Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Did He Know, and When Did He Know it, Part 2

So Erin had to go and suggest I actually bring scripture into the discussion. . .

First, though, let me respond to a couple comments left by Hisstoryun underneath that post.

"(I wonder what led you to your conclusion that Jesus was only a man. It is not biblical (as you put it) for scripture does not support the idea. It is noteworthy too that you offer no supporting scripture for your theory. On the contrary, scripture supports the opposite idea that Jesus is indeed God.)"

You misunderstand my point. If that's because of my lack of clarity, I apologize. I never meant to imply that Jesus only a man. Along with Paul in his letter to the Colossians, I believe that "in him the fullness of deity dwelled." I affirm the ancient teaching that Jesus was fully God, and fully human. I simply suggested that Jesus set aside his prerogative to access his divinity while he walked on earth. He never ceased being divine; he simply chose to fully embrace humanity for the 30-some years he walked on earth.

"If Jesus had somehow given up His role and rightful place as God, how then could He be the Savior of the world because as such he surely would have been a fallible sinner the same as you or me?"

I disagree. It was exactly because he gave up his role and rightful place, and remained the spotless Lamb, that he became the Savior of the World. Now, if you're understanding of the atonement is locked into a Penal Substitution Model, in which the Perfect Infinite God had to pay the Eternal Infinite Price for our sin, then you need the Infinite Jesus to die for you; in fact, you don't really need Jesus to become human. But if you start to lean toward a Recapitulation Theory, then it becomes extremely important that, in fact, he lived the perfect human life in all its fullness - a life not relying on his own powers, but a life grounded in a relationship with his Father, who was the source of strength and life.

I appreciate the work you put into your reply; obviously, you put much time and energy into it. Unfortunately, I think you're arguing against a position that I wasn't taking in the first place. Again - I'm not saying that Jesus was "just a man." I'm saying that, when God took on human form in Jesus, God embraced that humanity to the fullest. Jesus was God, but Jesus chose to lay aside the "special position and abilities" due God - not that he didn't have them; he just chose not to use them. In that way, he showed for the rest of us what True Life looks like - the way humanity was intended to be, living in perfect communion with our own heavenly father.

Okay, back to Erin.

I think, to begin with, it comes to a question of philosophy and interpretation. The scriptures teach that Jesus was God and man. They don't teach how that worked. They don't give us any schematics. They just show Jesus at work, suffering and hurting like a human, yet performing miracles and showing "special insight" that must be attributed to God's power.

Most of us start with the preconceived idea that Jesus was kind of Superman - he looked human alright, but he had all these special, non-human powers. We point toward the verses that seem to imply this - the miracles, the Words of Knowledge - as proof, all the while ignoring (or explaining away) any verses that would seem to indicate otherwise.

But the scriptures also teach a Jesus that is human. A Jesus who gets angry, a Jesus who gets tired and hungry. And there are places where it seems Jesus' truly is lacking in information. Such as at the feeding of the 5000. "How much food do we have?" Some will say "he's just testing them - he already knows the answer." But that's an assumption based on a preconceived idea; it's not what the text says. Same as when the woman who had bled 12 years touches his cloak, and he turns around "trying to find out who touched him." Again, some say "he knew, he was just asking for her benefit." But that's an assumption placed onto the text; it's not what the text actually says.

Finally, there's this verse in John 14: "The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

I think there is a huge insight into Jesus' life here. Phillip has just asked "show us the Father," and Jesus replies "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." He's talking about this interplay, this interconnectedness between himself and the Father, but it seems to me that he's saying that all he's taught and done he's done not by how own authority, but by the power of the Father working in and through him.

This also makes sense of Hebrews 4, where we are told "we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin." Now, if Jesus was operating in his own strength as God, then this is just a game - sure he was tempted, but he was God, so he couldn't sin. What use is that? But if Jesus was operating as a human, and lived and moved not in his own power but in the power he received out of his intimate relationship with God, then there is actually something here we can grab ahold of.

Think of it this way: Jesus the Divine comes and wanders around in all his divinity, smiting demons and raising the dead and speaking Words of Knowledge because he's God. It's nice to look at, but it's totally foreign to us and gives us nothing to emulate. In fact, we could never hope to live as Christ lived. . .so why try? He's like Superman.

Or think of it this way - Jesus, though God, lays aside the rights and privileges of Godhood in order to experience humanity in its fulness (a la Phillipians 2). Now, one could argue that, since he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, he was lacking in the sin nature we all possess. I could go for that. But as Jesus grew, as he walked upon the earth, he lived and moved and had his being not in his own strength, but in the strength that he derived from his intimacy with the Father. The miracles he performed were not out of his own authority, but because he walked so closely with the Father. What he knew, he knew not because he had access to heaven's data bank, but because his mind was in one accord with the Father, and the Father revealed these things to him.

Here's why I like option 2:
- It takes the incarnation seriously. Either Jesus was fully human, or he wasn't. To take seriously his humanity, he could not live into the fulness of his Diety for that time.
- it takes seriously the verses that speak of Jesus' lack of knowledge, and all the times he is portrayed as fully human, rather than trying to "explain them away."
- It gives us a stronger mandate for discipleship. If Jesus was able to accomplish his works not because he has God's Power, but because he walked so intimately with the Father, then we have a call to walk intimately with the Father. We have this model laid before us that drives us to the Father for strength, for power, for understanding. It teaches us of the importance of relying on the Father.

It teaches us, in fact, that should we choose to walk intimately with the Father, as Jesus did, then we are living as Christ lived (what we're called to do in the first place), and that there is strength and power for us there.

I know, it seems foreign, and almost a little heretical, but I think if you go back and read the stories, and see how much Jesus relied on his relationship with the Father, if you go back and look at the anointing of Jesus at his baptism, if you look at the texts that speak of Jesus emptying himself. . .I think it's there, if you have eyes to see it.


Erin said...

Thanks for responding to my comment. It's a lot to take in when you have been taught the same way your whole life. I think I will look into it some more for myself, but I found everything that you had to say very interesting. Sorry I went and asked for scripture! LOL! I know a blog is an opinion, but I did apreciate the clarification on the opinion. Loves

HisStoryUn said...

Dan – Perhaps I misunderstood your point. Or worse, I didn’t clearly articulate mine. The issue I have stems from the notion that Jesus could somehow suspend His God – ness and become something that He is not. To use an over used analogy: Water, Ice and Steam are each still H2O no matter how you slice it. Jesus is the Living water, God the Father solid as the ice and the Holy Spirit like the ghost of vapor. If you change the properties of H2O and suddenly have a different compound, then it can not be called water any more for it contains not the properties of its original essence.

I do believe as you said in part 2 “I'm saying that, when God took on human form in Jesus, God embraced that humanity to the fullest.” On this we agree. Further, I agree that “he showed for the rest of us what True Life looks like - the way humanity was intended to be, living in perfect communion with our own heavenly father.”

It may be a fine point, but I believe that Jesus being fully God and fully man while here on earth are not inconsistent with the example He set for His children. I take on faith that He was able to live constantly as both God and man because that is what I think is taught in scripture. I surely don’t understand it in its entire nuance, but I for one don’t think you can have one without the other.

As to Recapitulation Theory; it seems to me that the one aspect missing is the nature of all mankind from this idea. As we know from scripture, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It would not have been possible for a man to “remain the spotless Lamb” due to the sin nature of man. If Jesus were truly, wholly man, and had completely “set aside” His holiness, then one would have to conclude that he too was a sinner even if He lived in close communion, guided by the Father because it is the nature of mankind. As such, he could never claim the position of “spotless lamb of God”. If He were flawed by sin, then He would not have met the condition of God, as the pure and spotless propitiation for our sin.

As for Penal Substitution and not needing Jesus to become human: perhaps we would not, however, such was the plan of God for our salvation so the point is mute. Jesus’ life on earth, is as you said, meant to be an example for us as to how we ought to live while here on earth. This does not change the nature of Substitution Theology. Jesus did indeed pay the price set by God for our sins. Jesus did indeed substitute His death for ours. Had it not been thus we would all perish because of the price God says must be paid by sinners.

You say, “I simply suggested that Jesus set aside his prerogative to access his divinity while he walked on earth.” Maybe so, but I see no issue with Jesus being God also. The scriptures are rife with examples of Jesus divine nature. Plenty of corroborating evidence exists suggesting that Jesus “tapped into” His God – ness during His ministry. (By the way, Jesus’ anger at the money changers was righteous indignation and not a sin as it surely would have been for you or me. [Not that you implied He sinned.] It’s just that it doesn’t indicate that He was not still in touch with His God - ness). I see no reason to dismiss the miracles of Jesus as not coming directly through Him as the scriptures often indicate. Yes, He sometimes prayed to the Father as well. In so doing, you have rightly pointed out the lesson given to us all to be in constant communication with God. That in my humble opinion does not change the miraculous works He performed as God.

Also, if Jesus were so concerned about living only as a man, why did he proclaim Himself to be God while still on earth? If it were His intention that humanity envision Him as merely a man or prophet, then why would He ever declare Himself to be God?

Finally, the one thing that separates our Lord from all of the other prophets that have been or ever will be on the scene is the very fact that while here on earth in ministry, He is the only one to have ever claimed to be God of the universe. He is the only one who has made the claim to be able to save His people from their sin. This could only be a result of being fully God while walking among us. It is after all, more than just a claim. The evidence is clear.

Kim said...

andddddd, kim pleads the fifth...

Sean said...


Really thought provoking discussion. In thinking about this issue (of which, I generally agree with you) I think that if Jesus can set aside his omnipotence for thirty-odd years, why can't he set aside his omniscience?

If Jesus wanted to appear by Lazarus' side he could have (because he truly is God and can go where he wants to even forward or backward in time). But he chose to limit himself to a physical presence bound by the natural rules of the earth. Even Satan understood that he was playing by these rules when he referenced that angels would come and catch Jesus if he was falling off of a building. Jesus chose not to be Superman and fly... he limited himself away from his divine right and definitiion of one of the ways we define God.

It is not an unrealistic idea that God would also limit his knowledge while living as a man. You reference these points well in your post, so I won't be verbose.


HisStoryUn said...

Dan - I'm disappointed that you chose to end this before it was concluded. After 3 days I can only surmise that you think me a kook unworthy of the time to finish the discussion that you started.

Sean - Jesus could have done whatever He wished. But if God's word is worthy of believing then it must be taken in its entirety. Yes Jesus lived as a man with all of the limitations that come with that in terms of physical earth of course. But He also showed us that He was God too.
1. If God embraced humanity becoming a man like us, giving up His Godhood, for the purpose of teaching us how to live (according to this theology) then it stands to reason that He also must have had a sin nature like us. That would be the only true comparison for fallen man.
2. To be here without a sin nature means that He was not the same as you and me. Some will argue that the virgin birth and Immaculate Conception from the Holy Spirit made Him human without our sin nature. This is a possible explanation but it seems to ignore the rest of scripture, taking only the parts that comport with the particular theology.
3. There is no basis in scripture requiring a belief that Jesus was anything less than He said He was.
The passages that have the Son praying to the Father may be an example of how the triune God is in constant communication with each other part of the trinity but the Gospels are not really about the Holy Spirit or God the Father per se. They really are Jesus’ story so we are only given a narrative from His perspective. There is no inconsistency in believing that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. His example to us remains just as valid.

I'm done...

Chad said...

ok so i'm late to the game here, but i had a thought in support of the "recapitulation model" (?) that i think is worth sharing: assuming what you have affirmed about Jesus' humanity and his deity and then assuming that he did live by the power of his Father (i.e. he was the first/only human to achieve true communion with the Father) then obviously the great miracles he performed were by the power of God (which, i hope is not a contentious statement). that leads me to my thought which is: "if Jesus could do it and he was a human just like the rest of us, then we should be able to do it too." In fact, his disciples did (for lack of a better word) produce miracles and it even seems to me that Jesus becomes frustrated with his disciples for their lack of faith (and therefore impotence in the Spirit - see Matthew's version of Jesus walking on the water)