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Was Jesus omniscient while on earth?

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Jesus Key Treasure Chest

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Did Jesus, as God, know everything? This is often doubted because of Jesus’ statement in Mark 13:32, ‘But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (ESV).[1] In the context of Mark 13:24-27, we know that Jesus was referring to his second coming.

We know from verses such as 1 John 3:20 that God is omniscient: ‘For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything’. So the trinitarian God, of whom Jesus is the deity and the second person of the Trinity, ‘knows everything’. How do we match this with ‘only the Father’ knowing the day or hour of Christ’s second coming?

With some people, it is not unusual to hear this kind of statement about Jesus not being or having the attribute of omniscience:

“He knows everything” is not meant as all absolute everything.
Jesus did not know the day of his second coming. Not knowing one things make (sic) him NOT knowing everything.[2]

The Forum thread that led to this comment began with this post: ‘I’m just curious because Jesus learns and finds things out in the Gospels, which doesn’t seem like a conditional possibility for an omniscient [being]’.[3]

1. What is omniscience?

Theologian, Wayne Grudem, has defined omniscience as ‘the attribute of God whereby he fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act’ (Grudem 1999:490). R C Sproul makes these accurate observations: Because omniscience means ‘all knowledge’, such could only be true of an infinite being like God himself who possesses infinite knowledge. ‘God’s omniscience is grounded in His infinity and His omnipotence. God’s omniscience is crucial to His role as the Judge of the world’ (Sproul 1992:46). Sproul refers to this teaching in Psalm 147:5; Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 15:18; Romans 11:33-36 and Hebrews 4:13.

2. Did Jesus have omniscience while on earth?

This is often questioned because of his lack of knowledge of his second coming. How should we respond? Is it a contradiction to state that the trinitarian God has omniscience yet Jesus did not have omniscience in his incarnation? Is that the truth. Let’s take a look at biblical evidence:

(a) Jesus did demonstrate aspects of omniscience

A summary of Jesus’ omniscience is given under the heading of ‘the Son is recognized as God’ and ‘the attributes of Deity’ by theologian Henry C. Thiessen. He wrote:

As for his omniscience, we read that He knows all things (John 16:30; 21:17). He knew what was in man (John 2:24, 25). He saw Nathanael under the fig tree (John 1:49); He knew the history of the Samaritan woman (John 4:29), the thoughts of men (Luke 6:8, cf. 11:17), the time and manner of His exit out of this world (Matt. 16:21; John 12:33; 13;1), who would betray Him (John 6:66), the character and certain termination of the present age (Matt. 24:25), the Father (Matt. 11:27); and “in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden” (Col. 2:3). In Mark 13;32 He is said to be ignorant of the day of His return. On the basis of this statement some would have us believe that He was ignorant of many other points also. But we must remember that while He had the attributes of deity, He had surrendered the independent exercise of them. He went to a fig tree, “if haply he might find anything thereon” (Mark 11:13); He marvelled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6). All due to the fact that the Father did not allow Him to exercise His divine attributes in these instances. But He, no doubt, now knows the time of His coming (Thiessen 1949:139).

So Thiessen was convinced from the biblical evidence that Jesus did have the atrribute of omniscience but was not allowed to exercise it by the Father on some occasions during his incarnation.

(b) A view of Daniel Wallace

Daniel Wallace has written an excellent article about Jesus’ omniscience that I would recommend, “When did Jesus know?” Wallace concludes his article with this summary:

Briefly, here’s my take on things. We need to think of the divine attributes in two categories: moral attributes and amoral attributes. The moral attributes are those attributes that speak of God’s morality – justice, mercy, love, goodness, kindness, etc. The amoral attributes are those that speak of God’s sovereignty – omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, infinity, eternity, immutability, etc. What is interesting to observe in the Gospels is that a clear line of demarcation can be seen with reference to Jesus: he never fails to function on the level of the moral attributes, but frequently does not display the amoral attributes. In other words, the moral attributes seem to be “hard-wired” to his human consciousness, while the amoral attributes seem to be subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and come to the human conscious level at the Spirit’s choosing. At the same time, since he does occasionally demonstrate the amoral attributes, there is no denying his deity. Although Jesus Christ has both a human and divine nature, he is not two persons. He has one consciousness. It is not enough to say that his divine nature does not always operate at the level of his human consciousness. Why? Because it is only the amoral attributes that fit this description. It is partially because of this distinction that I hold to the impeccability of Christ—that is, that he was not able to sin (which is saying more than that he was able not to sin). Further, it is partially because of my christology that I view God’s attributes as amoral and moral instead of as communicable and incommunicable. In any event, if we recognize that Jesus functioned as a mere man in the amoral realm much if not most of the time, we can begin to understand why the scriptures can speak of him as able to relate to us. As man, he represents us to God; as God, he represents the Father to us. He is the perfect mediator, the perfect high priest, and the perfect sacrifice.

So Daniel Wallace’s view is that when Jesus was functioning as a man, he was not omniscient. However, did Jesus function with the attribute of omniscience while he was on earth? We’ll need to check the biblical evidence.

(c) Was Jesus’ incarnational omniscience laid aside?

‘The crowning jewel of incarnational texts is Philippians 2:6-11, an early Christian hymn in praise of Christ’ (Lewis & Demarest 1990:267). For an understanding of Jesus’ incarnation and omniscience, Phil 2:6-7 may have some application:

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

What does it mean to say that, in the incarnation, Jesus ‘made himself nothing’? The New American Standard Bible translates this phrase as, ‘emptied himself’ for the Greek, ekenwsen. The essence of the meaning is that

the eternal Christ chose not to regard existence-in-a-manner-of-equality-with-God a treasure to be greedily hearded. Instead, he voluntarily stripped himself (ekenwsen) of his prerogatives as the divine Son (his God-equal position) by “taking the very nature of a servant” [v. 7]…. Namely, by assuming the form and exhibiting the condition of a common slave. The text indicates that while renouncing participation in the heavenly glory, Christ retained the divine form or morphe…. The One who from eternity possessed the essence and glory of God, and who in an act of supreme self-renunciation assumed the existence of a lowly servant was in truth an authentic man among men (Lewis & Demarest 1990:267).

However, when applied to Jesus’ omniscience, we know that while the time of his second coming was the prerogative of the Father and was not known to the Son while on earth, we do know that Jesus demonstrated his attribute of omniscience during his earthly ministry. This is what the Gospels affirm about …

3. Jesus’ omniscience while on earth

matte-red-arrow-small[4]Matthew 26:21-25, ‘And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so”’. These verses demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience.

matte-red-arrow-small Matthew 26: 31-35, ‘Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same’. These verses demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience.

matte-red-arrow-small Luke 5:21-22, ‘And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?”’ These verses demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience.

matte-red-arrow-small Luke 6:7-8, ‘And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there’. These verses demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience.

matte-red-arrow-smallLuke 9:46-47, ‘An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side’. These verses demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience.

matte-red-arrow-small Luke 11:17, ‘But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls’. This verse demonstrates Jesus’ omniscience.

4. A dominant question about Jesus not being omniscient

This is a fairly standard objection to Jesus having omniscience:

What do you do with,
32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mar 13:32 KJV)[5]

Some of how to respond is expounded above, but here are some further pointers (there may be some overlap with what is above):[6]

a) Since Jesus is fully God (and fully man) as a member of the Triune God, he has to be omniscient (all-knowing) as that is one of the essential attributes of God himself. Since Jesus is God himself, he is omniscient.

b) There are many times when Jesus based what he said and did on his divine nature (see examples above). But there are other times when Jesus states something about himself that is based on his human nature (Mk 13:32 is one example). Scripture clearly demonstrates that Jesus may be identified according to both human and divine natures.

c) Take 1 Cor. 2:8 as an example of this apparent paradox where the rulers of this age ‘crucified the Lord of glory’. How could the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Lord God of glory be crucified? It’s an oxymoron unless we understand that this is a statement from the perspective of Jesus’ human nature.

d) I, as an orthodox evangelical who has a high view of Scripture, understand the oneness of the three persons of the Trinity. In this oneness, they know all things (are omniscient). In his humiliation as a human being (see Philippians 2:6-7), God the Son did not use his divine attributes except when they were needed for his mediatorial work.

e) Therefore, Jesus’ omniscience while on earth was used in a very restricted way. That is what is happening with Mk 13:32 when Jesus’ human nature does not know the day or the hour of his second coming.

f) This is a mystery to us as human beings. How could the omniscient second person of the Trinity, while on earth, restrict the use of his divine attributes in such a way? Mystery it is, but it is a fact beyond dispute according to the biblical revelation, that Jesus is fully God but when speaking from his human nature, his omniscience is very restricted.

g) Understanding Mark 13:32 is on a parallel with understanding 1 Cor 2:8. The human Lord of glory, who was fully God, was crucified. The human Jesus, who was fully God, did not know the time and hour of his second coming.

h) We must not strip Jesus of his deity and omniscience when we don’t understand how the human Jesus did not know the specifics about his return.

i) However, those of a theological liberal persuasion, with a low view of Scripture, can easily conclude that here is a gross contradiction of Scripture in Mk 13:32. However, such a conclusion is based on a false understanding of the nature of the Trinitarian Lord God Almighty.

But I will say that our view of God has a massive impact on our understanding of Mark 13:32. It was A. W. Tozer who wrote,

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself (Tozer 1961:1).

5. Conclusion

There are three possible interpretations[7] of Jesus not knowing the time of his second coming:

  1. Jesus continued to exercise some dimensions of omniscience while on earth and the full exercise of his omniscience was subject to God the Father’s parameters;
  2. Jesus never failed to function on the level of the moral attributes, but frequently does not display the amoral attributes such as omniscience as these seemed to be subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and come to the human conscious level at the Spirit’s choosing (Dan Wallace’s view).
  3. In his incarnation, Jesus laid aside the use of his attribute of omniscience.

I hold to number 1 until further information is received and further understanding is achieved. Why? That there were times when Jesus’ omniscience was deferred to another member of the Godhead is obvious from Jesus not knowing the time of his second coming. However, my understanding is that this is a function of omniscience in the Godhead. It is not meant to deny Jesus’ omniscience while on earth.

I will not have fullest understanding of how the Trinitarian God’s omniscience functions until I’m in his presence. I wonder if that will be an issue then.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith, J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Lewis, G R & Demarest, B A 1990. Integrative theology, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Tozer, A W 1961. The knowledge of the Holy.  San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Notes:

[1] Unless otherwise stated all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Christian Forums, Theology, Christian History, The Historical Jesus, ‘Was Jesus omniscient?’ Maite Els#303. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7474786-31/ (Accessed 20 April 2013).

[3] Ibid., cubinity#1.

[4] I posted these references in ibid., OzSpen #310.

[5] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Questions for Synergists’, Butch5#328, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7742165-33/ (Accessed 6 May 2013).

[6] Ibid. This is from my response, OzSpen #327.

[7] Sceptics will want to introduce a fourth ‘interpretation’: ‘The Bible promotes a contradiction when dealing with Jesus’ omniscience vs. his limited knowledge’. However, the biblical evidence provides an antidote to the sceptics.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 October 2016.

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At Christmas do we celebrate the birth of God?

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Sydney StAndrewCathedral.JPG

(St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

I’m an orthodox evangelical believer. I watched the Christmas Eve service 2011 which the Dean of the Cathedral, Phillip Jensen, led from St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, telecast on ABC1 TV in Australia. It was a magnificent Christ-centred service led by Phillip. I know that his church is a member of the evangelical Anglican diocese of Sydney and he has been  an orthodox stalwart in the midst of an Anglican church in Australia that has become theologically liberal in many states.

What is happening to the liberal Anglicans in Australia? See: “Anglican Synod 2004: Are liberal Anglicanism’s days numbered?“; “Church needs new vision, says Jensen[1]”; and “The Anglican Debacle: Roots and Patterns“.

The Sydney Anglicans news’ release about this event stated:

For the first time in many years, ABC Television is screening an evangelical service on Christmas Eve [2011]. St Andrew’s Cathedral has been chosen to host the annual carols telecast on ABC television at 6pm on the night before Christmas.

The National broadcast on ABC 1 will feature Dean Phillip Jensen and the Cathedral choir, along with guest musicians and orchestra. The Dean said “This broadcast provides a great opportunity to express the message of the birth of our Lord in a genuinely modern and Australian fashion”.[2]

However, one phrase caught my attention, and he said it several times in the telecast, as he spoke about Christmas celebrating “the birth of God”. Could this kind of language give the wrong impression? He has a brief article online that is titled, “Celebrate the Birth of God” (published 2 December 2005). In it he talks about Christmas as a time to “celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus, who is God in the flesh” and “give thanks to God for the great privilege of celebrating the birth of our Mighty God in this way”.

He seems to be trying to communicate that Jesus is both God and man, but does the language, “the birth of God” have potential problems? These are my questions:

  1. Is it misleading to speak of the birth of God when God the Son has always existed and has had no birth?
  2. Could it be better to say that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became flesh (a man) and we celebrate His birth at Christmas time?
  3. Many do not understand how a virgin could conceive and give birth to the Son of God as flesh, without the insemination of a male. Does the language of “the birth of God” convey orthodox theology, or is it meant to get the attention of secular people who celebrate Christmas for materialistic and holiday reasons?

The prophecy of Christ’s birth in Isaiah 9:6  states,  For to us a child is BORN, to us a son is GIVEN” (ESV). For this one event of the incarnation, there are two distinct matters.

(1) A CHILD is born – this is the human Jesus, and

(2) A SON is given. The Son was not born; Jesus the Son was GIVEN. He was from eternity.

I am not sure that he made this distinction as he should have. I consider that he should have made it clear about the humanity of Jesus (a child is born) and the deity of Jesus (the eternal Son is given). God was not born on the first Christmas Day. God the Son has always existed as God and he became a human being on that first Christmas Day but there was no “birth of God” as such.

Paul the apostle is very clear about this in Romans 1:3-4:

concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (ESV),

The eternal generation of the son is orthodox doctrine. Or, is he moving away from the teaching on the eternal generation of the Son. See, “The Eternal Generation of the Son: A Biblical Perspective”. The Nicene Creed states in part:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The Scriptures state that the child was born at the first Christmas, but the Son was given. The eternal Son of God was not born at the first Christmas. He was from eternity the Son.

What about Galatians 4:4?

A person on Christian Forums objected to my view, stating that I “ignore Gal. 4:4”.[3]

Gal. 4:4 reads: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (ESV).

There is nothing here to state or insinuate that the incarnation was “the birth of God”. What does Gal. 4:4 mean? The late Herman Ridderbos, professor of NT at Kampen Theological Seminary, Kampen, The Netherlands, wrote:

The word translated sent forth [exapostellw] comprises two thoughts: the going forth of the Son from a place at which He was before; and His being invested with divine authority. By this the profound and glorious significance of Christ’s coming in the world is indicated. He was the Son of the Father, who stood by His Father’s side already before the sending (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 8:9, Phil. 2:6, and Col. 1:15). The Sonship designates not merely an official but also an ontological relationship (cf. Phil. 2:6). The words, born of a woman, do not refer to the beginning of his existence as Son, but as the child of a woman. The expression serves to suggest the weak, the human, the condescending. The woman was not only the medium of His coming into the flesh, but from her He took all that belongs to the human [hence ek , not dia]. She was in the full sense His mother. That Paul in these words is also reflecting on the virgin birth is, as we see it, highly doubtful. For, as is evident from the absence of the article in the Greek, Paul is not putting the emphasis on His being born of Mary. Besides, the expression elsewhere is used to designate the human and nothing besides (cf. Job 14:1 and Matt. 11:11)”.[4]

Ridderbos is affirming what I have stated that the child was born of a woman but was the Son of the Father God before Jesus was sent into the world, becoming a human baby.

J. B. Lightfoot agrees, stating that “sent forth … assumes the pre-existence of the Son” and “born of woman” means “taking upon Himself our human nature (cf. Job 14:1, Matt 11:11). These passages show that the expression must not be taken as referring to the miraculous incarnation”.[5]

R. C. H. Lenski explained:

“His Son—out of a woman” pointedly omit mention of a human father. Why? Because this is God’s Son who is co-eternal with the Father. He became man by way of “a woman” alone. Incomprehensible? Absolutely so! A miracle in the highest degree? Beyond question![6]

It is not Lenski’s view that this refers to the pre-existence of Jesus, but he does state that when Gal. 4:4 stated that God “commissioned forth his Son”, the vivid verb is associated with the preposition, ek[7], and not the usual preposition, apo. “This means that the Son went out on his commission not only ‘from’ God but ‘out from’ God. John says that he was ‘with’ (pros) God (John 1:1) and was God and that he became flesh (v. 14)”.[8] Lenski does believe in the eternal pre-existence of the Son, but he does not believe it is taught in Gal. 4:4. However, he does believe that this Scripture refers to the virgin birth:

“The Son of God” is the second person of the Godhead; he “became out of a woman” in executing his mission. This is the Incarnation, the miraculous conception, the virgin birth. God’s Son became man, the God-man.

The phrase that begins with ek denotes more than the separation from the womb, it includes the entire human nature of the Son as this was derived from his human mother. The word genomenon is exactly the proper word to express this thought, even the tense is very accurate. The Son’s going out from God on his mission is seen in his becoming man. He did not cease to be the Son of God when he became man. He did not drop his deity, which is an impossible thought. He remained what he was and added what he had not had, namely a human nature, derived out of a woman, a human mother. He became the God-man.[9]

I have been warned not to be another Nestorius

Since I see that Christmas celebrates the birth of the humanity of Jesus, the God-man, some have written to me warning that my view could sound like the false teaching of Nestorius. Most Christians would not know of Nestorius and his teaching.

The Nestorian controversy came to a head at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This Nestorian website gives a summary of the Christological controversies surrounding the teaching of Nestorius:

1. Nestorius became bishop of Constantinople in 428. He came from the Antioch school and was taught theology there by Theodore of Mopsuestia. He opposed a relatively new theological and devotional slogan Theotokos – affirming that Mary was the “God-bearer” or “Mother of God.” Nestorius was concerned with the thought that God might be seen to have had a new beginning of some kind, or that he suffered or died. None of these things could happen to the infinite God. Therefore, instead of a God-man, he taught that there was the Logos and the “man who was assumed.” He favored the term “Christ-bearer” (Christotokos) as a summary of Mary’s role, or perhaps that she should be called both “God-bearer” and “Man-bearer” to emphasize Christ’s dual natures. He was accused of teaching a double personality of Christ. Two natures, and two persons. He denied the charge, but the term Nestorianism has always been linked with such a teaching.

2. He was an adherent of the Antiochene “school” and he wished to emphasize a distinction between Christ as man and Christ as God.

a. He did not deny that Christ was God.

b. He said, however, that people should not call Mary thetokos, the “mother of God,” because she was only the mother of the human aspect of Christ.

c. Great opposition developed against Nestorius’ teaching and his opponents charged that he taught “two sons” and that he “divided the invisible.”

d. Nestorius denied the charge, but the term Nestorianism has always been linked with such a teaching.

e. The leader of the opposition to Nestorius was Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, a man who was one of the most ruthless and uncontrolled of the major early bishops.

The possible danger in my discussing the birth of the humanity of Jesus at Christmas, which is true, and rejecting anything to do with the birth of God (as the eternal God cannot be born), is that when I speak of the God-man Jesus, that I try to attribute some of Jesus’ actions to his humanity and some to his divinity. That is not what I’m saying or teaching, but I want to make it clear that God cannot be born, either as ‘Mary the mother of God’, or the celebration of ‘the birth of God’ (Phil Jensen) at Christmas.

Conclusion

The language that “God was born” at Christmas does not provide biblical warrant. God, the Son, the second person of the Trinity, has existed eternally. At that first Christmas, the Son obtained his humanity through being born to a virgin. This inaugurated the God-man nature of Jesus, but the Son never ceased being God from eternity. That the first Christmas celebrates the “birth of God” in Jesus, is false theologically. It was the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) at which God the Son became the God-man.

I would like to understand why Phillip Jensen is defining the incarnation as meaning the “birth of God” in his Christmas Eve service, 24 December 2011, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, and telecast on Australian ABC1 television. I have emailed him to get his views, with much of the information above. To date, I have not received a reply.

Appendix A

I had a further discussion on this topic with a person on Christian Fellowship Forum.[10] My engagement went like this:

Jesus did not always exist. The divine person who became Jesus always existed. Do we disagree?[11]

Jesus, the Son, who is also called “the Word”, always existed and continues to exist as God. We know this from…

John 1:1-2 states:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (ESV).

But this same Word (Jesus) entered our humanity, although he is God and existed in the beginning with God, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

But it was the humanity of the eternal Son of the Father that began in Mary’s womb. The divine person of the Son always was, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Maybe we do agree after all. Were you just in a disagreeable mood when you wrote?[12]

I’m never in a disagreeable mood when I come on this forum, but I agree with the statement that you made in this quote, except the disagreeable stuff. Please remember that I wrote to you to state that Mary as the mother of God[13], was not a biblical doctrine.

Who was born? A person. Who was that person? The eternal Son of the Father. God. God was born.[14]

False! God cannot be born. That’s an oxymoron. God is from eternity and is always eternally God so there can be no “birth of God” or “God was born”.

What does that mean? That God had a physical biological body for the first time at His conception. That at His birth, God the eternal Son of the Father breathed air, got hungry, felt His own mother’s warmth, slept, and grew physically. Who was born? The eternal Son of the Father? Was He true God?[15]

At the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, the Son, became the God-man. It was the virgin conception of the humanity of Jesus. It was NOT the birth of God.

<<Your statement implies that Mary was only the mother of the biological body of Jesus. >>

And that was what she was. She was NOT the mother of God – NOT the mother of divinity. Then you state:

She was the mother who enabled Jesus to become the God-man and NOT the mother of God.[16]

I agree with this statement, but Mary is the mother of the humanity of Jesus. I’m indeed pleased that you admit that the RCC doctrine of Mary being the mother of God is false as you state that Mary was “NOT the mother of God”.

The only orthodox teaching is that Jesus was, from the moment of conception, fully man and fully God. Now maybe you don’t believe that. But if you do, then the person born on the first Christmas day was God the Son, and Mary was the mother of God the Son. Who else would she be the mother of? A plain human person? Or a mere human nature devoid of personhood?[17]

I agree with and practise the orthodoxy you stated that Jesus was from the moment of conception, fully God and became fully man. He is the God-man. But that does not make Mary the mother of God. She was the mother of Jesus, the human being. I have never ever suggested that Jesus, the human being was devoid of personhood. That’s your invention against me.

You might not give a hoot about all that old stuff.[18]

That is rubbish! I spend a lot of time in studying historical theology. That’s why I’m having this discussion with you. If I didn’t give a hoot about the theology of the past, I would not have started this thread.

Here’s an instance where Calvin has it all over you. In agreement with Zwingli and Luther, he held that Mary was the mother of God. It’s in the Heidelberg Confession as well as the Augsburg Confession.[19]

Richard supporting the Reformers. The day of miracles is not over! You know that there are issues with Calvin that I have opposed on this Forum, but since some Reformers believed that Mary was the “mother of God”, I have to disagree on biblical grounds. She was the mother of the full personhood, the humanity of Jesus.

You need to think clearly and regain your heritage. I’m not trying to start a feud here, but I do think you have a knee-jerk opposition to the idea of Mary being the mother of God. It could be overcome with some calm consideration.[20]

This is your over-reaction. It is no knee-jerk reaction by me, but a considered post about the content of the God-man Christology.

We celebrate the birth of God, the incarnation, when God from before all ages became man and dwelt among us, Emanuel. We remember that God became a human being in time, with a real human mother, and that from His conception in Mary’s womb he was a unified being with both a human and a divine nature. No, we are not talking about the genesis of God, who has no beginning and has no end. Some people will never understand that, and I can’t help them.[21]

I agree with this statement.

Notes:


[1] This Jensen is Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, and brother to Phillip Jensen.

[2] Russell Powell, 11 December 2011, “Cathedral Christmas screening on ABCTV, available at: http://sydneyanglicans.net/news/stories/cathedral-christmas-screening-on-abctv (Accessed 26 December 2011).

[3] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘The birth of God’ (a thread I started at OzSpen), ebia #10, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7618703/ (Accessed 26 December 2011).

[4] Herman N. Ridderbos 1953. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pp. 155-156.

[5] J. B. Lightfoot 1865 (Zondervan printing 1976). The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 168.

[6] R. C. H. Lenski 1937, 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, p. 200.

[7] I have translated the Greek characters that Lenski used throughout these passages I have quoted from him.

[8] Lenski, p. 198.

[9] Ibid., p. 199.

[10] He was Richard, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “The Birth of God”, #7. My response, ozspen, is #12. available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=2&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120946 (Accessed 27 December 2011).

[11] Richard.

[12] Ibid.

[13] I had written to Richard in #5 and stated:

Jesus was God from eternity. His humanity began when he was conceived in Mary’s womb. The God-man began at that conception, but Christmas being the birth of God contradicts the Nicene Creed.
As for Mary being the mother of God, I consider that is as erroneous as saying that Christmas celebrates the birth of God. Mary was the human mother of Jesus’ humanity. She was not the mother of divinity. She was the mother who enabled Jesus to become the God-man and NOT the mother of God.

[14] Richard #7.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

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