Monthly Archives: June 2013
More thoughts about the Godhead Theology
“The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator who must be worshiped and loved exclusively. The New Testament agrees but speaks of three personal agents, Father Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring salvation” (J.I Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, Tyndale House, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1993, p.40. My emphasis.)
In my previous blog titled “About God: The Godhead Theology” I demonstrated that according to this theology, the inescapable conclusion one must reach about the nature and being of the Godhead is that neither the Father (Jehovah = “I AM”), nor the Son (Jesus) nor the Holy Spirit can be fully God in themselves because they are “distinct” persons. Packer confirms this conclusion in the statement quoted above: the Godhead is a team. In other books I’ve seen references to the “persons” of this “team” as members of the Godhead. Since the Godhead is also often characterized as demonstrating the close personal relationship of its three “members,” one might therefore conclude that the Godhead operates as a type of committee where these three Persons talk to each other and then decide on how to behave as God.
Here is a statement typical of the apologetics for the Godhead theology involving the divine Person of Jesus Christ (as opposed to the distinctly human, flesh and bone, Jesus, the Son of Man): “In the New Testament, the words and actions of Jesus, the incarnate Son, constitute the full revelation of the mind, outlook, ways, plans, and purposes of God the Father…” (Packer, p.25. My emphasis. Packer also speaks of Jesus as “the Son of God Incarnate” on p. 113. Interesting note: the phrase “God the Son” is never used in the Bible whereas the phrase “God the Father” is used 18 times: once in John’s gospel and the rest in the N.T. letters.)
I believe the statement is absolutely true as far as the Person of Jesus Christ constituting the full revelation of God. There is no other Person by whom the divine Being, Person and nature of God can be or has been revealed because the transcendent spirit being, Jesus Christ, is Jehovah God in His own Person. But I take exception to the description of Jesus as “the incarnate Son.”
For, the very idea that the Son is incarnate means that there must be a distinct spiritual entity in heaven called “The Son of God” that has taken on human flesh. Since this must be a spiritual entity, it cannot be the same entity as the flesh and bone (Luke 24:39) human entity, the Lord Jesus Christ (as referred to Paul’s letters, for example), who while He was with us referred to Himself as the Son of Man about 83 times in the four Gospels plus the Acts of the Apostles. This must mean that in the Godhead theology, this distinct spiritual entity is not the spiritual entity who has revealed Himself as Jehovah or “I AM” (Ex: 3:14). Packer makes it clear over and over in Concise Theology that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct Persons of the Godhead.They must therefore be distinct spiritual entities.
Now, I realize that Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to deduce that this distinct spiritual entity called “the Son of God” does exist. Here, for example, is a verse that many will point to as evidence for this: “ ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ ” (Matt 11:27, NIV 1984 version. All biblical quotes below are from this translation.). Is Jesus referring to Himself as a divine being here? Well, to answer that we must look at what else He says about “the Son?”
- “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ ” (John 5:19.)
Clearly “the Son” does not instigate any actions on His own nor can He, but only “what He sees the Father” doing. Many times the Persons of the Godhead are said to be coequal. The statement by Jesus just quoted is certainly NOT consistent with that characterization of the “members” of the Godhead.
- “ ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door … No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son , but only the Father. ’ ” (Mark 13:28-32, my emphasis.).
Jesus is speaking here of His return. According to this, “the Son” is not fully omniscient since He does not know the day or hour of this glorious event.
- “She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ [Jesus replied,] “ ‘You don’t know what you are asking, … to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’ ” (Matt 20:21 – 23 excerpts.)
Clearly “the incarnate Son” is not fully omnipotent, according to His own testimony because He does not have the authority in question, but only the Father (another denial of the co-equality of the “members” of the Godhead).
I simply don’t see how any of these statements are a consistent characterizations of an omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent God, also represented as a distinct spiritual entity called “the Son.”
Consider, however, another explanation. We know that when Jehovah God came to earth as the Son of Man, He placed limitations on that human man consistent with His humanity. For example, He got hungry, thirsty, tired, and could be tempted, whereas as He exists as a Transcendent Almighty Spirit, He experiences none of these things. So, it seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus here is talking as any human son might, given the limitations we all face as human beings. It seems reasonable that He is talking of Himself as a human man, rather than as a divine being.
Note also that the Lord Jesus Christ is, even now, God incarnate in human flesh. For example, He says of Himself:
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”(Matt 16:27-28.)
Clearly Jesus is referring to the coming time of judgment. He refers to Himself as the Son of Man to emphasize that He is still a human being; that He is still God incarnate.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt 19:28-30)
Clearly Jesus is referring to that glorious future when we will all be with Him. Referring to Himself as the Son of Man emphasizes that He will still be God incarnate at this time. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ will be God incarnate for all eternity.
Then again, Paul refers to Him in the present tense as “the Man, Jesus Christ” in 1 Tim 2:5 – 6 as follows: “ For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.” Clearly Jesus acts as mediator now in Heaven in subjection to His Father (John 5:19, quoted above). Clearly He is still a human being.
Finally Jesus testifies that as He exists right now in heaven, He has a flesh and bone body (Luke 24:39).
So if there is a distinction of person in Scripture between the Father (Jehovah) and the Son, it must be the distinction between the human person, the God incarnate Jesus, and His divine self, Jehovah God. I will write more about this in a future blog.
Here is another statement by Jesus that can logically be construed as indicating that Jesus, as He existed before the world began, was a distinct spiritual entity from the Almighty Spirit Jehovah. In His prayer in John 17, Jesus says: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:4-5.)
We can interpret this truth from two perspectives: an earthly perspective where we are looking up to heaven, and a heavenly perspective where we are looking from God’s throne down into creation. We have interpreted this passage from the perspective of earth, looking up into heaven. Since it seems to me that the oneness of God demands that there be only one Spiritual God entity in heaven, I’m wondering if we change our perspective on this statement we might see something consistent with this clear truth. To understand this concept, consider the following testimony of the Spirit:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still , and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! (Josh 10:12-14.)
From earth, looking up into the heavens, the sun did in fact stop moving through the sky. For well over a thousand years this event was interpreted to mean that the sun revolved around the earth. (Called the geocentric theory.) In fact Martin Luther used this very passage to justify the geocentric theory as official church doctrine. Anyone who suggested that this doctrine was not true was put out of the church; some were even murdered. But if you look at this event from God’ perspective, it was not the sun that stopped moving. It was the earth that stopped spinning. Since the truth is that the earth is not the center of the solar system, it is clear that the Holy Spirit did not intend to suggest that it was at the center in recording this passage. What seemed obvious from Scripture, that the son moved around the earth (making earth the center of the solar system) was not true. That did not make Scripture untrue; it made man’s perspective of what Scripture said untrue.
So, I think if somehow we can find a way to look at Jesus’s statement from heaven’s perspective we might find that it does not mean to say that before the creation of the world a separate and distinct spiritual Jesus existed in addition to the Almighty Transcendent Spirit that is God the Father. I’m thinking this perspective might have something to do with the distinction between the unknowable, incomprehensible transcendent being that is Jehovah God as He exists in an incomprehensible state outside of the timeline of creation, and His revealed Person within the timeline of creation. The distinction is between the knowable and unknowable (to any created being) aspects of God’s Being and Nature. Jesus, by His vary nature, is the revelation of God to man (as Packer asserts in the quoted passage above). The mystery that is Christ, then, must involve this relationship of God between the Himself as a transcendent Being outside of creation and His revealed self to creation.
I wish I could do better at resolving this. But my basis for raising these issues is that there can only be One God. This we all agree on. But what does this “oneness” mean? I don’t see how it can mean anything other than there is only one spiritual God entity in heaven. There is indeed another God entity in heaven: that is Jehovah’s incarnation as the Lord Jesus Christ, an entity who is a human being with flesh and bones. This is the true mystery: how can God exist as both man and God? As I said before, I will talk more about the human Jesus in a future blog.