The Theoanthropos – a hypostatic union

Introduction

Theos is Greek for God and anthropos is Greek for man so the theoanthropos is God-man, referring to Jesus Christ. Hypostatic means a state union between two substances, ousias, or natures in one unified person. The Westminster Confession describes the hypostatic union this way, “The Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person, forever.”

Why is this important?

With a word like “hypostatic” I’m guessing that the tendency in our minds is to think that this is simply high theology, mere speculative information, that belongs to white bearded men stuffed in ivory towers. That this is an area of theology which really isn’t all that important but may be sort of fun for us to think about. But don’t let the language fool you. Words are helpful tools, I love big words because they are a way of short hand…you can say a lot in a very little amount of time or give good explanations, if the people you are talking to know what those words mean. So yes, words are helpful but they can also be very deceptive. They can deceive into thinking that the childlike simplicity of faith that Christ calls us to does not require that we understand some necessary things about who He is!

And that is my first point, that this doctrine matters and it matters a lot because if you get Jesus wrong it’s not just a “well, that’s my opinion” or “that’s my take” sort of thing but it becomes a hell thing. You can very easily end up having a Jesus that you like or that makes sense in your head and you can follow that false Jesus straight into the pit of hell and taste the lick of God’s wrath upon your soul for rejecting His Son. You don’t want that.

So my first point is that the hypostatic union is a salvation issue. Let me explain why. Now, I’m going to assume that you guys know your Bibles fairly well, and if you don’t that’s okay, but I’m going to assume you know your Bibles and thus some good Anselmian soteriology. What that means is that our problem as human beings is sin and that we need salvation from it, we need a savior. But how do we get a savior?

First let’s talk about sin. Sin is moral wrong. But it isn’t so much the acts, the specific things that we do which make sin. And it isn’t so much the condition of our hearts which give us certain affections leading us to immoral acts. So sin isn’t so much the acts themselves and it isn’t so much our motives for doing what we do but it is a personal betrayal or attack against the source of morality, God himself. Because morality isn’t something that God just made up but is something that flows out of His being, it is who He is, He is a holy God. And wronging a holy God is rightly deserving of an infinite or eternal (same thing) outpouring of justice or he isn’t really holy or the author of morality if he let’s infinite wrongdoing go unpunished. Because God is so good the proper response to our attack against the moral fiber of His being is eternal. So we need a savior who can somehow save us or spare us from having to own up to our sin and suffer eternal consequences. (see Romans 1:18-25)

Let’s talk a little about having a savior of humanity. Each human deserves eternal justice, that’s hell. The only way for a human to escape that is not to sin but every human sins both because of their own volition and first and foremost because of what happened with Adam in the garden Eden. So what I need is a human that doesn’t sin and one who can be another Adam who can be a representative for all humanity in order to undo all that has happened and effected everyone. I need a human savior whose sinless actions can effect everyone. (see Romans 5:12-21)

Now let’s put it together a little bit. Here is why I say the theoanthropos or the hypostatic union is a salvation issue. Because if you don’t have a divine Jesus he is insufficient to satisfy the eternal demands of justice that hangs over your head. And if you don’t have a human Jesus then he is insufficient to take my place on the cross and be my representative. So we must have one person that is fully human and fully divine or else there is no hope. (see Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10) We have to get this right. But those who have borne the name “Christian” have not always got this right and there are groups today who still cannot get past this issue and it is a stumbling block to their faith.

History and Errors

I want to take a few minutes to explain to you a few of the major historical controversies that arose concerning this issue and how godly men of old ended up ultimately dealing with it at a council called Chalcedon. There is something great about being part of a rich history of faith. That we have a Christian tradition and heritage and that there is an orthodox teaching is very significant because we are not following new teachings but are part of a historic time tested faith. These things we are talking about are not new issues. There have been many other occasions throughout history where men with beer in hand read scripture and wrestled and taught and talked about who Jesus really is and what he really has done for us and that is a great great thing. We stand in a privileged place to be able to read and learn from errors and mistakes and the responses to those heresies.

Truth throughout history is most often clarified by falsehood. Many times there have been new ideas that arise, some new take on something that raises an issue no one had thought of yet. And Christian leaders and teachers have then turned to the Scriptures and the new counterfeit claim clarifies with even greater precision what exactly Christianity is and that is a good thing even though it may be trialsome.

The other thing I want to say before we start talking about these different errors is that just because there is controversy over something does not mean that one particular view is not correct. I’ve quoted this passage of John Piper a few times at The Resolved Church where I preach, but he says this,

“We do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dream world. There is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks we can stand alone on truths that are non-controversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy?”

With that said let me expose you to a few wrong views of the person of Christ which were all rightly condemned as heresy by the leaders of the church. There are other erroneous teachings about Jesus but these are the most relevant to our discussion so I’ll try to keep it short and not explain all the circumstances and exchanges but just the outcomes.

The first is Arianism. Arius was the pastor of the church in Alexandria in the beginning of the fourth century and he began teaching that Jesus was God’s created son, who is like or similar to the Father but is not of the same nature as God the father. Jehovah’s Witness is Arianism’s bastard child whose teachings end up with a Jesus who is not fully God and thus unable to satisfy the eternal demands upon us.

The second is major error was Apollanarianism. Apollanarius was the pastor of a the church in Laodicia about halfway through the fourth century and taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind. So the human body was just sort of a container cell for the divine nature of Christ. This Jesus isn’t fully human because he doesn’t’ have a human mind or soul and is thus unable to be our human representative.

The third error is Nestorianism. Nestorius was the pastor of the church in Constantinople in the fifth century. He said that there were two separate persons, a divine person and a human person in the one body of Jesus so that these independent persons could operate contrary to each other. As a result of not having a unified person, this Jesus would be unable to be our human representative and unable to satisfy God’s just demands.

The last view is Eutychianism. Eutyches was the leader of a monastery in Constantinople through the fourth and fifth century and he said that the one person of Jesus Christ was a mix of human and divine creating a whole new nature that was neither fully divine or fully human but one new substance. This Jesus too would have been both unable to be our representative and save us from the wrath of God because he was neither fully God nor fully man.

So here is what happened. All these teachings are flying about, people getting excited about them thinking they somehow discovered some new thing and unlocked the secrets of the universe…and a bunch of the church pastors and leaders from all over get together at Chalcedon and draft this creed. Here is the Chalcedonian creed:

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

“Since now we have drawn up this decision with the most comprehensive exactness and circumspection, the holy and ecumenical synod hath ordained, that no one shall presume to propose, orally, or in writing, another faith, or to entertain or teach it to others; and that those who shall dare to give another symbol or to teach another faith to converts from heathenism or Judaism, or any heresy, shall, if they be bishops or clergymen, be deposed from their bishopric and spiritual function, or if they be monks or laymen, shall be excommunicated.”

The geniusness of the Chalcedonian creed is that it doesn’t try and answer how Jesus is both fully God and fully man and is one person, but it sets boundaries for what must be believed about Jesus in order to have the correct Jesus. In essence it creates a box. On the top you have Jesus is true God. On the bottom you have Jesus is true man. On the left side you have Jesus is one person. And on the right side you have Jesus two natures are distinct. What you come up with in the middle is open but beyond those parameters is heresy. I love it. I think the Chalcedonian box is the best way to think about the hypostatic union of the theoanthropos.

About a hundred years ago a new teaching sprung up called the “kenosis” theory. They took the words “emptied himself” from Philippians 2:5-7 that says “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”; and said that Jesus gave up some of his divine attributes while here on earth.

So let’s put our Chalcedonian box to work and see how a wise use of history can help us. I’ve got two distinct natures, got one person, Jesus is true man, but no…not fully God. So what of this interpretation of Philippians? I’m not going to do a full exegesis on the passage but it isn’t difficult to see how this theory violates the surrounding words, context, and plain meaning of the passage. What Jesus emptied himself of was the constant display his divine glory. The point is humility, in allowing his divine and infinite glory as the creator of the universe to be primarily shielded while on earth and to undergo the shame and suffering of being a man and the lowest of man a servant. Jesus’ subtraction was a subtraction by addition. He added something to himself but never gave up any of his divinity.

Scriptural Considerations (how this plays out)

Okay, heresy just makes me mad. So let’s move on and see how the hypostatic union plays out in a few scriptural issues or questions that arise.

One thing I want to point out before we get into these thing is the humanity and divinity of Jesus. No one today really questions whether there was a Jesus and whether Jesus was really a man. Some early groups called docetists did, who said Jesus was just a spirit that appeared as a man, who if walking in the sand would not leave any footprints. But the big question about today, the thing challenged most often, is Jesus’ divinity. But I don’t want to take a bunch of time proving to you with reason and scripture that Jesus is divine.

We could talk about attributes of what it means to be God and see how they were exhibited in Jesus life, or about Jesus being called I AM or LORD or the Son of God or the Creator. But if the Bible really is God’s revealed Word, even in every letter and stroke of the pen..then what the Scriptures plainly and clearly say is true. So I’ll just refer to a couple of Scriptures which should be sufficient. Even if something occurs just once in scripture it is enough.

So listen to John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And at the end of John’s gospel after Jesus’ has risen from the dead and after He appears to the disciples and Thomas comes up to him to inspect the holes in his hands and after seeing them he falls down and worships and says “My Lord and my God (Jn 20:28)” and Jesus tells Thomas that many will come to believe this even without seeing Jesus with their eyes (that’s us).

That should be sufficient for us to know that Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is God. So let’s talk about how this one person, Jesus, both God and man at the same time, is born, grows up, is tempted, and is self-conscious.

It would be easy at this point just to chuck all of that to mystery. A lot of times when stuff like this comes up…like the trinity or like predestination, people just say, oh well…it’s just a mystery. Now, don’t get me wrong, because I love mystery, I’m all about mystery. I think in mystery there is something very great and wonderful about recognizing that our infinite God has an unending amount of things to teach us for eternity and before we know them are mysteries to us. Mystery is great, the gospel is in one sense is a great mystery. Rudoph Otto said God is a “mysterious tremendum.”

But we must let mystery be where God tells us. Yes, our finite little minds can only comprehend so much of infinite deity until we throw up our hands and cry mystery! But what we can comprehend is determined by what He has revealed to us. So my plea is to draw the line of mystery where Scripture does, no less, no further.

Okay, so how does all this play out according to Scripture? How does the theoanthropos come into the world, grow up, be tempted and be aware that He is both God and man?

First the virgin birth. At Christmas time talking about the hypostatic union seems appropriate because the Chrsitmas story begins with Jesus, God, becoming man in a manger. An angel comes to Mary, the mother of Jesus and says “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Lk 1:35).” The virgin birth, that Mary conceive the baby Jesus without having sex with anyone is important because it tells us first that salvation comes from God and not human effort, it shows us the means God used to unite himself with humanity, and it makes Jesus humanity possible without inheriting sin.

One of Jesus’ names is properly “the redeemer” and the thing that makes the Christmas story so great is that we have a savior who was born to die. God came into the world to save us since we can’t save ourselves. God perhaps, I don’t know how, but perhaps He could have done something so that Jesus was the result of two humans having intercourse but then it would be very difficult for us to understand how Jesus was fully like God since his origin would have been like ours in every way. Likewise God could have sent Jesus into the world without any parents but then it would be very difficult for us to see how Jesus was fully human.

Most importantly the virgin birth makes it possible for a divine-human savior who did not inherit sin from the first man Adam like all the rest of us have down through the centuries. It may not be far from the truth that sin is passed through the semen but we hit a point of mystery and speculation there. Now, surely Mary was sinful. The Catholic church says no she wasn’t and couldn’t if she had God in her which is correct. However, listen to the words of Luke again, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you…therefore the child to be born will be called holy.” Thus the Holy Sprit sanctified or purified the womb of Mary from her sinfulness. The Catholic church’s solution does not help any, it only pushes the problem backward because at some point God had to purify some womb to allow for an unsinful person and we know from other Scriptures that only God is without sin, so Mary would not fit the profile.

Thus, the God-man is born but then we have this passage in Luke when Jesus is 12 years old which says that Jesus “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52).” This helps us think about how being a God-man played out. How can a divine being who knows all things grow in wisdom?

Now think with me. Jesus is fully-God and fully-man and the purpose of him coming into that state is to redeem mankind and in order to do that he comes to be humiliated and to experience all human weaknesses and limitations. So Jesus has a mind that learns because learning is part of the ordinary process of what it means to be human. Does it mean he did not know everything and thus was not fully God? Not at all. He demonstrated his ominiscience on several occasions (woman at the well etc.). But he chose to be humiliated and to experience human weakness by allowing his human side to be taught.

So perhaps you ask how he experienced this. Essentially what we find is that Jesus has a twofold consciousness, a human consciousness and a divine consciousness and both are aware of each other because of their unity in one person. Not consciousness in the modern psychological sense of dormancy and discovery of some hidden inward virtue but rather ever present consciousness. And thus we find two wills, a human will and a divine will in Jesus. Wherein the human acts perfectly because of its union with the divine…it always follows and submits to the divine will. Example: the garden of Gethsemane.

This is the difference between doing theology from the top down vs. the bottom up. It is our inclination as humans to first attempt to conceive of Christology from the human perspective, but the human perspective is always secondary, we must start from the divine and from that dictate what human aspects properly fall in line. We need to do theology from the top down, where our first and primary concern is God and His glory.

Now, I say those things to prepare us for point at which the most questions arise and that is concerning the temptation of Christ. Theology from the bottom up thinks that for Jesus to be a high priest who sympathizes with our weakness (Heb 4:15) and who is truly human then he must know what it is like to have been sinful. However, this line of thought not only directly denies scripture’s multiple statements that Jesus was without sin throughout the entirety of his life but it also forgets that sinfulness is not part of true humanity. Sin was introduced to humanity in the garden of Eden after human beings were created, thus sin is not something that properly belongs to our nature, it is foreign and our spirits and bodies hate it.

If we say that Jesus was able to sin we also fail to recognize that one does not have to give into the temptation or even have the possibility of giving in for the temptation to be real and to be intense. Jesus’ divinity assured that his human humiliating experience of real temptation could not fail. As our perfect human example he drew from divine strength, though he could have used it carte blanké he chose to draw from his divine power in ways that we can emulate (prayer, fasting, reading God’s word, caring for God’s people).

Listen to what William G.T. Shedd says, “Because an army is victorious, it by no means follows that the victory was cheap one. The physical agony of a martyr is not diminished in the least by the strength imparted to him by God to endure it. In order to sympathize with a person, it is not necessary to have had exactly the same affliction. It is only necessary to have been afflicted. A different kind of affliction may make a man all the more sympathetic. Because Christ was sinlessly tempted, he feels a deeper and more tender sympathy with sinfully tempted man than he would had he been lustfully and viciously tempted.” The pain and agony, suffering, of one who withstands temptation is much greater than the one who gives in.

Conclusion

Okay, let’s conclude with a few personal applications and then some questions. Some personal applications I see are when we face difficult situations. We are then able to identify with the humanity of Jesus that we have someone who is with us and knows exactly what it is like to feel what we feel. Then because Jesus is divine we can find hope because he overcame those intense feelings and as a result we can find hope in the impartation of his strength to us.

As the disciple’s understanding of Jesus grew and deepened over the years they spent time with Him so shall ours as we have a growing realization of who Jesus truly is and we will come to worship Him with greater and greater allegiance as our king.

We can rejoice because Jesus is our mediator, our representative and substituted himself for us on the cross and died an eternal death. And not only that one act but all the acts leading up to it from the time of his manger through his youth and into his earthly ministry, all serve as an example and pattern of life for us both now and unto the day we die when we receive a fully redeemed and glorified body like Jesus’ resurrected body.

There are many facets in the beautiful diamond of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. May we cherish and pursue the theoanthropos with all our might.

16 comments for “The Theoanthropos – a hypostatic union

  1. Jonathan
    November 10, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    The only way to truly understand where I’m coming from is to know that I do not believe the bible is the written word of God. Keep that in mind as you read what this comment says and as you formulate your response (if you choose to do so). I have no reason to assume I know you or your intentions at all, but I can say how your post came across. In my opinion your post was arrogant, sadistic and extremely immoral. The assumption of original sin is beyond me. Allow me to break it down in non-biblical terms (it might sound different): The world was created by “him”. He gave one couple (the very first couple) the option to eat a certain kind of fruit that gave the mystical and yet unattained power of knowing the difference between good and bad. This knowledge would ruin everything for everyone, but this critical piece of information isn’t exactly shared as part of the warning. A sneaky snake is able to entice this first family into breaking their agreement and eating this naughty fruit. Now we can welcome the biggest change in the history of the world. For this one action, this one bite of bad fruit changes everything that was created good into something bad. Now that everything is evil and sinful, we (the created beings) should be given some sort of upgrade to combat these inherently sinful desires that were installed at the very beginning, right? No. We are told that these desires that are part of our biological/psychological make-up are the very catalysts to eternal torture because the first family chose the wrong snack in the greatest garden of all time after the talking snake had convinced them to. Now we have this wonderful choice (or “free will”): We can either believe that these desires we were created with had everything to do with a terribly gruesome human sacrifice a couple thousand years ago and plead for forgiveness through that murdered innocent individual in order that we might be chosen to be forgiven for being born this way; or we can be tortured for a ridiculously longer period of time than we were actually alive in this sinful state (that we were unwillingly, unknowingly, forcefully thrust into). If we are lucky enough to be chosen, then we have the good fortune of having the resurrected dead man as an advocate, a heavenly lawyer that continually pleads our case to the creator so that he doesn’t act on his overwhelming urge to kill us on the spot for being exactly how he made us. Not only that, we also get this much needed upgrade (of course after we choose to accept that our initial created state was worthless and nothing good could have happened from this state). This upgrade consists of a spirit splashing all over our spirit like a creek or river would splash all over a kid. Then after this spirit has completely soaked our spirit we are able to share this mortal body with it. This spirit lives inside of us, and we are finally able to confront these wicked desires head on and we have the courage to tell others all about the good news. Forgive me for being so callous, but this is not “good news”. This message is so awful, and silly, on so many levels that it amazes me every time I find someone “intelligently” discussing it. This isn’t love, this message of “redemption”. This is the worst kind of slavery, the kind you have to willingly walk into. This is the worst bondage that mankind has ever known, the kind that has captivated entire nations and some of the most brilliant minds with its message of guilt and forgiveness. If God is real, something none of us can ever hope to prove “in this lifetime”, is this really the best plan for “redemption” he could muster? Why does it appear to be so similar to the other religions that were popular during and before its inception? This story, the message of the cross, isn’t just “foolishness to those that are perishing”; it’s morally offensive on every human level.

  2. Tom
    November 11, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Jonathan,

    Your response is entirely reasonable given your presuppositions. For the record, I am in disagreement with your response, but there is a ring of rationality to your comment, if the creation story isn’t true. I hope you can see that your argument, being a reductio ad absurdum argument, becomes a faith posit in itself, if the basis for your disagreement with the “redemptive story” is found in absurdity. It is only absurd if it isn’t true, in fact as you said, it is more than absurd it is “morally offensive on every human level.” Lacking omniscience, I don’t know if I can claim “every” human level, but I see your point. Regardless, I do have a question, is your argument based on the ontological absurdity, prima facie, of the “redemptive story”, which is an argument from faith, or is there a prior understanding that there is no truth to the story based on something else? I ask this question because it is just silly and frankly, stupid, to argue “faith posits”.

    Thanks,
    tom

  3. November 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Hello again Jonathan. I left a response for you on your other comment.

    Regarding this one, the paper is about the theoanthropos, the divine-human(ness) of Jesus and not really about the divine truth of the Bible. If you would like to read something on that issue check this out: http://theresolved.com/downloads/inspiration.pdf

    As far as the tone, I am sorry you felt the tone was arrogant, sadistic and immoral. Tone is difficult to communicate in text but I can assure you it is my utmost desire to be a man of humility. I am not a devil worshipper and though I am immoral I put my trust in Jesus to forgive me of my immorality and he is changing me. So if you were talking about my person, then there is my apology. If you were meaning those adjectives more as a sort of anthropopathism about the argument then I’ve got to tell you that it is ad hominem and doesn’t really support your case logically/philosophically speaking.

    Other than that I’m not sure how to respond to your comment because not much of it had to with the actually post. There were many other red-herring problems with Christianity you mentioned but I’m sorry I really just don’t have the time to answer each one. So I’ll just say this. I don’t want to make you more upset, but I can’t help but think in reading your comment that you really do want to believe it is all true. You are very passionate and that is good. It seems deep down you know there is something wrong with the world and you know there is something wrong with you. My advice is to just give up and quit fighting and rebelling and turn to Jesus and embrace him, he is full of love and forgiveness for you. There are good answers to many of your questions if you’re willing to work through them and it is a lot easier once you let go the hatred you feel. Having peace with God does actually turn out to be quite good news.

  4. Jonathan
    November 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Duane,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It shows a great deal of character to take the time to sincerely debate your stance with a stranger on the internet. I’ll admit that I can not do your reply justice as far as vocabulary or even historical references are concerned, but I do believe I can further explain my opinions in a simple and what I hope to be logical manner.

    I admit there’s a detectable amount of anger and sarcasm in my tone, something I couldn’t hide if I wanted to. I appreciate you citing sources outside of the bible; that I did not expect. I also didn’t expect for you to refer to the books of the bible as independent sources, as though lumping them together is wrong. Splitting hairs, but that’s okay.

    I understand that you believe every word of the bible, and you have found that this belief has lead you to an existence full of meaning and divine purpose. I also understand that it is your desire, if not your duty, to tell the world what Jesus did. I would almost be disappointed if you didn’t try and save the lost (me).

    But here’s where I have a problem:

    My opinion on this matter of faith (i.e. faith that Jesus was a Man-God and did in fact do what the bible claims he did) is derived from what I’ve been able to experience and witness in my lifetime. I take that initial step of acknowledging where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and what I can label as “fact” or “truth” and then from that point I make the best decision I can based on the extremely limited knowledge I have. Of course there are plenty of unknowns. I freely admit that I don’t know if God actually does exist. I also admit that I could be completely wrong on everything I believe to be true. I have to admit these things because in this arena of religion and philosophy it’s hard to claim absolute truth, if not impossible. I haven’t seen anything that tells me the fantastic stories told in the bible could’ve happened. Does that mean I am right? Maybe, but it just is what I BELIEVE to not be true.

    Christians on the other hand do the opposite. They see the same things I do (for the most part) and yet they believe something that completely contradicts the evidence placed before them. Why do Christians believe Noah carried all kinds animals on the large boat? Or that Moses parted the red sea with a walking stick? Or that Jesus healed all sorts of ailments and conquered death in order to save them from damnation? Because the bible says those things happened. Not based on anything they have experienced (apart from feelings of security, guilt, love, forgiveness or peace while celebrating this lifestyle). This to me is strange. It’s strange to base your entire life on something that was written thousands of years ago by people that were far less informed than we are today.

    So, in essence I wasn’t trying to change the subject of the post. I was trying to go beyond the idea of how grammar can emulate the essence of the Man-God idea. I wanted to go to the heart of the faith issue that has enabled people to believe in such a thing as a need for a savior and the person that is doing the saving. Maybe I’m just splitting hairs now, as it’s clear I wasn’t discussing what was actually posted on this page but religion/faith in general.

    I had hoped that you wouldn’t take my attack on Christianity and the ideas you had discussed as an attack on you. I even went as far to say, “I have no reason to assume I know you or your intentions at all, but I can say how your post came across. In my opinion your post was arrogant, sadistic and extremely immoral.” I guess you find it difficult to separate the blog from the blogger. I do not. So, let me reiterate what I said in a way that doesn’t allow for any misinterpretations: The ideas you refer to in your blog (i.e. justice for sinners, need for salvation, etc.) are offensive to me because I do not recognize the source of these ideas as credible. Also, I find it strange how flippant most Christian’s tone comes across when they speak of eternal torment for sinners, you included. This leads me to believe there is almost some required level of arrogance involved with this terribly immoral and sadistic view of humanity’s fate. I do not know you at all, and if this is sounds like a personal attack I want to apologize in advance. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate intelligent people taking the time to thoughtfully address issues.

    That’s what I meant. Sorry if it came across different.

    I have a few questions for you to answer, if you don’t mind.

    1) If any part of the bible is wrong, how can you trust it? Who determines what is to be taken as literal and what is to be thought of as a metaphor?

    2) Why should I take moral lessons from a book full of ethnic cleansing (Israelites “taking the promised land”), child abuse (Deuteronomy’s charge to stone your disobedient children), disdain for the future of the human race (cries for “Even so come quickly Lord Jesus” therefore ushering in the end of days and the end of non-Christian humanity), praise for murder and willingness to commit murder (the Psalms and Abraham and Isaac), and clear misunderstandings about science and the world we live in?

    I had typed here that I wasn’t sure why the faithful find it necessary to point out what’s wrong with the world, themselves and others; but that’s a lie. I know why, it’s the bible’s message: The world needs a savior and Jesus is the man for the job. I do not think that there is something naturally wrong with me that needs supernatural correction. Actually, life is pretty good. I do not intend to “just give up and quit fighting and rebelling”, as this is my nature. I can not take these things at face value as they are far too important. I refuse to bend reality to fit a wonderfully elaborate fantasy.

    Simply put: I choose not to believe in God, especially as represented in the bible. If he takes issue with that then I have to wonder why he made me this way.

    I look forward to your response, if you choose to continue this.

    Jonathan

  5. Jonathan
    November 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Duane,

    I know I’m jumping the gun here but I really wanted to address the article you sent me entitled “The Bible as the Word of God.” If you don’t mind, I will just go down in order of appearance and try to discuss each topic as they come.

    Feel free to place me in the Mythological category.

    Using “the massive amount of people and manuscripts produced from a specific time and place in history is proof in itself” is giving room for Greek and Roman mythology to be right. Along with ancient Egyptian, Asian and several other religions that have had both a considerable following and a few holy texts written. Not near as many as the bible, but you see where I’m going. Just because everyone believed the world was flat, doesn’t mean it was right. The masses don’t validate truth. Especially when the path is narrow and few are supposed to find it in the first place.

    Please tell me of an archaeological study that has proved the stories found in the bible?

    Claiming the bible made scientific breakthroughs is a little strange, to say the least. Anyone can look up and say with a fair amount of honesty that it looks like there are a bunch of stars in the sky. Also, it rains on cloudy days so therefore it looks like rain comes from clouds. Not science, like you said earlier, but simply describing observations anyone can make (even those not under the divine inspiration to write). Before you get ahead of yourself claiming that the bible is being reinforced by scientific discoveries, what about the story of creation? If the author got it wrong because he didn’t understand evolution, does that mean that divine inspiration is bound to cultural/scientific achievements that mere mortals make? God couldn’t tell them exactly what happened back then because there’s no way they would’ve understood it. Is that what we are supposed to rely on? Or is it just wrong? Either way, it’s not an exact science that we can rely on.

    “The bible tells stories that prove the bible is real! There are thousands of stories in the bible that actually fall in line with what the other stories say will happen! See, it’s real!” There is no need to discuss that.

    If you truly believe that there is astonishing unity in the bible then you are reading a version that the rest of us need to get our hands on. Old Testament God is nothing like the New Testament. Hell isn’t mentioned in the old, but the New is ripe with it (thanks to Jesus). Mary seems to forget that Jesus is the Messiah at the wedding of Canaan. The greatest commandment of all didn’t apply to the Amelekites, Philistines and other Old Testament enemies of God. Strange, even kids were enemies of the God. I guess since they didn’t believe in Jesus it’s acceptable to kill them and maybe even cause them to sin.

    I can’t believe that you actually typed, “When all people read the Bible they have a sense that it contains a ring of truth. There is an inner feeling that what it is saying is true and different.” And then followed that with, “Reading the Bible has literally changed people lives in how they live and what they do with it including giving up or changing professions. People credit their change to reading the Bible. No other persons in history who have made drastic changes in their lives have accredited it to a book.” How do you know these things? How do you know that when “all people” read something what their response to it is? Those are incredibly bold and ignorant statements. This is information that is completely unavailable to anyone. Not only that, there are plenty of books that people have credited as drastically changing their lives.

    Then there’s the remainder, which is just that same logic of, “It’s true because it says it’s true.” That proves nothing, but you wouldn’t agree with that so we can at least agree to disagree on this.

    I really do wish I could tell you that it changed my mind on several issues, but that is not the case. If anything, this sort of inward proof (scripture proving scripture) does exactly the opposite of what you had hoped for. It really is strange that you would use that, given how devoted and intelligent you really are (which if that sounds sarcastic it’s not, you clearly have a brilliant mind).

    Jonathan

  6. November 14, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Hi Jonathan,

    I’m pretty slammed right now so sorry if my answers are not as in-depth. I was able to copy and paste a lot of previous work in my last two comments. But I’ll do my best. Thanks for your change in tone, it seems you are genuinely trying to work through this stuff and I’m glad to help. I’m impressed you are taking the time to read all this material. That is to be commended because otherwise you end up holding an intellectually disingenuinous position. Which is also why I have so much material on this stuff, because I’ve gone through what you are doing right now essentially already thought through many of these issues and after careful study ended up changing my position on many things.

    In regards to responses:
    1) Do you use the same criteria of testing in other disciplines (i.e. having to prove every single historical occurrence to know that a source is true). For example, do you have to perform every math problem to know that the principles of algebra are true? Do you have to drink the whole ocean to know it’s salty? Do you do this for any other piece of history? How you know what of the Bible is metaphorical and what is literal is the discipline of hermeneutics. Thoughtful Christians have always followed historical-grammatical exegetical principles in order to safeguard this. It does mean we have 100% unanimity on our interpretations but does provide an objective basis and does give us in large a solid base on the core issues.
    2) The answer to your first four objections is found in the issue of moral justice, which you have no further to look than a common courtroom (see the moral argument in the linked document below). As far as the 5th thing you raised regarding science, I would appeal once again to the authorial intent of the Bible in that it is not meant to be written as a science book, so to put those kind expectations upon it is literarily unwarranted. BTW, what specific scientific claims do you have in mind?

    Now to the Bible.
    3) The manuscript evidence primarily shows that what we have in the Bible is actually the original documents. Plus, it does give credence to the historicity of events, particularly the NT. For example, if the US was bombed and most the large cities destroyed and people 500 years later were doing excavation in L.A. and discovered 1,000s of newspapers saying a certain event happened you would be a fool to reject it.
    4) There are literally hundreds and hundreds of confirmed biblical archaeology findings. There are several books you can check out for this info such as: OT Archaeology by Alfred Hoerth, New Testament Archaeology by John McRay and there is a whole professional journal called “Biblical Archaeology Review” which you can subscribe to which constantly publishes new findings and where old ones are discussed by leading Ph.D. scholars: http://www.bib-arch.org/
    5) The holiness of God, his justice, hatred of sin is surprisingly quite uniform from the Old to New testament. Again this is the issue of justice and the weighty offense of each individual offending an infinitely holy God. Hell actually is in the OT, though it is not as developed. The word is Sheol in Hebrew. There is progression from the OT to the NT which is okay because God has a specific intent and purpose in progressively revealing things in more detail as time moved on…this is essentially which makes any story a good story. This is the same answer for Mary’s belief in Jesus as Messiah which increases. The answer for the greatest commandment and the Amalekites etc. is not only again wrapped up in issues of justice but also filial covenant in God separating a holy people who were to be distinct as a centripetal outward witness by how they loved one another.
    6) Regarding science, it seems you have either implicitly or explicit;y embraced a philosophy of naturalism and therefore have a bias against the supernatural or miracles. I would argue that is an untenable position, even the most vehement such as Richard Dawkins uncannily has admitted when pressed with the cosmological question. Check out the documentary by Ben Stein which came out recently came out, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Also, here is my work on the existence of God, pluralism, miracles, and Christianity’s crimes: http://theresolved.com/downloads/apologetics.pdf
    6) As far as the subjective sense, in many ways this is the strongest and weakest of all arguments for the Bible. Of course I have not spoken to everyone and could not verify it with all. My point is that the Bible has the ability to provoke nearly everyone. Some persuasively and others the opposite (such as yourself right now). Do you know of another book which has had the same kind of effect for hundreds of years?

    I’ll just say this in closing Jonathan…it seems that you are approaching your study of these things in an unfair way. What I mean is, if you genuinely want to know the truth about things, wouldn’t you approach it with an attempt to be objective and consider both sides and see if there is merit and why genuinely intelligent people would think a certain thing? Because it appears instead you are approaching things already bent-bias and are just attempting to find problems. Now obviously we all have presuppositions and you can also make the same error the other way were you just assume Christianity is right and only consider evidence which support your predisposition. All I’m saying, is if you actually try to step into the shoes/worldview of a Christian you might see things a little different. I’ve studied all the religions of the world and several philosophies in an attempt at this. But when it comes to Christianity, I’ve found nothing as comprehensive and true with what I find in my soul. Who knows maybe it is true you know? Don’t you owe to yourself to try and consider it rather than only approach with a goal of proving it wrong?

    Much love.
    Duane

  7. Jonathan
    November 17, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Duane,

    Thanks for the links, even though I’ve been trying to read as much as possible on both sides of the argument I sill find myself hoping that there is some way to disprove Christianity. I wasn’t burned by the church at all, actually the exact opposite. I grew up in it, spent a large portion of my life serving it and made some lifelong friends in it (one being my wife). I have nothing but fond memories of my time in the church, whether it was the Pentecostal church I grew up in or the non-denominational church my faith grew up in. I was challenged, inspired and encouraged on multiple occasions. There are some brilliant, loving and wonderful people involved with the ministry.

    I have struggled my entire life with a few things, though. (I read your article you attached. Again, well written but not exactly what I would call fool-proof. But if we are to be honest there really isn’t undeniable proof one way or another. There is only faith. Anyway, I read it.)

    1) Modern day miracles (or just the Gifts of the Holy Spirit). There seems to be different schools of thought on this and I’ll do my best to explain what I know.

    A) God stopped doing miracles because they were only a sign for those to believe what the early church fathers/OT prophets/etc. were saying and once the bible was completed there was no need for those “signs and wonders”.

    I can not stand that stance. Who wouldn’t believe that God is alive and real and his son is Jesus if they saw the things that the people in the bible were able to see? I guess there were a few calloused hearts that could still do what I’m doing right now, but if I’m to be honest I would believe in a heart beat if I saw a miracle. I would love to see one! I would also instantly believe if all the Christians disappeared one day along with the kids and babies. For me Rapture = Instant Belief. What I’m saying is, why not continue this? Why not turn water to wine (that is one miracle I would love to see!)? Why not raise the dead? Heal the sick? Open the eyes of the blind? Miracles were all over the place in a superstitious time, but in today’s world they are seemingly no where to be found. Is that because they don’t happen? I can’t actually know that. It’s not from a lack of sincere requests; I know that for a fact.

    B) Miracles do happen today. Look at some of the Word of Faith preachers, Morningstar Schools of Prophecy, Pensacola/Toronto/Azusa Street Revivals, etc.

    I do not believe miracles are happening in the locations that claim to be working them, and maybe you don’t either. At all of these locations the “lame” are made to walk again or IBS and other difficult to prove diseases are cured. Not just that, prophecy has turned into a vague admonishment preceded by a comically severe sounding, “Thus saith the Lord”. It is really disappointing to see a large portion of the church turn a blind eye to the terrible turn for the worse these Holy Spirit gifts have taken. Tongues is just mumbled garbage (or to some an “Angelic Prayer/Public Address Language like Paul refers to in Corinthians). Healings are typically non-existent or just silly. Prophecy is either vague or verging on the “cold readings” of a psychic. What has become a very outspoken and popular portion of the modern church is really weird. A good majority of them make decent music, but that might be the best that can be said of them. What was once a supposed powerful tool used for drawing in non-believers has turned into a chance for weekly ecstatic outbursts of the charismatically faithful.

    2) The code of silence since the bible was completed. Again, there are different schools of thought on this one as well. I’ll do my best to explain.

    A) The Bible was the complete and perfect word of God; no more communication is needed from him now that we have it in its completed form.

    A 2,000 year old (I’m exaggerating the time) love letter filled with rules and seemingly impossible stories doesn’t cut it for me. I want just one sign that he is real and he did what the bible says he did. I can’t just look at a tree and say, “Oh, there you are Jesus.” Science has removed that option. The proof is not in the product, no matter how many times I read the Psalms or Romans. I just find it hard to believe that he has been silent for this long. No miracles (as far as I am concerned), no messages, no updates, nothing. Why? Is there nothing else to say? I’d at least say hi if I wanted someone to believe in my existence or they stand the chance to burn for eternity.

    B) God still speaks through prophecy, natural disasters, visions, dreams, feelings and other chance happenings.

    I can’t say that I have ever experienced a credible conversation with God via any of these avenues I cited. It goes hand-in-hand with the miracle problem, honestly.

    To sum it up, I think the bible has placed its followers into an impossible position with the following scriptures:

    “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

    “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

    “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

    “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness;” 1 Corinthians 3:19

    “…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

    “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

    The bible is brilliant in that it explains to its followers that there will be those that doubt, but don’t worry about it. They aren’t spiritual; therefore they don’t get spiritual stuff. “Some might even make a whole lot of sense with their crazy philosophical speak, but if it ain’t Jesus don’t pay it no mind.” (I know that’s tacky, sorry.) And then on top of that it claims that God can be detected by just looking at the world, duh. And last, the most impossible of all things, don’t have wondering thoughts. How many young and old men have been racked with guilt over this one verse? Too many, I assume. Thinking “nasty” is NOT as bad as doing “nasty”. It’s just not.

    Even if I were to ever fully return to the fold, these are issues I would still have. The fact that miracles don’t seem to happen today (as far as I can tell); God’s seemingly 2,000 year silent treatment; and the loopholes/impossible demands the bible has.

    Anyway, thanks for talking with me.

    Jonathan

  8. November 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    I am truly impressed at the spirit in which you are going about this both in the time you are spending to read and the demeanor this conversation. I am extremely busy but it is because of your effort I feel compelled to continue, plus I think it is a good example of a what a healthy dialogue looks like. In addition I am preaching at a special event this week on the difference between religion and the gospel, which I think is the question your last comment really beckons…so you’re helping me with sermon prep in a way. 🙂 And yes, as far as undeniable proof…you are right and I am not arguing for that. I am only saying I think there is sufficient ground given to us to give us confidence to take a step without being crazy.

    Okay… 🙂

    1) Modern Day Miracles

    A) What you described is known as the “Cessastionist” position. That miracles ceased with the early church apostles as they were only to validate the authenticity and authority as commissioned by Jesus.

    There is not a whole lot of Scriptural merit for this position. Some try to say that when 1 Corinthians 13:10 talks about prophecy ceasing when the perfect comes, that it is talking about the Bible…but it is pretty clear that the perfect is Jesus because two verses later it talks about seeing him face to face.

    On the other hand, I understand logically it does make some sense that there would have been similar miracles such as the ones Jesus did, if these ones are claiming he told them to start the church.

    I think there are a couple reasons for why we don’t experience miracles today to the extent they seem to appear in Scripture.

    1. What we are getting in the NT narratives (Gospels & Acts) can easily give the effect that these things were just happening all the time, when in fact there is a lot of time and geographical distance between the occurrences if you look closely. The writers are obviously hitting the highlights and don’t spend a whole lot on all the down time in between.

    2. You are correct that there were other documented supposed “miracle workers” during the 1st century, Jewish Holy Men (Josephus mentions Onias, Eleazar, and Hanina ben Dosa) and Gentile Hellenistic Divine Men (such as the well known Apollonius of Tyana). There are interesting differences between the feats of Jesus and these men, but at the very least it shows that there was at least a large populous who had a mental framework to think such things could take place and would also be interested to see a “miracle.” We have such people in our culture today, although they are considered wierdos by most who believe in UFO’s, the power of crystals, Tarot, and other paraphenomena. The place where there are supposedly actual supernatural accounts of things happening today (Christian or otherwise), seem to be mostly come from animistic third world cultures where they have a worldview that provides for it. Just as a the scientific method begins with a hypothesis where you are disposed to only consider certain possibilities…perhaps our predisposition against such phenomena has something to do with our inability to experience them…I don’t know.

    3. There are many things in life which occurr and are seemly to be extraordinarily coincidental. Perhaps it only our philiological baggage which prevents us as recognizing these as miracles.

    4. It seems that many people in the New Testament, though they did witness these miracles did not automatically convert as you suggest you or most would if they encountered one. In fact, nearly everyone abandoned Jesus before his crucifixion. I mean really think about it…If I myself saw something “supernatural” happen, I am sure I would start trying to figure out the magic trick or come up with some other explanation for it.

    5. Most of all, I think the strongest thing reason why God doesn’t not seem to do miracles like we read about in the NT all the time is that it would diminish the greatness of what he did in Jesus. One of the things that makes Jesus so astounding is that he is the peak of history and that in one act God came into our world to do something so significant that it was sufficient to effect people for all time. If God had to do that in every generation for every single person it would seem to greatly diminish the quality of Jesus life, death, and resurrection…it just wouldn’t be that special of a thing.

    B) Charismania, I like to call it. Supposed miracles in everything, false accounts and forced tongue speaking and the like.

    I am on the same page with you on this one my friend. I think many charismatics have not only an improper epistemology solely based on their feelings/experience alone, but also are just trusting they are saved because they did some sort of supposed charismatic work/deed/miracle etc. Jesus clearly condemned this saying even people who say they prophesied and cast out demons may not even know him (Mt 7:22-23). I don’t think miracles can’t happen, I’m open…just cautious (that’s my official position 🙂 “Open With Caution”). Sort of a potential charismatic. I just wear a seat belt, helmet, and protective gear and try to stay clear of all the crazy stuff. 🙂

    2) Canon Completion (you called it “code of silence”)

    A) No more communication needed?

    A few things on this one…first the canon.

    1. The canon was more recognized than determined. You didn’t bring this up but I think it an important point that when you study the historical evidence the Bible was not so much created as a power play by the church. There were certain letters being circulated between the churches which were considered by them to be inspired documents. The canonizing or compiling them all into one book was an act not only of ease or necessity but because there were other documents people were attempting to circulate (pseudipigrapha) that clearly had a different Jesus and different gospel in them (all you got to do is read them and you’ll see…Jesus killing people, telling women to become men).
    2. The canon was essentially closed once the apostles died because only the apostles (Acts 1:20-26; 1 Cor 9:1) and those who were commissioned by them had the authority from Jesus to write Scripture (Eph 2:20).
    3. The canon was the foundation of church which needed to be closed and in place so that something could be built upon it (Eph 2:20-21; 3:1-5). If you were having to build a new foundation every time someone supposedly had a new book to add, that would be very frustrating and unreliable. Sort of like the Mormon Living Prophet who can just have new revelations totally abandoning or contradicting what was already revealed.
    4. Another reason for the need of the closing of the canon is akin to the response concerning miracles and specifically the miracle of Jesus concerning it’s significance. If the Bible was still open now and new books were being added to it all the time, I’m sure it wouldn’t be considered by so many to be such a great book. Plus, the Bible is not just a compilation of things but is a story, the greatest story of who God is and what he has done. Even though the story is still being told in us and there is a future yet to take place, every good story has a beginning, climax, and end.

    Okay now on the needing of communication…
    1. Whether we need new communication from God is a different question than whether what he has already communicated is conclusive enough for us. One is a objective question the other is a subjective one.
    2. I do think we need God to communicate to us today. I think you need that Jonathan and that’s okay to want and wish for that. But let’s clear a few things up concerning such communication.
    3. I think that God communicates most clearly and frequently through his Word…I don’t hear voices in my head and call them God and ever put my words on par with Bible and say “God told me.” That is foolishness that way too many people are caught up into. It does not take into account their own sinfulness and thus a great potential of being wrong. But there is a way in which the words or the stories of the Bible can have a way of piercing our heart, almost speaking directly to us, which I would count as God communicating to us…not in a hyper religious existential experience way, but in an objective to subjective application way.
    4. Hearing God communicate to us and knowing its him takes time, meaning years. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice as they follow him (Jn 10)…so I think the more that we follow Jesus the more we develop our senses of when we know it is really him and when it is just us. His written word is a sure guide.
    5. Jesus talked about those of us who would not see him visibly or hear him audibly. He says to Thomas in John 20:29 “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Then two verses later John tells us why he wrote his book, “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:31).”
    6. It is something unique to God’s people that they have always been people of a book. In ancient Mesopotamia, when physical idol worship was big…the thing that made the Hebrews so different is that Yahweh revealed himself in words, in a book, not an image. The cognitive nature of thinking inspired through reading is something very unique to Christianity and central to our faith. There is a great book by a guy named Neil Postman called “Amusing Ourselves To Death” which addresses the psychological and sociological implications of a faith that comes through reading versus solely religious experience.
    7. Yes…you are not going to believe in Jesus by looking at a tree. Maybe you could derive the existence of God from thinking about the tree cosmologically or by studying its rings and thinking about the tree telelogically…but that doesn’t get you to Jesus. We need the Bible for that to tell us how bad off we are but how much God has done about that. So yes, without the Bible, we’re done.
    8. Lastly, I say there are no new updates, not only because of all the things I already said but because right now we are in an era or an age where we are still fulfilling the tasks Jesus gave us to do until he returns.

    B) God speaking through nature, disasters, circumstance etc.

    Maybe, maybe not. That’s one another reason why I am so glad we have a written trustable book like the Bible because then I can test things against it. God won’t say anything that contradicts what he has already clearly said.

    As far as your summary and the verses you cited…I can see where it might seem like a sort of closed full proof system to keep people out. But honestly I don’t think these verses are truly saying, “don’t think about it, just believe a priori, prima facie.” If anything they seem to be saying the opposite, that the gospel of Jesus provides a supreme philosophy (Col 2:8), that isn’t just someone’s idea/speculation but actually has power to save us (1 Cor 1:18), who need salvation because our (mine included) thinking is often incorrect (1 Cor 2:14), and makes me thing certain things matter which really don’t (1 Cor 3:19).

    The Romans verse is about God’s general revelation evident in creation by which we can know God’s exists…it’s not about the truth of Jesus being plainly revealed in the trees or something. It’s just telling us we all know there is something bigger and greater than each of our individual little puny lives and that deep down we know that greater thing (God) really deserves all the credit for everything.

    As far as Jesus words concerning lust and the act of adultery itself… I think Jesus would be an idiot not to recognize that there is a difference. One has far more physical outward consequences. I think that is the precise reason he brings it up, because of that it makes it easy to think God only cares about our outward performance. Jesus points out that all sin really begins in the heart and that’s what wrecks us internally. The guilt is the same, because God sees and hears all of it. For example, I’m a dad. If I knew and heard the sexual thoughts of men who were not married to my daughter do you think I would not be provoked. Upon knowing I was provoked don’t you think that dude would feel like, “oh crap!” Regardless of whether or not he ever read that verse in the Bible or not. As your wife how she would feel about you thinking sexual thoughts about other women…she’d probably be pretty hurt if she was brave enough to admit it.

    Jonathan you said something really interesting to me when you said the Bible was like a book with a bunch of rules and impossible stories. I think that combined with the verses you quoted kind of drives out the difference of the gospel and why I love it and believe in it so much. The gospel seems to me to be something entirely different than religion. It’s religion that says you must perform in order to get. You must do this or that and get all the rules right, or your out. Every religion functions like this. The gospel is different. It says, look you are a failure and have broke the rules and continually break them. That is because there is something deeply wrong with you. But the good news, gospel is that God loves you anyway and did something so that change could be possible. In the gospel God does all the work, Jesus performs all the rules perfectly for us, pays the price (an eternal death / hell) for our heart rebellion and rule breaking and then gives us the benefit, himself and his life. So I’m far worse than I ever thought but at the same time more accepted and loved by him than I can even be toward myself. That’s why the gospel isn’t just a philosophy and isn’t just a religion because it focuses solely on a person…Jesus.

    Much love man.
    Duane

  9. Jonathan
    November 19, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Duane,

    I’m glad this conversation is helping you get ready for your sermons. Speaking of sermons, nice closing marks at the end of your last comment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would actually be disappointed if you weren’t trying to “save my soul” (I know Jesus is the actual savior, just humor me).

    Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully consider each reply. This is a deeply personal topic for the two of us, yet we seem to be getting nicer as this conversation continues. I don’t think that is typical, but more of a testament to our desire to really know the truth (if such a thing can be known).

    As for your answer to my dilemma with modern day miracles I can honestly say I haven’t thought of it or heard it worded exactly like that (the idea of diminishing the significance of the work and life of Jesus). This is something that definitely deserves some further consideration away from the keyboard and monitor.

    I know for certain that I am not alone in my thinking. I have come across several other “Apostates” that have come to the shocking conclusion (opinion) that:

    A) The bible is not infallible or even inspired.
    B) If a god does exist there is a great chance it’s not the one we read about.

    The problem some apostates (me) have with this revelation is the almost innate fear of eternal damnation and the echoing nothingness that follows a divorce from faith. I still find myself wondering, “What if I’m wrong and I have to face judgment, is this really worth it?” Then there’s the idea that there isn’t a divine purpose at all, that nothingness I was referring to. To put it mildly, it sucks. It sucks to think that there’s no caring creator that is listening to your concerns and planning ways to intervene on your behalf. It sucks to think that attraction, love, fear, anger and any other emotion is just a response to a chemical that floods your system and that’s it.

    So, you might find several agnostics, atheists and other apostates creating an “Even-if-God-is-real-I-wouldn’t-serve-him-because-of-this-trait-or-that” list when they run out of things to disprove. That is almost a knee jerk response to this monumental change. It’s easier to say what you hate about God than what you loved when you get to this point. The reason I say all of this is because I’m about to share my own list with you, but let me do the hard part first and tell you what part of Christianity was most attractive to me.

    It was actually all the focus on the relationship.

    I try to step away from things and view them as an outsider looking in when they get difficult and then spot the best parts that have become second nature and easy to overlook (like when my wife and I fight, when my son is bothering me, when my team loses). I did this with Christianity more times than I can count and the one thing that brought me back was the relationship. I imagine when I die the most important part of my life won’t be how much money I had or how many things I owned, but how many people did I really know and how many really knew me. How many people did I love and how many loved me. Thinking like that made me think that relationships are quite possibly the most important function of human existence, and everything else is just a system to support them. Therefore if there’s a religion whose sole purpose is a relationship, well that just plain makes sense.

    It all changed over the course of a few years though.

    Growing up in a Pentecostal church I never put much stock into the security of salvation, often returning to the altar week after week to ask for salvation all over again. Eventually I was lead through a few scriptures to discover that this was not necessary at all and soon started putting more faith in the eternal security of salvation. Then I started to think that if the Pentecostals had been wrong about salvation, maybe they got a few other things wrong as well. Out went being baptized with the Holy Spirit after salvation as a separate act.

    Years later I was confronted with honest questions about Genesis and whether or not I believed it. After a long period of research, prayer and thoughtful conversations like this one I came to the conclusion that there is simply not enough evidence to confirm Genesis’ account of creation to be accurate if taken literally.

    Well, sadly enough several things snowballed into me thinking the same way I thought about the Pentecostals, “If one thing is wrong then maybe more is wrong.” One thing seemed to contradict another thing (in the bible) and the more I looked for reasons to not believe the more I found them. The final straw was the idea of original sin. I can not, in good conscience, think that original sin makes any sense at all.

    I know I am challenging theories and ideas that were put into motion (supposedly) by a being that is way more moral and loving than I could ever dream of being. So who am I to question it, right?

    But then I considered that as well.

    What kind of morality are we talking about here if me in my supposed corrupt state finds it completely offensive? What does that say? That I’m too corrupt to understand it? How does that make sense? We wouldn’t use that same logic if we were telling a good person that even a criminal finds his actions reprehensible. “Jim, when you killed your wife and kids for no reason at all the inmates at Folsom were disgusted and wanted your head on a platter. That’s how terrible your actions were Jim. Inmates were enraged.” Or, let me just use the most common story like this we have all heard at one time or another: “Inmates kill rapist and child molesters all the time because even they know that that is just wrong. Rape and child abuse is too much even for a murderer or a thief.” (Side note: I can’t say I disagree with the inmates.) No one would dare say, “Yeah, but those are inmates! What do they know? I, not being an inmate, posses a morality they can only dream of.”

    But we use this idea of a superior morality and goodness to justify God. His morality and love is so far outside our corrupted conscience that it is actually turning evil (sending massive amounts of people to eternal damnation just for being born) into good.

    To sum it up: I do not consider him good, just, loving or merciful just because I was born in a Christian home with religious parents and therefore considered “elect”. This system of justice and mercy is so terribly corrupt that I can’t get my own corrupt conscience to buy into it any longer. So, even if I did find out that God is real I can’t say that I would actually serve him. That idea of a few making it and the rest burning in hell is so awful to me that I don’t want any part of it. Having a problem with that idea of original sin makes it pretty easy to say when I wonder if this is worth it while thinking about hell, “Absolutely.” The deep discomfort I get from the original sin message helps me through the nothingness, guilt and fear my specific upbringing has afforded me.

    That’s how I got to where I am. Sorry if this was wordy or self-indulgent. I guarantee that I rambled on more than one occasion, sorry about that as well. And lastly, if I offended you in anyway please know that it wasn’t intentional.

    Thanks for doing this, and good luck preaching. I would say knock em’ dead, but as Paul was one of the few that could (supposedly) knock em’ dead and bring em’ back to life maybe I’ll just stick with good luck.

    Jonathan

  10. November 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Been crazy busy…but I really do care about this conversation.

    So, yes, as you say, you are not alone in your thinking by far. I think one of the biggest challenges we face today is the overload of information and experts. I think our tendency is just to dismiss everything because it is too hard, too difficult, and/or takes too much time to really attempt at sorting out. It’s one of the reasons I like you..because you are taking the time. But what do you do when two scholars reach different conclusions, how do you decide, can one position be correct? I actually wrote a little piece on this called “Controversy” (you can read it here: http://www.duanesmets.com/2008/10/02/controversy ).

    I think your observation, ““What if I’m wrong and I have to face judgment, is this really worth it?” is very keen. In fact it is a question a great mathemetician and philosopher named Blaise Pascal asked in a work of his called Pensées. In it he argues, that God’s existence is unprovable by reason (which may or may not be true, personally as you have discovered I think the question of God’s existence presupposes his existence…and I’m open to evidence, though not proof). Then he moves to say that either our reason or our happiness is at stake in the wager of whether or not God is so. He ends up saying it is wiser to wager that God exists, since “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.”

    I too grew up in a Pentecostal upbringing and departed from it, so I completely understand and sympathize with your experience probably more than you know. It was almost as if you didn’t speak in tongues you weren’t Christian and the Bible meant whatever the preacher felt like it meant…which is merely authoritarianism. Pentecostals tend to be very fundamentalistic, legalistic, and have a religion based purely upon human experience and works which epistemologically really does not separate them from any of the eastern religions. Anyway, I feel honored that you’d share that with me and share with me your list.

    As far as the Genesis story is concerned. Of course I have a viewpoint on it, but I think there is room for varying perspectives. The main point of the book named “beginning” (Genesis in Hebrew) is that God is the creator. No matter what view of Genesis you take, even if it is ancient mesopatamian myth like the epic of Gilgamesh, the Atrahasis epic, or if it is an account of evolution with time gaps, or a literal 7 day account…the point of Genesis remains in its’ intent to say that God is the creator (and I would add “redeemer”). There may be differences in how he created, but even the most fundamentalistic athiests cannot account for the cosmological question of beginnings (the problem of infinite regression).

    On morality…I’m not so sure we are talking about a God who is “being that is way more moral and loving than I could ever dream of being.” But rather a God who is the ground and source of morality and has a plan and a way to transform us into his very love and pure morality. I think it is important to distinguish between the essence/source of morality, the act(s) of immorality, and the motives of immorality. I like your analogy of the prison…But I guess I would ask if being able to recognize morality equates goodness? But all this is sort of a side note, I’ll get to the real issue and question.

    Your last question (the “sum up”) is perhaps the best question you have asked yet in our entire exchange. It is at least the most difficult to answer, not in my estimation because of whether it is a solid answer or not, but in terms of the difficulty of swallowing the answer. What you ask essentially what is known as “the problem of evil.” I have spent a lot of time on this one…so rather than try and give a pithy response here let me direct you to two places:
    1. A piece I wrote called “The So Called ‘Problem of Evil'” http://theresolved.com/downloads/evil.pdf
    2. A sermon addressing this very issue from Romans 9:19-29 http://www.theresolved.com/?p=323

    As a sidenote, as I understand election in the Bible, it has nothing to do with being born into a “Christian home.” Rather no one knows who is elect, except God. The elect are those he has determined beforehand to have mercy at a specific time. How he determined who was going to be elect is an utter mystery (Deut 29:29).

    Well I think I hit most the stuff you brought up. I don’t want to bag on your upgringing, you know…but is it possible that you may have never really ben taught or really heard the gospel? It sounds like you may have been part of a teaching which was just Christianized Phariseeism all over again…where Christianity was just an offer to work harder, get more religious, and then feel extra guilty when you didn’t measure up. As I understand the gospel of Jesus it is a message not of guilt, but freedom from guilt. Not a message of fear but a message of forgiveness. Not a message of nothingness but a message of deep meaning.

    Hey Jonathan…if there were at least plausible answers to your questions, do you think it could actually have the effect of getting you to reconsider Jesus once again. Not a hippie, feminine, lovey dovey feel good Jesus, but the Jesus who people were both amazed by his teaching and overwhelmed with his acceptance? If there were at least somewhat sufficient answers to your questions, would it be enough for you or is there something deeper? Maybe you’ve just needed to actually talk to a level headed Christian? I’m not saying that because I think there is something deeper, maybe there is, I’m just saying that in talking to you, it doesn’t sound like your asking for certainty…just a worldview where you can conceive that maybe it is true and no one has actually been able to show you one. Just wondering.

    Where you at? If you’re in So. Cal lets get together for coffee or a beer.

    Duane

  11. Jonathan
    November 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Duane,

    This isn’t my “official” response to your last comment, I just wanted to say a few things.

    I wish I would’ve found your community/ministry a few years ago. Without trying to contribute to the abuse Christians have emposed on this one adjective, it’s awesome. What you’re doing and all the things you are focused on are exactly what I was all about a few years ago. Even though I’m not in the same place I was then, I can still appreciate what you’re doing. Good job, man.

    I’m not in So. Cal or even near it. If I ever am I’ll definitely hit you up for coffee or a beer. Thanks for the invite.

    I’ll be taking my time with this response in order to do it justice, but in the mean time Happy Thanksgiving.

    Jonathan

  12. Jonathan
    January 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Duane,

    I wanted to thank you for the time you put into these replies. I sent you an email via your church website. I think I’m beyond the seemingly teenage-type-angst struggle and I would rather carry on an honest conversation not written for all to read. Let me know if you got my email, if not I’ll try again.

    Jonathan

  13. Robert T. Bobar
    July 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    You are quite wrong about the antichrist Apollanarius his type of antichrist teaching was that the “the logos” was the substituted mind in a “human sensitive soul”, a kind of division between though and emotion; so he also did not believe that Jesus came “in the flesh” either. The problem was when antichrists departed from using the standard of the bible all kinds of false teaching that qualify as an antichrist teach started to emerge since there no long was the standard that “Jesus came in the flesh”. But all who believe in Hypostatic Union are antichrists the Bible teaches this (John 4: 1-3). The Hypostastic Union crowd do not believe that Jesus came in the flesh they are using the word incarnation incorrectly to mean inpsychation since they believe that the Messiah came into a man (i.e. a human soul) and NOT in the flesh; compare how Pual understood the phase “in the flesh” (Philipians 1: 19-30 You will not find any mysterious union in his understanding of the phase “in the flesh”.). From the beginning Satan has misleadingly implied to Eve that she would be like God. And Moses warded Is real repeatedly NOT to Warship other gods even placing into the Ten Commandments that He is Jealous God as a warning. Logically you should not come to an opinion which would make the charges that had lead to Jesus’ crucifixion out to be true, you should not come to opinion which would resemble the deification of the Roman Emperors nor should you come to agree with the Greek Philosophers who disputed Paul over the idea that flesh was inferior. And one last point just ground logic, it would make no sense for salvation to be by the crucifixion and resurrection if a human could be saved by his own works (Galatian 3: 21) since they claim that Jesus is human but what is the biblical view “not from a man nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ” (Galatian 1: 1). As for the word tempted this Greek word is tested and it’s used also of The Father as well. Many have taught that the title The Son of man is a claim to being human but if you look in context “What if you should see The Son of man ascend to where he was at first” (John 6: 62) within context of the same scroll “the first” is a reference to the prolog of this scroll (John 1: 2). It should not seem odd to you that God would give himself a title like this since He had mad man after his own image and likeness sort of like making man according to His own blue-print. You asked why should this matter? Let me ask you something, do you want to study the bible only to end up in hell? Because if you believe in Hypostatic Union that is where you’re going, the letter of John is so clear against Antichrists that John’s latter warns believers not to even greet them; that pretty strong. The bible writes to struggle to enter the narrow way and few are they that find it; I can see by the comments on this site and many others that this is indeed unfortunately true!!!!

  14. August 8, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I yesterday posted a series of 10 questions on the topic of the union. Honestly I’ve never been able to figure out how a sinless inerrant person is meaningfully human at all.

    You did a nice defense of the orthodox statement. Similar to most of the trinity in answer to (a) or (b) just assert “both” with the how being a mystery. That being said this is a well written apology for the doctrine and I’m going to link to it.

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