Sunday, September 5, 2010

The importance of who Jesus is

So, here I am at Oxford. Hello, everyone! Sorry, this isn't going to be an Oxford blog. I read "The Shack" yesterday. I really hated most of it. Terrible writing combined with all the feel-good, mushy, almost nonsensical theology one could ask for, with a few genuinely interesting thoughts thrown in. One aspect of faulty theology in particular stood out to me. The person representing God the Father tells the main character, "When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human." That's it right there. If you already know why this is a wrong thing to say, you don't have to read any more. This statement, this idea that the entire Trinity was incarnate in Jesus, that the entire Trinity is fully human, is very nearly heresy, excused only by the fact that the rest of the book seems to contradict this statement, making it quite probably the result of sloppy, ignorant writing.

So. The natural place to start when discussing the Incarnation of God is John. John 1-- "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." Here John (called "the theologian") very clearly lays out both the background and the actual event of the Incarnation. He goes all the way back to the beginning, before all created things, and shows us the Word. The Word both was God and was with God, making this one of the foundational passages for our understanding of the Trinity. John then goes on the actual event, and tells us that it was this same Word who then became flesh and dwelt among us. Who is this Word? Well, John saw his glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father. This tells us that the Word who became flesh in the person of Jesus was both (a) the Son and (b) not the Father.

But wait! There's more! Let's go to John again, except more towards the end this time. John 15:26-- "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." Just as John distinguished between Christ and the Father in the first chapter, here he distinguishes between Christ and the Holy Spirit. When Christ returns to the Father (again a sign of distinction) he will send the Holy Spirit (another sign of distinction). This, right here, is a pretty good verse demonstrating the distinctions of the Trinity. There are three persons at work here, which the Bible tells us are both one yet distinct. This is confusing, and if anyone wants, I will be happy to attempt to explain, as best I can and as far as I can (which isn't very good and isn't very far), this incredible mystery of our faith. However, the important thing for this note is the distinction he makes between the Father, the Son (as Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

I could go on for literally pages and pages giving more and more texts in support of this, but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm gonna switch gears here. You may be saying, as someone did to me about 45 minutes ago, that this distinction doesn't really matter very much. That we only need to focus on "core beliefs" and that everything else is a waste of time and breath. I would address that in my own words, but it's already been addressed by the author of Hebrews: "About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child . But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity."

Now, I'm not bashing (nor is the author of Hebrews) the "basic principles of the oracles of God." They are necessary. But they are also basic and elementary. There's a reason children don't stop at elementary school. They go on and learn more advanced things, just as we should go on to maturity in the doctrine of Christ. In light of this, it is highly irresponsible of us as Christians to remain willfully ignorant of Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. There is a point, true, where we literally cannot know more. But that point is far beyond where most Christians give up.

I should point out that I was inspired to write this note not by The Shack, but by someone here in Oxford with me who insisted that the portrayal the Trinity as a whole being incarnate in Christ was correct. His explanation? "They're one, right? So that means they're the same. So that means that you can't just have the Word in Christ, because then that would make them not the same." This is a paraphrase, but I believe that was the gist of his argument. Then he ended the conversation by saying he didn't want to argue with me. So I'm venting my frustration by writing this note.

Now, real quickly I'm going to explain the fallacy in his reasoning. Yes, the Trinity is one. If the Old Testament tells us anything, it's that "The LORD our God, the LORD is one." One God. However, the most common way of putting the Trinity is "one God, three persons, each person fully God, while still being only one God." You guys know this, even though we can't really fit our minds around it fully. The Bible is full of things being done by one person and not the others. The Word became flesh (John). The Holy Spirit descends like a dove (all the gospels). The Father raises Christ up from the dead (Hebrews). The Holy Spirit gives us gifts (2 Corinthians). Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father (1 John). Again, I could go on and on. The persons are distinct, yet one. We could go all day with this. I really hope I've been clear in what I'm saying. Jesus Christ, the God-man, was the Son of God incarnate. Not the Trinity incarnate, not the Son with a little bit of the Father and Holy Spirit. That doesn't even make any sense. The Son, the Word of God. Our advocate with the Father, and the author and perfecter of our faith.


  1. Greetings Mackman

    On the subject of the Trinity,
    I recommend this video:
    The Human Jesus

    Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor

  2. I watched a bit of the video. I read most of your blog post "Try Something Simple" and skimmed the rest of it. I saw no mention of John 1, in which the preexistence of the Word as someone both God and with God is demonstrated.

    Now, I realize that is most likely fruitless for us to argue about it, since you and I differ on several different major theological points (not to mention the fact that I posses no degrees on the subject). I will not, at this point, attempt to construct a monstrous post to counter your "Try Something Simple." However, I will say that I have read several books on the matter and been taught by someone with a Ph.D from the Graduate Theological Union who has himself authored two books on the subject.

    I have considered the Trinity and reconsidered it. However, in the end I must affirm my belief in our God who is both three and one, believing that no one but God may lawfully have a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) and that nobody but God could claim that "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58).

    That said, I do thank you for your concern, and I will keep you in my prayers.

    "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you."