I’m going to pigeon-hole myself here. I’m going to name some categories of Christians with whom I would identify. Now, I am not saying that I agree with all of the things each camp would be known for, but I am saying that, in general, I agree with them. Before I do so, you should know why I am doing it…namely, because I’m about to argue against some pretty well established and loved arguments from Christian apologists, and I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m some raving liberal who has infiltrated this fine group of Christian men!
I’m evangelical. I would put myself in the Calvinist camp. So, I guess that also makes me a protestant. If you must know, I’m a historic premil, credo-baptist, calvinistic, non-cessationist. So, there you go. Feel free to begin telling me why I’m wrong on those issues if you must, but that’s me at this point.
So, now that you know me (as if what I shared really lets anyone know me), I have to say that there are 2 traditional Christian apologetic points that I don’t like. It’s not that I don’t agree with what these arguments are designed to do, and it’s not that these aren’t true…they very well could be, but they are bad logic it seems to me. Please correct me on these though if I have misunderstood them. Here we go:
1. God must be Triune otherwise God could never had been loving before creating humanity and so that would mean that God would have changed at creation. OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. Now, I believe God is Triune! I worship the Triune God! I love this doctrine, but as far as we know, God had never created before THE Creation, so does that mean that God changed at creation because He did something He had never done before? He had never forgiven sin before mankind needed it, but does that mean He wasn’t a being with the capacity and inclination to forgive? Did He change from an unforgiving God to a forgiving God? I think not. I know that this argument is used to bolster trinitarian thought against all forms of non-trinitarianism, but it just seems pretty weak. I think we can suggest that God’s eternal communion within Himself is the seed out which springs His love for and fellowship with mankind. What do you think about all this?
2. Jesus had to be fully man because only one who was fully man could pay the penalty for man. OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. Now, again, I believe in the humanity, and the benefits of that humanity, of Jesus as disclosed by passages such as Philippians 2, Hebrews, et al. But, did Jesus have to be fully human? I think so when you consider that it takes being human in order to die. But that isn’t the point that the above argument seems to be making (I could be wrong). It seems that the argument is to say that dead humanity cancels out humanity’s sin specifically because only flesh can pay the penalty for flesh. I would argue that Jesus had to be human to die, but it was his perfection and diety instead of his humanity that makes his death efficacious. Does that make sense even if it’s wrong? I’ll try to state it as plainly as I can. Again, the argument seems to say that Jesus had to be human for his death to justify humans. I’m saying that Jesus had to be human to die, but that his death justifies the Christian most especially because of his deity. I haven’t thought this completely through and would appreciate the comments. In fact, the more I think about it, the less sure I am about this one.
I’m glad we have this blog to test things against each other!
Further Thoughts: Okay, this is a further thought on the second argument above. The fuller argument that one hears is “Jesus had to be fully God so that He could forgive us, and had to be fully man to be a fitting sacrifice for us.” The first part is right on because only God can forgive sins. The second part I think is true, but I just wished it would be more nuanced. For instance, here’s what I thought of today. 1. Jesus had to be fully human in order to die. A being that is not human would have a hard time dying. 2. Jesus death paid the price for our sin. 3. He could die for our sin because he was a spotless, sinless human. This is why I would argue that it is his diety that makes him a fitting sacrifice. 4. So what makes him a “fitting” sacrifice is his perfection, not his humanity. Humanity was a prerequisite for death, but not what makes the death acceptable. The death had to happen, but it had to be a perfect sacrifice more than a human sacrifice. So, yes, Jesus had to be a man in order to pay for our sins, but he also had to be God (perfect) for that death to be useful in purchasing us. Is that clear? Is that good logice? Am I wasting my breath?
I wanted to write a little more regarding the second issue above. I don’t know if anyone is reading or thinking about this, but I continue to do so, and here’s something in addition to what has been said. Besides Owen’s Communion with the Triune God, I am also reading The Holy Trinity by Robert Letham, and as Letham was discussing early heresies surrounding the Trinity, he mentions Arius’ Christology/Soteriology. He writes, “According to (Arius’) argument, it was necessary that the preexistent Christ be a creature to secure the closest possible link with his fellow creatures who were to be saved.” This belief that Christ HAD TO BE COMPLETELY HUMAN seems to lead to Arius’ conclusion that Jesus had to be a creature instead of creator to fully identify with our humanity, but ONLY IF we make His humanity the effective part of the sacrifice. Arius argues that, in simplest terms, the creator couldn’t die for the creature, so Christ had to be a creature, a man. He had to be creature, fully and really human.
However, if we argue that His humanity allows Him to die, but it is actually His deity that is effectual in obtaining our salvation, then we don’t have to be Arian. Does this make sense to anyone else?
So to summarize, we don’t say that Jesus had to be completely human in the sense that He was created, which seems to be implied when we say completely human…though we have always balanced it by saying “and completely divine” which implied uncreated. But again, it seems to me that we often echo Arius when we suggest that it is Jesus’ humanity (and it has to be full humanity whatever that means) that saves us. What say you? Is my logic just terrible here?
Final Thoughts…for now. OK, I brought all of the stuff in the second point up with a buddy. He allowed me to bounce these ideas off of him and then asked some good follow up questions. And, I don’t think that I was a heretic, (because I did hold to the full humanity of Jesus) but my belief in his full humanity needed some filling out, and still does. Obviously, I need to continue to thing through various passages and their importance for this issue, and I also hope to keep reading what others have to say about it, but this I know: Christ had to be a man, firstly, because he died…he had to pay for sin through the cross, and that required death, and death requires living humanity as far as I know. Second, Christ had to be a man because he came as the second man to reverse the curse of the first man, namely Adam. As the second Adam, Christ needed to be just as human as Adam to redeem the results of one man’s sin through his own obedience as humanity. These 2 beliefs aren’t knew – the atonement and Christ as 2nd Adam…I mean, my MAR is in Biblical Theology; however, I hadn’t yet seen the connection between these 2 truths and Christ’s humanity. Now, after saying all of this, I still want to throw out this thought: being human, seems to me, to be like being dead…either you are or you are not (unless your only mostly dead which means slightly alive!!!). So, I don’t know if I like the phrase fully human. I realize that due to heresies, this term had to be used, but I don’t think God was thinking, “I can’t let Jesus be born without an arm b/c then all of the arms of humanity won’t be redeemed.” Either you are or are not human…that means 100% or 0%. So, Jesus was human AND Jesus was God. He had to be human, not necessarily to purchase redemption for the various parts of mankind (their reason, their ears, etc) but to purchase full humans, those 100% human, fallen, image bearing still, humans. I don’t know if you get it from this series of comments, but I feel like I’ve really come a long way here!