Comments on My Lord and my God
The following comments were written in October 2004 and sent to the author of the above titled book which can at the date of this writing be obtained from John Ritchie Ltd. The author replied with a list of questions. These are listed at the end with my answers. The whole is now presented for the reader’s consideration. Some references have been eliminated as they no longer point to what they did at the time the comments were written, but where they can be read now is shown at the end of my comments. See paragraph endings referenced (a) (b) or (c)
Foreword The sentiments in the foreword one can appreciate, although the division of our Lord's person into "perfect humanity and true deity" is not the way Scripture presents Him to us, but stems from Roman Catholic theology as promulgated in creeds such as the Athanasian. Christ is never stated in Scripture to be God plus Man, He is always presented as one or the other. The two thoughts are presented as different aspects of his person, rather than different parts of his person.
Preface One would only comment on this to say that Christ could not sin because sin was abhorrent to him. His holy nature would be revolted by it. It is not that He did not have the power to sin, or to put it another way, it is not that he could not have sinned if he had wanted to. I expect confusing will (volition) and power (ability) may well be at least part of the reason for the views which you are rightly condemning (b).
Introduction I fully appreciate what you say in your note as to reverence. Only the other day a new translation of the Bible which came to my attention makes among other things the Father say: "That's my boy" instead of "This is my beloved Son". Such profane language I find revolting.
Chapter 1 (1) Page 22 - One would comment here that Scripture does not actually say that God created everything out of nothing. Its origin is simply said to be not things which appear (Hebrews 11:3). A careful reading of Genesis 1 and 2 does not support the idea that everything was made out of nothing. The made out of nothing idea has more in common with evolution than Biblical creation. One cannot go into the matter in detail here, but evidence can be supplied to anyone interested.
(2) One would not put anyone in bondage as to the use of words, but it does concern me when there is a continual use of the words deity, trinity, divine man and such like expressions which are not actually found in the Bible. I much prefer Scriptural expressions such as The Son of God, God the Father and The image of God.
(3) When our Lord said "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) He does not mean that He and the Father are one person, but one in the way that Christians should be: "That they may be one, as we are one" (John 17: 21/22). See also 1 Corinthians 3:8. To my way of thinking there is no contradiction between Christ's statement in John 10 which you have quoted and the fact that his Father is greater than He.
(4)-(10) Pages 27/28 - Certainly doctrine is of great importance, as one said: "Luther came with doctrine", and we know that this was the truth of justification by faith. We must know what we are to believe in. However, if doctrine is merely something we hold in our minds (head knowledge) this is not enough. What you say is very important, but one would comment that we must not only accept what Scripture says but make sure that it says what we think it says, that is, we must be sure that we know what it means. A Roman Catholic will maintain that a loaf of bread is Christ's body, or perhaps I should say turns into Christ's body. A person could similarly argue that because a passage of Scripture says that Christ is God that Christ is a being "who only has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor is able to see" (1 Timothy 6:16). Alternatively he might go to the other extreme of arguing that because Christ is Son of David, God is Son of David. We have to be careful what we assert. John the Baptist was said to be Elias (Matthew 17:12/13). However he never was actually, but simply came in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17).
Chapter 2 Page 37- I believe a careful reading of Scripture will show that it was God that created the heavens and the earth, but that He did it by Christ (by is dia which almost certainly has the sense of 'by means of’). It was Christ's word that brought all created things into existence. The Spirit of God was no doubt also involved, being specifically mentioned in Genesis 1:2.
Page 37 et seq. - What you speak of as natural attributes and moral attributes are dealt with by myself elsewhere. Christ always had the moral attributes. However, if one says He has the first three attributes essentially one is claiming for Him all that the Father has as well as the glory that He has as man. I saw this something like thirty years ago which confirmed in my mind that orthodox Trinitarian theology was defective. It effectively makes Christ greater than his Father who is only God. Each divine intelligence has his own distinctive name and glory. God is not a triumvirate of three identical persons as the Athanasian creed would have us believe.
One thing that is noticeable in a lot of thinking as to Christ is that He is not actually thought of as the Son of God but as God the Son (an unscriptural expression). Similarly people speak of God the Holy Spirit rather than the Spirit of God. To me it demonstrates that those that continually speak in that way have not really understood what Scripture teaches us as to the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That there are depths in Christ's being that are beyond us I do not doubt, but omnipresence is not something that exists in a person, but where that person exists i.e. everywhere.
The only criterion for determining the truth as to Christ's person as all else is what Scripture says. There should be no effort to defend what may be called orthodox Trinitarian theology. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not presented in Scripture as parts of God but as intelligences complementary to one another. If this were not so the very existence of two of the persons would be superfluous.
Page 45 - One could not rely on the name Elohim as proving that God is a trinity of persons. One could say gods created the heavens and the earth, but this would clearly be wrong. Even if we say that it indicates persons in the Godhead it could be anything from two to infinity. However we find that God called the expanse heavens, not the expanses heavens. It is usually taken to be a way of expressing the idea of what is limitless. In Psalm 110:5 the title Lord (Adonai) is clearly a prophetic reference to Christ and that is plural. No one I think would suppose that Christ is a trinity of persons. (I think elsewhere Adonai is always used of God) Solomon is apparently called God (Elohim) in Psalm 45:6 and this passage is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:8. Neither Solomon nor Christ are trinities of persons, further confirming that the plural word Elohim cannot be used to show that God is a trinity of persons.
Chapter 3 (1) and (2) That Christ did great miracles is beyond question, though we should not use them to claim that He was God. After all, Peter says: "Jesus the Nazarene, a man borne witness to by God to you by works of power and wonders and signs, which God wrought by him in your midst, as yourselves know" (Acts 2:22) (See also John 14:10 "The Father who abides in me, he does the works"). As we know the apostles did greater works than Christ (John 14:12), but I have never heard any one suggest that deity attached to them. What I have said above should not be taken as setting aside the distinctiveness of our Lord's miracles as He did not say as others did: "In the name of”. He was the Son of God. However the works He did were the Father's testimony to the fact that He was his sent one (John 8:18). One would also mention that it was said by the people as recorded in Matthew 9:8 "But the crowds... glorified God who gave such power to men". Power here is exousia, that is, right or authority; power in the sense of ability, that is, dunamis lies in the Holy Spirit. Christ did not perform miracles until the Holy Spirit had come upon Him. This was also true of the apostles after Christ had left them (Luke 24:49). The Spirit coming upon Christ gave him power as Peter said: "Jesus who [was] of Nazareth: how God anointed him with [the] Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). If the anointing of Christ did not give Him something He had not already, why was He anointed?
That Christ had spiritual discernment is undoubtedly true. However to use this as demonstrating what we call deity is not following Scripture. Consider also Peter's discernment in Acts 5:1-10 regarding Ananias. This does not prove Peter's deity.
(3) That what our Lord said and did showed who He was, that is, the Son of God is certainly true, but frankly He did not speak about Himself as being God. He spoke of Himself as being the Son of man. He acted in accordance with his Father's will, not his own. He was obedient. He was not doing his own will (John 4:34; 6:38; Philippians 2:1-11). To press that our Lord was asserting authority as being God effectively neutralises the Father's glory in claiming for Christ glory identical to his.
(4) The Lord knew things because He was a prophet as the Samaritan woman said (John 4:19). To speak about omniscience I believe is misleading. Prophets in the Old Testament knew things that those who weren't prophets did not (e.g. 2 Kings 6:32). Certainly Christ was greater than all the prophets for He was the prophet spoken of by Moses (Acts 3:22), but to speak about omniscience simply overrides and effectively neutralises his glory as a prophet. The people recognised him as a great prophet (Luke 7:16). Further, Christ raised Lazarus, but not before He had spoken to His Father (John 11:41/42). Christ did not act independently of his Father or the Holy Spirit, as He said: "If I by [the] Spirit of God cast out demons" (Matthew 12:28).
(5) I think it well to keep to our Lord's actual statements and not insert words like omnipotence, omniscience into a passage like John 5. Christ did not declare Himself to be God but to be the Son of God. "To us [there is] one God, the Father" (1 Corinthians 8:6). Further, divine purpose is something peculiar to the Father (Ephesians 1:3-14). Scripture does not speak of essence. Christ is the expression of God's substance; not the substance itself (Hebrews 1:3). I fear introducing expressions which seem to have more in common with the creeds of the Church of Rome than Scripture. Christ's person is unique, though morally there is no disparity between Him and his Father.
Adoration is due to Christ because of who He is - the Son of God. This is what needs to be stressed and this is what the man in John 9 believed (verses 35-38). It is certainly true that we are to believe in God, but we are to believe also in Christ, but the rightness of doing this all hangs on the fact that He is the Son of God (John 14:1/2) not on statements as to deity which do not appear in Scripture. Christ is also the Son of man and things that apply to man are attached to Christ because of that (Hebrews 2:5-10). Judgement is given to Christ because He is Son of man (John 5:27).
(6) The places that persons have in the Kingdom are determined by the Father (Matthew 20:23). Christ will have the place of King because God will give Him that place (Psalm 2:6). I find it confusing to mix up the sovereignty of God and the place that Christ has as heir (Hebrews 1:2). Christ has his place by divine appointment (Luke 1:32).
(7) Clearly Christ is not a mere man, but he is a man (John 8:40). Son of man is not a divine title. We are to eat the flesh of the Son of man (John 6:53). We do not eat the flesh of God. The expression eternal Son is found nowhere in Scripture. He always will be Son (1 Corinthians 15:28), but He cannot have been Son from eternity, for to be a son one must either be so by birth or adoption. It is clear from Scripture that Christ is Son by birth (John 3:16). Sonship points to an event by which a person becomes a son; a son from eternity is no real son at all.
Christ did not actually say He was the I am, but simply "I am" (John 8:58). If one substitutes the word God for "I am" one simply gets the statement: "Before Abraham was, God.". This is not the same as what we get in Exodus where one can substitute the word God for "I am" without the statement becoming meaningless (Exodus 3:14).
What is lost in the way you present the person of Christ is his mediatorship, which involves that He must be distinct from both God and fallen man (1 Timothy 2:5). God cannot be his own mediator, therefore He has given his Son to be mediator. I fear that what you say brings in confusion between God and man, by applying things that relate to God the Father also to Christ. A passage such as Ephesians 4:6 loses all its force if we start applying it to Christ as well as the Father. Certainly Christ existed with his Father before the world was, but we must not jump to the conclusion that the nature of his existence was the same as that of the Father.
(8) There is no question of Christ being a created being save as to his body (Hebrews 10:5). However, although the Father and the Son have the same nature (equal with carries the meaning of same as [Young's Concordance] - John 5:18) the Father has preference as in the natural relationship of father and son (Matthew 15:4; Malachi 1:6). In any case equality with God is not the same thing as equality in Godhead which is what it is generally taken to mean. It should be noted that the Jews never charged Christ with saying that God was more than one unit and Scripture clearly maintains that doctrine; for instance Paul says: "God is one, and [the] mediator of God and men one" (1 Timothy 2:5). God is one in the same way that Christ is one. God has greater power than Christ (John 14:28) and this should not be confused with the sameness of their nature.
(9) What Christ claimed was that He was the Son of God. To ignore this and simply speak of Him as if He is just another person in the Godhead identical with the Father is to deprive his relationship of Son of all reality. Adam bore a son in his likeness, after his image (Genesis 5:3), but this does not mean that his son was Adam. Likewise saying that Christ was God's Son does not mean that He was simply God.
(10) I do not think it significant for present purposes, but what Peter said in John 6:69 probably was: "Thou art the holy one of God". It looks on the face of it that some copyist altered the text to make it agree with Matthew 16:16.
(11) Stressing the glory of Christ's person as the Son of God without taking into account the reality of his humanity gives a very one-sided view of his person at best. Are we going to start attributing omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence to Christ as a babe in a manger? Christ was always filled with wisdom, but as He (the vessel) grew He increased in wisdom. Does God increase in wisdom? (Luke 2:40, 52).
(12) One cannot suppose that if Christ were simply a man of Adam's race his blood would cleanse from sin. There are depths in his person that are beyond us. Thus we have "the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19). However, we must not lose sight of the fact that Christ was a man who, when on the cross, was dealing with God, so that he said: "My God, my God" (Matthew 27:46).
(13) Thomas's address to Christ as his Lord and his God was perfectly correct. It was of course relative and in that way is not substantive proof of who Christ was. (see for instance Exodus 7:1 - Moses was not actually God but simply made God to Pharaoh) However, if Christ were not Lord and God in a substantive way it would have been wrong for Thomas to have confessed Him as he did. (Lord is sometimes used simply as a title of respect (e.g. Luke 7:6) but God as far as I know, never) However, having said this one must say that it was God present in [the person of the] Son (Hebrews 1:2) not God Himself. It is Christ's Father that is "the only true God" (John 17:3) and we should not attempt to explain this passage away in seeking to maintain that Christ was not a created being.
As to laying down his life we must not overlook the fact that it was his Father that gave Him authority to do it (John 10:17/18) (you leave this to a note on page 91) or use this passage to negate the fact that it was by the hand of lawless men He was crucified and slain (Acts 2:23). Note the word slain. Christ did not commit suicide (c).
What the Jews refused was the truth that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 14:61). They did not accuse Him of asserting that he was God. The nearest they got to it was what they said in John 10:33 and Christ showed that there was no justification for what they said. He was sanctified by the Father and sent into the world (John 10:35/36). It would be profane to say that God was sanctified and sent. To me the way you present Christ's person goes beyond the truth.
Chapter 4 There is no idea in Scripture that Christ when here exercised divine prerogatives (exclusive rights) except as commanded to do so by the Father (John 4:34).
(1) - (2) Certainly Christ was uniquely the Son of God - He is the Only-begotten Son of God. Christians are his brethren (Romans 8:29). However, we cannot rightly deduce from this that we are brethren of God, but this is what is involved if we make Son of God mean God the Son.
Page 103 - The eunuch's confession as recorded in Acts 8:37 is almost certainly an interpolation. That Jesus is Son of God is a foundational truth. However jumping from this statement and speaking of Christ as very God is going beyond the Scripture and makes many statements of Scripture meaningless - all the statements where Christ receives instruction from his Father for instance.
There are several differing views of Christ's sonship. However, He was Son because He came forth from God (John 8:42). He existed from eternity before He came forth, but to say He was Son before He came forth is unreal. What does it mean to say He was Son from eternity? Was He doing the Father's will then? Further Christ was not sent into the world till He was sanctified (John 10:36). He was sanctified when the Holy Spirit came upon Him.
As to Christ's resurrection: He did not raise Himself. But the power of God was in Him and it was this that raised Him (Ephesians 1:20). It was the Father's testimony to the satisfactory completion of the work that He came to do. It is similar for Christians (Romans 8:11). Christians do not raise themselves.
What is said as to Christ's eternal Sonship ignores such passages as Hebrews 1:5 which clearly says that Christ was God's Son because God had begotten Him this day - not in a past eternity (eternal derivation is meaningless), but this day. John 1:1 speaks about the Word. Sonship is not mentioned till verse 14 which speaks of the incarnation of the Word. It is dangerous to speak of the relationship of the Father and the Son before time was. It leads to the use of our imagination in a sphere beyond our finite minds. Certainly Christ had an existence before He came into this world. This may sound strange to us, but in an age when the idea of reincarnation was an acceptable idea it was probably not so strange. Further, babies are born into the world all the time and have a prenatal existence in the womb, but they are not sons (or daughters) until they are born. Christ, of course, was not reincarnated, but incarnated.
It is clear from what you say that you are seeking to justify from Scripture orthodox Trinitarian theology, rather than ascertain what Scripture actually teaches. Someone wishing to justify Unitarian teaching could no doubt similarly produce a mass of passages to support his view. It is important not to be selective in the use of texts or give texts a meaning that contradicts other texts.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, not as is sometimes said: God the Holy Spirit.
What is presented in your book is the teaching of the creeds save that the Athanasian creed says that the Son is begotten. The Nicene creed says that this was "before all ages". It is forcing Scripture to deny to the word begotten its normal meaning, especially as two different words are used for it (John 3:16 and Hebrews 1:5) and substitute the words eternal Son which are not found in Scripture at all! A Son of God from eternity cannot be a real Son. He is more like an identical twin of God the Father. Scripture uses appropriate language; not misleading language.
(3) Scripture never speaks of the Son of man as being a distinct person within the Godhead. In fact person of the Godhead is not an expression found in Scripture at all. What we get are expressions such as with God (John 1:1/2) and equal with God (John 5:18). To twist these expressions to support Trinitarian theology is not cutting in a straight line the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The reason why the Son of man has had judgement given to Him is not because of what is spoken of as his deity, but because He is one of the sons of men and will not therefore overawe them. Put another way, it is because Christ is one of us, not because He is Son of God, though of course He is that. Christ answers to what Job requested (Job 9:32/33).
(4) Certainly Jesus is the Messiah, and the Messiah as the Jews would no doubt have agreed would be the Son of God as it says in Psalm 2. However, we must also see it is Jehovah in Psalm 110:1 that speaks to David's Lord. It is reading something into Scripture that isn't there to start introducing the idea of Godhead oneness and distinct persons in the Godhead into the passage.
I have in the last few years sent something like 40,000 words to Dr. Richard Dawkins a leading atheist and evolutionist. I pointed out to him as politely as I could that his mind seemed so obsessed by evolutionary thinking that the word evolution pops up in places in his books where it is totally unnecessary. It is needful therefore that we do not fall into the same trap of speaking of deity (Godhood) in places in Scripture where it is not explicitly or implicitly mentioned.
(5) One could argue that because both God and Christ are both the only Saviour that they are the same person or alternatively argue that Scripture must be in error. I am sure both of us would reject both statements. However, if we view Christ as a continuation of God the difficulty disappears - God includes his Son. In a similar way Adam is continued in his issue, so what is predicated of Adam is true of His descendants. Hence Paul's reasoning in Romans 5:12 et seq. Psalm 8 is similar. What Adam was is applied not only to him, but also to his son. It is not necessary to import the idea of persons of the Godhead to explain how both God and Christ can be the only Saviour. In the vast majority of what you say you claim Christ has what He has because of what you speak of as his deity. I maintain Christ has what He has because He is the Son of God, which if it is to mean anything at all, it means He is the direct descendent of God, in a way analogous to us as descendants of Adam.
Page 125 - God you say gave Himself for us, but to whom? Did God give Himself to God? There must be something wrong here. It is not one person of the Godhead giving Himself to another person of the Godhead. In reality it is God's Son giving Himself to God. Everything hangs on Christ's Sonship rather than Godhead. God uses means to save mankind. In the Old Testament we have saviours (Nehemiah 9:27). They were the instruments God was using to save his people.
(6) and (7) Christ is Emmanuel, that is, God with us. However, it is God's Son that is actually with us. Christ came into this world by birth. He came with appellations which applied to his Father, that is, God.
(8) There are, as you set out, a mass of Scriptures that predicate things of Jehovah which are fulfilled in Christ his Son. Similarly there are many Scriptures that predicate things of men in the Old Testament which are fulfilled in Christ. Take for instance Psalm 16 which Peter applies to Christ in Acts 2. No one supposes this proves that Christ is actually David. Then there is Solomon. What is predicated of him in Psalm 45 is applied to Christ in the New Testament (Hebrews 1). Then there is Psalm 72, and so we might go on. I am sure you could list many more examples: what is predicated of Zerubbabel for instance. Christ was Son of David and Son of Abraham so that what is predicated sometimes of them we find is fulfilled in Christ.
(9) What you say here is not the way Scripture presents the truth. There is nothing about co-existent, co-equal and co-operative persons. The miracles were not done by Christ's own power. If they were, the involvement of the Father and Spirit was superfluous. The distinction which Scripture so carefully makes between Christ and God his Father is lost if your conclusions are accepted. See for instance Revelation 1:4-6. In hymns and prayers used in Brethren meetings almost always Christ and God are distinguished, though in the established churches ideas akin to what you have put forward are more prominent.
Chapter 5 In Hebrews 1:2 God's speaking is in Son rather than as Son.
Page 141 - The Father is not mentioned in the first few verses of John chapter 1; it is simply God that is spoken of. "The Word was with God"; a distinct person, but distinct from God. Elsewhere we are told He was "The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13). God as such is not his own Word. What is spoken is distinct from the speaker though it conveys what is in the speakers mind. Note also that we cannot reverse the statement, "The Word was with God" to "God was with the Word". The same applies in 1 John 1:2.
Page 150 - Scripture says nothing of the past counsels of the Triune God. Counsels belong to the Father exclusively (Ephesians 1:3-14). Also we must not lose sight of the fact that no one has seen God at any time (John 1:18). What Paul says in Colossians 1 brings before us the glory of Christ's person, but we should note He does not say what one would have expected him to say if he wanted to teach that Christ was simply God or a person in the Godhead. He should have said so specifically and not taken up the subject in the way he did.
The distinction between the Father and the Son is maintained in that the creation is never said to be of the Son. The of Him is something peculiar to the Father. See 1 Corinthians 8:6.
It is easy to see that Christ is not a lesser deity (a god) from the passages of Scripture considered in your book. He is not a creature. However, at the same time differences between Him and his Father should, one may say, not be swept under the carpet. Many things said in Colossians 1 and other passages of Scripture of Christ can't be applied to God his Father without making a mess of Scripture. Christ has his own glories and the Father his.
Page 154 - That the statement in Genesis 1:26 is often taken to refer to Divine persons speaking to one another is true, but it is much more likely that it was God speaking in the presence of the heavenly court as in Isaiah 6:8 and other passages.
Page 157 - As you will, no doubt, know the meaning of the expression "Firstborn of all creation" is a bone of contention. It does not logically follow to my mind that He is Firstborn because He is the Creator. One cannot say that God is Firstborn because He is the Creator. The expression is peculiar to Christ. The passage makes sense if we take 'firstborn' as a synonym for 'heir'. Heir and first born appear to be synonymous if we compare Hebrews 1:2 with verse 6 of that chapter.
Page 159 - As to the fulness dwelling in Christ, the wording should probably be: "for in him all the fulness [of the Godhead] was pleased to dwell" (of the Godhead is an explanation taken from chapter 2 verse 9). A slightly different reading is: "it was pleasing that in him all the fulness should dwell". However, the sense is that there was in Him all that was necessary for the complete expression of God. He was the image of God (the outward thing), but what underlay the expression of God was what was in Him (the inward thing).
Page 160 - One wonders why the apostle Paul does not use the language you continually use when treating of Christ's person if he meant to put forth the views that are repeatedly asserted in your book. Certainly Gnostic ideas are wrong and also those of other bodies such as the Unitarians, but then so I believe are the doctrines as to the person of Christ maintained by the creeds of the Church of Rome, which you do not condemn. As one has said there is a particle of truth in every error and that is what makes it so dangerous. What Satan said to the woman in Genesis 3:5 was not all error as can be seen if we compare that verse with what God said in verse 22 of that chapter, (see your page 20)
Page 164 - God is not revealed as the Son but in Son which I believe indicates a fundamental flaw in your reasoning and destroys Christ's mediatorship, not actually, but in our minds. Christ is not Co-Creator, but the one who was the instrument God used to create the universe.
If one starts substituting the word God wherever Christ or the Spirit is spoken of, one gets in a complete mess, though this would seem to be quite in order if one speaks of the person of Christ and the Spirit in the way that you and the creeds do.
Page 169 - Scripture does not actually say Christ became man. The nearest we get to it is in Philippians 2:7 where it is said that He took his place in the likeness of men - proof if required that He was more than just a man of Adam's race. We are men, not persons in the likeness of men.
I don't believe we can say that God calls another God. The one I call God must be someone superior to me, not my equal. If the person is my equal he is not my God. God does not look up to a God above Him. If he does He is not really God - the Supreme One. Introducing the idea of plurality of Persons within the Godhead is really only reading orthodox theology into the passage . It cannot be read out of it.
It does not make for clarity to mix up God and Christ. Many titles that apply to God also apply to Christ, but the persons are distinguished (e.g. Revelation 20:6). Paul goes to great lengths to distinguish God and Christ. In 1 Corinthians 3:22/23 we are Christ's (belong to Christ) and Christ, God's (belongs to God). Again Christ is the head of every man, but Christ's head is God (1 Corinthians 11:3). Then there is chapter 8 verse 6. Giving these passages their full force is not scepticism as to Scripture. The passages which you speak of have to be read in a way that does not neutralise other passages.
Chapter 6 (1) I wonder how your book would read if you left out all the unscriptural terminology that you use such as divine Son, divine essence, deity, and natural divine attributes. Further, how can we say that the Son has the divine attributes exclusively? Does not his Father have them? Again, Christ was here doing the will of his Father. He was not revealing omnipotence or for that matter omniscience as many Scriptures show (John 4:34; Mark 13:32). He was revealing what God was morally - the kind of person he was.
(2) Page 187 - God is not Himself the Lamb. In Revelation 4/5 the one who sits upon the throne and the Lamb are clearly distinguished. We do not want to muddle them up. We know from other passages that the Lamb is the Son of God (not God the Son).
The expression "blood of God" is irreverent. The reading in the AV I believe is correct, but the meaning put upon it is wrong. Mr. Darby's alternative I doubt is correct. I have been into the matter carefully and have convincing reasons for what I hold (a).
To say that the man Christ Jesus was God and had to be God in all His undiminished and unceasing deity brings in confusion between God and man. The passage you quote -1 Peter 1:18/19 in support says nothing of the kind. How are we to accommodate such a passage as "God is not a man" (Numbers 23:19)?
(3) - (10) Page 198 - The statement: "the necessity of God becoming man in all His glorious and uncreated deity" is a very high sounding statement. However it is not found in Scripture. Further, taken as it stands it apparently means that God in his fulness became a man, whereas I am well aware that you think it is only the one who you speak of as the second person of the Trinity that became man. All this is only what you assume Scripture means, not what it actually says.
Page 206 - Christ did not take on perfect flesh. There is no such statement in Scripture. His flesh was essentially no different from anyone else's. Flesh is not Deity. What you are teaching I'm afraid are the dogmas of the Church of Rome. Personally I have no more confidence in their dogmas as to God and Christ than I have as to their dogmas as to the communion bread and wine. That the Word became flesh means that the Word turned into flesh is I understand one of the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Word becoming flesh is elsewhere expressed as "Jesus Christ come in flesh" (1 John 4:2). I am afraid you are taking the ground that anyone not accepting your statements (not found in Scripture) is not a real Christian. This is the line taken in the Athanasian creed; a creed in which I have no confidence whatever.
Chapter 7 People who draw attention to the passages of Scripture you speak of in this chapter must not be assumed to be sceptics or persons trying to make difficulties (they may be, but not necessarily). It is plausible to say that one Person of the Godhead may speak to another as two identical twins might. However, Christ speaks to God as his God using the expression "My God", not simply God. This is not speaking to God as an equal. Trying to get rid of the problem by speaking of Christ's manhood effectively splits his person in two and leads to the mess into which the creed makers got, ending in the idea that Christ had two natures and two wills.
Page 209 - Christ continually spoke of God as someone other than Himself when here. For examples we have Luke 6:12; John 8:40; 13:3 and 14:1. When Christ is addressed by his own disciples there is often a freshness about what they say. Peter did not just say: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of God", but he inserts the words "the living" before God (Matthew 16:16). Thomas says "My Lord and my God" - that is what He was to Thomas.
Page 213 - Christ grew up here as a man amongst men. He was always filled with wisdom but acquired more as the vessel grew. However, He did not have two sorts of wisdom To say He had is to divide his person into two parts or make Him two persons in one. This may be orthodox theology but it is certainly not Scripture.
Page 214 - "[My] Father is greater than I". This is a question of power, not of nature. Neither has it anything to do with the relative position Christ had as God's servant. It is what is peculiarly the Father's glory.
Page 215 - That Paul is applying the title God to Christ in Romans 9:5 is very doubtful to say the least. Paul is very likely quoting from Psalm 45:2. Further, if Paul is referring God in that passage to Christ He is effectively making God derive His being from Israel. Christ's Divine origin is maintained by saying that his Israelitish origin is "according to flesh" implying there was something else. We get the something else in chapter 1 verses 3/4.
Page 217 - Christ emptied Himself. He did not empty Himself of anything. He was we may say the contents - the vital thing, not the shell. He gave up what we may say were the habiliments that he had - the form of God - and took upon Himself the likeness of men. He did not seek as Adam equality with God, but took upon Himself the form of a servant (the alternative view that he did not seek to retain his place of equality with God may be the correct reading). Contrasting, form with likeness, equality with bond service as I have done, is I believe the correct way to view the passage in Philippians 2.
Page 223 - Christ has only one nature not two. His nature is holy and that absolutely. We as Christians are said to be made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We do not have it absolutely. If we did we would be as great as Christ!
Page 226 - Christ could not sin because He had a holy nature which would find sin revolting. We do not need to bring in ideas of "undiminished and unceasing deity" into the matter, whatever that may mean. I wonder that you should keep harping on that theme when the expression is found nowhere in the Bible.
Page 229 - It is the man Christ Jesus that is Son of God (Mark 15:39). He was not man and also Son of God.
Chapter 8 For my thinking on the Virgin Birth of Christ see (b).
Questions and Answers
1. Does Christ have two natures (God and man), distinguishable yet undivided?
Firstly, we must be clear what we mean by nature, otherwise we may be talking at cross purposes. The only passage of Scripture where "divine nature" is mentioned is 2 Peter 1:4 and this refers to what Christians become partakers of. We are not made partakers of things like omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. These things are not nature. The amount of power I wield, the amount of knowledge I have and the extent of my influence are not me. My nature is what I am as a moral being (for want of a better word), that is, my character, personality - the kind of person I am. If we speak of Christ, his nature is holy as God is holy. Statements like "the Lord is full of tender compassion and pitiful" (James 5:11) are said of God, but are what came out in Christ when He was here on earth. I don't think I need to quote Scriptures to prove this. This is what I understand to be Christ's nature. He only had this nature. It is the divine nature. Man's nature is sinful (1 Corinthians 10:13 JND) and He certainly did not have a sinful one. The idea that he had a nature other than God's no doubt led to the idea that he had man's sinful nature, though it was not yielded to. Christ had the divine nature from the beginning: we only become partakers of it.
From the above I think you will understand that I hold that Christ had one nature - a holy one, and that therefore sin was abhorrent to him. As a man in flesh and blood he had all the physical and mental faculties of a man and they were, to use Paul's language, yielded as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:19AV). All Christ's movements, everything he did and said, were pleasing to his Father (2 Peter 1:17). Even I believe his look (Mark 3:5; Luke 22:61). All this stemmed from his nature. I trust I have made myself clear. Christ was another order of man - a man out of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47). He had man's likeness (Philippians 2:7) but not his nature. (Note: A man out of heaven; not the Lord from heaven, as in the AV)
2. Is His sonship eternal?
I understand that Christ will always be God's Son. He is that at the end (1 Corinthians 15:28). However, one cannot speak of Him as being God's Son before He was born here on earth. To be a Son in any real sense one must either be born or adopted. Sonship is dependent on an event which takes place at a certain time. I am the Son of my natural Father and will always be his Son, although in the resurrection my natural sonship will not be relevant. A sonship from eternity is no real sonship at all. The expression eternal Son is not found in Scripture and there is no suggestion that Christ had some special kind of sonship which did not have a beginning (a).
From what I have said I think you will understand that I do not hold that Christ was Son from eternity, though He is so to eternity. Being Son hangs on an event, in Christ's case his birth - he was begotten.
3. In what sense is Christ equal/unequal with the Father?
From what I have already said I think you will gather that I would maintain that Christ had a nature the same as the Father and that this must necessarily be equal to that of the Father. My nature is not inferior (or superior) to that of my own natural Father. The same is true of Christ. However, as coming into this world Christ had a position lower than the Father. In fact Christ had a position "some little inferior to angels" (Hebrews 2:9). This is confirmed by the fact that an angel strengthened Him (Luke 22:43), not the other way round. Further, He spoke of calling on his Father for more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). He could not then call on them Himself. He could now, because angels have been subjected to Him (1 Peter 3:22). Christ had a glory before the world was. What this was and his relationship to God then we are not told. It is like the name that only He knows (Revelation 19:12). Pronouncing on Christ's relationship with God before He was born must necessarily be speculative.
Christ has his own names and glories. He was the prophet (God's spokesman). He is High Priest (He represents man before God) and so one might go on. God has his own names and glories. Christ does not have all the glories that his Father has, but He has some that his Father has not. It may be, though I could not prove it from Scripture, that in aggregate Christ's glories equal those of his Father. However, if one says that Christ has all the Father's glories as well as his own which He has acquired in manhood, then in aggregate He would be greater than God his Father, which I think you will agree would be wrong.
4. Does the Godhead comprise three equal Persons -The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit?
If we look first at the Old Testament we find God spoken of and also the Spirit of God. They are not two equal (by this I mean identical persons). To give one example: "I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them" (Numbers 11:17). One cannot substitute the word God for Spirit here without making the statement profane. There are plenty of other examples like this. It is not that the Spirit is inferior to God in any way, but He is not a person identical to God. He is the power of God (Luke 1:35). Without Him God would be a dead God. He is not a part of God but necessary to Him like motor spirit (called petrol or gas) is necessary to a car . Without it the car will not go. God has the Spirit and shares Him with us - He has given to us of his Spirit (1 John 4:13) (Not of his God). We do not properly speaking have God dwelling in us - He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). In Isaiah we have the statement: "The Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses flesh, and not spirit" (Isaiah 31:3). This passage clearly shows that the Spirit of God is the equivalent to God, of the horse to the Egyptians. The idea is that the Spirit is complementary to God; not a part of Him nor another person identical with Him. God and the Spirit are both intelligences as are the Egyptians and their horses. I grant you that this is not the usual way that God and the Spirit are viewed by orthodox theologians, but I think you will find that Scripture bears out what I have said. I heard recently that in Russia, at least at one time, when a Christian met another Christian he bowed to him because the Holy Spirit being in him God was regarded as being in him and therefore he should be worshipped. Some may think this practice absurd, but it is not illogical if the orthodox Trinitarian way of thinking is adhered to. I do not want to write a treatise, as most of what I am trying to put across is found elsewhere in my writings. I trust you will feel that the matter bears thinking about. I am not aware of anyone having the same or similar thoughts to myself. However I do not know everybody (a) & (b)!
If we speak of Christ, we can similarly say that He is necessary to God. He is the object of his love (John 17:24) and so on. He has his own distinct place, just as a car must have a driver as well as petrol before it will go. The driver is not part of the car, but is necessary to it. The thought of the Spirit being in us (one person in another) is understandable. It is not therefore strange to say that Christ existed in the form of God before He became incarnate. This does not contradict the thought that He was with God any more than the statement that the truth abides in us and shall be with us to eternity (2 John 2), is contradictory.
What all this amounts to is that I do not regard the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three identical persons, but three intelligences which are complementary, that is necessary to one another. They are all from eternity. The problem for our minds is that we (at least I was) steeped in the orthodox conception of God which probably had its source in Greek philosophy. Needless to say, the Pharisees and others never accused Christ of teaching that God was a trinity of identical persons. (I sometimes use the word intelligences rather than persons because person suggests someone having a body, soul and spirit. A horse is an intelligence but not a person)
5. Does "the Word" in John 1:1 refer to a Person - One who was eternally with the Father?
The answer to this is yes. We have a similar thought in 1 John 1:2, and also in John 17:5. However, the passage you quote says "with God", but the Father is the same person as we learn from John 17:3. What we know is that the Word had his own glory with the Father and asks the Father to glorify Him with it (John 17:5). If one says that he already had the glory He speaks of while here on earth He would not have asked the Father to glorify him with it. How can an orthodox theology be reconciled with the thought that Christ had to ask his Father to glorify Him (a)?
6. Does the "fulness of the Godhead" in Colossians refer to "divine radiance" or divine essence" (all that God is)?
The expression that is referred to here is not well understood. I have never heard it spoken of as "divine radiance". I believe it underlies what we have in verse 15 of Colossians 1, that is, Christ as the "image of the invisible God". Christ is the Image, not the invisible one Himself. What was seen was not just a superficial image, like an image on a coin, but there was a great reality behind it. It was all that God was as a moral being. It has nothing to do with omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. It is I believe the equivalent of what we get in John's Gospel when it is said "the Word was God" (no article) (John 1:1). What we get in 1 John 5:20 is that He is "the true God". We have the article here which shows that God is set forth in Christ: He is his image. The statement is over against idols which are unreal.
One would make a few points. Colossians 2:9 speaks of "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily". It is what is true now. What is said in chapter 1 is what was true when Christ was here on earth. Essentially there is no change in Him. Note: It is all the fulness; not all the Godhead. The question is: "What is the significance of this?" Further, the point that the apostle is making in chapter 2 is that we have all we need in Christ. We do not have to go outside of Him in our Christian life - we are complete (filled full) in Him (verse 10). I mention this to show that I do not pretend to have the answer to every exegetical problem. The IVF New Bible Dictionary discusses the problem at some length. I would not dogmatise.
"Divine essence" is not a term used in Scripture, so that I appreciate your explanation "all that God is". However I think I have said enough to show what is in my mind, but I shall be pleased to explain myself further if you wish me to do so. Incidentally, in John 1:1/2 we have who Christ is, whereas in 1 John 1-4 we have what He is.
Further information on the above subject can be found in my books “THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AND RELATED TEACHING” BOOKS I AND II.
Subjects marked (a) are found in BOOK I and subjects marked (b) are found in BOOK II.
One subject MARKED (c) is found in my book described as SUBJECTS OFTEN CONSIDERED PROBLEMATICAL.
Subjects marked (a) - Blood of Christ in Acts 20:28 (Appendix 4) Re page 9.
- The relationship of Father and Son (Appendix 12-3) Re page 11.
- The Man out of Heaven (Chapter 4) Re page 13.
- John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1 (Appendix 3) Re page 13.
Subjects marked (b) - The Holy One of God (Part III Appendix 3) Re page 1.
- Absurdities resulting from the failure to distinguish between God and his Spirit (Part II Appendix 4) Re page 13.
- The Virgin Birth of Christ (Part I Appendix 2) Re page 11
Subject marked (c) – Death of Christ (1) (Page 29) Re page 9
All the above are at the time of writing on my web site “Bible Exposition” as well as in printed books. The words “Re page...” do not apply in the case of the online version.