “corresponding ransom,” ντίλυτρον; antilutron. The ransomer would have to voluntarily surrender what Adam lost by his disobedience in Eden, perfect human life. Nothing more, nothing less is required to avoid upsetting the soteriological balance. (Romans 5:14, 17) Thus, it was Jesus as the second and last Adam who emptied himself of divine glory (Philippians 2:7) to become what Adam lost: a sinless, perfect human life. (1 Corinthians 15:45) This, his sinless perfect human life, he voluntarily surrendered and sacrificed. Thus, as Adam was a human person, so Jesus Christ born from Mary was a human person. As I have explained elsewhere, Philippians 2:7 says Jesus emptied Himself (NASB, NWT, RSV, ASV, and others read the same) or divested himself (Murdock) to become a man. He emptied himself of divine nature to become a man born from a woman, ontologically lower than angels. (John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:7, 9) He was not incarnated or materialized, he was born. Thus, the end product (a man born from a woman), shows what was emptied or discarded: everything he was before (divine nature as a spirit person).[5] He was born as a man, miraculously through the operation of holy spirit as a sinless human person just as Adam was created as such. Trinitarianism denies these scriptural teachings and thus unwittingly denies Christ’s ransom sacrifice and Christian salvation.

Dr. Craig: Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, objected to Mary’s being called “the mother of God” (theotokos) because what she begat and bore in her womb was not the divine nature of Christ but his human nature. But the Council of Chalcedon ratified calling Mary “the mother of God” because the person she bore and gave birth to was divine. True, she did not beget his divine nature but his human nature; but the person she bore was the divine second person of the Trinity. So she is properly called the mother of God. (underline added)

JS: What is overlooked here is that Jesus’ divine nature was for a time, four days in fact, in hypostatic union with a zygote in Mary’s fallopian tube, as well as in hypostatic union with the rest of his pre-sentient developmental stages. Clearly at this early stage Jesus’ cognizance would be confined to his divine nature. Yet, this ignored and embarrassing situation is avoided by simply believing that Paul spoke the truth, that Jesus divested himself of what he was before becoming a man—a man supported and sustained by his heavenly Father before sacrificing his life and returning to heaven and being restored to his divine nature, exalted in position, and granted immortality. (Luke 8:46, 9:43; John 10:32; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:16) To call Mary the mother of God then is blasphemy, as well as profoundly ridiculous and foreign to the Scriptures.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Craig, Mary begot Jesus’ human nature and not his divine nature, and Jesus is a divine person not a human person. To condense further: Jesus’ human nature developed in Mary’s womb, not his divine nature. Therefore a logical disconnect has been committed. By his own admission, Mary gave birth only to the human expression of Jesus’ divine person, and therefore did not give birth to God. This logical disconnect is repeated when he says that Jesus’ human nature was strengthened by an angel. Clearly Jesus’ divine nature could have strengthened his human nature infinitely more than an angel (refer to #8 in the article referenced in footnote 1).

Dr. Craig: Moreover, the Council of Chalcedon and all theologians afterward were careful to deny that the individual human nature of Christ (that body/soul compound that walked the hills and shores of Galilee) was a person. That would be to postulate two persons in Christ, one human and one divine. The Church Fathers were insistent that there is only one person who Christ is, and that person is divine. The rule that all orthodox Christology must follow was this: neither divide the person nor confuse the natures.

JS: That is commendable that Trinitarians have been careful to not postulate two persons of Christ, for such would be absurd. However, to say that Jesus was a “body/soul compound” on earth that was a divine person with a divine nature is equally absurd for this reason: it is redundant. If Jesus had a divine nature and was an incarnation, then he did not need an immortal soul. Redundancy of this nature is patently absurd!

Dr. Craig: Now obviously this doesn’t answer all the questions! Indeed, perhaps the hardest remains: How can one person have two natures, human and divine? In particular, if Christ had a complete human nature, then why wasn’t there a human person? These questions I’ve attempted to tackle... (italics original)

JS: As Trinitarianism does not directly and resoundingly answer these burning questions, as well as the ones I presented, then the only recourse is that it is not worth believing in.

In the end, we can sincerely thank Dr. Craig for alerting us to the dilemmas inherent within Trinitarianism.


Synopsis: As the High Priest passed though the curtain from the Holy to the Most Holy on Atonement Day with only the blood and not the body of the sacrificed animal, so Jesus presented the value of his sacrificed life and not his body when he passed though the greater spiritual curtain in the presence of the Almighty God Jehovah.

[1] Defending Trinitarianism

[2] Was Christ a Human-Divine Person?

[3] After writing this, Dr. Craig expounded on the Trinitarian position this way: “[Trinitarians] do not believe that Jesus is simply divine, masquerading as a man (like Superman disguised as Clark Kent). Rather [Trinitarians] hold Jesus to be truly God and truly man, to have two complete natures, one human and one divine.” So Jesus is a divine person with the inherent divine nature who, as an incarnation, has a human nature. This is one person with two natures, which is ironically just like the action hero who is truly superhuman as Superman and is truly human as Clark Kent. How can that analogy be denied and simultaneously confirmed through the matching description? That action hero has two complete natures and he relies on his superhuman nature while disguised as Clark Kent, just like the Trinitarian Jesus who produced miracles and claimed to be God per Trinitarianism! Dr. Craig continued: “Frankly, I’m glad that Jesus didn’t face his impending crucifixion like some phony action hero but was in agony about being savagely scourged and crucified. That’s someone I can identify with! That’s real courage! That’s a man I can admire and follow.” (Do the Gospels Support a Muslim View of Jesus? I fully agree with Dr. Craig that Jesus didn’t face his impending execution like some phony action hero but truly experienced agony. And this is precisely why we can deny Trinitarianism, as it unwittingly presents Jesus as a “phony action hero.” (See this point developed further here: Trinitarianism and Docetism: Did the Person of Jesus Feel the Pain of His Ransom Sacrifice?

[4] Prostrations
Related link:
The True-False Two Being Jesus

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