FOCUS: The eternal Christ -- Heb 1, Jn 1, Col 1, as promised in OT, as manifested in C1, as declared and taught in he NT; fulfilled the prophecies, served in love, confronts the powers of darkness, deception, hypocrisy etc and liberates, heals, dies for sins, rises, ascends, commissions. LORD! Dan 7:13 – 14, Isa 45:18 – 23, Phil 2:5 – 11, Col 1:15 – 20, Heb 1:1 – 14, the Son of God, the Shamrock principle of Patrick, complex unity and the scriptural basis for the triune view of God. Key objections to Jesus' Divine Sonship, and responses in brief: secularist skeptics, modernists, heterodox sects, Islamists, Gnostics, neopagans, pantheistic syncretists. The relevance of Jesus as Son of God, Saviour, and Risen Lord to the gospel and the Christian life.
The Eternal, promised/prophesied & sent Christ
Christ as Son of God & the Shamrock Triune Principle
Objections to Jesus as Son and to the Triune view of God, & brief responses
Christ in the gospel timeline
Jesus, Lord, Saviour, Judge & living the Christian life
FOR DISCUSSION AND ASSIGNMENTS
INTRODUCTION: The very name of our faith, Christianity -- originally a (probably somewhat mocking) nickname given to the early converts and disciples of Jesus in Antioch in Syria by their pagan neighbours -- speaks volumes.
1 Cor 15:1AND NOW let me remind you [since it seems to have escaped you], brethren, of the Gospel (the glad tidings of salvation) which I proclaimed to you, which you welcomed and accepted and upon which your faith rests, 2And by which you are saved, if you hold fast and keep firmly what I preached to you, unless you believed at first without effect and all for nothing.
3For I passed on to you first of all what I also had received, that Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for our sins in accordance with [what] the Scriptures [foretold], 4That He was buried, that He arose on the third day as the Scriptures foretold, 5And [also] that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. 6Then later He showed Himself to more than five hundred brethren at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, but some have fallen asleep [in death].
7Afterward He was seen by James, then by all the apostles (the special messengers), 8And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one prematurely and born dead [[a]no better than an unperfected fetus among living men] . . . [Amp]
Strange as it at first seems, yes, as the North Pole is due North of every other point on the Earth's surface. However, since we tend to think of the earth as it locally appears, more or less flat, it may at first seem that this cannot be -- it sounds absurd to our "common sense" perceptions. But, shift our point of view to see the earth as a three-dimensional globe and that which is strange soon can be seen to be really the case. So, let a picture of our globe now and forever stand as mute testimony to how what seems sensible (or nonsensical) to us at first glance and what is so in reality may strikingly diverge:
|The North Pole is due north of every point on Earth|
Isa 55: 1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. [ESV]
In Daniel 7 we read a pivotal prophecy:
Dan 7:9 “As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened . . . .
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed . . . .
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’[c][ESV]
Matt 2:57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council[h] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[i] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[d] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ [Cf. Ps 16:8 - 11]
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ [Cf. Ps 110, esp. v 1]
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”[ESV]
But, before we do so, let us pause to get an overview of the underlying course of events in the Synoptic Gospels, by watching the famous 1979 Jesus of Nazareth Film that is based on the text of the Gospel of Luke. As we do so, let us remind ourselves that Luke, here, was consciously writing history, and that well within the lifetime of eyewitnesses:
LK 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. [NIV '84]The Jesus Film, first clip, is here online. Embedded:
(NB: The full length video is here online.)
With the historical narrative in the back of our minds, let us now focus key theological themes that were first underscored in that same first generation of the Christian Faith, and which have been the bedrock of Christian theology ever since. These themes rest on the significance of the history recounted in the Gospels and on their significance in light of the OT prophecies of the Messiah.
(1) Rom 1: 1 Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all those . . . who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . . .
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[f] [ESV]
(2) Heb 1: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God's angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.1
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? . . . .
2: 1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.[ESV]
(3) Col 1:15[Now] He ["our Lord Jesus Christ", v. 1, "beloved Son [of God the Father]" vv.10 - 14] is the [a]exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation.
16For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.
17And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).(A)
18He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent].
19For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him [b]permanently.
20And God purposed that through ([c]by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled [d]back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross. [AMP]
(4) Jn 1:1IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word ([a]Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself.(A)
2He was present originally with God.
3All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being.
4In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.
5And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].
6There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.(B)
7This man came to witness, that he might testify of the Light, that all men might believe in it [adhere to it, trust it, and rely upon it] through him.
8He was not the Light himself, but came that he might bear witness regarding the Light.
9There it was--the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person.(C)
10He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him [did not know Him].
11He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own--His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him.
12But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name--(D) 13Who owe their birth neither to [c]bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!]
14And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.(E)
15John testified about Him and cried out, This was He of Whom I said, He Who comes after me has priority over me, for He was before me. [He takes rank above me, for He existed before I did. He has advanced before me, because He is my Chief.]
16For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.
17For while the Law was given through Moses, grace ([d]unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.(F)
18No man has ever seen God at any time; the only [e]unique Son, or [f]the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].[AMP]
(5) John 3: 3 Jesus answered [Nicodemus], “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you[f] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[g] 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[h]
16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” [ESV]
(6) John 5:19 . . . Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[e] does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. [ESV]
(7) John 14: 9Jesus replied, Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say then, Show us the Father?
10Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? What I am telling you I do not say on My own authority and of My own accord; but the Father Who lives continually in Me does the ([a]His) works (His own miracles, deeds of power). 11Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me; or else believe Me for the sake of the [very] works themselves. [If you cannot trust Me, at least let these works that I do in My Father's name convince you.]
12I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father.
13And I will do [I Myself will grant] whatever you ask in My Name [as [b]presenting all that I AM], so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son. 14[Yes] I will grant [I Myself will do for you] whatever you shall ask in My Name [as [c]presenting all that I AM].
15If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.
16And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter [--> NB: άλλον παράκλητον, allon parakleton, another comforter of the same nature, as it is allos not heteros] (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever-- 17The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you.
18I will not leave you as orphans [comfortless, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, helpless]; I will come [back] to you.
19Just a little while now, and the world will not see Me any more, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20At that time [when that day comes] you will know [for yourselves] that I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.
21The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.] [AMP]
(8) Eph 2:1 . . . you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b]
4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[ESV]
(9) 1 John 5:7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.[ESV]
(10) Phil 2:5Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] 6Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [[a]possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not [b]think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped [c]or retained, 7But stripped Himself [of all privileges and [d]rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
8And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!
9Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has [e]freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,
10That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee [f]should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11And every tongue [[g]frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [AMP]
1 --> There is but one God, the righteous Creator who made the heavens and earth, with the intent that the earth should be inhabited. This same God is Lord and Saviour, before whom every knee must bow. He has declared the end from the beginning.
2 --> Indeed, God taunts those who would propose imaginary gods and powers:Isa 41:21 Set forth your case, says the LORD;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
22 Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
23 Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.[j]
24 Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.3 --> This One God is not a simple unity, e.g. the key word for One in the Shema -- the great creedal confession and prayer of the OT, echad, denotes complex, not simple unity (e.g. it is even used of the unity of a bunch of grapes):Deut 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one [ --> אֶחָד 'echad (ekh-awd') adj. 1. (properly) united, i.e. one] LORD [KJV]4 --> In that context, we find the Eternal Logos, who is the Son of God and Son of Man, who is co-Creator and co-Sustainer, "the radiance [out-raying] of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being" [Heb 1:3 NIV 84], who sustains all things by his powerful word, and in whom all things thus cohere in a unified cosmos.5 --> It is he who in humble obedience to the Father of Lights, struck a tent in human flesh, emptying himself to be our Saviour, even through willingly offering himself as innocent Lamb and substitute on the Cross.
6 --> He is risen from the dead, with over five hundred witnesses, and is the ascended Lord who sits at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven, the Son of Man who is Judge of the living and the dead att he end of days, who shall reign forever in his kingdom.7 --> Having ascended, he has sent forth his Spirit to those who are his, the Spirit who is another comforter of the same kind as he. The Spirit who is so much so that, as Peter remarked in Ac 5: 3 -4, to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. (Cf Ac 5:1 - 11.)
8 --> This same Spirit lives in us, so that Paul commented in Rom 8:Rom 8:5 . . . those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. [ESV]9 --> Thus, the possibility of being saved, sealed in God and sanctified holy, leading to a victorious walk of discipleship and to effective prayer is inextricably tied to the triune nature of God and to our repentant trust in God the Father and the Son; through the stirrings of the Spirit who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement, leading us to be born again, born from above so that we may know the only true God and Jesus our redeemer whom He sent.
10 --> And, at the end of days, the Son of Man shall come again, putting down the willfully rebellious kingdoms of man and establishing his eternal kingdom. At that time, those who sleep in the dust shall rise, and those who are alive shall likewise stand before the Son, in eternal judgement. Judgement, on the terms of what we have done with the light we have had from our Creator and Lord.
- I believe in one God the Father Almighty,
- Maker of heaven and earth,
- And of all things visible and invisible:
- And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
- Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
- God of God, Light of Light,
- Very God of very God,
- Begotten, not made,
- Being of one substance with the Father,
- By whom all things were made;
- Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
- And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
- And was made man,
- And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
- He suffered and was buried,
- And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
- And ascended into heaven,
- And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
- And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
- Whose kingdom shall have no end.
- And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
- The Lord and giver of life,
- Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
- Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
- Who spake by the Prophets.
- And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
- I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
- And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
- And the life of the world to come.
A classic, ancient, representation of this bedrock principle of the Christian faith is the ICHTHUS -- fish -- creedal diagram and acrostic, as we may see from the following graffiti on a stone in Ephesus:
|The Significance of the Ichthus, the Fish symbol, The Cross and the Wheel (HT: Plymouth COC)|
I -- Iota -- Iesous -- Jesus
CH -- Chi -- Christos -- Christ (The Anointed, i.e. Messiah)
TH -- Theta -- Theos -- God
U -- Upsilon -- 'Uios -- Son of
S -- Sigma -- Soter -- Saviour
Is 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Is 9:1b . . . in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined . . .
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Dan 7: 9 “As I looked,We see here a prophesied Son of Man who comes in glory and sits at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, a virgin-born infant of promise as a sign, and one who is to be exalted as Supreme Judge and Ruler of an eternal Kingdom. No wonder, these have always been central to the Christian understanding of Jesus the Christ.
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened . . . .
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
That is why, for those with opportunity to hear that name and know its significance, the recorded witness of Jesus and the apostles is plain:
Jn 14: 6Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. [AMP]Ac 4: 10Let it be known and understood by all of you, and by the whole house of Israel, that in the name and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, [but] Whom God raised from the dead, in Him and by means of Him this man [healed at the Gate Beautiful of the Temple in Jerusalem] is standing here before you well and sound in body. 11This [Jesus] is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner [the Cornerstone].
12And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved. [AMP]
Rom 1: 3[The Gospel] regarding His Son, Who as to the flesh (His human nature) was descended from David, 4And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness was openly [a]designated the Son of God in power [in a striking, triumphant and miraculous manner] by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord (the Messiah, the Anointed One) . . . .
16For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God's power working unto salvation [for deliverance from eternal death] to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, 17For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith. [AMP]
Heb 1:1IN MANY separate revelations [[a]each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets, 2[But] in [b]the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order].
3He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the [c]out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high, 4[Taking a place and rank by which] He Himself became as much superior to angels as the glorious Name (title) which He has inherited is different from and more excellent than theirs. [AMP]
1 Jn 5: 1EVERYONE WHO believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact) that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) is a born-again child of God; and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him (His offspring) . . . . 11. . . God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life.
13I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in [c]the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, [d]yes, eternal life.
In short, the Ichthus principle is part and parcel of the gospel. To be saved in response to the Gospel, we must penitently trust in and surrender to Jesus the crucified and risen Son of God, Saviour and Lord, who is the out-raying of the Father's glory, the exact representation of his being, who died for our sins in our place that we may have life for that look to the cross that repents, surrenders and trusts God based on his promises in his Word.
The scriptural testimony could not be more explicit.
And so, in a day and age that so often despises the testimony of the Word of God, this, too, is a sobering warning as to what we must do to be saved. Let us see this through the example of the gaoler in Philippi, who -- fearing that the prisoners had fled when a midnight earthquake broke the chains and set the prisoners free, so his life was forfeit -- had been about to "fall on his sword" rather than be shamefully and publicly put to death. But the apostles cried out to him, do yourself no harm for we are all here:
Ac 16: 29Then [the jailer] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling and terrified he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30And he brought them out [of the dungeon] and said, Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved?
31And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [[d]give yourself up to Him, [e] take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be saved, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well . . . [AMP]
In turn, as we respond to the One who came in love, died for our sins and rose triumphant over sin and death, we receive the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, who empowers us in life, love, service and witness. Thus, as Matt 28:18 - 20 instructs, we are baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit: the one and the many conjoined, reflecting the profoundly trinitarian roots of the whole concept and course of salvation.
This may be illustrated by reminding ourselves of the picture of the shamrock, joined to the Ichthus symbol and leading to a decorated triquetra and the classic Shield of Faith diagram from Unit 3:
That is, it must be revealed, rather than discovered by human insight and thought [cf.1 Cor 1:17 - 25!]; which is exactly what Christians have always claimed.
Unsurprisingly, there are many objections that have been raised across the centuries and today, so it is wise to now pause and address:
That is why it is so important to begin from the warrant for Christ, "shown to be Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead." And, then on the strength of those scriptures that have been authenticated through fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah and Lamb of God slain and risen as Lord, we can seek a coherent understanding of the Godhead. As as we have seen, the Shamrock principle provides as good a framing as any.
In that context, we may then answer (in brief) a cluster of typical objections:
OBJ 1: The Trinity is logically incoherent and nonsensical, of the order of 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.
ANS 1: As the Shamrock principle highlights, unity may be complex, and no incoherence occurs if the oneness and the three-ness involved refer to distinct facets or aspects of a unity, as they do here. The Scutum Fidei we have already seen depicts this in a traditional theological diagram, that in the medieval period was actually held to be the heraldic Arms of the Triune God:
|The Scutum Fide dates to C13 and by C15 was seen as the heraldic Arms of God,|
being actually used in visual representations of spiritual warfare per Eph 6
OBJ 2: How could God be One and yet three distinct persons?
ANS 2: How could matter at microscopic level -- e.g. light and electrons -- be both particles [like tiny cricket balls] AND waves [like those headed for a beach], depending on how one interacts with it? We may not fully understand how these things can be about electrons and photons, etc, but we have good reason to accept them as so, hence the whimsical term: wavicle. Similarly, if we have good reason, per the resurrection in fulfillment of prophecy to accept the NT teachings, then even if we do not fully understand, we can see enough to know that this is not nonsense and is not the sort of thing we would make up. Why should we be surprised to learn that God is beyond our full ability to comprehend?
OBJ 3: How could God be the Creator of the cosmos and yet have a mother, brothers, and sisters? Did God demean himself and commit fornication with Mary?
ANS 3: We must not confuse two different understandings of God, simple vs complex unity. Once we can see that God may be Triune, that God the Son should be miraculously incarnate as a virgin-born human child (no act of sexual intercourse was involved . . . ) and then grow up as a man among men, is perhaps an astonishing act of willing humbling of oneself in love, to bring redemption to those who don't deserve it (and too often reject or dismiss it), but it is not absurd. Not for the God who as to his essential nature is Love Himself.
OBJ 4: The Doctrine of the Trinity was cooked up by Constantine and the Council of Nicea, it has no genuine roots in original Christianity. The Gospels that would tell us better were ordered burned, but a few survived and so we know that traditional Christianity is a Constantine cook-up.
ANS 4: On the contrary, as we have seen above, the Nicene Creed is a faithful summary of the C1 NT. It would also be astonishing that the same church and leaders who stood the fire and sword of Diocletian and others, would now suddenly cave to the notions of a new Emperor in 325 AD, or his heirs over the next fifty years to the point where the creed was re-affirmed and expanded in 381 AD; to make sure that various distortions that had been debated over the intervening generation were rebutted. It is the Gnostic documents that are being trumpeted on Cable TV or in speculative books and movies etc. that are demonstrably from C2 - 4, and present a syncretism of the deeply hebraic vision of the C1 NT with then current C2 - 4 Hellenistic ideas tracing to vulgarised Platonic thought, mysticism, magic, etc. Besides, e.g. The Gospel of Thomas cites Diatessaron's harmony of the four Gospels, which was made c 170. Those who have allowed themselves to be misled by Dan Brown's "Fact" declaration at the beginning of his novel, the Da Vinci Code, or the like, are being naive, or are dealing in wishful, poorly researched thinking.
OBJ 5: Isn't the trinity just a thinly disguised pagan doctrine improperly imposed on the true insight that there is only one God?
ANS 5: Pagans simply did not teach the doctrine of a triune all-Holy Living God, Father, Son and Spirit, co-eternal, co-equal, omnipotent and the same essential nature, the God who is Lord, Creator, Goodness Himself, Love Himself, and Reason Himself. Nor, did it teach that God the Son, fulfilling the prophecies of Messiah, would come among us as virgin-born Saviour, dying and rising in fulfillment of the Hebrew prophetic Scriptures, and coming again as our Lord and Judge in the Last Day. Polytheism (as we saw in Unit 3 above) taught myths of many gods and goddesses, which in many cases were more or less magic-working, scandalously immoral and irresponsible super-men projected into the sky or to natural objects and phenomena of various kinds. In direct contrast -- as is tabulated here and as can be seen above -- we can reasonably and responsibly derive from the Bible text precisely the understanding of God that is found in the creeds. Indeed, we can responsibly argue that that is the understanding that is required by the cumulative witness of the texts.
OBJ 6: But, the words "trinity" and "triune" do not appear even once in the Bible, and 1 John 5:7 - 8 is a verse that does not belong in the Bible.
ANS 6: Does the word "monotheism" appear in the text of the Bible? Not at all. Does that therefore mean that the Bible does not teach that there is but one true and ever-living God? Obviously not. In short, the argument is a red herring distractor from the real issue: what is the cumulative witness of the Scriptures, responsibly understood, as to the nature of God? And, while the so-called Comma Johanneum in 1 Jn 5:7b - 8a seems to be a marginal note (perhaps dating to the C3 - 4) that was somehow copied into the main text of the Vulgate (some time in the middle ages), that does not mean that what it says -- "there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth . . . " [KJV] -- is false; nor, does it mean that the NT does not ground the triune understanding of God. More modern translations, once the history of the text was traced, therefore exclude the remarks. Moreover, when the triune understanding of God was formulated in the creeds, this was based on the major texts such as are cited above, i.e. the triune view of God has no need for the unfortunately incorporated marginal note. As well, we should note the way that key passages often speak jointly and tellingly of the Father, Son and Spirit, e.g.:
- Matt. 3:16-17, "And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." [NASB]
- Matt. 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," Note that there is one name and three persons." [NASB]
- 2 Cor. 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."[NASB]
OBJ 7: But, three persons cannot be one person; that's like saying 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. Why do Christians insist on turning prophets sent by God into partners to set alongside God as though they were equal to God? Is that not gross disrespect for God, idolatry and paganism?
ANS 7: This objection pivots on misunderstandings. The triune understanding -- as defined in the key historic creeds such as the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed in light of responsible study of the Scriptures -- is NOT asserting that there are three persons who are somehow just one person, nor that there are three gods, nor that prophets have been set up to be partners with the one true God, etc. Indeed, the latter creed -- spelling it out, step by step, after decades of back and forth debates that brought out the points most apt to be confused -- in part reads:
". . . the catholic [i.e. universal Christian] faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal . . . The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated . . . The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal . . . So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three lords, but one Lord. For as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge each Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are also forbidden by the catholic religion to say that there are three gods or three lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding . . . "
That is, the scripturally rooted, historic Christian understanding is that there is but one God, who is manifest in three co-equal, co-eternal, uncreated persons, who are not three gods, nor somehow just one person. Similarly, we understand that Jesus -- God, the only begotten and eternal Son -- humbled himself in loving concern and was incarnate among us at a particular place and time in a particular family, in order to redeem us, thus partaking of full humanity as well as being God in essential nature. Then, in willing submission to his Father, he drew into himself the full depth of the venom of sin, tasting the dregs of death for us; giving us eternal life in exchange and crushing the head of the Serpent. Then he seized the keys of death and of Hades, rising as triumphant Lord. This is not at all to be equated with trying to mistakenly turn a hero or a prophet or even an angel into a god. That is a gross, ignorant or irresponsible and even venomous misunderstanding. One may disagree with it, but in so disagreeing s/he is responsible to correctly acknowledge what Christians believe today and historically have believed, on what basis.
So, let us instead again look at the Scutum Fidei (an apt visual summary that brings together some pretty hard to understand text in one powerful diagram), noting that -- hard as it may be to understand -- the proper sense in which the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God is such that we must be fully able to talk of God, the Father, and of God, the Son and of God, the Spirit, while distinguishing Father, Son and Spirit as persons:
|The Shield of Faith, summarising the creedal, Biblically based triune|
understanding of God in a diagram tracing to C12
OBJ 8: Jesus cannot be the eternal God because he was born at a given time, did not know all things, slept, grew in wisdom, said the Father is greater than I, etc. He slept, ate, thirsted, drank, and even died. How could an unchanging, eternal God be like that?
ANS 8: This pivots on overlooking a key aspect of the incarnation. Jesus was not half-god, half-man, a demigod or something like that. He was fully God, incarnate as fully man. As a man, he could be born into a family, grow up, eat, drink, sleep etc., and even die. But also, as he was a united person, his death had an eternal, and divine significance: he died as our sinless Saviour and substitute who tasted death for all of us, so that we may have the opportunity to receive eternal life from him. Slick, at CARM, has a useful summary:
This type of statement is perhaps the most commonly raised attack. Unfortunately, it fails to take into consideration the Hypostatic Union which states that Jesus had two natures: divine and human. As a man, Jesus cooperated with the limitations of His humanity, was made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9), talked about position, and was under the Law (Gal. 4:4), signifying Him being under legal obligations. Therefore, Jesus would sleep, grow in wisdom, and say the Father was greater than He. But, these do not negate that Jesus was divine since they reference His humanity and not His divinity.
There are other verses which reflect His divinity, such as when He said, "Before Abraham was, I AM," (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). He was called God by God in Heb. 1:8, "But of the Son He says,'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,'" and John 1:1,14 says that He is "...the Word was God...and became flesh..." This means that Jesus is both divine and human and as a man he would grow, sleep, and learn. It means that Jesus had a human nature, not that the had no divine nature . . . .
Jesus died. But, we know that God cannot die. So, if the divine nature did not die, how can it be said that Jesus' sacrifice was divine in nature? The answer is that the attributes of divinity, as well as humanity, were ascribed to the person Jesus. Therefore, since the person of Jesus died, His death was of infinite value because the properties of divinity were ascribed to the person in His death. This is called the Communicatio Idiomatum.
OBJ 9: Paul distorted the original teachings of Jesus and created a new Christianity -- which should be called "Paulianity" instead. As a part of that distortion, he invented the doctrine of Jesus as Son of God.
ANS 9: And the C1 historical evidence for such a distortion is? Ans: nil. In fact, from the record in Acts and elsewhere, Paul persecuted the early Christians precisely becaue they were teaching that Jesus was the promised Messiah and end of days Son of Man of Daniel 7:9 - 14 who would sit at the Right Hand of God, and would be given Authority as Judge and ruler of the eternal Kingdom of God. It is noteworthy, therefore, that at the trial, the first Christian martyr, Stephen:
Ac 7:55 . . . [Stephen,] full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.This is of course exactly the claim that had led the High Priest to tear his robes in declaration of blasphemy and led the controlling faction of the Sanhedrin to conclude that Jesus was thus worthy of death. The resurrection, therefore -- just as Paul asserts in Rom 1:1 - 5 -- is thus a direct Divine response to that accusation, a vindication of Jesus' claim to be the Son of Man.
But, there is more.
It is the ascended Christ who arrests Paul on the road to Damascus in Ac 9, and who tutors him in Arabia for three years. Then, when Paul had returned from his first Missionary Journey, a challenge was made to how he did not compel Gentiles to become Jews in order to become Christians. So, in Ac 15, the assembled apostles and elders in the First Jerusalem Council did not rebuke Paul for distorting the message of Jesus, but received, approved and commended him.
Going further back, when we look in Mark 2:1 - 12, we see where Jesus claims a Divine prerogative, the power to forgive sins, and backs it up by healing the paralytic man who had been let down through the roof. Among many other things, such as declaring in Jn "before Abraham was, I AM."
Then, as both Peter and Paul faced martyrdom in Rome in the 60's, Peter's final epistle, 2 Peter 3:16, speaks of Paul's writings as being subject to being wrenched by the unstable and unlearned, just as is so with "the other Scriptures."
In short, the "Paulianity" claim is little more than wishfully dismissive thinking.
OBJ 10: The leading Christian Theologians themselves tell us -- including in bestsellers! -- that we need not listen to fundamentalist, Bible-thumping claptrap and proof texts. The Bible as we have it is not trustworthy, or a serious source of knowledge about God, much less the absurd, incomprehensible doctrine of a Trinity. The only sensible approach is to glean from the wreckage what reasonable insisghts and advice we can, then dismiss the rest as outdated anti-scientific, unreliable supernaturalistic myths and speculation.
ANS 10: This objection turns on an indirect attack against the scriptures and the associated Christian worldview. The main response is thus to point to the historic foundations of the Christian faith, and to the worldview foundations of same. However, in summary, there is no good reason (dismissive prejudices and anti-supernaturalistic question-begging do not count) to dismiss the basic accuracy of the NT as history, or to brush aside the fact of predictive prophecy, especially in Isa 52:13 - 53:12. On the strength of that, we have good grounds to take the Scriptures and their teachings seriously, as well as the testimony and experience of the millions of Christians over the centuries who have met God for themselves in the face of Christ, through trusting those same Scriptures.
As for the modernist theologians, perhaps Eta Linnemann -- a former Bultmannian who discarded her own publications in the rubbish on coming to actually meet and be transformed by Jesus -- has most directly set the record straight:
Theology as it is taught in universities all over the world . . . is based on the historical-critical method . . . . [which] is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say . . . It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics and ethics . . . .
Research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (“as if there were no God”). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start . . . Statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories . . . .
Since other religions have their scriptures, one cannot assume the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them . . . . It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s word are not identical . . . the New Testament is pitted against the Old Testament, assuming that the God of the New Testament is different from that of the Old, since Jesus is said to have introduced a new concept of God . . . .
Since the inspiration of Scripture is not accepted, neither can it be assumed that the individual books of Scripture complement each other. Using this procedure one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations . . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creation of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance.
OBJ 11:"Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with him; but He forgiveth anything, else to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed." With: "Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not "Trinity": desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son . . . " [Quran, An Nisa, Surah 4:48 & 171, Yousuf Ali]. And also: "Allah will say "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, `worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah"? He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden." [Q, 5:116]
For historical-critical theology, critical reason decides what is reality in the Bible and what cannot be reality; and this decision is made on the basis of the everyday experience accessible to every person [i.e. the miraculous aspect of Scripture, and modern reports of miracles -- regardless of claimed attestation -- are dismissed as essentially impossible to verify and/or as merely “popular religious drivel”] . . . .
Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns. [Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), pp. 83 – 88 as excerpted. Emphases in original; parenthetical notes in square brackets.]
ANS 11: This is clearly predicated on a misunderstanding of the Trinity. Jesus is not the biological son of God, but the Eternal Son who was incarnate by a miracle. he is not to be worshipped as a god, but acknowledged as the Living Lord, risen from the dead by God's power, in vindication of that Sonship. And, while Mary is indeed a fellow human being who in the Magnificat speaks of God as her Saviour, there simply is no orthodox Christian Creed that has ever held that she is to be regarded as a god[dess] alongside the Creator of all Worlds. It is unfortunate that there has been in some quarters an excessive reverence for her, which does in some cases look far too close to idolatry to be proper, but that error has been staunchly corrected for many hundreds of years. Those who persist in such activities, should reflect soberly on the consequences, including as was just cited.
OBJ 12: ". . . they uttered against Mary a grave false charge. (156) That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.― (157) Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (158)." [Q, 4:156 - 158.]
ANS 12: This is of course a direct denial of the consensus historical record of C1, across the Christians, Jews and Romans, that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified, and died as a consequence of being so executed. The onward implication, of course is that the core substance of the gospel in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 -- recorded c 55 AD -- is denied and dismissed, and that on the blanket claim that the reciter of the Quran was a prophet of God. It is enough to contrast the recorded testimony of the over 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom were alive when the record was made:
So, in sum, it is indeed possible to object to and even dismiss the Christian teaching of the triune God, but it is not possible to responsibly dismiss this as not being historically rooted in the C1 Christian witness, testimony, life, worship, thought and experience.1 Cor 15: 3 . . . I [Paul] delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [ESV]
And, in particular, as Paul records from an early Creedal hymn, we are counselled:
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
to the point of death,
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
In the preliminary remarks for this course, we saw how:
. . . as Paul pointed out in 1 Cor 15:3, the gospel is that which is "of first importance" in Christian thought, life and service.We can therefore see -- against the backdrop of the general Bible timeline -- a gospel timeline that highlights the work of the promised Messiah:
That gospel, from 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 and other key texts, may be summarised:1--> Jesus of Nazareth -- The Only Begotten (Unique) Son of God -- fulfilling the Old Testament [OT] prophecies about God's Anointed One [i.e. the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek)], came to us in love; as Prophet, Priest, Lamb, and King.
2 --> Fulfilling the OT Scriptures, he died for our sins, was buried, and rose again as Lord and triumphant Saviour.
3 --> He commissioned the church to bear witness of this good news [= gospel] to the world and to call the peoples of all nations to:
- repentance [= metanoia, i.e. God-given penitent transformation of heart and mind (cf. Isa 55:1 - 13)],
- forgiveness of sins,
- trust in God based on his Word [i.e. faith (cf. Rom 4:4 - 5 & Heb 11:1 & 6)],
- promised covenantal blessings from God,
- life-transforming discipleship and
- loving, fruitful service.4 --> This, until he comes again as Lord and Judge to complete history and break the power of evil forever.
i: Creation -->
ii: Fall -->
iii: Promise of Redemption -->
iv: Raising up of foundational patriarchs and prophets [esp. Noah, Abraham, Moses] -->
v: Covenants of rescue and preparation, especially through Moses in the face of the enslavement in Egypt -->
vi: Establishment of a covenantal nation under God, Israel, perhaps, c. 1446 BC -->
vii: Raising up of accredited prophets among the covenant people, who make Messianic prophecies, e.g. David c. 1,000 BC, Isaiah c. 700+ BC [cf discussion of many of these prophecies here] -->
viii: Israel's cycles of covenant, apostasy and decline, judgement, exile and return -->
ix: Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy, c. 530 BC, and the history to c. 7 - 4 BC -->
x: The Annunciation to Mary, c. 7 - 4 BC, the virginal conception of Messiah by supernatural power of the Holy Spirit -->
xi: The call of witness, worship and prophecy to the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna when the Messiah was born of the virgin, as prophesied in Isaiah (cf. c. 200 BC Septuagint translation -- parthenos [= virgin] -- to see that this was how the key term almah was understood) -->
xiii: The demonic attempt, through Herod, c. 5 - 4 BC, to crush the rise of Messiah, viewed as a threat to his dynasty -->
xiv: Flight to Egypt, death of Herod, return to Galilee, c 5 - 3 BC (NB: telescoped by Luke) -->
xv: John the forerunner, c 26 - 27 AD/ 28 - 29 AD [depending on whether you accept a 30 or a 33 AD date for the crucifixion] -->
xvi: The baptism and descent of the Spirit of God on Messiah, with the heavenly announcement of his status as approved Son -->
xvii: Messiah's anointed 3-year ministry in Israel of announcing God's Good News [i.e. the Gospel], c. 27 - 30/30 - 33 AD: teaching, calling to repentance, faith and discipleship, healing and deliverance, creating a messianic remnant movement -->
xviii: Rise of objections, opposition and persecution, especially at the hands of the corrupt religious establishment -->
xix: Climactic visit to Jerusalem, [second?] cleansing of the temple and confrontation with Gentile and Jewish power classes [30/33 AD] -->
xx: Rejection of Messiah by the power classes, attempted (but failed) public discrediting by debates, behind the scenes power plays, purchased betrayal, capture and kangaroo court trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate -->
xxi: Crucifixion (of a known, declared innocent man), death, burial of Messiah in a borrowed rich man's tomb, 30/33 AD -->
xxii: Unexpected (though prophesied) resurrection, witnesses, further teaching, 30/33 AD -->
xxiii: Commissioning of the Church to carry the gospel and its call to repentance, discipleship and reformation to the world -->
xxiv: Promise of the poured out, empowering and indwelling, transforming Spirit, the Comforter -->
xxv: Ascension, with promise to return as Lord and Judge -->
xxvi: Descent of the promised Spirit in power at Pentecost, first Christian proclamation by Peter, birth of the Church in Jerusalem through the first 3,000 converts -->
xxvii: Resulting life of the witnessing, disciple-building church in the community. Acts 2 sums this up through Peter's sermon and the aftermath:
Ac 2:29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says [i.e. from Ps 110: 1],
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added [i.e. to the church] that day about three thousand souls.42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe4 came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [ESV] -->
xxviii: Carrying the gospel forth to the world under the Commission, in the Spirit's power, and in accordance with the above exampleC1 - C21 to date. Let us therefore note the "standard" for the life of the church in the community as outlined by the apostle Paul, in Titus 2:11 - 14:
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. [ESV] -->
xxix: Impending Return of the Messiah, in the context of the culmination of the global witness of the gospel in the teeth of the demonically inspired resistance to its good news. Jesus, in Matt 24, is quite direct:
Mt 24: 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.
5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away1 and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come . . . .
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,2 but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man . . . 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. [ESV] -->
xxx: Future Return, resurrection of the dead, eternal judgement, culmination of history.Clearly, our locus on this timeline, is xxvii to xxix.
We are therefore called to be faithful to the Faith entrusted once for all to the saints, to walk in repentant faith and ever growing purity of life, service and doctrine in the Spirit, through the church in the world. And, we must be resolutely steadfast in the face of ever-mounting waves of chaos and demonically inspired deception and opposition.
This calls for a focus on discipleship under our Lord and Saviour:
Paul, writing to the Colossians, lays out our challenge of discipleship under our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God and God the Son, Jesus:
Col 1:9 . . . from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He [i.e. the Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven . . . [ESV]So soon as we recognise Who Jesus is, our obligation of penitent surrender and grateful acceptance of forgiveness are patent. From this, with all power by his poured out Spirit, we are to walk worthy of the holy vocation of discipleship to which we have been called, growing in fruitfulness and in the personal, relational knowledge of God. (For, knowing God -- in living relationship -- is a distinct step beyond simply knowing about God!)
Consequently, we are to live in a completely new manner of life, as Paul then laid out in ch 3:
Col 3: 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:2 sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [ESV]The closing words on receiving, teaching and living by the Word of Christ -- which encompasses all the scriptures, OT and NT, with a particular emphasis on Jesus' teachings to his disciples -- bring to focus Paul's closing counsels to Timothy on that same subject:
2 Tim2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,2 a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth . . . .
3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [ --> i.e. the Holy Scriptures], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. [ESV]The challenge is plain, and our duty under God is even plainer. Sadly, so is how often we fail to live up to that calling.
But, we serve the good God, who is ever so gracious: