29 August 2011

The Folly of Treating Christology Like a DIY Project

by Phil Johnson

ome of the comments and e-mails I received after Friday's post basically said things like this:

"I am still not convinced that we can ascribe all the divine attributes of God to Christ when He was on this earth." Phrases like "I'm skeptical. . ." "You might be able to finesse it. . ." "You might think twice about it. . ." and, "The solution you guys are working with. . ." seemed to imply that one or more of our commenters may have thought I was floating experimental or hypothetical ideas about the deity and Incarnation of Christ.

In the first place, I wouldn't do that. In the second place, I don't recommend that approach to students of doctrine—much less aspiring teachers. In the third place, the question of whether Jesus was dispossessed of divine attributes in order to become human is not something I would ever propose for debate.

The problem with all kenotic theories is very simple to understand: if Christ divested himself of any essential attribute of God, then by definition He shed His deity. That, of course, is the kind of "problem" liberals and postmodernists are quite happy to take on board, but Christians concerned about orthodoxy have never taken such a blithe approach to the Incarnation.

Of course, the question of how full deity and true humanity can coexist in one Person is full of mystery. In fact, it is one of the toughest conundrums in all of theology, and for that reason rationalists and unbelievers frequently deny the possibility of the Incarnation altogether. But authentic Christians have always affirmed it, and not one orthodox Christian theologian of any serious repute has ever taught that the incarnate Christ was divested of the divine attributes.

More importantly, Scripture flatly states otherwise: "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).

Now, the fact that Christ possessed all the divine attributes does not necessitate that the full expression of those attributes was always operative in every aspect of His human experience. It should be obvious, for example, that if the human mind of Christ had maintained conscious awareness of everything known to the omniscient mind of God, His experience would not be like ours at all. In the words of Leon Morris:
Think how very different life would be for the student if he knew from the beginning of the year what questions would turn up in His examination paper! What vistas of bliss and ease the prospect opens up! . . . Ignorance is an inevitable accompaniment of the only human life that we know . . . . If this was the manner of it [if Jesus lived life knowing all the secrets of the universe], then the life Jesus lived was not a human life." [The Lord from Heaven (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964),46-47]

In other words, there must have been things Jesus did not know in the realm of His human consciousness, or else it would not be the case that He "can have compassion on the ignorant . . . for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity" (Hebrews 5:2). Scripture plainly tells us there were things the human Jesus did not know (Mark 13:32). He "grew in wisdom" (Luke 2:52) in the normal human fashion—yet without sin. As He matured, He learned, and as He learned, He was ordinarily subject to the normal limits of human ignorance. The omniscient knowledge of the divine mind of the Son of God was not communicated in exhaustive detail to His human consciousness—but He did not abandon that aspect of His deity, and Scripture is quite clear about that (John 2:24-25; 21:17, etc.).

I've participated in Christian forums online since 1995, and one thing has always absolutely amazed me about the nature of theological discussion on the Internet: Whenever the discussion turns to Christology and the Incarnation, people seem to crawl out of the woodwork and start shooting from the hip. This is one area of theology where orthodoxy is very meticulously defined and has been accepted by all major traditions without serious challenge since the fourth century. Why anyone would want to enter the fray with a "Well, I think this: [your novel idea here]" kind of argument is mystifying to me.

The reason these issues were hashed out so carefully in the early church is that they are absolutely foundational. And it behooves us all to study historical theology and the major creeds on these matters before launching into speculation.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, the church was relentlessly assaulted with Christological heresies. Between them all, they pretty much covered every possible heresy regarding the Person of Christ. You think you have a new way to explain the Incarnation? It's no doubt already been done.

For example, the Ebionites insisted that Jesus was a mere man—the holiest of all men, but no more than that. The Apollinarians acknowledged His deity but denied that He had a human soul. The Nestorians made Him both God and man, but in doing so made Him two persons in one body—a man in whom the divine Logos dwelt rather than a single person who was both human and divine. The Eutychians, the monophysites, and the monothelites went to the opposite extreme, fusing the divine and human natures of Christ into one new nature. The—Arians claimed He was not God, but the highest of all created beings. (Just like today's Jehovah's Witnesses.) And the Docetists denied that Christ was really human. Most Docetists taught that Jesus' human body was only an illusion.

Scripture, Church councils, and written polemics were all utilized in the refutation of these erroneous views. As soon as one issue was settled, however, another would surface and need to be dealt with. In 325, the council of Nicea condemned Arianism, affirming what Scripture declares: that Jesus is fully divine. Ironically, the heresy of Arianism enjoyed its heyday after Nicea, and the influence of Arianism (with the Arians' incessant pleas for tolerance), opened the door to other heresies, including revivals of some Christological errors that had already ostensibly been eradicated.

There were overreactions against Arianism as well. The Apollinarians went overboard on the side of Christ's deity and did not do full justice to His humanity. In 381 the council of Constantinople condemned Apollinarianism as heresy.

The war against Christological heresies continued until the council of Chalcedon (451) issued a statement about the Person of Christ that has stood as the definitive test of orthodoxy from that time until now. From that point on, the confession of Chalcedon has universally been affirmed in every major branch of the Christian church—Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism.

The statement is brief. It is all one sentence:
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; very God and very man, of a rational soul and body; coessential [homoousion—identical in essence] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial [homoousion—identical in essence] with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer [Theotokos], according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation; 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 spoken of him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The genius of that statement—the element that put an end to incessant heresies on the nature of Christ—is found in the phrase "two natures without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation." Those four negative statements forever defined and delimited how the person of Christ is to be understood. G. C. Berkhouwer called those four negatives "a double row of light-beacons which mark off the navigable water in between and warn against the dangers which threaten to the left and to the right."

Every heresy that has ever surfaced with regard to the person of Christ either fuses or separates the deity and the humanity of Christ. Chalcedon declared that the two natures can be neither merged nor disconnected. (The technical term for the union of Christ's two natures is the hypostatic union.) Christ is both God and man. Truly God and truly man.

There is no terminology outside the Council of Chalcedon's statement that has ever been accepted as orthodox by any major branch of Christianity. So anyone who denies any element of this formula—whether it's the two natures, the union of the two natures, or whatever—is unorthodox on the doctrine of the Incarnation. It's as simple as that. And this is not something to treat lightly.

Phil's signature


Thomas Louw said...

I fully agree playing around with important doctrines is not to be considered as a hobby.

I have always found the incarnation of Christ, as you described it a “conundrum” as many other Christian doctrines are, humanly impossible to fully understand and explain. It is like a prickly pear (I think you also have it in the States, it is a fruit with a lot of nearly invisible thorns, very difficult to remove and the more you handle the fruit the more of them gets stuck in your hands)
The more you explain and investigate it, the more you have to explain. You always find yourself having to explain more and thinking of possible blind spots which could lead to heresy if taken too far.

The answer you have given minimises the chances of going down any of these rabbit holes.

Ron Van Brenk said...

Seems I was the only one to condemn a popular book promoting "adoptionism" at Amazon-


But some folks don't seem to think the 'nature of Jesus' is all that important:

"As for adoptionism if you think that is so important try asking your local church who they think Jesus is and they will almost certainly come up with every early church "heresy". Dont bother to reply. I am not the checking the option to get updates."

Robert said...

We had a discussion about this in our Sunday School class with regards to Jesus on the cross and taking the wrath of God. Our teacher said that he believes that during that time, Jesus was not in communion with God, although they were still one as God. That is a thought that is beyond my finite mind, but still makes sense because God never ceases to be three persons in one. It also takes me back to a message that Kevin DeYoung gave on the impassability of God in light of Christ suffering on the cross. It may be difficult to work through some of these matters, but it doesn't change the truth that Jesus was fully God and fully man altogether at the same time and the whole time. Anything else would violate Scripture.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Hello Phil!

I gots a couple of questions...

Do you think that American Evengelicalism (especially those of us in the 'baptistic strains') has not been aggressive enough in utilizing the early creeds (Apostle's, Nicene, Chalcedonian, Athanasian) of the Church in our teaching ministries?

If so, how do we remedy it without diminishing the role of Scripture?

What do you think is the appropriate role of these creeds, in the life of the modern Church?

How do we deal with the word, 'catholic' which might be off-putting to some?

Tom Chantry said...


Hey, don't you love it when you ask Phil or Dan or Frank a question, and some random guy starts adding in his unsolicited opinions? I hate when that happens!

That said, one of the problems of American Evangelicalism is its abandonment of creeds, confessions, and catechisms. When the post-reformation churches worked to formulate their doctrine, their confessional statements tended to incorporate the critical language from the ancient creeds when they addressed the subjects of the Trinity and Christology. The catechisms they adopted likewise incorporated that language. Churches then made a conscious effort to teach the doctrine contained in the confessional statements of the church. Catechisms were not only taught to children, but used in some places as the basis of topical preaching through the doctrines of the church. In this way, the creedal dogmas were inculcated more thoroughly than by mere repetition of a creed in church.

In evangelicalism "catechism" sounds Catholic and "confession" sounds overly restrictive. We live in a day of checklist statements of faith that do not lend themselves well to intense doctrinal instruction. It is no surprise that the creedal formulae are no longer imprinted on the spiritual DNA of our congregations.

David J. Houston said...

Hey Phil,

I recognized some of the phrases I used in your list so I thought I'd explain myself. Firstly, you'll notice that in all of my comments I pointed back to what the Scriptures and creeds had to say on the subject so I wasn't involving myself in DIY christology. I actually started commenting because I was worried that the discussion was starting to go in that direction. Secondly, the creeds don't explain everything as exhaustively as the philosopher's would like which means that so long as we stay within the bounds that the creeds set for us we are free to theorize to our hearts content. Thirdly, because the creeds function more like fences to keep us from going off into silly speculations than comprehensive philosophical accounts of the hypostatic union there have always been debates over which model within the bounds of orthodoxy should be accepted and this is to be encouraged so that body of Christ can attain a greater knowledge of the blessed truth that God became man and dwelt among us. (I would recommend any of Oliver Crisp's books on Christology to highlight this last point)

Again, you were gracious in not naming names and I'm sure we actually agree on the essentials of our views of Christ but I still felt the need to clarify.

God bless!

DJP said...

Particularly with Mormons and adoptionists in mind, I formulated Phillips' Deity Axiom:

1. If you ever weren't God, you never will be.
2. If you ever were God, you never won't be.

David J. Houston said...

Those are axioms of which no sounder can be thought. :P

DJP said...

I'm very simpleminded, so I work hard to break things down as simply and memorably as possible.

Shh, tell no one.

Mark McKeen said...

I appreciate the insight that we glean from John 3:13 gives us into Christ's two natures. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, yet at the same time He says "The Son of man who is in heaven"

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that I can't wrap my brain around "fully God, fully man".

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD." - Isaiah 55:8

Solameanie said...

Fully God and fully man. That's why He's God and we're not.

trogdor said...

When it comes to God, occasionally we need to acknowledge that something is true even if we can't fully comprehend how it's true. The hypostatic union is declared by God's Word beyond any reasonable doubt, and we must fully accept it, even though our puny minds cannot comprehend the mechanics.

The worst heresies will come from trying to simplify the incomprehensible (yet undeniably scripturally-taught) things of God into comprehensible, relatable figures. Christology, the Trinity, sovereign election/human responsibility - attempting to dumb down the divine to satisfy the itches of finite-and-sinfully-minded brains leads to all sorts of chaos. Pelagianism, Arianism, openness, modalism, and the like all spring from this root of demanding that God must be completely understandable by me, the ultimate arbiter of truth.

Understand that God is self-existent Creator and you are dependent creature, that He completely understands you but the reciprocal is not true, and accept that His descriptions and accounts of things are true even though they're beyond your capacity to understand. To base theology on "it seems to me" above "God says" is axing for trouble.

Jeremy Weaver said...


So you're saying more than actually using the creeds, use the reformed catechisms as an actual teaching/preaching tool rather than only making the kids recite the answers?

Aaron said...


I've read many of your posts that directly or indirectly address the hypostatic union. Each and everytime I'm surprised there are comments other than "Amen." I guess I still struggle with how supposed Christians can debate the fundamentals of the faith.

Unknown Poster said...

This article is a good reminder that we should respect those who came before us and fought for the truth. We stand on the shoulders of giants who handed down to us faith traditions that have been continually defended vigorously against error.

Personally, I often wonder what else truly needs to be said by the plethora of authors today, when there is so much we still need to be processing from those who came before us.

Always Reforming said...

While I agree with the assessment, I also understand why people have a hard time with a concept like God dying. Honestly, saying that he put off divine attributes doesn't sound all that different from saying they weren't always operative. Sometimes all we can do is state what the Bible says and humbly admit we don't know how it works. God, outside of time and space, became "God with us." Blows my mind!

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Always Reforming:

God dod not die on the cross, Jesus did.

Thank you for this important article, Phil.

paulchoi said...

Thank Phil so much for the deity of Christ. I 've never thought Jesus is God. But I would sometimes be confused with His natures. Now I got it and that I have been cleared of what I used to get confused. Thanks so much again

Tom Chantry said...

Jeremy, exactly.

A few examples:

Years ago, the Sunday School curriculum put out by Great Commission Publishers (a Presby group) presumed that children would memorize the catechism, and it concluded with workbooks for teenagers which took the already memorized words and studied them in depth. The curriculum began to drift away from that, but many churches still follow the process of memorizing first, then instructing as children grow. The categories are set in their minds by memorization while they are young, but there is also a later thrust to teach the meaning of the words.

Further, confessions of faith are intended as teaching tools. Adult classes (during the Sunday School hour or elsewhere) may be dedicated to going chapter by chapter, or even paragraph by paragraph, through the church's confession so that the people learn what the church believes and why, biblically, it believes it.

Finally, the Dutch churches have an intriguing approach. If you look at a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism, you will see that its 129 questions are arranged into 52 Lord's Days. The idea is that on each Sunday of the year the pastor will preach - generally in the evening service - from some theme emerging from that week's questions. Over time, this leads to a rather thorough body of teaching on each point in the catechism, all in the form of exegesis and application.

So yes, these documents are teaching tools, if we choose to use them as such.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I agree, Tom, these are great teaching tools. And if used appropriately can help to alleviate so much ignorance and confusion about key doctrines of the faith, especially for young people. Sad to say, though, these have gone the way of the dinosaur.

philness said...

Some things are not meant to be taken apart and seperated on the work bench. You always end up not being able to put it back together properly.

Besides, we have enough on our plate working out the scriptual edict of our being in Christ and he in us while progressively overcoming and yet being declared an overcomer.

Good luck dismantling anything at or beyond the sufficient and presuppositional point of- God said so.

Rachael Starke said...

The implications of this doctrine are so enormous, it's hard to know where to begin. The God who had kept Himself separated by the veil in the temple, condescending to become an infant sleeping in a feeding trough, subjecting himself to human frailties (like incomplete knowledge), sitting with a rejected woman living in sin and engaging her in conversation - even revealing Himself to her while hiding who He was from the Pharisees - it's astounding. Like Pauchoi, I didn't understand a lot of these implications in my early Christian life because so many Christians I knew neither talked about, nor imitated Jesus in a way that made this very clear.

And MET, Always Reforming's issue is a big one. Jesus is, as we've been discussing, fully God. On the cross, Jesus, as fully God, died. It's a mystery, yes. But it's the same kind of mystery as Him becoming flesh, without changing, to begin with.

" 'Tis mystery, all: The immortal, dies. Who can explore His strange design?"

Rachael Starke said...

Re: the catechism, I was both raised and married into traditions where the catechism was and is the major foundation for both Adult and kids' Sunday School. Like everything else, it's a great servant but a poor master. Where the exegesis and application is derived from the Scriptures on which the questions and answers are based, it's tremendous. But in many circles, the exegesis and application is out of the catechism itself. That approach no worky so well.

Anonymous said...

Mary Elizabeth,

Is there not a great danger in making those sorts of distinctions that you made when you said
"God didn't die, Jesus did"?

Revelation 1:17-18 says:

"Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."

Trying to not to use a DIY hermeneutic here, understanding that this who doctrine is best understood as denial of what is not, rather than clear explanations of how it works...but Rev. 1:18 equates "the first and the last" with "I died and behold I am alive forevermore."

We tread on dangerous ground when we come up with something that sounds like Jesus is distinct from God, rather than entirely God (the Son) while distinct from the Father and the Spirit.
Clearly He is God the Son, fully man and fully God, indivisible.

How that works I don't understand, but to say that Jesus died, yet God didn't looks like very thin ice to me.

We cannot divide the Messiah as though we are Oneness folk.

Robert said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm splitting hairs to take exception to the comment "God did not die on the cross, Jesus did." Especially because it led to the following comment: "I've never thought Jesus is God." This sounds like a splitting of God and man and totally destroys the hypostatic union. I think I'll stick with the secret things belong to God (Dt. 29:29) on this one and not try to work out how it all makes sense. Let's not forget that Jesus took on the wrath that we deserve and that this was not merely a physical exercise, but a spiritual one as well.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

God dod not die on the cross, Jesus did.
This view includes a misnomer of Christ's person and the nature of the death on the cross.

First, Jesus is God. To state Jesus died but God did not is to contradict an axiom presented in the article.

When we speak of the death on the cross we must have in view its complete context. While the body of our Lord ceased to exist, this is not the only death tasted on the cross. And that other death should not be viewed in the same kind of context of a physical ceasing to exit which is physical death. That will mislead thinking on the second aspect of our Lord's suffering.

As the Gospels record, Jesus cried out before he expired physically, "My God My God, why have you forsaken me?"

That was in reference to another death and "the great exception" (the great necessary exception) where our Lord suffered the other part of our sentence for us, namely separation from God. And here, unlike ever before or after, our Lord experienced separation or as some prefer, a loss of commune (still separation), from the Father on our behalf and the Bible teaches us that this separation is indeed, death. He suffered death for us while retaining all of his essence and its properties while binding its expressions (form of a servant).

Now Scripture does not give us insight into the exact mechanics of this experience of separation and certain aspects of Trinitarian dogmatics can and do inform us as to what it cannot be or restrain us from overreaching, but it does not deny us the opportunity to understand and assert that the Second Person of the Trinity experienced death.

One might object: Isn't the union of the Trinity, their communion, part of divine essence and if it was suspended, even for a moment, would that not be a compromise to the integrity of Christ's divine essence?

No, their communion is not essence of person, rather it is expression or exercise of person (which merits examination and impacts this topic but I do not believe negates what is being asserted here). Thereby, in our Lord's suffering separation for us there is no corruption to any claims of Christ's deity in his work on the cross.

Matt Aznoe said...

So should the statement by the Council of Chalcedon be added to the canon? Seriously. If you are establishing this statement as a foundational element of truth for the Church, are you not implying that it is inspired by God?

I do not disagree with the statement at all as it is thoroughly Biblical. So what are we to make of various passages in Luke and statements by Jesus Himself that would indicate that He put His own deity in submission to the leading and power of the Holy Spirit and God the Father (Luke 4:1, 4:14, 5:17; John 14:10)? You said that it was patently false to believe that Jesus lived by the power of the Spirit, but why does such a belief necessitate a disagreement with this council's creed? Jesus laid aside His deity -- in principle but not in essence (He was still God) -- so that He could demonstrate the power of God and live as an example of perfect humility and submission to God.

If Jesus is God's demonstration of how to live this life by the power of the Spirit, then we are truly to imitate Jesus Christ -- in His prayer life, walk of faith, and works of power by the Holy Spirit (John 14:12-13, Hebrews 12:1-2) as we abide in Christ and the Spirit abides in us in holiness, humility and submission to the will of God. He is also truly the sympathetic High Priest who knows our frailties because He overcame them while living under our fleshly constraints of limited knowledge and power by His willful choice to submit those characteristics to the will of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

As an addendum thought, just as Jesus could have acted with the full powers of deity and chose not to, we could act out the abilities we have been given by being created in the image of God to try to build the kingdom of God by our own will. Instead, in obedience to the example of Jesus Christ, we conform our will to the will of God and set our ideas aside by trust in the wise counsels of God. If Jesus could set aside His perfect will in submission to the Father, how much more should we submit our ideas and plans, tainted by sin and our limited knowledge, to our all-knowing, perfect and holy Heavenly Father?

Anonymous said...

To be clear about the problem here, and, I think, the problem that prompted Phil to write this article:

When we start talking about Jesus as though he were two distinct persons and not a single person with 2 distinct (yet inseparable) natures, we're knocking on the door of a heresy that will keep us from salvation.

This is plainly an area where reason on it's own leads us easily and readily to conclusions that contradict the direct teaching of Scripture.
So have a care to say what Scripture says and deny what it denies and done stray from that, even where Scripture seems unclear.

To get Jesus wrong, is to worship someone other than the one true God.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I should have **explained** myself a bit better. I am fully aware that Jesus is God. What I am referring to is that upon the death of Jesus on the cross there was not a vacancy on the throne of heaven, as some assume when they say God died. God is an eternal spirit and cannot die, while Jesus being fully God and human could die. So, it does become a bit hard to explain, I know.

This was more of a rebuttal to those who claim that the throne was left **vacant**, which I have heard many, many times.

I am 100% orthodox and saved to boot. ;)

Thanks for being sharp, though.

Anonymous said...


Good to know :)

I wonder if sometimes it helps to speak of God as "God" and other times to speak of God as one of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.

For surely the Son died, and yet the Father never did.

And so, at one and the same time, God died, and didn't die...

How that works (the Son dying I mean) I don't get. Yet Revelation seems to say that it worked.

So there ya go.

Matt Aznoe said...


LOL! Yep, that sums it up. It is hard (impossible!) to wrap your head around.

That is why God is God and we are not.

DJP said...

Yep, he's done on that one note of his.

Others: please do not feed the trolls.

Robert said...


I definitely don't question your orthodoxy, but I just know where statements like that wind up heading. I was just trying to head it off at the pass once I saw the follow-up to it.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

While the body of our Lord ceased to exist
This should have read, while the life in the body of our Lord ceased to exist

James Joyce said...

The sermon at our church on Sunday was on Philippians 2:5-11 and the pastor used an interesting analogy to explain Jesus being 100% God and 100% human involving a jacket(fully human) worn over a shirt(fully God).
It worked for me.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Thank you, guys. I debated the topic of the Hypostatic Union years ago with many Catholics on another forum, and inevitably this question would come up, "Was the throne left vacant?" So I had this stuck in my head when I made the comment I did.

I am just so glad many of the commenters here on Pyro are on their toes. You, too, Rachael.

Rachael Starke said...

MET is obviously made of tougher stuff than I (exhibit A: Debating Catholics on the nature of the hypostatic union!!) I was worried we'd gone from TeamPyro to Team Pile-O.

Matt Aznoe said...


Actually, I do not believe I have ever seen an answer to how you view John 14:12. I am sure you probably have at some point, but the search engine won't let me search by that particular passage.

And in all fairness, you were the first one to "feed the troll". I was trying my hardest to stay on topic (a difficult thing to do when trying to stay away from an all encompassing subject like the Holy Spirit).

Robert said...


I didn't realize Catholics had a problem working that one out since they are still Trinitarian, at least. Although, I know from experience that the RCC isn't all that big on pushing people to read and study Scripture. So I could see how there would be some issues working out stuff like that.

Re: catechisms - I think they are best taught by parents where you can work from memorization to delving into the deeper meaning of the words and how that applies to each child. It's just hard to get the same feel for each child with that when you have a class size larger than four or five.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Dear Rachael:

I am not sure how to take that statement, but I will take it on a happy note. :)

When I started debating Catholics on the HU years ago, and many other topics of their choice, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what I was doing, but I figured it was best to put myself out there, not be afraid, and dig deep into Scripture for answers. This was tremendous training for me as a young Christian. I was not afraid of being bold enough to challenge them when I thought their ideas/theology didn't line up with Scripture.

I don't apologize to anyone who feels this may or may not be the right approach. And I feel that boldness is given to all Christians alike. This is not the preferred method of learning truth, but it certainly is good training when difficult topics come up.

I hope I do not come across as a know-it-all to you. Because that is something I do not take lightly. I know nothing, and the more I learn, I still know nothing. It is what keeps me humble and still bold and learning at the same time. But what I do know--I know that I know! No one should be afraid to fail and put oneself out there for the Lord, it is one way to learn, and, as another added benefit, it teaches you great humility when you are wrong.

Love you,

Tom Chantry said...

The sermon at our church on Sunday was on Philippians 2:5-11 and the pastor used an interesting analogy...

Does anyone else ever get the heebie jeebies when they hear those words in a discussion of the Hypostatic Union?

...to explain Jesus being 100% God and 100% human involving a jacket(fully human) worn over a shirt(fully God).

It worked for me.

Um, yeah...still shivering. Look, I get it, Jesus "put on" humanity. I certainly hope that your pastor fleshed this out and made it clear and orthodox and all, but please, let's be careful with the "interesting analogies." I'm sure that many a Docetist would have loved the analogy...and used to to argue that God put on a man costume in order to interact with us. Again, I'm sure that's not what your pastor intended, and I hope he made it amply clear that the analogy must not be interpreted this way, but there is great danger in simply stating such an analogy as though it neatly and cleanly resolves the issue. It does not. It must be carefully buttressed with qualifications so that it does not collapse into heretical rubble.

Tom Chantry said...

Actually, I do not believe I have ever seen an answer to how you view John 14:12. I am sure you probably have at some point, but the search engine won't let me search by that particular passage.

Matt, if this were actually the thread on da gifts that you seem to want to turn it into rather than one on the nature of Christ, I would treat you like I did Jeremy and spew forth yet another unsolicited opinion. Thankfully for all involved, I comprehend the words "on topic."

Rachael Starke said...

Oh, Mary, sister! I was being utterly sincere. No sarcasm meant whatsoever. I was genuinely worried that we were all kind of dog-piling (a most impolite thing to do to a lady :) ) on that one comment that the additional context helped to make clear. I don't engage in those things for time, and personal besetting sin reasons (I'm prone to feistiness of an unholy bent at times :) ). Not to mention that I just don't have the knowledge in that area. But it's great that you do, and if it's beneficial to you or them, then Godspeed by all means!

DJP said...

Matt, you did ask an off-topic question, I made it disappear, your suggestion is noted.

Matt Aznoe said...


I understand that it is getting off topic for Pyro. The problem for me is that I cannot really separate the two in my mind as I believe they are closely linked in light of scripture (though I did my best to stay on topic in my original post).

Matt Aznoe said...



Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I hope Pyro will allow me one more off-topic comment to Rachael, as a follow-up to her last post.

Rachael said: "I don't engage in those things for time, and personal besetting sin reasons
(I'm prone to feistiness of an unholy bent at times :) )."

Rachael, one thing that I have found is that the more you debate, the more you learn patience. I truly think that this is why God allows differing views on secondary issues. It teaches us patience and tolerance for one another.

There have been times when I have been accused of being a bit testy, it happens to us all, but 99% of the time it was not the person who upset me, but the very topic at hand that was disturbing. So it seemed as though I was directing my dismay at them, when I was not.

Enough rambling....I always look forward to your posts. I even watch for your comments around the blogosphere (sp). You're one of my particular favorites.

God bless you, sister.
Mary :)

donsands said...

"..the two natures can be neither merged nor disconnected"
Excellent post. Gracias.

And one day we will all see Jesus sitting at the right hand of our Father, as Lord of the universe.

"Purge me from selfishness,
the fear of man, the love of approbation,
the shame of being thought old-fashioned,
the desire to be cultivated or modern.

Let me reckon my old life dead
because of crucifixion.
and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour,
to be content to be rejected,
to be willing to take up unpopular truths,
and to hold fast despised teachings until death." -Valley of Vision

James Joyce said...


Our pastor did flesh it out and emphasized that Jesus did not put on a "man costume". The main point of the illustration was a starting point to stress that Jesus did not lose or remove any of the fullness of His Deity in becoming fully human.

My comment was weakly written. I freely confess that I am a minor leaguer on a major league blog.

James Joyce said...

p.s. sorry about any heebie jeebies.

ANiMaL (richard) said...

Thanks, Phil. Some of us have much to learn still. Growing up in a "church" I often wonder how I missed out on so much. My wife and I are looking for a new church and hopefully will find one that teaches things like this clearly. In the meantime, I will admit I am without excuse because the information has been available, I just didn't care to look into it myself previously. You guys minister to people of different backgrounds more than you probably realize, thank you.

F Whittenburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
F Whittenburg said...

Does any early church catachism address what part of Himself Jesus "gave up" at Cavalry?

And when Jesus cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost (Luke 23:46 KJV).

F Whittenburg

David J. Houston said...

In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, ‘Christ the Son of God became man by taking to himself a true [human] body, and a reasonable soul...’ As I understand it, what’s happening in Luke 23:46 is Jesus is entrusting his human soul to God the Father for judgment. There is no change in the relationship between the members of the Godhead here. That would go against the divine nature and specifically against the incommunicable attribute of immutability. (Mal 3:6; Js 1:17)

F Whittenburg said...

Hello David,

Thanks for the response, I will google it. I have done my own studies on this, but I am curious what the early church taught. Thanks again. That was the information I was looking for.

In His Service,

F Whittenburg

F Whittenburg said...

Hello David,

I found it at Q.22 in the WSC, but I was looking for something more expounded.

Jesus declared in Matt 26:38 and Mark 14:34 that He had a "soul" which the Greek word was "psuche", but in Luke 23:46 the word for "spirit" that Jesus gave up at Cavalry is translated "pneuma".

Are there any place in the New Testament where "soul" and "spirit" are used interchangably in the Greek? Dan, you know Greek.

In His Service,

F Whittenburg

mike said...

The ninth chapter of John's gospel shows Christ's single personality containing two unseparated yet distinct natures on display. In verse 6 the Lord makes mud with his (human) saliva and anoints the blind man's eyes in a manner reminiscent of God's creation of Adam in Genesis 2: 6, re-working (recreating?)the man's eyes so he can see. In verse 35 He asks the healed man, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The title refers to Christ's humanity. The man says he believes and then worships Jesus, indicating he understands Jesus is God.

Steve Berven said...

Psalms 22 is a really good passage to read in the context of this discussion. It's a prophetic, first-person account of Jesus being crucified, even to including his cry, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?."

Psalm 22:10 "Upon You I was cast from [fn]birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb. "

The Hebrew word here, "shalak" is used as in cast down, cast out, tossed away.

This states pretty clearly that Jesus was 1) placed in the womb by God, and 2) that even while in the womb, "you have been my God."

This passage is confusing in the sense of personhood, unless you read as though Jesus was talking to himself!

I personally think it likely that Jesus was NOT asking God the Father why he had forsaken him (Jesus), but rather, was, with his dying breath, quoting scripture and proclaiming himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalms 22.

It wasn't despair, it was a declaration.

Mel said...

Having read your posts regarding church history and having listened to your INCREDIBLE 5-part Sunday school teachings on some heresies, I think that it is nigh time that you write a book on church heresies.
I would surely be your first customer as I am looking for a book that teaches me why these heresies cropped up, and how they were addressed.
Too many Christians today will espouse something that they "believe" without even knowing that it is heretical in nature, let alone ancient.

Tyrone said...

This is why we must always deal with the text of scripture in context and we should never second guess it.

Words of a wise man...

Never strain passages when you are expounding.

Let it be said of you, as I have heard a venerable hearer of Mr. Simeon say of him, "Sir, he was very Calvinistic when the text was so, and people thought him an Arminian when the text was that way, for he always stuck to its plain sense." Charles Spurgeon

Anonymous said...

The extra Calvinisticum is always a helpful tool in this discussion (at least for us on the Reformed side of things).

Anonymous said...

An excellent book on the 'Incarnation' is Thomas F. Torrance's Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ. This represents his Edingburgh Lectures while he was professor of Dogmatics at New College (mid 1900's).

Brendt said...

Phil, I think the Morris quote and the paragraph immediately before and the paragraph immediately after explain your position much more clearly than the post from which it was born. How I interpreted the original post and how interpreted this were about 179 degrees in opposition. Thanks for the clarification.

P.S. You'll be horrified to know that I agree with you. ;-)

Stuart Brogden said...

Phil - would it be possible for me to use a big chunk of this (beginning with this sentence: In the early centuries of the Christian era, the church was relentlessly assaulted with Christological heresies.) as part of a supplemental reading pile for the membership guide for my church? We would include a printed copy, with notation of where it came from.