TESTING FOR TRUTH: A Critical Question About Your Creed

 

TESTING FOR TRUTH

A CRITICAL QUESTION ABOUT YOUR CREED

By

Anthony Buzzard

 

Every Christian is called to be a Truth-seeker. When he has found it, he becomes an agent for Truth willing to communicate the Truth to others in a spirit of love and concern. So absolutely essential is the enthusiastic pursuit of Truth that Paul wrote these awful words:

"The coming of the wicked one is the work of Satan. It will be attended by all the powerful signs and miracles of the Lie, all the deception that sinfulness can impose on those doomed to destruction. Destroyed they shall be because they did not open their minds to love of the Truth, so as to find salvation" (II Thess. 2:9, 10, New English Bible).

In the mind of the Apostle, a love for the Truth is equivalent to a love for the Christ who is the Truth and who spoke the Truth. But let us be most careful not to misunderstand Paul. A love for Jesus and God, his Father, means a whole-headed love for the Truth of all that Jesus taught. It is all too easy for someone to say, "I love Jesus," while failing to search out and love the Truth of the Message, which he taught. When this happens, professing to be a Christian becomes a hollow boast. We must, as Paul says, open our minds to love the Truth. God Himself expressed his delight in those who have "truth in their inward parts" (Ps 51:6).

This means giving up our own ideas, however cherished, and replacing them with Truth, as we learn it through God's spirit from the Bible. We do not learn it all at once. We must grow in grace and knowledge (II Pet. 1:5, 3:18). We may not always be popular when we abandon old ideas and learn the Truth of Scripture.

How Error Works

It is of the essence of error that it parades as Truth. That is why the deceptive work of Satan is so successful. "The whole world lies in the Devil's deceptive grip" (I John 5:19). "The Devil is the one deceiving the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). Exponents of error, so Paul said, masquerade as angels of light (II Cor. 11:13, 14). They preach "Jesus," but it is a false Jesus, not the real Jesus of the Bible. They preach "the Gospel," but it is a distorted gospel, which omits vital saving information. They speak of "spirit" but it is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.  11:4).

In view of this threatening environment in which the Church must continually see through the evil one's tactics, does the Bible provide any tests for telling the difference between the fake and the genuine? Can we unmask the false versions of the faith propagated by the enemy? Can we detect the camouflage behind which error hides?

The Theological Test

John, the Apostle, late in the first century, instructs us to apply the theological test. This yard-stick is to measure our own understanding of the person of Jesus. Who is the real Jesus? Had not the Master himself issued the same test? "Who do you say that I am?" The test is as follows:

This is how you may recognize the spirit of God: Every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is from God, and every spirit which does not thus Acknowledge Jesus is not from God" (I John 4:2, II John 7).

What does it mean to recognize and acknowledge that Jesus has "come in the flesh?" Since the phrase "come in the flesh" is hardly one current in contemporary English, let us turn for help to the Translator's New Testament, a fine document produced by thirty-five scholars, seventeen being New Testament specialists in universities and theological colleges and eighteen missionary linguists (published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1973).

Here is their rendering of II John 7:

Many deceivers have gone into the world who do not accept that Jesus came as a human being. Here is the deceiver and the antichrist.

How would this vital test apply today? Are there systems of theology existing in our time, which deny that Jesus came as a human being?

The Official Definition of Jesus

According to the "official" definition of the person of Jesus, decided on at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), and written into the creeds of nearly all denominations, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Many who subscribe without question to this understanding of Jesus are unaware of the implications of this description. When we examine the meaning of the Chalcedonian definition more closely, some very remarkable facts emerge.

In his book, To Know and Follow Jesus (pub. Paulist Press, 1984), the Roman Catholic theologian, Thomas Hart, is critical of the traditional understanding of Jesus enshrined in the creeds of mainstream Christianity by the Council of Chalcedon:

The Chalcedonian formula [Jesus is fully God and fully man] makes genuine humanity impossible (p. 46, emphasis added).

Hart explains:

The conciliar definition says that Jesus is true man. But if there are two natures in Him [divine and human, i.e., he is fully God and fully man], it is clear which will dominate. And Jesus becomes immediately very different from us. He is omniscient [all-knowing], omnipotent, and omnipresent . . .This is far from ordinary human experience. Jesus is tempted but cannot sin because he is God. What kind of temptation is this? It has little in common with the kind of struggles we are familiar with (p. 46).

Thomas Hart then describes the official view of Jesus further: According to the Council of Chalcedon, "Jesus is called 'man' in the generic sense, but not 'a man.' He has human nature, but is not a human person. The person in him is the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Jesus does not have a human personal center. This is how the Council gets round the possible problem of split personality" (p. 44, emphasis added).

Is This Jesus Really a Human Being?

We want to stress the significant fact that the Jesus of the Church Council (and of the creeds of nearly all denominations calling themselves Christian), whose decision is taken as binding by millions of churchgoers, "is not a human being," "does not have a personal human center." So says this Roman Catholic theologian. Lest anyone should be puzzled that the Jesus of the churches' creed is not a human person, we can confirm that this is in fact the official teaching by quoting from a leading Protestant source:

If we affirm that Jesus was a human person, we are driven into an impossible conception of double personality in the incarnate Son of God . . . (Oliver Quick, D.D., Doctrines of The Creed, p. 178, emphasis added).

Dr. Quick obviously finds himself unable to affirm that Jesus was a human person. He then goes on to admit,

If we deny that Jesus was a human person we deny by implication the completeness of his manhood (ibid.).

But he and the Council did in fact deny that Jesus was a human person! Dr. Quick is not prepared to affirm that Jesus was a human person! This would make Jesus into a double person. He rightly rejects this.

From these official statements about the person of Christ, it appears that the Jesus of the churches—the Trinitarian Jesus, "God the Son"—is not a human person. The churches are forced into this position because of their conviction that the person, the ego, of Jesus is the eternal second member of the Trinity. Jesus for the churches is primarily God Himself who later puts on human nature, taking this "human nature" from Mary.

When another theologian was first exposed, during his training, to this official Trinitarian Jesus he expressed his bewilderment as follows:

During my theological formation I was well instructed in the traditional account of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. I distinctly remember being told that the Word of God when he assumed human nature, assumed impersonal humanity: that Jesus did not possess a human personality; that God became man in Jesus, but that he did not become a man . . .” Two considerations have persuaded me that this traditional Christology is incredible (Grace and Truth, A.T. Hanson, p. 1, emphasis added).

Because many of our readers will be unaware of the extraordinary definition of Jesus derived from the official Church Councils, we add a further statement from a book entitled, What Think Ye of Christ? by Leslie Simmonds:

Now the doctrine of' the Incarnation [and therefore of the Trinity] is that in Christ the place of a human personality is replaced by the Divine Personality of God the Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Christ possesses a complete human nature without a human personality. Uncreated and eternal Divine Personality replaces a created human personality in Him (p. 45, emphasis added).

Is This Official Jesus the Jesus of the Bible?

These quotations demonstrate that the Jesus of the Council of Chalcedon, in whom all the major denominations claim to believe, is not a human person. He became "'man" but not "a man." The Roman Catholic writer we cited earlier is rightly unhappy with this official definition. Having pointed out that the Chalcedonian Jesus is not fully a human person, he insists:

Jesus is one person . . ." Jesus is a human person. Both points are clear in the New Testament (To Know and Follow Jesus, p. 64, emphasis added).

There appears to be a radical flaw in the churches' understanding of the central figure of the faith.

We must remember that the vital Truth-test we are to apply to any system of teaching has to do with the belief that the true Jesus is a real human being (I John 4:2, II John 7). But as Thomas Hart states clearly: 'The Chalcedonian [Trinitarian] formula makes genuine humanity impossible" (To Know and Follow Jesus, p. 46). And on page 48, he admits: "The Chalcedonian formula has a meager basis in Scripture."

Astonishingly, the God/Man of traditional belief is not a genuine human person. Could a person whose ego—his personal center—is fully God really be a human person, when the human part of him consists only of "'impersonal human nature"? Could the promised descendant of David have lived before David and still be considered his descendant'? Can a single person be 100% [God] and 100% man? Can God die? If Jesus is God, and God cannot die (I Tim 6: 16), Jesus cannot have died! Yet the Bible insists that the Son of God died (Rom. 5: 1 0)

And if Jesus is God, he must be omniscient. Yet the Jesus of the Bible said he was not all-knowing. He did not know the day of his future coming (Mark 13:32).

Wise Words from Cambridge

The late Regius Professor of Theology at Cambridge was one of many who are critical of the Chalcedonian, Trinitarian definition of Jesus. He argued that if Jesus preexisted his human life as God, and was therefore fully God, then he could not also be fully human. This, as we have seen, is admitted by the writers quoted above. They confirm that a person who is not a human person cannot be fully man! The late professor at Cambridge, Geoffrey Lampe, describes the unfortunate and confusing implications of the traditional dogma that Jesus is God possessing "impersonal human nature":

The [Trinitarian] concept of the preexistent soul reduces the real, socially and culturally conditioned personality of Jesus to the metaphysical abstraction 'human nature' . . . According to this Christology, the 'eternal Son' assumes a timeless human nature—which owes nothing essentially to geographical circumstances; it corresponds to nothing in the actual concrete world; Jesus Christ has not, actually, come in the flesh (God os Spirit), p. 144, emphasis added).

Such a Jesus is not the real Jesus of the Bible (I John 4:2, “John 7). The Professor, ending a long and distinguished career of reflection on the person of Jesus, concluded that the Jesus of traditional Church theology could not be considered a real human personality, genuinely "come in the flesh." The Jesus who is supposed to be fully God cannot by definition also be fully man. The creeds thus deny to Jesus a human "personal center" or ego in the interests of maintaining that He is really God. The metaphysical Jesus of the creeds does not therefore quality as a human being. In the professor's words, "he has not, after all, come in the flesh." According to the Apostle John's "Truth-test" (I John 4:2, II John 7), such a non-fully human Jesus must be regarded as antichristian!

It is important to understand also that a Jesus whose human nature "owes nothing essential to geographical circumstances, and corresponds to nothing in the actual concrete world" is not the lineal descendant of David, and therefore Not the Messiah. Mary bore the son of David, not "human nature"!

Mary bore the Messiah and Son of God, and Jesus built his whole church on the rock foundation of belief that he was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). The definition and identity of Jesus are of paramount importance to the believer. Any denial of the Messiahship of Jesus or the addition to the Godhead of another person than the Father disturbs the heart of Scripture. Jesus claimed always to be the Son of God, as defined by Luke 1:35, but never said "I am God." To the contrary he defined the Father as the "only one who is truly God" (John 17:3), immediately associating himself with that "one and only God," but certainly not identifying himself as God.

Reading John's Language with Care

Neither sincerity nor majority opinions are safe guides to the Truth of the Bible. The spirit or character, of every religious system must be examined before its teaching can be accepted. We are commanded to "test the spirits" (I John 4: 1), that is, to test the teachers and teachings we are offered in the name of Christianity:

Many false teachers have gone out into the world (I John 4:2).

Interestingly, the word used by John to describe the appearance of the false teachers is a form of the word "come," that is to say that they have "made their appearance in public." The same verb "come" describes the appearance of Jesus: "He came as a human being" (I John 4:2, II John 7). John the Baptist was a teacher "'come from God" (John 3:2), just as Jesus "came from God" (John 16:30) and was "from God" (John 6:46).

To "come as a human being" does not imply that one has existed before one's birth. It is force of habit, which makes readers of the Bible understand the word "come" in that sense when used of Jesus. It is often forgotten that John the Baptist also "came'" (Mat. 11:14). He was, like Jesus, "sent" (John 1:6). The disciples, too, were sent into the world, just as Jesus was sent into the world (John J 7: 18): "As Thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." Moreover, the prophet—the Messiah—whom the Jews expected would "come into the world" (John 6: 14; Deut 18: 15-18) was the prophet destined to be born. Jesus, Himself, equated being born with "coming into the world'" (John 18:37).

"Coming into the world" is what every human person does, including Jesus. His origin as the Son of God was of course supernatural and it is precisely because of that miracle in Mary, and for no other reason, that he is the Son or God.—Holy spirit will come over you . . . and precisely for that reason (dio kai) the one to be begotten will be called Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Jesus, a Real Human Being

John, giving us his theological Truth-test (I John 4:1-6, II John 7-9), urges us to believe in a Jesus who is authentically a human being, not an angel who became man, nor an eternal Son of God who became a man. Throughout the New Testament, we are exhorted to believe that Jesus is the Christ. The Church is to be founded on Peter's confession of Jesus as the Messiah (Mat. 16:16). John wrote his entire gospel to persuade us to believe that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31). The early church in Acts "kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42). Paul "proved that this Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:22, cp. Acts 17:3, 18:5, 18:28). It is the "Man Messiah" who is the one mediator between the One God and man (I Tim. 2:5).No wonder, then, that the spirit of antichrist denies that Jesus is the Messiah. This is the arch-lie: "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" (I John 2:22, 5: 1).

It is crucially important to understand that the Messiah promised by the Old Testament was to be a real descendant of David (II Sam. 7:12-14). God would, at a time future to David, be the Father of this descendant, according to the promise. The Messiah would at the same time be "the fruit of David's body" (Psalm 132:11). There is no hint here or elsewhere in the Old Testament that God had been the Father of the Messiah for all eternity, much less that the Messiah was to be the uncreated member of an eternal Trinity. Rather, he was to be a "prophet like Moses" raised up from an Israelite family (see Deut. 18:15­18, Acts 3:22, 7:37). The traditional Jesus of the creeds is alien to this Biblical picture of the Messiah. (See also our article, "Luke 1:35: Systems in Conflict.")

The real Jesus of history in whom Luke believed was the Son of God, not because He had been God from eternity but because of his miraculous conception. In Mary's womb, a real human person came into existence. Note the direct causal link between Jesus' coming into being as the Son of God and the miracle, which happened to Mary:

The holy spirit will come upon you [Mary] and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for that reason the holy offspring will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

This Jesus is a genuinely human person—though supernaturally conceived. He is the descendant of David. If he were not he could not prove his claim to be the Messiah. If, however, this person is actually God, putting on "impersonal human nature," why would his descent from David matter? Could one not receive "impersonal human nature" from a mother of any nationality? The theory that the person of Jesus is not that of Mary's Son begotten by the Father in Mary (Matt. 1:18, 20), but that of a preexistent Person surely destroys both the genuineness of Jesus' humanity and his descent from David.

The Jesus of Trinitarian and Chalcedonian theology is officially not a human person—"man" but not "a man." Such theological jargon, As many realize, is in desperate need of revision. The most important question of all is whether the Chalcedonian Jesus, in whom millions profess belief, qualifies as the one who came "as a human being" (I John 4:2). The difference in John's mind between the real human Jesus and the one who only appears to be a man is the difference between light and dark. Christ and antichrist. One may profess to believe in Jesus as Messiah but negate this confession by denying that he is a fully human person. This the ancient creeds, so long hallowed by tradition, appear to do.

A theologian who discussed the history of belief in Jesus claimed that most of the so-called orthodox leaders of traditional Christianity were in fact Apollinarians. Apollinarius was convicted of the heresy of denying that Jesus was fully a human being (Dr. C.E Raven, Apollinarianism, cited by O.C. Quick in Doctrines of the Creed, p. 178). In other words, "orthodoxy" has harbored a subtle form of a heresy, which it condemned in others—that Jesus was not authentically human. Maurice Wiles, formerly Professor of Theology at Oxford University, was right when he said:

The church has not usually in practice (whatever it may have claimed to be doing in theory) based its understanding of Christ exclusively on the witness of the New Testament (The Remaking of Christian Doctrine, p. 55).

The following extraordinary admissions by prominent Trinitarian writers, experts on the creeds, should be carefully noted:

In the debates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Leonard Hodgson (The Doctrine of the Trinity, 1943, pp. 220, 223) points out that 'the Unitarians are those who believe with the Bible that the Father only is the True God, [John 17:3: 5:44; I Cor 8:4-6] as well as their opponents accepted the Bible as containing revelation given in the form of propositions, and concludes that 'on the basis of argument which both sides held in common, the Unitarians had the better case.' And yet for all that it was not the Unitarians who won the day. Christological doctrine has never in practice been derived simply by way of logical inference from the statements of Scripture. (Maurice Wiles, The Remaking of Christian Doctrine, p. 55, emphasis added).

Protestants who claim to derive their faith exclusively from the Bible should give careful attention to this remarkable statement!

John's Truth-test (I John 4:2, II John 7) is critically relevant to our times. Belief in Jesus as the Christ, a real human descendant of David is still the Biblical criterion for proof that one is drawing inspiration from the spirit of truth. It remains as true as ever that the fundamental doctrinal test of the professing Christian has to do with his view of the person of Christ. The denial of the humanity of Jesus is the fatal flaw diagnosed and detected by the Johannine test. God's Son is the Son of Mary and of David. Of sonship prior to His conception in history, the Bible has nothing to say. Such a notion is destructive of Jesus' genuine humanity and genuine descent from David. Jesus, the Jewish-Christian Messiah, needs urgently to be reinstated at the heart of Christian devotion. Belief in Him and in His Father, the only true God, leads to salvation (John 17:3).

A Glimpse of a Church Council

The following comment and historical note about the proceedings at the Council of Chalcedon, 'which decided that Jesus was fully God and man,' comes from an unnamed author of Jesus the Messiah (London, 1982):

"We are told that at four great Councils against four great heresies, the Church promulgated her four great formulae on the existence of her Lord—truly, perfectly, indivisibly, distinctly—truly God, perfectly man, indivisibly God and man, distinctly God and man, (Farrar, The Witness of History to Christ).

But this proves simply nothing. unless it be at the same time maintained that the Established Church of England is heretical when it declares, in its twenty-first Article respecting Councils, 'Forasmuch as they be assemblies of men, whereof all be not governed with spirit and word of God, they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.'

"To many learned, pious, and sincere Christians, quite as capable of interpreting the Scriptures as any of the Ecclesiastics assembled at those four or any other Councils, the words used by them, as cited above, are nothing more nor less than blasphemous. Without going so far as the first Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, by whom the Nicene Fathers who settled the Symbol of Faith that still rules Christendom were declared to be 'a set of demoniacs driven by evil furies or malignant passions,' it may be well to show how their successors acted at the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth of the seven General Councils, and in numbers and in dignity far the most distinguished of them all, when the Nicene Creed was authoritatively modified. The following extraordinary scene is taken from the Report of the Council itself, as quoted by Dean Stanley in his Lectures on the Eastern Church.'

"The moment is that of the Imperial officers ordering that Theodoret, the excellent Bishop of Kars, well known as the commentator and ecclesiastical historian, should enter the assembly. And when the most reverend Bishop Theodoret entered, the most reverend the Bishops of' Egypt, Illyria, and Palestine shouted out, 'Mercy upon us' The faith is destroyed. The canons of the Church excommunicate him. Turn him out! Turn out the teacher of Nestorius!' On the other hand, the most reverend the Bishops of the East, or Thrace, or Pontus, and of Asia shouted out. 'We were compelled [at the former Council] to subscribe our names to blank papers: we were scourged into submission [A nice "orthodox" way of settling Articles of Religion!] Turn out the Manicheans: turn out the enemies of Flavian: turn out the adversaries of the faith!' Dioscurus, the most reverend Bishop of Alexandria. said. 'Why is Cyril to be turned out? It is he whom Theodoret has condemned.' The most reverend of the Bishops of the East shouted out, 'Turn out the murderer Dioscurus' Who knows not the deeds of Dioscurus? . . .''

"The most reverend the Bishops of Egypt, Illyria, and Palestine shouted out, "Long life to the Empress!' The most reverend the Bishops of the East shouted out, 'Turn out the murderers!' The most reverend the Bishops of Egypt shouted out, 'The Empress turned out Nestorius; long life to the Catholic Empress! The Orthodox Synod refuses to admit Theodoret.' Theodoret being, however, admitted by the Imperial officers, and, taking his place, the most reverend Bishops of the East shouted out' He is worthy, worthy!' The most reverend of the Bishops of Egypt shouted out, 'Don't call him bishop: he is no bishop. Turn out the fighter against God: turn out the Jew!' The most reverend the Bishops of the East shouted out, 'The Orthodox for the Synod. Turn out the rebels; turn out the murderers!' The most reverend the Bishops of Egypt, 'Turn out the enemy of God. Turn out the defamer of Christ. Long life to the Empress; long life to the Emperor; long life to the Catholic Emperor! Theodoret excommunicated Cyril. If we receive Theodoret we excommunicate Cyril.' At this point—and it was high time—the Imperial Commissioners who were present put a stop to the clamor as being unworthy of a meeting of Christian Bishops."

'"And these are the most reverend Fathers of the Church who are imagined to have been competent to pronounce authoritatively on the nature of our Lord Jesus! At the present day would such as they be held to be qualified to instruct the veriest tyro in the rudiments of the Christian religion?"

Further Objections to the Non-human Jesus of the Creeds

The famous Methodist expositor Adam Clark felt it necessary to say:

The doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is in my opinion, antiscriptural and highly dangerous. I have not been able to find any express declaration of it in the Scriptures?[1]

And yet without the '"eternal generation" of the Son there is no doctrine of the Trinity.

J. 0 Buswell, former Dean of the Graduate School, Covenant College, St. Louis, MO, examined the issue of the begetting of the Son in the Bible and concluded with these words. He wrote as a Trinitarian:

The notion that the Son was begotten by the Father in eternity past, not as an event, but as an inexplicable relationship, has been accepted and carried along in the Christian theology since the fourth century . . . We have examined all the instances in which 'begotten' or 'born' or related words are applied to Christ, and we can say with confidence that the Bible has nothing whatsoever to say about 'begetting' as an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.[2]

Other scholars have noted that there is no "eternal Son" in the Bible. Dr Wardlaw, Discourses on the Socinian Controversy, pp. 352, 353 (1815):

I entertain strong doubts about the correctness of the notion, commonly received, of what is called the eternal generation of the Son [From the Father]—My own conviction is that the title, Son of Cod, has no reference to the eternal generation in the essence of Deity, but to the supernatural constitution of the mediatorial person of Christ.

J. Volkel (d. 1618, joint author of the Racovian Catechism) De Vera Religione, I ib v, c. xi, p. 470:

As to the fact that it is affirmed that the Son of God was generated from all eternity from the essence of the Father, it will be strongly resolved that such a proposition is both absurd and clearly among those propositions or which no sense can be made. Moreover, it cannot be affirmed from the testimony of the sacred writings. For the proposition is self-contradictory. For if the Son is generated—he did not exist from all eternity, but there was a time when he did not yet exist. For every generation, especially a substantial generation, as they call it, and properly so, is a change from non-being to being."

H. Roell (1653-1718), Of the Generation of the Son, pp. 21. 22, 27:

It is necessary in order to discuss among ourselves ideas about a divine Person and about generation properly speaking that we understand whether it is possible to reconcile that idea of the generation of Deity properly speaking. For it is impossible to conceive, properly speaking, of the generation of a truly Divine Person, if we thus overthrow the idea of Deity. If an active begetting is attributed to him who is served, in order that it be voluntary to a purely reasonable being or at least gifted with reason, an act of begetting is required. From this, it is clear that in a generation, properly spoken, the generator is prior to the one generated [So Father precedes the Son]. And since properly speaking 'to be generated' means to 'have one's origin from someone else' and to have received that essence from another by generation, it is not possible that a Divine Person be generated properly speaking, since the idea of a Divine Person implies necessary existence independent from all other causes. Moreover, since it will never be true of a Divine Person that he was not [did not exist], it is incompatible with that idea that he is produced, no matter in what sense that word is used. For to be eternal means never not to have existed, to be incapable of non-existence, and to be truly from oneself and one's own nature. And since, besides, whatever generates produces what he generates from himself: and since he is the cause of that existence, it is necessary for him to preexist the one generated. For how can one who does not exist, generate, or how can one who exists be generated?

When Words are Deconstructed and Emptied of All Meaning

The lucid simplicity of Scripture offers us a plain statement about the begetting of the Son of God in time, not eternity! "You are my Son. Today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:7). This psalm is quoted of  the birth of Jesus, his coming on the scene of history, in Acts 13:33 (not KJV, and verse 34 by contrast describes his subsequent resurrection from the dead)."[3] Heb. 1:5 quotes both II Sam 7:14 and Ps. 2:7 to make a single point. It places the begetting or the Son at the moment when II Sam. 7: 14 is fulfilled—that is, at the birth of Jesus. This confirms Matt. I: 18, 20, Luke 1:35 and I John 5:18, not KJV), which also speak of the begetting of the Son of Mary. Romans 1:3 makes the Son of God identical with the promised Son of David, and adds that the appointment of the Son with power occurred at the resurrection, which of course was not the begetting or the Son, since he was already in existence as Son of God, from his begetting in Mary.

Origen and other church fathers emptied the biblical words "beget" and "today" of all meaning. They claimed that in the case of God's activity, "today" does not mean "today" and "beget" does not mean what it in fact means. "to cause to exist."[4] The sample below will be enough to illustrate the theft of all meaning from the word "today," in Ps. 2:7.

Primacies (Bishop, 61h century—Commentary on Revelation, based on Tyconius and Augustine. cited in Westcott on Hebrews 1:5): "He docs not say 'Before all ages I have begotten you,' nor in past time: but 'today,' he says, 'I have begotten you.' The adverb refers to present time. For in God neither do past things go by nor do future things follow. But to God the whole of time is joined together. And so the meaning is: 'Just as I am eternal and have no beginning and no end, thus I have you [the Son] coeternally with me.'"

Is it Really "Orthodox" to Believe That God Can Die? Or Has Christianly Gone Wrong?

A colleague of mine recalled an interesting moment during class discussion at a well-known theological college: "I remember one day in a theology class at Wheaton College the professor said, 'Mary really is the mother of God, even though we as Protestants have not liked that term very well.'" The students were shocked at his admission, but he went on to explain that in a real sense Trinitarianism has to view Mary as the mother of one who was in essence and in fact a "person" of the "Godhead"!

The proposition "Jesus is God" appears to be the unquestioned watchword of most American churches. Any doubt about that amazing statement is likely to be greeted with suspicion that the questioner may have deviated from a belief absolutely vital for salvation. C.S. Lewis confronted all skeptics with his famous dictum that Jesus was "either mad, bad or God." He unfortunately omitted from his multiple choice options the New Testament category for Jesus, namely "Messiah, Son of God." That is who Jesus claimed he was (John 10:36), and insisted that his key executives in the propagation of the Gospel understood him to be (Matt. 16:16-18). In the same passage, Matthew records that Jesus founded his church on the solid rock insight and conviction that Jesus was the Son of God. He did not. of course, say "God the Son"!

Why, if Jesus is God, as the historic creeds have long claimed as dogma, would anyone have qualms about Mary being God's mother'? Roman Catholics who share with Protestants belief in the Trinity—that the One God exists as three Persons in one essence—have no such qualms. A Roman Catholic priest declared without flinching that "God one day came to Mary and said, 'Mary, will you please be My mother?'"

Annually, churchgoers and many others celebrate the core of traditional Christianity—the Incarnation of the preexisting God the Son, second member of an eternal Triune God, as God-Man. How do you react to the following unpacking of that central doctrine from leading Protestant evangelicals?' Charles Swindoll, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, "On December 25th shops shut their doors, families gather together and people all over the world remember the birth of Jesus of Nazareth . . . Many people assume that Jesus' existence began like ours, in the womb of his mother. But is that true? Did life begin for him with that first breath of Judean air?' Can a day in December truly mark the beginning of the Son of God? Unlike us, Jesus existed before his birth, long before there was air to breathe . . . Long before the world was born" (Jesus: When God Became Man, pp. 1-2).

Swindoll goes on to explain: "John the Baptist came into being at his birth—he had a birthday. Jesus never came into being: at his earthly birth he merely took on human form . . . Here's an amazing thought: the baby that Mary held in her arms was holding the universe in place! The little newborn lips that cooed and cried once formed the dynamic words of creation. Those tiny clutching fists once flung stars into space and planets into orbit That infant flesh so fair once housed the Almighty God . . . as an ordinary baby, God had come to earth . . . Do you see the child and the glory of the infant-God? What you are seeing is the incarnation—God dressed in diapers . . . See the baby as John describes him 'in the beginning' 'with God.' Imagine him in the misty pre-creation past, thinking of you and planning your redemption. Visualize this same Jesus, who wove your body's intricate patterns, knitting a human garment for himself . . . Long ago the Son of God dove headfirst into time and floated along with us for about 33 years . . . Imagine the Creator-God tightly wrapped in swaddling clothes" (pp. 3-8, emphasis added).

Dr. Swindoll then quotes with approval Max Lucado . . . who says of Jesus, "He left his home and entered the womb of a teenage girl . . . Angels watched as Mary changed God's diaper. The universe watched with wonder as the Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him" (p. 10).

Dr. Jim Packer is well known for his evangelical writings. In his widely read Knowing God, in a chapter on "God Incarnate," he says of the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation: "Here are two that the Savior Jesus be a mortal man. Otherwise the Son of God cannot have died (Paul said the Son did die, Rom. 5:10) and there is no salvation and no death for our sins.

Protestants, however, are pledged to the idea that Jesus is God and that Jesus died. We propose that this is to utter words without meaning and to destroy the fabric of biblical revelation. Moreover, the teaching that the immortal God became a man and died is indeed the great stumbling block of Muslims and Jews—and for good cause. Jews know well that God cannot die, and they know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God of Jesus himself is not Three Persons. Muslims are equally committed to belief that the immortal God is strictly One Person. Islam accepts Jesus as the Messiah, even virginally begotten, but not as the One God.

What Went Wrong?

What then has happened to cause millions of seekers after God to be so hopelessly divided over who God is? The story is a most fascinating drama, an epic struggle between truth and falsehood, often accompanied by murder, banishment and excommunication. The fruits of the centuries-long disputes over who God and Jesus are suggest that something has gone terribly awry. Something happened to disturb the very straightforward creedal statements of Jesus and the Apostles. Some drastic undermining of original Truth resulted in the tedious, complex, hair-splitting, drawn-out arguments over the definition of God and his Son. History attests to an appalling catalogue of disputes, name-calling, and demonizing, amongst men claiming to be followers of Jesus and his teachings. The story of the development of the Trinity is brilliantly documented in When Jesus Became God by Richard Rubenstein.[5] Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone,[6] describes the cruelty of Christian persecution of fellow believers. It documents the tragic judicial murder of the Spanish theologian Michael Servetus by the reformer John Calvin. Servetus merely pointed out that the Trinity is not in the Bible![7]

The trouble began in the second century, as historians of church history well know. The doctrine of the Trinity, which demands belief that Jesus is fully God and that his personal existence did not begin in the womb of his mother but in eternity, was made dogma at the Councils of Nicea (325 AD), Constantinople (381 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD). It became the official and only permissible understanding about God and His Son. Dissenters and objectors were removed from the church. In later centuries they were burned at the stake (the last case of burning was in 1612) and executed. Others were labeled heretics and pronounced to be non-Christian. It is an amazing story of bigotry, hatred and murder. There is not a word in the New Testament about killing theological opponents (or enemies of any sort). Paul on one occasion excommunicated a habitual sex offender, but required that he be readmitted to the church on repentance.

Despite these clear facts, church officials, including the celebrated John Calvin, famous for his near-fatalist doctrine that God has predestined some from eternity to eternal torment, ordered the burning. execution, or excommunication of hundreds of Bible-loving believers, because they would not and could not believe that God was more than one Person, the Father, or that Jesus, if he were Deity, Could die.

Little known to the public is the fact that the early Christians did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, which is now claimed to be the only correct view of God, traceable in an unbroken line to the New Testament.

It is a well-documented fact that many of the church's '"major doctrines" were not instituted until well after New Testament apostolic times. Christians in search of a vigorous biblical Christianity will find it refreshing to distinguish between what comes from Scripture and what many have unconsciously "canonized" from church tradition. The words of F.F. Bruce need to be treated as a prophetic testimony to this generation: . . . “Evangelical Christianity can he as much servants of tradition as Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox Christians, only they do not realize that it is ‘tradition.' People who adhere to sola scriptura (as they often adhere in fact to a traditional school of interpretation of sola scriptura” (from personal correspondence).

The early church continued persistently in the Apostles' leaching (Acts 2:42) as well as in fellowship. Christians need freedom to explore all doctrines in the light of Jesus' and the Apostles' teaching. At present, it is often assumed that early church councils faithfully relayed the Bible's teachings. Many scholars know that this is not so.

Jewish Roots

To our friends in the various "Jewish Roots" movements we say: What sense is there in clinging to a doctrine of the Trinity which offends Jews and Muslims and which Jesus would not have believed? Mark 12:28ff shows Jesus to be in line with the cardinal tenet of Judaism: God is a single Person, the Father of Jesus. Psalm 110:1 says it clearly. The One God, Yahweh, speaks in an oracle about ADONI positively not ADONAI! God does not speak to God. He speaks to the Lord Messiah Adoni, "my lord, the King Messiah."). ADONI is used only of superiors other than God. ADONI never refers to the One God, but always, in all of its 195 occurrences, to human beings, and occasionally to angels.

in Galatians 3:20 Paul said (according to the Amplified Bible)—God is [only] One Person." There is no occurrence of the word "God" in the whole Bible, which can be proved to mean "God in three Persons." That is because the Bible writers had never heard of the Trinity and did not believe in it. Those espousing the Jewish roots of Jesus, an excellent way to get back to the Messiah of Israel, should avoid attaching themselves to Gentile distortions of the faith.[8]

The History of Dogma

Did the church councils necessarily grasp biblical truth accurately, when they defined the creeds for posterity? Many evangelicals unwittingly take on board the theology of those councils without examining all things carefully, as Paul admonished. We are convinced that evangelicals ought to be much more troubled than they are about the doctrines of God and Christ which tradition has handed on to them via the "Church Fathers" and the Roman Catholic Church.

We invite you to consider the following information about “orthodox Trinitarianism" and compare it with the Bible. Does the Jesus of the creeds of the church line up with the obviously human figure of the Bible? Many do not think he does.

Two orthodox evangelical Trinitarians wrote: "It is true that in Chalcedonian orthodoxy [the teaching of the council which defined the Person of Christ in 451 AD] God the Son united himself to a personless human nature."[9]

This statement is an accurate description of the orthodox view of Jesus. It reflects the popular teaching we quoted from Chuck Swindoll earlier—that the Son of God had no beginning but simply entered the womb of Mary, came through her and "'assumed impersonal human nature."

An expert on Gnosticism (a pagan philosophy which threatened the early church) points to the problem presented by this extraordinary dehumanizing of Jesus in "orthodox" creeds: "Already Harnack was forced to say: 'Who can maintain that the Church ever overcame the Gnostic doctrine of the two natures or the Valentinian [Gnostic] Docetism [the theory that Jesus only appeared to be a human being but really wasn't—"man' but not "a man']. Even the later councils of the Church, which discussed the Christological problems in complicated, nowadays hardly intelligible definitions, did not manage to do this; the unity of the Church foundered precisely on this.”[10]

Note that this scholar admits the Church did not overcome Gnosticism in its definition of Jesus. And this fracturing of Jesus caused the Church to founder. Today the Christian view of Jesus as God makes acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah impossible for a billion Moslems and countless Jews.

"Jesus Died" and "Jesus is God?"

An immortal Person cannot die. That is a flat contradiction. Does it honor God to speak in such contradictions? How can Jesus, if he is God, not know the time of his Second Coming (Mark 13:32)? God is omniscient. Jesus did not know everything. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God, unless language has ceased to have any meaning. God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). But Jesus was tempted. If he was not fully human, his temptation was a charade. Did Jesus give up being God when he did not know when he would return? Did he give up being God when he died? How can God give up being God? That would mean that Jesus was not God when he was on earth.

Trinitarians argue that only God could be the Savior. But if Jesus, as God, could not die, how can he have saved us? Cannot God appoint a sinless man to be the Savior (Acts 17:31; 2:22: "a man approved by God")?

All these complex questions are solved if Bible readers would observe some simple facts: Thousands upon thousands of times in the Bible (someone has calculated over 10,000 times), God is described by personal pronouns in the singular (I, Me, You, He, Him). These pronouns in all languages describe single persons, not three persons. There are thus thousands of verses which tell us that the "only true God" (John 17:3; John 5:44, "the One who alone is God") is One Person, not three.

We repeat that there is no place in the New Testament (or Old) where the word "God" can be proved to mean "God-in-Three-Persons." The word God, therefore, in the Bible never means the Trinitarian God. This would immediately suggest that the Trinitarian God is foreign to the Bible. The word "God" in the New Testament means the Father, except (for certain) in two passages where "God" refers to Jesus in a secondary sense (Heb. 1:8; John 20:28). If Jesus is as much entitled to be called God as his Father, why these extraordinary facts? The word "God" can be used of a man who reflects and represents the true God (see for example Ps. 82:6; Ex. 7:1).

Most Trinitarians rely heavily on one only of the four Gospels—John. They neglect not only the 77% of the Bible, which is the Old Testament, but also most of the New Testament. Why did all translations in English before the King James render John 1:3: "All things were made by IT" (not HIM)? How do you know that Jesus was the eternal Son of God, when no verse of Scripture calls him that? What if the Word or Wisdom was with God (John 1:1) and was fully expressive of God and this Wisdom became embodied in the real human being, Jesus (John 1:14)? Jesus would then be a human being who is the perfect embodiment and expression or the wisdom and creative activity of God ("the word became flesh:—not "the Son became flesh").

If so, Luke's statement would be exactly right. "Because of the supernatural begetting of Jesus in the womb of Mary, Jesus is entitled to be called the Son or God" (see Luke I :35). Luke describes the supernatural coming-into-being or the Son of God, while Dr. Swindoll says that the Son had no beginning (quoted above). There is not a hint in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts or Peter that Jesus preexisted his birth. He is according to Luke 1:35 the Son of God based on his miraculous begetting. Luke 1 :35 was abandoned early in church history. A precious clue to the identity of Jesus was ditched. Luke 1:35 confirms the identity or the human Messiah predicted by the Old Testament. There is no indication in the Hebrew Bible that the Messiah was already alive before his birth in Bethlehem. God did not speak through a so-called preexisting Son in Old Testament times (Heb. 1:1-2). Our complaint is against the incomprehensible language of one of the chief architects of the Trinity, Gregory of Nazianzen, who spoke of the Son as having a "beginningless beginning" (Oration 36). A contemporary Trinitarian writer comments: “. . . It is far from clear what content, if any, we can impart the concept of eternal generation]."[11] It is no exaggeration to say that calling the Son "unoriginally begotten" has no meaning. It is the language of “square circles" or '"hot ice-cubes.'

Church History

Writers of standard encyclopedias tell us this fact about church history: "Unitarianism [belief in the Father as the 'only true God' (John 17:3) and in Jesus as the Son and Messiah] as a theological movement began much earlier in history: indeed it antedated Trinitarianism by many decades. Christianity derived from Judaism, and Judaism was strictly Unitarian. The road, which led from Jerusalem to the Council of Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth-century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was on the contrary a deviation from this teaching.”[12]

How can the Trinity be traced back through the church fathers when the father of Latin Christianity was clearly not a Trinitarian? Tertullian wrote: "God has not always been the Father. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son. There was a time when the Son did not exist."[13]

This famous church father doesn't sound like a Trinitarian. What about earlier church fathers of the second century? They are said by Trinitarians to provide a continuous Trinitarian tradition back to the Bible. But what did they really believe? A professor of church history explains:

The Christian writers of the second and third centuries considered the Logos as the eternal reason of the Father [note: not the eternal son], but as having at first no distinct existence from eternity: he [the Son of God] received this only when the Father generated him from within his own being and sent him to create the world and rule over the world. The act of generation then was not considered as an eternal and necessary life-act but as one, which had a beginning in time, which meant that the Son was not equal to the Father, but subordinate to Him. Irenaeus, Justin, Hippolytus and Methodius share this view called Subordinationism.[14]

This view is not that of official Trinitarianism as later established. Without the doctrine or the eternal, coequal Son, there is no orthodox Trinity.

The Creed of Israel, of Jesus and of Original Christianity

It seems to us incredible that Jesus, who recited the great creed of Israel (Mark 12:28ff) and was a Jew, could possibly have believed in the Trinity. There is no Trinity in the Old Testament (as scores of modern scholars admit).[15] Jesus confirms and perpetuates the creed of Israel, which described God as One Person, the Father. He then defined himself as the Lord Messiah of Psalm 110:1 to whom the One Lord God spoke in an oracle about the future. The word adoni ("my lord" in Ps. 110:1 ) is never a title of Deity (Mark 12:35ff).

No Jew could possibly have expected his Messiah to be God in the Trinitarian sense. In fact Moses had predicted the arrival of the Messiah by saying that God would not speak to the people directly, but through a person "like Moses" who would be raised up from among the people of Israel (Deut. 18: 15-18; see Acts 13:33). To say that the Messiah is God Himself contradicts this prophecy, which announces that this person is not God but a human prophet! Both Peter and Stephen teach that it was fulfilled in the human Messiah (Acts 3:22; 7:37), who perfectly reflects the will and the words of his Father and who is the "visible image" of God, but not God Himself. Here is the biblical picture of the Messiah as described by the Hebrew Bible, the Bible of Jesus himself and confirmed by Paul: "To us Christians, there is One God, the Father and one Lord Jesus Messiah" (see I Cor. 8:4-6).

Clearly, the One God is the Father and in close association is the one Lord Messiah (Luke 2:11). There are two lords, one is the Lord God and the other is the Lord Messiah. The Christian confession that Jesus approved is the belief that “Jesus is the Messiah. the Son of God." On that truth, he promised to found his church (Matt. 16: I8). John labels as "the liar" anyone who deviates from the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, or that he is "the Messiah, Son of God" (I John 2:22; John 20:31). He worked against the error that Jesus was something less than human. He advocated belief in the genuinely human Jesus (1 John 4:2; 1 John 9). When churches teach that Jesus is—man" but not "a man" it is hard to imagine they have the approval or the Apostle John.

It is time for the Church to insist, with the Bible, on the creed which describes Jesus as "the man Messiah" (I Tim. 2:5) and stop condemning as heretics those who confirm belief in Jesus as the sinless Messiah and Son of God (Luke 1:35), God's unique and virgin-born agent, but not actually God Himself.

God is strictly one (echad in Hebrew), and echad is the numeral “one," which in none or its 960 occurrences means more than one! Its meaning, just as in English, is "one single . . ." (see any Lexicon).

A return to the creed of Israel and or Jesus, the Jew, and model of a man in perfect relationship to God, will enable Jews today and Muslims to consider more sympathetically salvation through Jesus, the Christ, the only name given under heaven by which we may be saved" (Acts 4: 12).[16]

From Jurgen Moltman, The Spirit of Life, 2001, p. 89

"In the degree to which Christianity cut itself off from its Hebrew roots and acquired Hellenistic and Roman form, it:

I) Lost its eschatological hope

2) Gave up its apocalyptic solution for 'this world' of violence and death

3) Merged into late antiquity's Gnostic religion of salvation, and:

4) 'Heaven' replaced the coming Kingdom l

5) The redemption of the soul from the body replaced the spirit as the source of life

6) The immortality of the soul displaced the resurrection of the body.”

7) The people hoped for the soul's escape from the body."

www.restorationfellowship.org       Anthony's literature is available at 800 347 4261


End Notes:

[1] Commentary on Luke I :35. In modern times, the apologist Walter Martin also denied the preexistence or the Son, as distinct from the Word.

[2] A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan, 1962. p. 110.

[3] F.F. Bruce observes: “the promises of Acts 13:23, the fulfillment of which is described in v. 33, has to do with the sending of Messiah, not his resurrection (for which cf. v.34) (Acts of the Apostles, Greek Text, p. 269.

[4] The New International Dictionary of NT Theology, ed. Colin Brown, Vol. 1, p. 176, explains that gennao (beget, father) is the casual form of ginomai to become.

[5] Harcourt, 2000.

[6] Broadway Books, 2002

[7] Just as in our time Karl-Heinz Ohlig argues that the Trinity is not in Scripture, Gott in Drei Personen. 1998. English version. One or Three? (2002).

[8] For some serious reading. see Martin Werner. The Formation of Dogma, Harper. 1957 (though he wrongly attributes "angel Christology" to Paul): J. A. T. Robinson. The Priority of John. SCM Press, 1985; J. Kuschel, Born before All Time' The Dispute Over Christ's Origin, Crossroad, J 992: James Dunn, Christology in the Making, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1996, 2nd ed. The latter sees that Paul did not believe in a preexisting Son of God.

[9] Norman Geisler and William Watkins. "The Incarnation and Logic: Their Compatibility Defended." Trinity Journal, 1985, Vol 6. P 189.

[10] Kurt Rudolph. Gnosis: The nature and History of Gnosticism, Harper and Row, 1983, p. 372.

[11] Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ, p. 131.

[12]Encyclopedia Americana, 11th ed., Vol. 23, p. 9,963.

[13] Against Hermogones, ch. 3.

[14] Michael Schmaus, Dogma, God and His Christ, Sheed and Ward, 1971, p. 216.

[15] See our article. "Does Everyone Believe in the Trinity?" at www.restorationfellowship.org

[16] For a modern indictment or the idea that the Trinity is found in the Bible, see Karl-Heinz Ohlig. One or Three, pub. Peter Lang, 2002

Copyright © 2005 Anthony Buzzard. All rights reserved.

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