Saturday, May 8, 2010

In what way are Jesus an the Father one? - A Response to the Watchtower Part 2 of 3

In the September 1st 2009 issue of the Watchtower magazine, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, on page 28 there is an article that would be worth taking the time to look into. The article is under the heading “Our Readers Ask”, and it is an attempt by the Watchtower to deal with John 10:30. My previous article was part one of a three part series in response to this article.

To read the first article please click here.

The article entitled “In What Way Are Jesus And His Father One”, continues from where I left off:

This strong bond of unity, however, does not make God and his Son, Jesus, indistinguishable from each other. They are two individuals. Each one has his own distinct personality. Jesus has his own feelings, thoughts, experiences, and free will.

Once again, they have failed to deal with the Writing Committee in Brooklyn has failed to understand one of the basic ideas in the Trinity, viz. that Jesus isn't the Father. Yes, they are two individuals. Of course they are! Yes each is a distinct personality. Each is a distinct personality, but equally the One God. The argument here given by the Watchtower does not disprove the Trinity at all. So my response to this would be a very emphatic, "So what?"

The article continues,

Nevertheless, he chose to submit his will to that of the Father. According to Luke 22:42, Jesus said: "Let, not my will, but yours take place." These words would have been meaningless if his will could not differ from his Father's.

In this section, the first sentence refutes the third. Jesus words in Gethsemane are not meaningless because "he chose to submit his will to that of the Father". Submission to the Father's will does not mean that Jesus can't also be fully God. I am just as human as my Father and chose to submit to his will when I lived at home, does that make me a lesser human? Of course not! I am just as human as my Father is. A child carries the same nature as the Father. That is why I am just as human as he is. God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, one, and self-existing. So, as Genesis says, "each according to it's kind". If Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, then he too must be God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, one with the Father, and self-existing. If he isn't then he isn't God's "Son".

The section of the Watchtower article I am discussing here finishes this way:

If Jesus and his Father were really one person, why did Jesus pray to God and humbly admit to not knowing things that only his Father knew? - Matthew 24:36

Take note of the first part in this section. Their argument here gets off to the wrong start because Trinitarians never said they were the same person. In fact, we consider it a heresy, viz. modalism, to say they are.

The answer to the rest of the objection is simultaneously simple and complex. The simple aspect comes from the the Apostle Paul in Philippians Chapter 2.

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider his equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! - Philippians 2:5-8 TNIV

Notice that though Jesus was in very nature God, he did not consider his equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, or as the Good News Translation puts it "did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God". So it could read....

"Who, being in very nature God, did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

What is the answer to the question then? It is that the only begotten Son of God, who was in very nature God, took on the very nature of a servant by becoming human. He humbled himself. Hey laid aside his rightful claims to equality with God, and became nothing. In becoming a human, he thus became subject to the limitations of the human experience.

That's the simple answer. However, if you understand that it is God who is involved you also understand that this is incredibly complex.

In theological terms, what this verse is showing us has been called the Hypostatic Union. Mark Driscoll in his book Doctrine: What Christian's Should Believe, on page 26 says, "Hypostatic Union means that Jesus is one person with two natures and therefore simultaneously fully God and fully human."

In his book 31 Days in the Life of Christ, on page 84 and 85, J. Oswald Sanders takes a stab at explaining this idea more fully.

"Jesus was truly God; whatever it is to be God, Jesus was that absolutely. He was equally really man. His deity and His humanity were distinct and separate, and each nature retained its normal attributes. The divine did not permeate the human, nor was the human absorbed by the divine. St. Leo expressed it: 'He united the true 'form of a servant' in which He was equal to God the Father, and combined both natures in a league so close that the lower was not consumed by receiving glory, nor the higher lessened by assuming lowliness.'

The Son of God was not changed into a human being, nor did the man Jesus rise to a sate of deity. The two natures were so bound as to constitute them a single undivided person, acting with a single mind and will. Since the union of the natures was accomplished without the conversion or weakening of either, Jesus Christ cannot be spoken of as God and man. He was the God-man."

This is probably one of the most complex aspects of the relationship between Christ's two natures is that. while the attributes of one nature are never attributed to the other, the attributes of both natures are properly attributed to His one person. Thus Christ at the same moment in time had what seem to be contradictory qualities. He was finite and yet infinite, weak and yet omipotent, increasing in knowledge and yet omniscient, limited to being in one place at one time, and yet omnipresent. In the incarnation, the person of Christ is the partaker of the attributes of both natures, so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature - human or divine - may be affirmed of the one person. This is called in theological terms the Communicatio Idiomatum, or the Communication of Properties.

This was flushed out at the council of Chalcedon in 451. The following confession, or creed, is accepted by all major branches of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, as being a faithful representation of the Bible's teaching on this subject.

"We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhood and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhood, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us."

"Okay," you may be thinking, "you've given me a bunch of nice definitions, and some confessions of what some guys believed, but is this biblical?" In the New Testament we see that although Jesus sometimes operated in the sphere of his humanity and in other cases in the sphere of his Deity. In every case what he did wand what he was could be attributed to his one person. Jesus in his human nature knew hunger (Luke 4:2), weariness (John 4:6), and the need for sleep (Luke 8:23). Yet in his divine nature he was also omniscient (John 2:24-25; John 4:16-18; 11:11-15; 13:10-11, 21-29, 36-38; 16:30-31), omnipresent (Matthew 8:5-13; 18:20; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 7:1-10; John 1:47-49; 4:46-54), and omnipotent (Mark 4:35-41; John 2:19-22; 10:17-18). All of that was experienced by the one person of Jesus Christ.

All of this helps us to understand what Jesus means when he says only the Father knew the day or the hour of the Son's return. Jesus was speaking from the vantage point of his humanity. As a human Jesus was not omniscient but was limited in understanding just as all human beings are. Jesus in his deity is omniscient. John says that Jesus "needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:25 ESV) The disciples said, "Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." (John 16:30 ESV) After the resurrection, Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."(John 21:17 ESV) Since Jesus in the incarnation had both a human and a divine nature, and since Christ in his divine nature shows his omniscience on many occasions, Jesus was clearly speaking from his humanity when he said he did not know the day or the hour.

Once again, the Society has set up a straw man, and not dealt with Trinitarian arguments nor do they understand what the other side believes. The final paragraph of the Watchtower article will be discussed in the final article.

Grace and peace to you,


2 comments: said...

Very Good.

Peter Davidson said...

Hello Matthew, You have a very nice blog here! You may also appreciate the many testimonies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at God bless.