Could Jesus have given the wrong theological answer?

Posted on 07/08/11 111 Comments

Many Christians are happy (or at least willing) to recognize that Jesus had ignorance of certain matters. For example, he couldn’t have told you that London will host the 2012 Olympics or that Transformers 3 would clean up at the box office. But that willingness to embrace Jesus being ignorant suddenly seems to exaporate when it comes to theological matters. Ryan poses the question quite directly: “Was Jesus also influenced by incorrect theological concepts of the day?” In other words, could Jesus have given the wrong theological answer?

That is certainly a question worthy of some reflection. So let’s climb into my time machine, make sure our “Automated Aramaic translation devices” (AATDs) are in place (thereby allowing immediate seamless communication with speakers of ancient Aramaic) and travel back to Judea, c. AD 30.

It starts with a whirring sound. We are spinning. Sparkling lights. An array of ghostly images streak by. The whirring sound builds to a fever pitch and then slows down. We feel the heat of the sun and can taste the dust. We’ve arrive in ancient Judea.

We climb out of the time machine, make sure our AATDs are on. Oops your battery is dead. I guess I’ll have to do the speaking. Sorry about that.

After five minutes of walking we find Jesus teaching a small group. We walk up. The group seems not to notice that you are wearing a mesh muscle shirt that says “Hawaii 80″ and cut off jeans. When there is a lull in the conversation I ask Jesus a question.

“Rabbi, is the filioque doctrine correct?” A gruff looking fisherman (is that Peter?) looks at me with a quizzical expression. When no answer is forthcoming, I continue. “Also I was wondering whether God exercises his special divine action by collapsing quantum wave packets. Oh, and is the pope really infallible? And should I believe your mother arose bodily to heaven? And was your atoning work an act of penal substitution? And is it appropriate for a denizen of the early twenty-first century to use female pronouns when referring to the first person of the Trinity? And why is the 2nd human chromosome fused? Does that mean common descent is true? Does the Spirit spirate from the Father, and if so can you give me an idea of what that is supposed to mean?”

The fisherman is clearly starting to get irritated but I persist.

“Is God the primary cause of human free actions? Is election rooted in God’s foreknowledge of future free human choice? Could God the Father have become incarnate? Are you impeccable? Is God atemporal? Strongly immutable? Metaphysically simple? How do you resolve the omnipotence paradox? Is Anselm’s definition of God as a perfect being correct? If so, what is the set of maximally compossible great making properties that God exemplifies? Is transsubstantiation true? Do the deuterocanonical books belong in the canon? Is the verbal plenary inspiration theory correct? What about amillennialism? Is tongues the sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit? Can women be pastors? Bishops? Should churches be episcopal or congregational?”

“Enough already!” the fisherman barks. “Let the Rabbi answer!”

“Yes,” I reply with a blush. “I’m sorry.” I sit down on the grass and wait.

 

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  • Walter

    Could Jesus have given the wrong theological answer?

    Sure, he could give wrong answers; he was only human, after all. ;-)

  • MGT2

    Hmm. Randal, I need a little more information.

    Are we considering Jesus to be “God” while he walked the streets of Galilee? Because if we are, then I cannot see how he could believe anything “wrong” theologically or otherwise, at any stage of his earthly soujourn.

    Are we considering Jesus to have grown into embodying the “fullness of the Godhead?” Because if we are, then anything is possible.

    • randal

      “Are we considering Jesus to be “God” while he walked the streets of Galilee?”

      You and I are. Walter, apparently, is not.

      “then I cannot see how he could believe anything “wrong” theologically or otherwise, at any stage of his earthly soujourn.”

      Really? Jesus would have been taught first century science and history which was riddled with errors (as is ours). Are you saying that he had a built in ability to tell when his teachers were wrong? That doesn’t seem to jibe with the picture of a Jesus who grows in understanding as in Luke 2:52.

      “Are we considering Jesus to have grown into embodying the “fullness of the Godhead?””

      I don’t know what you mean by that.

      • Kevin

        Since Jesus is God there is no possiblity that Jesus could have answered anything incorrectly. God knows all things, Jesus is God; therefore Jesus knows all things.

    • randal

      By the way, are you saying that if I came up to a six year old Jesus and asked him what the host city for the 2012 Olympics would have been he would have answered “London”?

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    If Jesus existed, I think it’s clear that he would not have been able to answer your questions … but Steve Hays (who wastes his life on theological nonense over at Triablogue) certainly could.

    • Kevin

      “If Jesus existed,”

      Apparently you missed something in the study of history.

      • Beetle

        The historicity of Jesus is surprising weak. From an anthropological perspective, Christianity is perfectly compatible with Jesus being mythic.

        • Robert

          Hey, Bart Ehrman is coming out with an e-book to prove otherwise: http://www.harpercollinscatalogs.com/harper/517_1965_333138313931.htm

          I’d rather have a hard copy myself.

        • Cory C

          Beetle,

          Name me one credentialed historian who agrees with the thesis that Jesus did not exist historically.

          Just one.

          • Beetle

            David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed.

  • Walter

    I read that Muslims have a tradition that baby Jesus could speak with maturity while still an infant. Too funny!

  • MGT2

    Randal,

    If Jesus was God, then he would necessarily be omniscient and, unless we are saying that God’s knowledge is progressive (open theism), I cannot see what would limit his knowledge.

    That is why I asked if we were talking about him somehow growing into more God-like knowledge. I am having difficulty calling him God, with all that implies, and at the same time putting a limit on his knowledge.

    What then, does it mean for God to be omniscient? Would it be impossible for a six year old Jesus to know what will happen in London in 2012?

    Are we saying that Jesus died believing wrong things? If so, are we
    saying that there were Jesus the “man” operating in one sphere and
    Jesus the “God” operating in another sphere, a demigod like
    Perseus?

    • randal

      You declare that God is necessarily omniscient based on a rational intuition concerning what the concept of “God” entails.

      Fair enough. Here is another intuition about deity: God could not intentionally deceive people. And yet if you’re correct that the zygote-fetus-baby-toddler-boy-teenager-man was always omniscient, then what do you do with Jesus’ statement that he knows not the day of the Son of Man’s return? Or the fact that somebody in the crowd touched him but he knew not who? Was he pretending?

      God also necessarily cannot suffer according to the same types of intuitions you cite. So shouldn’t you deny that Jesus suffered?

      At which point have you denied the incarnation altogether and instead adopted an insipid docetism?

      • Ryan

        Randal, don’t read too much into this please, as I’m not making any sort of argument just yet, but when would you say that Jesus became omniscient?

        • Ryan

          Nothing?

        • randal

          I don’t know. The obvious point would be the ascension — the point that represents the glorification of Jesus — but I have no way to know that this is in fact correct.

          • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

            The other obvious point would be the baptism by John. Can you think of any test whereby we could determine which of these two points would be more likely?

      • Jerry Rivard

        “God could not intentionally deceive people.”

        Why not?

        1) If in some particular scenario, deceiving individuals or mankind as a whole was in the interest of the greater good, would God be ‘forced’ (and if so by whom or what?) to tell the truth when doing so might lead to great suffering?

        2) How do we know that God is good in the first place? Couldn’t God be evil pretending to be good (and doing a horrible job, as I see it anyway), and if so could he have created the universe for evil purposes? Might that even be a better fit for some of the more troubling bible passages?

        • Walter

          Wouldn’t an evil god simply make everyone believe that he was “good” due to the fact that he was the source for moral values in the first place?

      • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

        I don’t mean to split hairs here, Randal, but none of the gospels say Jesus was unaware of who touched him in the crowd. Nor did he ever say that he “knew not who”. He asked “Who touched me” in order to prompt the woman to come forward (Luke 8:47 explicitly states this), but there is no reason to presume that he had any ignorance of who it was.

        His disciples, on the other hand, were undoubtably quite confused on this point.

        • randal

          That is splitting hairs. When someone asks a question, the implication is that they do not know the answer unless you have some overriding reason to think they do (e.g. that they’re making a rhetorical point or ….) What would be that overriding reason that you would invoke to suggest that Jesus really did know the answer? That he knew all true propositions in his humanity? That’s the Apollinarian tail wagging the synoptic dog.

          • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

            As you pointed out, the most common reason people ask questions they already know the answer to is to make a rhetorical point, which seems to be exactly what was happening here. He was arresting their progress and calling attention to an important fact without making an uncomfortable scene, thus providing the woman with an opportunity to come forward and hear what he had to tell her. Jesus could perceive men’s thoughts (Mark 2); I seriously doubt he would have had any trouble identifying who touched him.

            What reason do you have to conclude that his question is anything but rhetorical? The shorter account in Matthew certainly gives no indication of any lack of knowledge on the part of Jesus.

    • randal

      “If Jesus was God, then he would necessarily be omniscient and, unless we are saying that God’s knowledge is progressive (open theism), I cannot see what would limit his knowledge.”

      MGT2, you are unwittingly supporting the Apollinarian heresy. According to the fourth century church (and the church since) you need to have a place for the human psychology of the human person named Jesus. A two minds model of the incarnation where Jesus developed in knowledge while the divine Word was omniscient is one way, though it always leans perilously close toward Nestorianism. The other main alternative is kenoticism. (I discuss both in chapter four of Faith Lacking Understanding.

  • Beetle

    This is an interesting thought exercise. Of course I like because the evangelical Christians are forced to assert the most preposterous things.

  • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

    Honestly, I find it a little odd that we’d affirm that Jesus knew the future (for example, precisely predicting the circumstances of the fall of Jerusalem), but be unsure of whether he knew the past (like common descent) or general theological facts (like whether immaculate conception was true). Of course, if you’re in a camp that thinks Matthew 24 and Luke 21 were edited in after the fact, and the gospels aren’t at all an accurate account of Jesus’s life or words, then clearly you have no reason to suppose he would have had answers to any of those questions.

    Frankly, I have no idea exactly how the transition between the infant Christ and the Son of Man progressed. Clearly he had “already” planned everything out from before the Incarnation, but I don’t know how he dealt with the limitations of a human mind or body. Did he depend on his Father entirely for his wisdom, starting with a divine nature and nothing more? Perhaps. That’s probably not my first choice, but it’s a reasonable possibility and is certainly consistent with much of what he said.

    Regardless of exactly how Christ’s deity progressively manifested, I have no qualms in asserting that he would have had no difficulty answering any such questions during the time of his ministry. Of course, some of the answers would have been “Your question is a false dilemma” and others would be “Your mind is not currently capable of comprehending the answer, and it is not in your best interests that I drastically increase your mental capacity at this time.” But I don’t see any reason why he would not have  been able to predict the host of the 2012 Olympics. Of course, Matthew 12:39 might come into play there.

    As far as the “no man knows the day nor the hour” business is concerned, I find it perfectly reasonable that Jesus was simply explaining the relationships and decision-making responsibilities of the Godhead to his disciples in the only way any of us would be able to understand it. I freely concede the likely limitations of my own mind. The alternative, that Jesus’s omniscience was entirely Father-dependent while in a body of flesh, is still possible and is in no way antiorthodox.

    As far as the scientific part is concerned, I daresay first century science was not as backwards as we might flatter ourselves into thinking. They knew the earth was round, they knew the phases of the moon were caused by alignment with the sun, and so on. Geocentrism was not primarily a philosophical belief, but a scientific one; the absence of observable stellar parallax made heliocentrism (which had been proposed centuries before Christ) seem downright indefensible. That Jesus might have chuckled at hearing a few theories here and there (but honestly, how much education does a carpenter get?) wouldn’t surprise me at all. Of course, he wouldn’t have had any reason to correct the prevailing theories; no one would have believed him, and they would have misapplied his words a thousand times over, setting the progress of science back horribly.

    • Beetle

      > > Evangelical Christians are forced to assert the most preposterous things.

      > I don’t see any reason why he would not have been able to predict the host of the 2012 Olympics.

      That was quick!

      • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

        Yes, I thought you would appreciate that.

        I really don’t see what the big deal is. If Jesus was the omniscient God incarnate, then there is no reason to suppose he could not have been able to relate trivial details of future events. If Jesus was just a man, then of course he could not have known anything outside his personal experience. Both of these are simple tautologies, wouldn’t you say?

        • Beetle

          Your dogmatism compells you to give an absurd answer. And you do not even think that is a cause for introspection! You will have press Randal to help you, because I really don’t think I can.

          • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

            Actually, I just provided two tautologies. I find it very interesting that you find tautologies to be absurd. That usually doesn’t happen. ;-)

    • randal

      “I find it a little odd that we’d affirm that Jesus knew the future (for example, precisely predicting the circumstances of the fall of Jerusalem), but be unsure of whether he knew the past (like common descent) or general theological facts (like whether immaculate conception was true).”

      Sorry, I find that a puzzling leap. Essentially you’re saying “I find it odd that we believe Jesus knew facts that were relevant for his mission while not knowing other facts that were completely irrelevant for his mission.”

      And I’m left wondering how you make that leap.

      • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

        If we propose that it was necessary for the Son to suppress a portion of his divine omniscience in order to take human form, then I definitely would not expect him to know anything other than what was necessary for his mission. As I suggested, Jesus could have been completely dependent on the Father and the Spirit for divine wisdom. This approach, in fact, glorifies him more for his obedience.

        However, I still don’t see why he would have needed to suppress his omniscience in order to “fit” in human form. If the Son didn’t need (or didn’t choose) to limit his omniscience in taking the form of Jesus, then there would be no reason that he could not answer any conceivable question. Of course, whether he would answer any conceivable question is another question.

        • randal

          Are you saying the second person of the Trinity “suppressed” a portion of his divine omniscience? Isn’t that another way of saying the second person of the Trinity was not omniscient at T1? And that leaves a dilemma: either omniscience is not essential to divinity or the second person of the Trinity was not divine (or not essentially divine).

  • Walter

    A limited, human Jesus that was “adopted” by the spirit of the Father makes the most sense when I read through the synoptics. John’s gospel with its pre-existing Logos Jesus might be a little tougher to explain via adoptionism, but I still think that it is a plausible reading of the texts.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      I find it difficult to believe that an “adopted human” Jesus would have developed delusions of grandeur concerning preeminence, preexistence, venerability, and divine authority. Unless, of course, the Father is a bumbling fool who let the Jesus’s newfound wisdom go to his head.

      Would you have any difficulty with the position I proposed earlier: that the Son voluntarily surrendered omniscience and omnipotence as a condition of his incarnation, and depended on the Father completely for knowledge and power while in mortal human form? Like I said before, that’s not exactly an orthodox approach, but it’s not at all heretical.

      • Walter

        I find it difficult to believe that an “adopted human” Jesus would have developed delusions of grandeur concerning preeminence, preexistence, venerability, and divine authority. Unless, of course, the Father is a bumbling fool who let the Jesus’s newfound wisdom go to his head.

        Conservative Christians make the mistake of conflating the gospel stories because they tend to believe that they were written by one divine author. I don’t share that assumption. Mark’s Jesus was clearly a divinely adopted human who believed that he had a special relationship with Yahweh. John’s quasi-gnostic Jesus is a different animal from Mark’s Jesus, but I still think that gJohn’s apparently higher christology can still be explained by the notion of agency,i.e., that Jesus considered himself fully in alignment with the will of the Father and acted as his perfect agent.

        • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

          As I point out below, I don’t think the gospels have “one divine author” — I think they have four authors, three of which wrote biographies of Jesus and one of which wrote memoirs of his own experiences with Jesus. 

          I would suggest that you take a closer look at the assumption of Markan priority.

          • Walter

            I have taken a closer look, and I am convinced that Mark’s gospel has priority.

            • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

              Markan priority is a glaring example of circular reasoning.

              How do we know that Mark was first? Well, because it’s the shortest and so Matthew and Luke added to it.

              How do we know that Matthew and Luke were adding to Mark’s account? Because Mark was first, of course.

              Markan priority is used to argue that adoptionism was the earliest view, but it is based on the tacit assumption that adoptionism was the earliest view (and thus the divinely heralded birth and everything else had to be later interpolations, making Markan priority necessary).

              Imagine that a year or two after Obama’s term ends, one of his cabinet members (let’s call him Matt) writes a biography that covers Obama’s birth in Hawaii, his time in Illinois, and his presidency. A year after that, the governor of Illinois (let’s call him Mack) uses material from the first biography (along with Obama’s public speeches) to write an account of Obama’s political career. Five years later, a journalist at Time named Lucas releases a series of exposés on Obama’s life, using material from both Matt and Mack’s biographies. Some time after Obama passes away, his youngest son (Jonathan, born in 2012) writes his own account of what it was like to have the first black president as a dad.

              It would be silly to expect Jon’s account to look exactly like the other three accounts. And it’s preposterous to say that Mack’s biography had to be first, simply because it covers a shorter portion of Obama’s life. It’s even sillier to say that the details in Matt’s biography and Lucas’s exposé had to be contrived because they aren’t found in Mack’s account. 

              • Walter

                Markan priority is a glaring example of circular reasoning.

                How do we know that Mark was first? Well, because it’s the shortest and so Matthew and Luke added to it.

                Do you seriously think that being shortest is the reason that the vast majority of NT scholars accept Markan priority? Not so.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markan_priority#Modern_arguments_for_Markan_priority

                • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

                  “How do we know that Mark was first? Well, because it’s the shortest and so Matthew and Luke added to it.”

                  Do you seriously think that being shortest is the reason that the vast majority of NT scholars accept Markan priority? Not so.

                  Well, the first reason listed at the link you provided is “Mark’s gospel is by far the shortest, and omits much that is in Matthew and Luke.” So yes, that’s a primary reason.

                  But practically all the reasons listed there assume, like I said before, that the later gospels were modifying and editing the earlier gospels arbitrarily. When you start with this model, Mark seems the most likely candidate for priority.

                  However, this whole argument comes tumbling down if you begin to question the “arbitrary editing” model.

                  Circular reasoning:

                  We know that Mark was first because it best fits the gospels being created by arbitrary editing and modification.

                  We know the gospels were created by arbitrary editing and modification because Matthew and Luke added in passages that made Jesus seem more divine.

                  We know that Matthew and Luke added in the passages that made Jesus seem more divine because Mark was first.

                  It’s all bolstered by the underlying assumption that the passages making Jesus seem divine have to be interpolations, because Jesus can’t be divine.

                  • Walter

                    It’s all bolstered by the underlying assumption that the passages making Jesus seem divine have to be interpolations, because Jesus can’t be divine

                    You are going on the assumption that only skeptics and liberal Christian scholars accept Markan priority. That is a false assumption.

                    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

                      Not at all. You don’t have to believe that Jesus wasn’t God to get trapped in that circle. I’m just saying that that circle is particularly appealing if you start with the human-Jesus assumption.

                      Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with Markan priority; Mark may indeed have been the first book. The problem is in all the assumptions around it: the whole arbitrary editing business.

  • MGT2

    Randal,

    “Here is another intuition about deity: God could not intentionally deceive people.”

    Should I assume you are talking about deity in general and not specifically God of the Bible? I am talking about God of the Bible as distinct from all other “deities”. So I am not sure about “intuition” here.

    “And yet if you’re correct that the zygote-fetus-baby-toddler-boy-teenager-man was always omniscient…”

    I agree with davidstarlingm’s comment on this, and add that the scriptures support his prior knowledge of all that would transpire; he was aware of his incarnation and divinity.

    “…then what do you do with Jesus’ statement that he knows not the day of the Son of Man’s return?”

    Again, I agree with davidstarlingm.

    “Or the fact that somebody in the crowd touched him but he knew not who? Was he pretending?”

    This does not necessarily present a tension between ignorance and pretense (deceit). It seems clear to me that it was done for the benefit of the crowd – a teaching device. Furthermore, the scripture teaches that there were no deceit in him. So it is neither ignorance nor pretense.

    “God also necessarily cannot suffer according to the same types of intuitions you cite. So shouldn’t you deny that Jesus suffered?”

    Apart from my uncertainty about your use of “intuitions”, two things: 1) that is assuming an equivalence between knowledge and suffering. I don’t. 2)that is also assuming Jesus must either be God or man, not both. I believe he was both. I may not be able to articulate how God accomplished this, but I see no reason to doubt it.

    “At which point have you denied the incarnation altogether and instead adopted an insipid docetism?”

    I do not see how you could conclude that I have denied the incarnation.

    • Walter

      How do you account for Luke 2:52? Can an omniscient god-man grow in wisdom? No, but a normal man can.

      • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

        I think Luke 2:52 is very good evidence that neither toddler Jesus nor teenager Jesus were omniscient in the same way that he would have been pre-Incarnation or post-Ascension. The great question is whether mid-ministry Jesus had more in common with teenager Jesus or post-Ascension Jesus.

    • randal

      Surely you are talking about the concept of deity in general since scripture never provides formal definitions of the divine attributes. You are inevitably interpreting scripture within the grid of a set of a priori assumptions about the nature of deity. That’s why you readily say that God coming down to see if the sin of certain persons is as bad as he’s been hearing is, in fact, anthropomorphism (or whatever).

      Again, I would warn you that if you deny the human psychology of Jesus you are an Apollinarian. This is a serious theological error.

  • MGT2

    Randal,

    By asking ““At which point have you denied the incarnation altogether and instead adopted an insipid docetism?”, are you implying that one must either accept the fact that Jesus believed falsehoods and had limited knowledge, or deny the incarnation? That one must deny the possibility of Jesus’ omniscience, or deny his humanity?

  • MGT2

    Walter,

    “How do you account for Luke 2:52? Can an omniscient god-man grow in wisdom? No, but a normal man can.”

    There is something about the incarnation that is important to keep in mind: Jesus is the anti-Adam, in the sense that he perfectly obeyed God. The Bible teaches that he did not sin; he lived a sinless life. The wisdom mentioned here must be understood in that regard; it is a divine wisdom. Therefore, Jesus the man grew in holiness (continued purity and obedience – to be about his father’s business), and in spiritual wisdom (continued practice of applying spiritual truths – showing wisdom beyond his years as he taught and argued with the religious leaders).

    This wisdom is different from worldly knowledge which is what the normal man has.

    • Walter

      The texts don’t say that. You are reading a lot of assumptions into them to salvage a prior belief that Jesus was a god-man. I take the passage to mean that the author of Luke considered Jesus to be a man. A very special man in Luke’s opinion, but still, just a man.

      • MGT2

        I do not see how you can read the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, also written by Luke, and conclude that he thought Jesus was merely a special man. Your conclusion has no support from that writer.

        • Walter

          Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Acts 2:22

          There is is no god-man Jesus to be found in the Synoptics or Acts.

          • MGT2

            There is so much wrong with this as an effort to prove that Luke considered Jesus to be merely a man, I am not sure where to begin.

            Ask yourself two basic questions about the author. First, why did he write the accounts, Luke and Acts, and second, was he a believer. Then show that he did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection, the final proof that he was God.

            Simply lifting a portion of a documented speech out of context, then passing it off as the belief of the author is really, really poor exegesis.

            • Walter

              MGT2,

              Do you believe that Luke was a Trinitarian like you? There were a number of Christian sects that did not believe in the deity of Christ. You will note that I did not say that these people denied the resurrection. One can believe in virginal conceptions and resurrections while still believing that a human Jesus was a man approved of by God, as stated by the author of the third gospel and Acts.

              Belief in resurrection does not equal belief in Jesus as a deity.

              • MGT2

                Walter,

                You have to do the ground work and read the gospel. Read Luke 4:31-37, 5:12-13, 5:17-24, and pay particular attention to verse 21, and read 6:1-5, and note verse 5.

                In all those verses written by Luke, Jesus is regarded as God. And judging by their reaction, the Jewish religious leaders certainly thought so as well.

                As for whether Luke was a Trinitarian, the terminology did not exist then, but read Acts 7:54-56, and tell me what he thought.

  • Walter

    MGT2

    Luke 4:36
    “Let us alone! [c]What business do we have with each other, Jesus [d]of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!

    Notice they did not say he was God.

    But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”

    Son of Man does not equal God (same goes for your chapter 6 reference); Jesus was making the claim that as God’s agent he had the right to forgive sins.

    The passage in Acts 7 clearly shows that the Son of Man is NOT GOD HIMSELF. Your cited verses make my case for me.

    While am no Christian it is still my belief that biblical unitarians have the better arguments. Here is a link to keep you reading for awhile:

    http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/the-great-trinity-debate-index/

    This stuff is enough to make your eyes glaze over.

    • MGT2

      Walter,

      I see what your problem here is. You do not understand Biblical doctrines and lack rudimentary skills of basic bible study.

      Ask any bible student and they will tell you that all those references point to Jesus’ claim to being God, and a little background study will reveal that. That is basic orthodox Christian doctrine. Any one of those students will also tell you that the religious leaders were angry because they knew he was claiming to be God, not merely a representative.

      Now, you asked about Luke’s belief in the Trinity and I showed you in Acts 7 where he clearly identified the Holy Spirit, the Son of Man, and God the Father. Why doesn’t that speak to Luke’s belief in Trinitarian doctrine?

      • Walter

        I see what your problem here is. You do not understand Biblical doctrines and lack rudimentary skills of basic bible study.

        Actually, many of my ideas about New Testament Christology come from my reading of Thom Stark and James McGrath’s work.

        McGrath’s book is titled The Only True God:Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context

        http://www.amazon.com/Only-True-God-Christian-Monotheism/dp/025203418X

        Monotheism, the idea that there is only one true God, is a powerful religious concept that was shaped by competing ideas and the problems they raised. Surveying New Testament writings and Jewish sources from before and after the rise of Christianity, James F. McGrath argues that even the most developed Christologies in the New Testament fit within the context of first century Jewish “monotheism.” In doing so, he pinpoints more precisely when the parting of ways took place over the issue of God’s oneness, and he explores philosophical ideas such as “creation out of nothing,” which caused Jews and Christians to develop differing concepts and definitions about God. –Product Description

        And I possess what is most likely the rough draft to this upcoming book by Thom Stark:

        Behold the Man: What the Bible Doesn’t Say about the Divinity of Jesus. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, forthcoming.

        This monograph will look at New Testament christological statements traditionally interpreted as claims to the divinity of Jesus. With careful and detailed attention to similar language and motifs in Second Temple Jewish literature, it will become apparent that Jesus is not in fact presented as divine by the majority of New Testament authors. The monograph will cover the motif of preexistence, the practice of worshiping agent figures in ancient and Second Temple Judaisms, the widespread use of the word “god” for figures that are not conceived of as fully divine, and much more. One chapter will also be devoted to comparing the early Christian views of Jesus with the ideas about Jesus found in Islamic literature.

        • MGT2

          Ok, when those views become the orthodox Christian positions, let me know.

          • Walter

            Ok, when those views become the orthodox Christian positions, let me know.

            What is considered “orthodox” is simply the majority view on any subject. Once upon a time scientific orthodoxy was that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Reality does not care about majority opinion, and truth is not determined by popular vote.

            • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

              I’m afraid I have to echo Walter on this one, MGT2. While my beliefs are certainly reinforced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Christian subgroups consider them orthodox (and I would be worried if this wasn’t the case), that cannot be the basis of those beliefs. During the Middle Ages, belief in purgatory and indulgences was “orthodox” according to the majority, but that didn’t mean either doctrine was accurate or scriptural. Reality is not a majority vote.

              That being said, I freely admit that if the synoptic gospels and Acts described a markedly different Christ than John and the Pauline epistles, then I would seriously question the deity of Christ. However, this simply isn’t the case.

              We should expect a different perspective between the Synoptics and John, but not a different Christ. They testify of the same individual, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded his public teaching and ministry, while John testified from within Christ’s inner circle. It is nearly the sort of difference one would expect between three biographies and one autobiography.

              If you have ever read any gnostic gospels, the thought that John is semignostic is an incredibly amusing one.

              The gospels make a clear case that Christ refrained from publicly declaring his godhood until near the end of his ministry. Although he referred to himself as the Son of Man in public on many occasions, he told his disciples not to tell other people that he was the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 8:30, 9:9, Matthew 16:16-20, Luke 9:18-22). If “son of God” carried merely an adoptive implication, as in other instances, there would have been nothing to hide, but for Jesus it was clearly something very different.

              It was on the basis of Jesus declaring this title for himself that the high priest declared him to be a blasphemer and ordered his execution (Mark 14:61-64, Matthew 26:63-66, Luke 22:67-71). I can hardly imagine that the “adopted son of God” would have allowed the high priest to labor under the misconception that he had declared himself equal with God — unless, of course, it was no misconception at all.

              The Synoptics explain thoroughly how and why Jesus refrained from publicly announcing his divinity until it was time for his ministry to end. Even so, his claim to divinity is clearly evident throughout each book. Consider again Mark 2:5-10, where Jesus tells a man his sins are forgiven, then perceives the bystanders thinking within themselves that he had blasphemed “because only God can forgive sins”. If, as you argue, Jesus was merely delegated this authority as God’s human representative, he could have easily corrected the bystanders’ misconception. If he was merely a man, he would have been quick to explain that he was not God, and that his power to forgive sin was not his own. Instead, he does the opposite, telling them that they need not question whether he is a blasphemer, for he indeed does have that authority.

              One cannot assert that all these passages where Jesus implies or asserts divinity were edited in after the fact; each one shows up in at least two (if not all three) of the Synoptics with parallel setting and phrasing. If we want to insist that Jesus was merely a man, we’ll have to explain why he somehow managed to give everyone he met the opposite conclusion.

              Like I said, if the Synoptics presented a different Jesus than John and the Pauline epistles, I’d seriously question Jesus’s divinity (and probably consider Markan priority a little more seriously, too). But that’s not the case, so I cannot. Walter may be more creative than I.

              • MGT2

                David,

                I by no means believe that orthodoxy is established by majority decision, for the reasons cited by both you and Walter.

                But for the sake of our present discussion, Walter can believe the views of whoever he wants. For me, until those views are shown to convincingly overthrow the currently established doctrines on the matter (and I haven’t heard any such report or any respectable scholarly concensus in agreement), I cannot give them too much credence.

                So far, the nature and ground of those views are not really new; the Church has been dealing with them in various forms for centuries.

              • Walter

                I would implore you to give Thom’s book a try when it comes out. It may very well change your views depending on how strongly you are wed to your current traditions. For the record, I believe that both evangelical unitarians and trinitarians have beliefs that don’t map with reality. From my point of view, they are both wrong about far too many tthings, but as a neutral third party observer it is my belief that unitarian views make better sense of the NT texts. And as far as the synoptics go, I see no clear evidence of Jesus’ deity portayed in the synoptics. Trinitarians read the synoptics through the filter of their 21st century creedal presuppositions. The cited passages in Mark seem a slender reed to hang one’s hat on. But since I am not personally a Christian at all, I’ll let the people who claim that label defend their own beliefs.

                • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

                  Was Jesus a bumbling fool who somehow managed to give everyone around him the impression that he claimed godhood despite having no such intentions? I find this argument hard to swallow. “Yes, everyone thought he said he was God, but we (twenty centuries later) know he really didn’t mean for that to happen. Accidental blasphemy.”

                  I love the term “creedal presuppositions”, especially since I have never belonged to any church with a creed of any kind. My beliefs come from the gospels.

                  The four gospels claim to describe the same individual. Unless strong evidence to the contrary presents itself, I’ll accept this claim and draw my conclusions about who this individual was based on what all four gospels say.

                  • Walter

                    So if Jesus is not God that means he was a “bumbling fool?” I have already heard this argument via CS Lewis’s “Lord, Liar, Lunatic.” It leaves out a fourth option: Legend.

                    And yes, David, you do evince creedal presuppositions. You are the one who always goes on about sola scriptura churches always affirming a core orthodoxy. Concepts like sola scriptura and the Trinity itself are developed creeds that are not clearly expressed in the biblical texts.

                    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

                      Legend is precluded because the passages which most support the “misconception” that Christ declared himself God are the passages which are most likely to appear in all three synoptics. They, then, are most likely to be original and reliable. Legends seep in over time; they don’t show up in full force and maintain their strength continually.

                      The crucifixion of Jesus is part of many creeds, but one need not hold to any creed to believe Jesus’s crucifixion happened. Likewise, my observation — that churches who hold sola scriptura “creedally” are also always orthodox — necessarily comes from without any one creed.

                      Very few churches hold to creeds nowadays, anyhow. Explanations of belief? Yes. Creeds? Not so much.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      Walter said:

      “Son of Man does not equal God. -snip- The passage in Acts 7 clearly shows that the Son of Man is NOT GOD HIMSELF.”

      I’m not sure whether Walter appreciates the distinction between Modalism (God the Spirit = God the Son = God the Father) and Trinitarianism (Son + Father + Spirit = echad elohim). The former is as heretical and unscriptural as unitarianism; the latter is the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from Scripture as a whole.

      • Walter

        Yes, I know what modalism is.

        The concept of the Trinity is irrational and illogical, and is the worse insult to reason to ever come out of the Christian faith. No one can defend it without appealing to mystery. At least unitarianism does not bruise the mind near as bad. It has the added bonus of at least maintaining the pretense that the Christian faith is truly monotheistic. It’s hard for me to call a trinitarian a monotheist–and say it with a straight face.

        • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

          Do you think any of my explanations above (God’s nature doesn’t need to be defended so much as explained) “appealed to mystery”? I don’t think so. 

          I’m not exactly sure why you think “strict monotheism” is such a lofty and special idea. Nor do I have any idea what is “irrational” about three divine persons having a singular nature, authority, and will. Sure, we don’t have a physical example of this, but we don’t have a physical example of omniscience, either — that doesn’t mean we can’t conceive of it.

          Calling the Trinity a “mystery” is the illogical bit, I think. It’s no more mysterious than omnipotence, creation ex nihilo, omniscience, or a virgin birth — things we cannot match but can certainly understand.

          • Walter

            I’m not exactly sure why you think “strict monotheism” is such a lofty and special idea

            You’ll have to run that one by philosophers of religion. The greatest being and all that.

            Nor do I have any idea what is “irrational” about three divine persons having a singular nature, authority, and will

            What you are stating above is tritheism. What is irrational is claiming three separate persons as one BEING.

            Calling the Trinity a “mystery” is the illogical bit, I think. It’s no more mysterious than omnipotence, creation ex nihilo, omniscience, or a virgin birth — things we cannot match but can certainly understand.

            I can conceptualize most of the concepts on your list, yet I struggle immensely in imagining three separate persons who are one single being. The trinity is a concept born out of Greek speculative philosophy that came about as the Jewish religion of Jesus became a Gentile religion about Jesus. Expressions like “Son of Man” and “Son of God” would have different meanings to Jewish ears than they would to Hellenized Gentiles.

            • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

              “What you are stating above is tritheism. What is irrational is claiming three separate persons as one BEING.”

              Tritheism is believe in three divine persons with separate wills and essences. It’s rather self-contradictory: to be divine (at least in the monotheistic sense) requires omnipotence, but multiple cases of omnipotence with separate wills would tend to conflict.

              No one is asserting that three separate persons are one being. We say that the three persons have one being, but that’s using “being” as a synonym for “essence” the same way “live and move and have our being” is used. Maybe that will help. Asserting that three separate persons are one being would truly be irrational.

              • Walter

                I am reminded of an anecdote where a Christian theology professor asked his students “Raise your hand if you understand the Trinity.” Several students boldly raised their hands. The professor then proclaimed “Congratulations! Those that have raised their hands have just fell into heresy.”

                If you separate the individuals of the Trinity too much you end up with tritheism (heresy). If you intertwine the three persons of the Trinity you end up with modalism (heresy). From my view, it is all crazy. Nuff said on this topic.

                • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

                  I’m a little loath to post to freeratio, simply because I don’t know anyone there or have anything particular in common with them. At least we here are all devout Randalblogreaders.

                  Also, I have to do 95% of all this from my phone since my apartment lacks wifi for my laptop. Posting comments on Randal’s blog is a great deal easier via phone than keeping up with a forum that is decidedly not mobile-friendly. So, my apologies for the glut of email you all end up getting.

                  As far as what you said about the Trinity is concerned: I find it very amusing that you berate trinitarians for being “illogical and irrational”, yet insist that I’m not “getting it right” unless I’m mysterious and illogical.

                  I’m also a bit concerned that you reject the Trinity on the grounds that it says “three persons are one being” when it says nothing of the sort. “Three persons have one essence” is a far different statement. I also already explained how the biblical understanding of trinitarianism differs from tritheism. The three persons share a single will (John 6:38) and a single essence (Colossians 2:9); this is, in fact, necessary if they are all to have omnipotence. Thus you’ve approximated the trinity. It’s difficult to understand, but it’s certainly not impossible.

                  • Walter

                    David, your own views are dangerously close to being tri-theism. You are positing three separate entities that are only connected by divine authority, divine will, and divine essence (whatever that is supposed to mean). As an analogy you, me, and Randal my hypothetically be co-captains of a team where we are united in authority, purpose, and essence (essence meaning that we are all made of flesh) but we would still be three separate individuals.

                    Try spending some time reading the thoughts of a unitarian Philosopher of Religion, Dale Tuggy:

                    http://trinities.org/blog/?s=evolution

                    Also, you don’t have to know anyone over at freeratio. You can jump into existing conversations or start a new topic on any subject. I’ll happily spend way too much time debating you on topics such as the supposed deity of Christ, reliability of the gospel accounts, or whatever else tickles your religious fancy. I normally post mainly in the Abrahamic forum, so don’t be timid, Christian Soldier. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

    Do you think any of my explanations above (facts don’t need to be defended so much as explained) “appealed to mystery”? I don’t think so.

    I’m not exactly sure why you think “strict monotheism” is such a lofty and special idea. Nor do I have any idea what is “irrational” about three divine persons having a singular nature, authority, and will. Sure, we don’t have a physical example of this, but we don’t have a physical example of omniscience, either — that doesn’t mean we can’t conceive of it.

    Calling the Trinity a “mystery” is the illogical bit, I think. It’s no more mysterious than omnipotence, creation ex nihilo, omniscience, or a virgin birth — things we cannot do but can certainly understand.

    • randal

      I think the composition paradox is helpful in thinking about the Trinity. If there is such a property as “sameness without identity” then we can say that the Father, Son and Spirit are all the same God but non-identical with one another.

  • Angie

    Most likely he’d just laugh and say He is God and you are not so why not let Him deal with the hard stuff.

    • randal

      No doubt the Tower of Babel story provides a fitting metaphor for human attempts to understand across the entire spectrum of scientia broadly conceived. But that also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand across this broad spectrum. It just means we shouldn’t place too much stock in our varied formulations.

  • Walter

    Legend is precluded because the passages which most support the “misconception” that Christ declared himself God are the passages which are most likely to appear in all three synoptics. They, then, are most likely to be original and reliable. Legends seep in over time; they don’t show up in full force and maintain their strength continually.

    A) Jesus never unambiguously declared himself to be God or co-equal with Yahweh (definitely not in the synoptics). You have one passage in gJohn where Jesus claims that if you have seen him then you have seen the Father, but you have other passages in gJohn where Jesus states that the Father is greater than he. Not to mention a passage where Jesus states that the Father is the *only* true God. Only implies ONE.

    B) You are relying on documents of unknown provenance and authorship, and declaring that they are word-for-word transcripts of everything Jesus said and did. Sorry, but that is just a faith-based position that I have no reason to accept.

    As a reminder, David, you do have a freeratio account where you and I can debate this stuff without clogging up Randal’s blog.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      All I’ve tried to do is ask questions so far — questions that I don’t think have satisfactory answers apart from the traditional orthodox understanding.

      Namely (and respective to your two points):

      If Jesus did not declare himself to be God, then why does everyone in all the gospels consistently think he is?

      I don’t start with the assumption that the gospels are word-for-word transcripts; in fact they almost certainly aren’t. But if they aren’t accurate, reliable accounts, why do they all agree so well factually and doctrinally?

      • Walter

        Freeratio, David.

    • randal

      Feel free to clog my blog as long as it is an interesting conversation. But the minute you start debating the virtues of the latest Lady Gaga single I’ll have to ask you to leave.

  • telson

    When we begin to examine the gospels and the letters of the New Testament, we find that Jesus appears as the central figure in them. The four gospels tell us about His life here on earth while the epistles describe the meaning of His death and resurrection according to Christian belief. We can actually say, that if He hadn’t lived on earth, none of these would have been written.
    As we examine the historicity of Jesus, we can find proof of His life on earth. This proof has been preserved by His successors, such as the early church fathers, and also His opponents. Both sources refer to various parts of His life.

    http://www.jariiivanainen.net/historicityofJesus.html

    • Beetle

      > If He hadn’t lived on earth, none of these would have been written.

      That is a statement of faith and is not neccessarily true in the least.

      > As we examine the historicity of Jesus, we can find proof of His life on earth.

      Also wishful thinking. The URL you cited is all about evidence of early Christians, not Jesus per se.

      Try reading The Case for Christ side-by-side with The Case Against the Case for Christ.

  • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

    If you look for proof that Jesus did not exist and that He cannot be God then that’s what you’ll find. If you look for existence that He did exist and that He is God then you’ll be amazed at what you find. God doesn’t give out information like He’s spoon-feeding us. He expects us to seek the truth out like a man seeks water in a drought. He expects us to be enraptured by it. Amazed by it. Otherwise, what is so special about it? The people that look to discount Jesus, God and the prophets are led astray by their own choice because they choose to worship their own authority and ignore the authority of God~ the Creator of the Universe.

  • Walter

    If you look for proof that Jesus did not exist and that He cannot be God then that’s what you’ll find. If you look for existence that He did exist and that He is God then you’ll be amazed at what you find

    So if it all comes down to our prior assumptions being the determining factor when reviewing the evidence for Christianity, then where does that leave us? A person can believe in “a God” yet still be unconvinced that the Christian story is an actual revelation from that being.

    The people that look to discount Jesus, God and the prophets are led astray by their own choice because they choose to worship their own authority and ignore the authority of God~ the Creator of the Universe.

    I am not sure what you mean by “worship their own authority?” If you mean that we rely on our own reason, then I would agree. And I submit that you are doing the exact same thing.

  • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

    I know that the only authority is God and He gave His authority over to Christ. If you don’t acknowledge that authority then you are acknowledging your own. If you did not acknowledge your own then you could not have opinions and state them. Since I acknowledge Christ as having all authority I am able to make statements that coincide with truth and nothing more. Neither would I want to. Christ didn’t state in the scriptures, “Go and try to figure all this out so you can be as omniscient as me.” He said to put following Him above all else, to turn away from evil and do good, and to feed His sheep. The only reason people raised in a Christian society disagree with Christ’s existence and commandments is because they cannot do them without first understanding why they should do it. They want a good explanation and a good reason. But, since He considers Himself to be God why would He feel a burden to explain Himself to you? Get it? I mean, He’s God. But that’s not to say He doesn’t reveal Himself to you if you ask Him. But so many people don’t ask Him. They expect to be spoon-fed. I doubt He’s impressed.

  • Walter

    Angie,

    There is so much wrong with what you posted, I am not sure where to begin. I do not “know” that a deity gave all his authority to a carpenter living in Palestine 2000 years ago. I have a collection of stories that make that claim, but it is not something that I know to be true. Perhaps you are advocating a leap of faith? If so, why should I make the leap towards the Christian religion unless I have good evidence that it is the true faith? A pious Muslim or Hindu claims also to “know” the will of God(s). Why should I think less of their claim than I do yours?

  • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

    You will know them by the works. All religions have their own beliefs and all religions have their own idea of a messiah. I believe that their messiah is the Christian messiah by a different name. It’s not for humans to understand divine logic as the divine is not logical. If it was, it wouldn’t be as perfect as it should be. It would be human. It would be logical. It would be bland.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      Angie,

      I’ll try to be gentle about this.

      Most Christians in the world, both today and throughout history, would have a serious problem with your assertion that God is “not logical”. Not only is this insulting to all believers, but it isn’t even a Biblical idea. False statements like these tend only to help perpetuate stereotypes that are already too prevalent.

      Also, your statement “You shall know them by their fruits” isn’t very helpful at all. For one thing, it’s debatable; something that is true might not have immediately discernible fruit. Second, it’s subjective; who decides what fruit is good or bad? Third, it’s not very conclusive; per capita, self-labeled atheists do much more charity work than self-leveled Christians.

      Finally, I have no idea what your “messiah by another name” statement is supposed to mean. How thoroughly have you researched other faiths?

  • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

    “Self-labeled atheists do much more charity work than self-leveled Christians….”

    You’d think you were the one that was omniscient. These figures world-wide are they?

    Yes, I have studied other religions and lived in a Muslim country for a few years, too. But what does that matter? If you are an atheist, everyone else is wrong if they don’t agree with you. Not that you have 2.2 billion other people that agree with you and a several thousand year old religious book that teaches you how to live. You don’t need anything to base your premises on because I’m sure your own doctrine is sacred and better-than-thou because it’s signed by you.

    Jesus and Paul said that we would know them by their fruits. That was God in the flesh and one of the single most important prophets that ever lived. But, or course, you would know more than them, I’m sure.

  • MGT2

    Randal,

    I appreciate your response. I do, however, hold to the notion of a normal human psychology, and do not believe in the two mind model. The mistake, I think, is in discounting Jesus’ total reliance upon the Holy Spirit for all wisdom and knowledge (Prov 3:5-6).

    Maybe forgotten in these discussions is the fact that Jesus never had to repent for sins. He never needed a Savior; he never sinned and never did anything wrong in thought or deed. So he had a human mind, but he WAS the Son of God; he had no biological human father. Jesus was very aware of his status, even when others were not (Luke 2:49-50).

    It is very reasonable to think (we are probably required to think) that he would not have given any wrong answers to any of the questions you posed. Why? Since he had all the human psychology and potential to sin and did not, why is it a remarkable thing to think that even with all the human psychology and potential to believe wrong things, that this same son of God would not?

    Remember, Jesus was not only the Way and the Life, he was also the Truth.

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      A good thought experiment for you, then, would be this question: did/would Jesus have ever answered a question with “I do not know”?

      Randal: how would you interpret John 16:30, 2:24-25, and 21:17?

      • MGT2

        David,

        I think that he probably would not, and for me, Philippians 2 helps to explain why. He is God and never ceased to be God at any time.

        The problem is our mistaken assumption that because he put on the human form, he must have had limited knowledge. Did he not say that he could have prevented them from crucifying him? Did he not say he had the power to lay his own life down and take it up again? That is power. Nothing suggested that his power was limited. Why should his knowledge be limited?

      • MGT2

        I noticed the “did/would” in your question.

        He did say that the Son did not know when the end would be (Mk 13:32).

        In light of my reason for the “would” part, I think all such references must be taken in light of all scripture. One thing we know for sure is that the plan and path of salvation was set before the creation of the cosmos. I see this as his voluntary but temporarily stepping away from his place of divine authority; not from being God. Thought he was still God, he made himself a servant (Philipians 2:6-8), and operated in that capacity. A servant does not know the plan of his master, but does and says whatever the master tells him to.

      • randal

        John 16:30 is a hyperbolic expression which means Jesus is really smart and wise. It doesn’t mean he knows every true proposition and believes no false ones. And it certainly doesn’t mean that essentially at all points of his incarnate existence he knew all true propositions and believed no false ones. John 21:17 and John 2 are similar (thought the latter focuses on Jesus’ effectiveness at judging character).

    • randal

      MGT2, what is your underlying theory of incarnation? The basic problem is that God is omniscient = God essentially knows all true propositions and believes no false ones. But Jesus-the-man-revealed-in-the-Gospels was clearly not omniscient at all points in his life. If for even one of those moments (e.g. when he was getting his diaper changed as a sixth month old) he did not know that London would host the 2012 Olympics then Jesus did not know all true propositions and thus was by definition not omniscient. To address this problem you need either a more complex two-minds christology or you need to reject the notion that omniscience is essential to divinity.

      • MGT2

        Randal, here is my response.

        “MGT2, what is your underlying theory of incarnation?”

        That God the Son, without ever ceasing to be God (for God cannot ever be less than Himself), took on the form of a man and voluntarily assumed the status of a servant, thus subjecting himself in terminal obedience to the Father, in order to bring Salvation to a hopeless, helpless and dying world.

        “The basic problem is that God is omniscient = God essentially knows all true propositions and believes no false ones. But Jesus-the-man-revealed-in-the-Gospels was clearly not omniscient at all points in his life.”

        BUT Jesus-the-man-revealed-in-the-Gospels was not just a man like any other man, he was so much more; he was the Son of God, not the offspring of an earthly father and an earthly mother. There was a spiritual dimension to him that no other man ever possessed (1 Corinthians 15:45).

        “If for even one of those moments (e.g. when he was getting his diaper changed as a sixth month old) he did not know that London would host the 2012 Olympics then Jesus did not know all true propositions and thus was by definition not omniscient.”

        This is extremely hypothetical and I am not sure that it can be used to prove anything, but it does not pose a problem, and here is why. We already know that the Holy Spirit can impart knowledge to a fetus that in turn will respond appropriately (Luke 1:39-44). One may say in the case of the Lukan narrative that the fetus of John the Baptist demonstrated not just knowledge, but understanding as well (since we are being hypothetical). How much more then, would the fetus of Jesus know and understand (still being hypothetical) since he was God the Son, and since the Holy Spirit never left him?

        “To address this problem you need either a more complex two-minds [C]hristology…”

        There is no need for a two-minds Christology. Philippians 2:5-8, makes it clear that Jesus voluntarily assumed the status of a servant for the purpose of Salvation, yet without ceasing to be God. As a servant, he only spoke and did what the Father told him to say and do (John 5:30; 8:28).

        “…or you need to reject the notion that omniscience is essential to divinity.”

        When we are talking about divinity as it relates to God of the Bible, omniscience is essential. Otherwise, he ceases to be God.

        • randal

          Randal says: ““If for even one of those moments (e.g. when he was getting his diaper changed as a sixth month old) he did not know that London would host the 2012 Olympics then Jesus did not know all true propositions and thus was by definition not omniscient.”

          MGT2 says: “This is extremely hypothetical and I am not sure that it can be used to prove anything….”

          Randal: “Sorry, I have to cut in. It isn’t “extremely hypothetical”. Rather, it is a mere matter of definition. If God is omniscient then necessarily if p is true then God knows p from which it follows that God knows London will host the 2012 Olympics.

          MGT2 continues: “but it does not pose a problem, and here is why. We already know that the Holy Spirit can impart knowledge to a fetus that in turn will respond appropriately (Luke 1:39-44). One may say in the case of the Lukan narrative that the fetus of John the Baptist demonstrated not just knowledge, but understanding as well (since we are being hypothetical). How much more then, would the fetus of Jesus know and understand (still being hypothetical) since he was God the Son, and since the Holy Spirit never left him?”

          Randal: “John the Baptistic fetus had no knowledge or understanding. He was a fetus. John the Baptistic blastocyst most surely had no knowledge or understanding. To claim that Jesus the blastocyst knew that London would host the 2012 Olympics is absurd and tramples the humanity of Christ.

          I don’t see that you’ve provided a coherent theoretical framework in which you can understand the various devotional claims you want to make about the incarnate Christ.

          • MGT2

            Randal,

            I am certainly not going so far as to say that the blastocysts of JB, Jesus or anyone, for that matter, could possibly have knowledge or understanding. That would be pure and utter rubbish.

            But we are not talking about blastocysts, are we? Certainly, you couldn’t be because you know that fetuses and blastocysts are as different as can be. And while medical science knows that fetuses at a certain stage, when the sensory connections are formed, demonstrate awareness of pain, and sound, no one, no one expects that from a clump of blastocysts (about 100 cells).

            The act of understanding and acquisition of knowledge is a function of the mind and requires a brain that blastocysts do not possess, but is present at various stages of development in fetuses. JB was a six-month old fetus, not a clump blastocysts. This is roughly around the time when the sensory connections are forming.

            So it puzzles me that you would think it absurd that a six-month old infant Jesus, with sentience, and being the incarnate Son of God (that must count for something), being himself God and not just any other six-month old infant, could possess knowledge of future events.

            I think too many Christians take the incarnation to mean that Jesus would in every detail be just like all men. But that is not supported by the Scriptures. “(45) And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (47) The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:45,47).

            Note the differences.

            The fact is, a man like any other man, even a very wise man, or a very good man, even God’s greatest prophet before or after Jesus, could not redeem us because we all have the fallen nature. Jesus did not. That made him very, very different. And I think it is important for us to maintain this or risk overstating his humanity.

            • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

              Goodness.

              I don’t think it devalues the deity of Jesus whatsoever to assume that he was not conscious of his divinity before any ordinary human would be self-aware. I also think there is very good reason to believe that he depended on the Father completely for divine wisdom. This dependency doesn’t mean that his transaction with the Father didn’t bring him to complete omniscience before the cross.

              Children gradually develop memory and self-awareness at around the same time. Jesus would not have been able to walk on water before he could walk; there is no reason to think he was conscious of his divinity before he could speak. What good would that have done him?

              I think a likely response to the majority of Randal’s questions would have been, “Let me pray about that and get back to you.”

              • MGT2

                David, there is nothing disagreeable with what you say here. But maybe I am missing something because I do not think Randal is simply talking about what a child knows or is conscious of. If that is indeed what he means, then I am in complete agreement with him. However, maybe a year ago he started a discussion in which the two-mind model figured prominently. I did not know where he was going with it then because he did not really say.

                So there are questions about incarnation, the meaning of divinity, why is it wrong or right to maintain certain views. Ultimately, it matters because we are challenging our concepts of God and the foundation of our beliefs. That is why I like his blog; he is current and the questions he poses are the same ones being asked by people who are serious about their faith, and they force me to defend what I believe (and I will, vigorously). Also, these are questions being asked of me, and I want to give solid answers. So I press.

              • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

                John the Baptist said:
                A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth
                him, rejoiceth greatly because of the
                bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

                If Jesus Christ was the only man who was given the Spirit in its entirety then it seems to me that everything He said was what He was supposed to say and the things He withheld from saying He did so for a very good reason.

                Jesus Christ said:
                I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
                Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
                He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
                All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

                From this, I understand that everything comes from the Spirit and has a purpose for what is said and what is withheld.
                Jesus Christ was (is) the Spirit of God and as He lived His life saw the things men did. The Spirit of God – through this man’s eyes- saw and heard everything in a very human way. As His ministry grew closer to its end His parables become prophetic of His own death and of the future. Did He know those things at the beginning of His ministry? I don’t think He did. I don’t think God knew either. And even if He did know I don’t think God tells anyone of future events because that in and of itself would interfere in human free-will too much. But I believe that God watches Mankind everyday and prophesy is made and changed by the decisions we make. I think He wondered during Jesus’ ministry if perhaps all would accept Him and all could be called The Children of God. Sort of like we watch a stage-play that we know ends tragically but hope against hope that this time it somehow ends differently.
                But, because of the ones that were jealous and envious of the Firstborn who received the entire testimony all at once not measure by measure, the odds were slim that powerful men like Herod and Caesar would accept Him. I mean, they were Gods on earth, not Him! How dare He imply He was?

                They were jealous of Him because He is the Firstborn and most beloved. Some still today, I believe, harbor that same envy and hate towards Him for that same reason.

                Could Jesus have given the wrong theological answer? he spoke in parables that many people still today do not even understand! I think what you mean by wrong is that His answer would not be the answer people wanted to hear. And for many, he just gave the wrong answer. He still does. Because he says that He is The Truth, The Way, and The Light. We are not. He is.

  • MGT2

    David,

    Angie says “I don’t think God knew either.”

    This is why I press. Here even God the Father’s omniscience is called into question. People believe this, and it colors all their religious views about the doctrines of Christianity.

    I am faced with this regularly. Why would Angie think that?

    • http://twitter.com/davidstarlingm davidstarlingm

      Open theism is exceedingly dangerous. Yet people would rather have God be subject to human whim than admit that we exist for God, so this sort of thinking creeps in rather easily.

      I don’t think that open theism results from discussing whether God the Son maintained omniscience during his Incarnation. Jesus said in John 4, “God is spirit,” yet said in Luke 24, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” So that’s at least one attribute that Jesus left behind when he became a man.

      • randal

        “Open theism is exceedingly dangerous.”

        Could you unpack that? There are many doctrines that are true and yet are “exceedingly dangerous”. For example, justification by faith alone can, in the wrong hands, become anti-nomianism. And meticulous providence can, in the wrong hands, become quietism and fatalism.

        • http://twitter.com davidstarlingm

          Open Theism is dangerous because it is very attractive and yet wholly heretical. It is attractive because it offers an explanation for difficult questions without openly contradicting any of the surface components of easy-believism Christianity. It is heretical because it produces a man-centered gospel and a man-centered God.

          On a similar note: yes, justification by faith leads to antinomianism fairly easily. Particularly because justification by faith isn’t scriptural; justification by grace through faith is. The latter can lead to antinomianism as well, but it’s a good deal more difficult.

      • MGT2

        ““God is spirit,” yet said in Luke 24, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” So that’s at least one attribute that Jesus left behind when he became a man.”

        David, I am not sure if that is correct. Is being a spirit an attribute in the same sense as the attribute of immutability? And, aren’t we all embodied spirit?

        • http://twitter.com davidstarlingm

          God has no material body; God is not dependent on material things.

          Jesus clothed himself in material flesh; Jesus became dependent on material things.

          likewise….

          God has all authority; God does not need to seek approval from others.

          Jesus took the form of a servant; Jesus made himself obedient to his parents and later only to the Father.

          by analogy….

          God has all knowledge; God does not depend on the insight of another.

          Jesus grew in wisdom; Jesus had to depend on the Spirit for guidance.

          I don’t think that is a stretch, do you?

  • http://angiebateysblog.blogspot.com/ Angie

    Because God watches us everyday to see what decisions we make. Whether or not those decision are bad or good.
    There are over 2 Billion followers for Jesus Christ today. If Christ had not come and died then the truth of God’s essence would have shrunk instead of grew.

    People today know the truth. They know that Jesus, like The Father, is loving and kind. Not evil and cruel.

    What is evil and cruel? The things people do.

    The ones that do not know Christ or that do not accept Christ have plenty of time. If Christ had not died and been resurrected then who knows where the world would be today? God struggles with us and for us. We are a creation He is proud of and marvels over. He doesn’t give up on us. He struggles to win us all the while with Christ, His Son, at His side.

    • randal

      “If Christ had not come and died then the truth of God’s essence would have shrunk instead of grew.”

      This sounds like a process or hegelian view of God. I take it Angie, that you repudiate divine aseity?