Philosophy

Don’t Be Naive: or, “judge a righteous judgment”

foolsdance“Thou shalt judge . . . . a righteous judgment”

Rom 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

διχοστασίας      divisions
σκάνδαλα          obstacles
χρηστολογίας    smooth talk
εὐλογίας           flattery
ἐξαπατῶσιν       deceive
ἀκάκων             naïve

Warnings against those who use smooth talk (rhetoric) and false logic to bring dissensions and digressions from the truth abound in scripture. For those who claim that we “must not judge” things (what others say, believe, or do), we see in this passage a strong exhortation to “keep your eye” on things contrary to the teaching you have learned. More than that, we are to turn away from them! We often think of this perhaps just in terms of smooth talking salesmen, or some such, but in this case we can understand this as anyone who persuasively in words, print, or other means presents ideas that are not true (true: in accordance with Scripture) so that we might believe in them. Many terrible ideas are being published in beautiful books and beautiful words, and many a hip preacher and teacher can get the crowds shouting on their feet for ideas that will in the end bring down the house (being built on sand). Oftentimes, the ideas will seem a bit novel, but not so apparently diverting from orthodoxy that they are obviously departing from the truth. The seriousness of falling prey to such subtly false rhetoric is a matter of disobedience or obedience to Christ. It is in this sense a matter of life and death, the necessity of having biblical discernment and assessment of people’s logic (thinking/reasonings) and their rhetoric in communicating. This necessity of discerning flattery and deceptions of many kinds requires true wisdom from God, to have skillful discernment and assessment, so that we can clearly distinguish (judge) truth from falsehood, righteousness from unrighteousness, good from evil, etc. Naïve, fools listen to the songs of folly and foolishness, dancing their tune, and this is the epitome of unreason and irrationality. Logic and rhetoric therefore have as their primary concerns the very Truth: what is true to reality not imaginations, what is right, and to what is true to the character of God and all who represent him. We would be wise to listen to the words of wisdom here in Paul, and thus walking with the wise (Prov 13:20) we might become “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16).

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The metaphysics of meaning, part II: theology, the disappearance of definitions, and Rob Bell on blasphemy

Why Words Mean: why ducks do not bark and dogs do not quack.

For pdf, The metaphysics of meaning part II by S.Hague

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Must we mean what we say and define what we mean when we say?
Must we define what we mean when we say so that we say what we mean?

š›1. Theological language means something

“Language determines the realities we attend to.”[1]

Since so much of our daily language, not just that of the theologians, conveys important theological and philosophical assumptions and concepts in profoundly obvious and oftentimes not-so-obvious ways, it could be proposed that the term “theological language” could apply to much of our human language. Though that could be the subject of an entire essay, that is not my primary focus here. My concern is that if it be true that our language contains profoundly vital information for our lives at all levels, how important is it that we understand the definitions and implications of our terms used? Does it really matter in any very serious sense how we define our terms and the words we choose to communicate? More to the point, does it matter with regard to our expressions of faith and concepts about it? After all, is it not more important that people see our heart, our compassion and sincerity, not so much how we define and use our terms? After all, isn’t wrangling over words a sin? The same could be asked about historical accuracy in our discourse: is it all that important we discuss the past in terms and definitions that are in agreement with the facts, since it could be said that historical facts are rather difficult to ascertain with certainty? Isn’t it more important to just get the gist, or spirit, of the events and characters and choices, and not worry about the details? Depending on how we answer such questions, we must also consider whether legal documents like deeds and mortgages and contracts and constitutions depend on accuracy of language and historical fact? Do government, the economy, the scientific enterprise, architecture and art, medicine, and the diagnosis of illness in heart, mind, and body, depend on accuracy in definition of terms and agreement regarding the use of each distinct discipline of discourse? Does not even the weather broadcaster communicate life and death information that depends upon factuality and truthfulness?

Indeed, it could be argued that our very existence depends upon our God-given ability and task to name things,[2] and with accurate consistency. If this task of naming (taxonomy) could be understand to relate to the biblical principle of having dominion, and that it continues in every generation, would it not therefore especially include the theological endeavor, as well? When we speak of “technical terms” in the various disciplines we mean that in order for communication-events to occur there must of necessity be some collocation and consistency of received, and agreed upon, terms and definitions for the purposes of achieving meaningful discourse. Particularly, therefore, we can assert that when speaking of God and the eternal concerns of theological ideas, beliefs, doctrines, and formulations for faith, the need for clarity and accuracy must be accompanied with the zeal for carefulness in definitions. Sloppiness will not work in building bridges and high rise buildings, nor in programing computers that can fly humans to the moon. It might be countered that theological language is not a scientific enterprise, and not as much depends upon it for human safety and survival as does the science of geometry and calculus in constructing the wonders of civilization upon which we have built our modern world. Yet, to counter this objection to my claim to the contrary, the world and its civilizations depend upon the ideas that define their identity, character, morals and visions for what constitutes a just and honorable society that lead to human flourishing for all, and therefore human beliefs (theological ideas) about origins, God, human nature, the relationships between all created things, people, and creatures. In sum, we can therefore conclude that all knowledge in every sphere is theologically potent, in the sense that even mathematics and quantum physics are rooted in theological and metaphysical frameworks. Yes, not just contextually, but that they originate from theological conceptions.

Despite all this, there are endless examples in our world of disregard for definitions and received terms. In fact, entire industries (as advertising and politicking) depend upon distortion, and sometimes obfuscation, of meaning in order to achieve objectives. Dictators and totalitarian regimes also depend upon their power to control the meaning, definitions, and use of terms. Empires sometimes have been able to extend their dominions through controlling the lexicon; but we can be thankful that such tyranny is always tenuous, since humans are inclined to resist in their need to communicate truthfully, in spite of all efforts to hinder and prevent it, and of course of necessity must do so for their survival. Even in our free society, there are many who would take total control to rewrite our lexicons for their political purposes, financial gain, or for ideological agendas. For example, in recent history, the Postmodern movement sought in language (theory) to unhinge (called slippage) referents (signifiers) from their objects (signified), creating widespread “hermeneutical suspicion” and epistemological atheism, rooted in a total indeterminacy of meaning in language. Nevertheless, in the nature of human language and communication, meaning and the necessity for meaning to be determinate and not indeterminate, requires that words consistently correspond sufficiently with reality to be meaningful. Engineers, scientists, architects, doctors, and astronauts have not generally followed the Postmodernists in practice, if even in theory, for which are most grateful.

In the pendulum swings (in linguistics and politics) from totalitarianism to anarchy, humans will always gravitate towards what will allow them to be free, but also necessarily towards what requires them to be responsible. A great danger with freedom is whenever it is not accompanied by responsibility. History has taught us this at least: freedom must be followed by responsibility to remain free. This is profoundly true especially with our language, the greatest gift of God besides life, to communicate meaningfully. Therefore, we have the supreme responsibility to employ it rightly and faithfully. Interpretation of every/any particular thing in reality requires language responsibly defined in terms and principles of interpretation, wherein each aspect of the process itself depends entirely upon language.

Identifying and classifying is the fundamental function of human language, differentiating things (so we establish in regards to everything that A is not non A in the law of non-contradiction). Language enables us to see the unity and distinctions of all things which are absolutely essential for human society to be possible. This naming, and the interpretative role of language in gathering knowledge of the created world, its proper interpretation and the discovery of new insights, is the foundation of all science, art, literature, philosophy, architecture, and theology.

Most significantly, theological language is the source and ongoing context of the meaning of all else, since it originates in revelation from God in order for us to have the interpretative matrix upon which to construct an accurate interpretive narrative for all of known reality. Therefore, as all of our language must correspond to reality in a coherent and comprehensible way, it is critical that we attend to our theological language with the utmost zeal and care. This is consistent with our belief in the triune nature of God the Creator of all reality, in which there is an absolute and necessary selfconsistency and coherence (since a perfect God can have no inconsistencies or contradictions), there is also logical consistency and coherence in his creation, since it is always contingent upon God who is the Logos.

Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason.[3]


2. Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis declaration on blasphemy means something, too, but it does not ring true
                           “The fate of hermeneutics and humanity alike stand or fall together.”[4]

There are a seeming infinite number of possible examples to illustrate how easy it is to mislead others through a lack of care in language use, and the confusing misuse of terms poorly defined and re-employed for some purpose. We are all daily inclined to this, our motives and reasoning being so corrupted. All-the-same, we are in Scripture held to the high standards of truth and justice, honesty and faithfulness, consistency and integrity, in all of our words and our actions. This is the moral nature of our discourse, requiring proper definitions, exposition, and interpretations of reality; this is the life and death nature of our words and our lexicons. This is why we “guard the gospel” (2 Tim 1:14) entrusted to us, the orthodox tradition of the Apostles, not to be revised, since it is the bedrock of the people of God, the foundation of Christ’s church. This is just one of many important reasons to avoid confusion in our language, especially when speaking of God and matters of the faith.

One example of confusing theological language came to my attention recently in a post from a friend on Facebook of a popular quote from Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis:

“Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted In humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know.”

This quote at first surprised me, but then with alarm to see how many people both “liked” and “loved” the quote. The proper netiquette in this case perhaps eluded me, but I had to respond with a “Huh?” that was apparently not happily received.

It was this interchange that precipitated my reflections here, since I think it is very mistaken not to understand Bell’s total reversal of the meaning of biblical categories and terms as a good example of the all-too-common carelessness and sloppiness in theological discussions these days. Even if not intentional, it is in any case seriously problematic. Bell has done this on a number of theological issues, and has generated Much Controversy among Christians with his slippery use of, and misuse of, theological language.[5] Some might object to my concern and say that his use of language is not so important, but rather his motives, his intentions to communicate the gospel in a refashioned way to this generation. Yet, we really have no idea what his motives were, nor whether his heart is right with God despite his poorly worded verbiage. We cannot say what Bell’s intention was, but I can say that his use of English tortures biblical categories in this statement, as he often does in his interviews and public statements flowing from the ideas in his publications. I would like to hope that he was just being careless, even if seriously, but this kind of loose theological affirmation, even if for the sake of a perceived effort to point others to a more intimate relationship with God, is deeply concerning.

It could have been intended to make the gospel message more palatable to unbelievers who find many aspects of biblical history and faith distasteful (but I wrongly digress into unknown motives). Even so, if we attempt to redefine biblical doctrine, and language, in order to make it more acceptable to people who sincerely believe they are on a higher moral plane than God, and that we must justify the God of Scripture to them, since they find many things in the Bible morally indefensible, then our motives become entirely irrelevant to the question of whether we are being faithful to the gospel of Jesus and the Scripture in our definitions and use of theological terms.

Bell does not say in this statement, as someone might suppose, that he is speaking of questions that seem to be blasphemous; he says plainly that blasphemous questions “are rooted in humility.” As an academic, I accept the criticism that I may be over analyzing and over-critical in such a case as this. Even so, biblically speaking, we are called to “bring every thought captive,” and to wisely discern all pronouncements and assertions, regardless of their source. As an academic, I also understand, and always fully support, the idea of having and allowing for others the freedom to ask questions of God, the deepest questions that concern us. But biblically, there is a universe of difference between lament, painfully crying out to God for answers to those questions, and blasphemy and arrogance. In Bell’s convoluted declaration, even arrogance is somehow equated with humility, when in any lexicon arrogance has historically been an antonym of humility. And, historically (and biblically), blasphemy meant God-hating arrogance and rebellion against God; it is not rooted in a humble heart nor in humility; it is shaking the fist at God in foolish anger and arrogant stupidity. It is the condition of our hearts when God, or the god we imagine is God, is despised and rejected.

I strongly believe that those in Christian churches who say (or have the attitude), “don’t ask questions, just believe,” have done great harm to many people. So, hopefully, I will not be misunderstood when I object to the plain meaning of Bell’s convolution of words that can lead to some rather serious conclusions and rationalizations. As stated, I zealously agree with the conviction that we must encourage questions, but it is because we know with certitude that God has given us answers, and sufficient answers, in the revelation of the canon of Scripture. These are what we must live for and work for through study, reflection, prayer, and teaching, to learn of God and his ways and to share in fellowship and rejoicing with the body of Christ in the glories of the gospel. Questions themselves are not blasphemy, but neither is blaspheming simply asking questions.

And, I would add, the gospel makes very good logical sense. Indeed, the gospel is the only theological system in the world that makes perfect logical sense, because it is entirely true. In fact, the gospel is the key to all of reality, since Jesus is the one who is the LOGOS by whom, through whom, and for whom the universe was made. This is particularly the reason we must strive to accurately define all of our terms in discussing God and matters of our faith, and to be consistent when using those terms. Our language matters immensely, because what we think we may be meaning in discourse could be a serious misconstrual and miscommunication of colossal proportions. The problem of communication and understanding derives from us (not from Scripture), because of the noetic effect of sins on our minds/hearts, when we do not understand things in Scripture. We are slow of heart/mind to believe and understand; it is not that Scripture is insufficiently perspicuous (understandable). In the Gospel of Christ, the mysteries of God are made known (Col 1:27; 1 Cor 15:51; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 6:19).

In conclusion therefore, we are responsible to properly and fully define all of the terms of that Gospel, based solely on the canon of Scripture. This does not mean we have comprehension of God and all things, since he is infinite and eternal, but we can have sufficient and reasonable faith and understanding. We can also grow daily in fuller understanding, as we will for all eternity increase in our knowledge of Him, never ceasing. In sum, ignorance of, distortion of, and unbelief in the gospel of Christ are not a result of its incomprehensibility, but rather the hardness of the human heart, and the inclination to mis-represent, mis-define, and mis-interpret. Missing the mark, we then speak past one another and reality itself, properly defined. Mis-representing the terms of the gospel is therefore to by-pass its reality for fantasies and fairy tales of our own imagining.

And, this is why ducks do not bark and dogs do not quack,
and why Rob Bell’s revision on blasphemy and arrogance does not ring true.0000501_531


Some biblical texts on blasphemy

Ex 22:28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.”

Mk 7:22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Col 3:8 But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy talk out of your mouth.

James 2:7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

2 Peter 2:12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Rev 13:5 (NASB) There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.

Some biblical texts on arrogance

Lk 1:51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud [arrogant] in the thoughts of their heart.

Ja 4.16(NASB) But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

1 Jn 2:16 (ISV) For everything that is in the world—the desire for fleshly gratification,d the desire for possessions, and worldly arrogance—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Col 2:18 (GWT) Such a person, whose sinful mind fills him with arrogance, gives endless details of the visions he has seen.

Jude 1:16 (NASB) These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.


Thank God that our sins of arrogance and blasphemy are also forgivable!


Quotes on words and language

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects. Blaise. Pascal (Pensées, 23)

“At the point of divergence between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, is not a chasm but a razor’s edge.” John Murray, Principles of Conduct, p.

“Objective falsity cannot be the source of subjective truth.” Phillip Hughes, The True Image, 367.

“The very act of naming things presupposes a faith in their existence and thus in a true world, whatever Nietzsche might say.” Czeslaw Milosz, The Witness of Poetry, Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1983, p. 57

“In the matter of Christian doctrine, a great part of the nation subsists in an ignorance more barbarous than that of the dark ages, owing to a slatternly habit of illiterate reading. Words are understood in a wholly mistaken sense, statements of fact and opinion are misread and distorted in repetition, arguments founded in misapprehension are accepted without examination, expressions of individual preference are construed as ecumenical doctrine, disciplinary regulations founded on consent are confused with claims to interpret universal law, and vice versa;  with the result that the logical and historical structure of Christian philosophy is transformed in the popular mind to a confused jumble of mythological and pathological absurdity.”  Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker pp. xi-xii

Metaphors are locomotives of meaning; they bear the freight of insight from place to place. . . . The arrival of a powerful metaphor alters the geography of our thoughts and forces us to redraw our conceptual maps.  Terrence W. Tilley, Story Theology, Wilmington DE:  Michael Glazier, 1985, p. 1.

“If correct behavior depends on right thinking, and right thinking on the right use of language, then we may say that, in terms of active influence, the sequence actually proceeds the other way: Language4 thought4behavior.” Chilton Williamson, Jr. Chronicles, Feb 2006, p. 17.

“After the Fall, the worst violence done himself by man is to deny the Truth of the Word—and by implication and descent, all words and their inherently divine relationship with one another. This is because man cannot, through his abuse of words, distort the concept of the divine Nature without distorting his understanding of human nature along with it, as Orwell and other critics of the human language have understood.” Chilton Williamson, Jr. Chronicles, Feb 2006, p. 17.

“This is because man cannot, through his abuse of words, dis­tort the concept of the divine Nature without distorting his un­derstanding of human nature along with it, as Orwell and other critics of the enemies of language have understood. ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .’    Ac­cording to the Word, man is a kind of copy, however faint and imperfect, of God. But if the Word does not exist, then God does not exist, and what, then, is man a copy of, in God’s ab­sence? The problem is, all language is constructed according to a logic that assumes the existence of God and a divine relation­ship with man: God, in other words, is structured into human language, because He is encoded in the human mind and in human thought. To refuse to know Who God is, is to refuse to accept what we are and how we are meant to act in the world, how we are intended to comport ourselves, how we are expect­ed to behave, in respect of ourselves as well as of others. In the degree that men deny the reality and integrity of language, they reject the idea of Model-Modeler and Modeled, and with it the possibility for the coherent and respectful human activity and behavior they once called decency and manners.” Chilton Williamson, Jr. Chronicles, Feb 2006, p. 18.

Stephen T. Hague, March 2017

[1] William Kirk Kilpatrick, The Psychological Seduction, New York:  Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 127.

[2] See Stephen Hague, ‘The metaphysics of meaning, part I: taxonomy The disappearance of the author, and the death of God”: https://stephenhague.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/the-life-and-death-matter-of-language-and-hermeneutics/

[3] Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, two volumes in one, vol. 1, p. 90.

[4] Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text: the Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), p. 22.

[5] Many have written on the various theological statements and directions of Rob Bell, so this is not meant to be such an extended critique. Suffice it to say that Rob Bell has shifted from some fundamental biblical perspectives over the years, and has taught theological concepts at odds with traditional orthodoxy. His notoriety and influence also has increased after being endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, of whom he has reportedly said that “She has taught me more about what Jesus has for all of us, and what kind of life Jesus wants us to live, more than almost anybody in my life” (https://spectator.org/61174_defense-religious-mediocrityAmerican Spectator, accessed 3/7/2017 Yet, for all she expresses about “spirituality,” Oprah is not even remotely Christian in her views and convictions.


Blasphemy in the Bible as defined by various lexicons

Hebrew

5829  ] נֶאָצָה5830) [Hebrew) (page 611) (Strong 5007( † נֶאָצָה] n. f. contempt )toward (י׳, blasphemy;—pl. נֶאָצוֹת Ne 9:18, 9:26 c. עָשָׂה of Isr.; נָאָצוֹתֶיךָ Ez 35:12 of Mt. Seir, spoken against הרי ישׂראל.

Greek

1033  βλασφημέω

βλασφημέω, βλασφήμω; imperfect ἐβλασφήμουν; 1 aorist ἐβλασφήμησα; passive (present βλασφημοῦμαι); 1 future βλασφημηθήσομαι; (βλάσφημος, which see); to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate (Vulgate blasphemo); absolutely:  Luke 22:65 ; Acts 13:45; 18:6; 26:11; 1 Tim. 1:20; 1 Pet. 4:4; with accusative of person or thing (as in later Greek, Joseph, Plutarch, Appian, etc.): Matt. 27:39; Mark 3:28 L T Tr WH; 15:29; Luke 23:39; Titus 3:2; James 2:7; Jude 1:10; with the cognate noun βλασφημίαν, to utter blasphemy (Plato, legg. 7, p. 800 c.; see ἀγαπάω at the end), Mark 3:28 R G (where L T Tr WH ὅσα for ὅσας, see above); (followed by ἐν, 2 Pet. 2:12; cf. Alexander Buttmann (1873) as at end, and see ἀγνοέω, a.).  Passive βλασφημοῦμαι to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at: Rom. 3:8; 14:16; 1 Cor. 4:13 (T WH Tr marginal reading δυσφημούμενοι); 1 Cor. 10:30; Titus 2:5; 2 Pet. 2:2; τό ὄνομα τίνος, Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 6:1.  Specifically, of those who by contemptuous speech intentionally come short of the reverence due to God or to sacred things )for גִּדֵּף, 2 Kings 19:6,22 cf. 2 Kings 19:4; cf. Grimm on 2 Macc. 10:34); absolutely:  Matt. 9:3; 26:65; Mark 2:7 L T Tr WH; (John 10:36); τόν Θεόν, Rev. 16:11,21; τήν θεάν, Acts 19:37 (G L T Tr WH τήν Θεόν); τό ὄνομα τοῦ Θεοῦ, Rev. 13:6; 16:9; τό πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ (βλασφημεῖται), 1 Pet. 4:14 Rec.; δόξας, Jude 1:8; 2 Pet. 2:10 (see δόξα, III. 3 b. γ.); εἰς τό πνεῦμα τό ἅγιον, Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10 (εἰς θεούς, Plato, rep. 2, p. 381 e.).  The earlier Greeks say βλασφημαν εἰς τινα, περί or κατά τίνος; (on the N. T. constructions cf. Winer’s Grammar, 222 (208); 629 (584); Buttmann, 146 (128)).*

1034  βλασφημία

βλασφημία, βλασφημίας, ἡ, railing, reviling (Vulgate blasphemia); a. universally, slander, detraction, speech injurious to another’s good name:  Matt. 12:31; 15:19; Mark 3:28; 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Tim. 6:4; Jude 1:9 (κρίσις βλασφημίας, equivalent to κρίσις βλάσφημος in 2 Pet. 2:11, a judgment pronounced in reproachful terms); Rev. 2:9. b. specifically, impious and reproachful speech injurious to the divine majesty:  Matt. 26:65; Mark 2:7 (R G); 14:64; Luke 5:21; John 10:33; Rev. 13:5 (not Lachmann); ὄνομα or ὀνόματα βλασφημίας equivalent to βλάσφημα (cf. Winer’s Grammar, sec. 34, 3 b.; (Buttmann, sec. 132, 10)):  Rev. 13:1; 17:3 (R G Tr, see γέμω); τοῦ πνεύματος, genitive of the object, Matt. 12:31; πρός τόν Θεόν, Rev. 13:6.  (Euripides, Plato, Demosthenes, others; for נֶאָצָה Ezek. 35:12.(  )BB.  DD. under the word Blasphemy; Campbell, Diss. on the Gospels, diss. ix. part ii.)*

From the New Bible Dictionary

BLASPHEMY

  1. In the Old Testament

Here the root meaning of the word is an act of effrontery in which the honour of God is insulted by man. The proper object of the verb is the name of God, which is cursed or reviled instead of being honoured. (Compare the common biblical and rabbinical phrase, ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord.’) The penalty of the outrage of blasphemy is death by stoning (Lv. 24:10–23; 1 Ki. 21:9ff.; Acts 6:11; 7:58).

In the first reference it is a half-caste Israelite who sins in this way; and, generally speaking, blasphemy is committed by pagans (2 Ki. 19:6, 22 = Is. 37:6, 23; Pss. 44:16; 74:10, 18; Is. 52:5), sometimes incited to it by the bad example and moral lapses of the Lord’s people (2 Sa. 12:14). It follows also that when God’s people fall into idolatry they are regarded as committing the blasphemy of the heathen (Is. 65:7; Ezk. 20:27). The name of Yahweh which it is Israel’s peculiar destiny to hallow (see G. F. Moore, Judaism, 2, 1927–30, p. 103) is profaned by the faithless and disobedient people.

  1. In the New Testament

Here there is an extension of the meaning. God is blasphemed also in his representatives. So the word is used of Moses (Acts 6:11); Paul (Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 4:12; 10:30); and especially the Lord Jesus, in his ministry of forgiveness (Mk. 2:7 and parallels), at his *trial (Mk. 14:61–64), and at Calvary (Mt. 27:39; Lk. 23:39). Because these representatives embody the truth of God himself (and our Lord in a unique way), an insulting word spoken against them and their teaching is really directed against the God in whose name they speak (so Mt. 10:40; Lk. 10:16). Saul of Tarsus fulminated against the early followers of Jesus and tried to compel them to blaspheme, i.e. to curse the saving name (Acts 24:11), and thereby to renounce their baptismal vow in which they confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; Jas. 2:7). His misdirected zeal, however, was not simply against the church, but against the Lord himself (1 Tim. 1:13; cf. Acts 9:4).

The term is also used, in a weaker sense, of slanderous language addressed to men (e.g. Mk. 3:28; 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Tit. 3:2). Here the best translation is ‘slander, abuse’. These verses condemn a prevalent vice; but their warning may be grounded in a theological as well as an ethical context if we remember Jas. 3:9. Men are not to be cursed because on them, as men, the ‘formal’ image of God is stamped and the human person is, in some sense, God’s representative on earth (cf. Gn. 9:6).

There are two problem texts. 2 Pet. 2:10–11 speaks of blasphemy against ‘the glorious ones’ whom angels dare not revile. These are probably evil angelic powers against whom false teachers presumed to direct their insults (cf. Jude 8). The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32; Mk. 3:29) carries with it the awful pronouncement that the sinner is ‘guilty of an eternal sin’ which cannot be forgiven. The verse is a solemn warning against persistent, deliberate rejection of the Spirit’s call to salvation in Christ. Human unresponsiveness inevitably leads to a state of moral insensibility and to a confusion of moral issues wherein evil is embraced as though it were good (‘Evil, be thou my Good’; cf. Is. 5:18–20; Jn. 3:19). The example of this attitude is that of the Pharisees, who attributed Jesus’ works of mercy to Satan. In such a frame of mind repentance is not possible to the hardened heart because the recognition of sin is no longer possible, and God’s offer of mercy is in effect peremptorily refused. To be in this perilous condition is to cut oneself off from the source of forgiveness. Hebert adds a helpful pastoral note: ‘People who are distressed in their souls for fear that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost should in most cases be told that their distress is proof that they have not committed that sin’ (TWBR, p. 32).

Bibliography. HDB, 1, p. 109; H. W. Beyer, TDNT 1, pp. 621–625; H. Währisch, C. Brown, W. Mundle in NIDNTT 3, pp. 340–347.

  1. P. Martin.[1]

From Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Blasphemy

In both the Old and New Testaments blasphemy is, at its root, a word or act detracting from the power and glory* of God*.

  1. Background
  2. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
  3. Jesus Accused of Blasphemy
  4. Background

The Greek noun blasphēmia may be derived from phēmē (a “saying”) and a shortened form of blaptō (“injure”) or blax (“stupid”) or ballō (“throw” or “strike”) or blabos (“harm”).

1.1. Greek Usage. In Greek literature “to blaspheme” meant to speak ill or abusively rather than to speak well of someone (euphēmeō, Philo Migr. Abr. 117; euphēmia, Josephus Ant. 16.2.1 §14; 17.8.4 §200; 2 Cor 6:8). This meaning is also found in (e.g.) 2 Maccabees (10:34; 12:14), Philo (Spec. Leg. 4.197), Josephus (Life §232) as well as in the NT (Acts 13:34; 18:6; Rom 14:16; 1 Cor 10:30; Tit 3:2; 1 Pet 4:4). Someone can be said to blaspheme against an idol or false god (Diodorus 2.21.7; Philo Spec. Leg. 1.53; Josephus Ant. 4.8.10 §207; Acts 19:37). Blasphemy is also associated with “bad language” (2 Macc 12:14) or insulting a person (Mt 12:32) as shown by the synonyms ōneidizō (“revile,” Mt 27:44 par. Mk 15:32 and Lk 23:39) and loidoreō (“to abuse,” Jn 9:28; Acts 23:4; Josephus J.W. 2.14.8 §302).

1.2. Old Testament. In the canonical OT and Apocrypha blasphemy referred to contemptuous or dishonoring speech or actions against God through denying his ability (2 Kings 19:4, 6, 22; Ps 74:18; Is 37:6), oppressing his people (Is 52:5), gloating over their downfall (Ezek 35:12), killing Israelites (Tob 1:18 [S]), speaking directly against God (Dan 3:29), paying homage to an idol (Is 66:3; contrast Bel 9) or insulting his followers (2 Macc 12:14) or the Temple (1 Macc 7:38). However, the key passage is Leviticus 24:15–16: “Whoever curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death” (NRSV, cf. Lev 24:11; Ex 20:7).

1.3. Philo and Josephus. Originally the two sentences of Leviticus 24:15–16 probably had identical meanings. But Philo, taking them separately, understood the first to be the lesser offense of cursing a false god, the penalty of death being reserved for naming the Name of the God of Israel (Vit. Mos. 2.203–5; also Josephus Ag. Ap. 2.34 §237; Ant. 4.207). On the greater offense Josephus says: “Let him that blasphemeth God be stoned, then hung for a day, and buried ignominiously and in obscurity” (Ant. 4.8.6 §202; cf. Deut 21:22–23). On the actual nature of the offense of blasphemy, Philo says that if anyone “even ventures to utter his name unreasonably, let him suffer the penalty of death” (Vit. Mos. 2.206). In turn Philo seems to understand the unreasonable utterance of the holy name of God to be treating it as a mere expletive (Vit. Mos. 2.208).

1.4. Rabbinic Judaism. For the rabbis there were also two sins referred to in Leviticus 24:15–16. They understood the first sentence to mean that for cursing God the only sentence necessary was excommunication, for God would exact the penalty (b. Ker. 7b). From its interpretation of the second sentence the Mishnah gives us the only rabbinic definition of blasphemy, and it is similar to that of Philo’s: “The blasphemer is not culpable unless he pronounces the Name itself” (m. Sanh. 7:5).

  1. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

All three Synoptic Gospels record the twin sayings of Jesus that whoever blasphemes or speaks against the Son of man (Mark has “sons of men [i.e., people] will be forgiven”; see Son of Man) will be forgiven (see Forgiveness), but that the person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit (see Holy Spirit) will never be forgiven (Mt 12:31–32 par. Mk 3:28–29 and Lk 12:10; cf. Did. 11.7; Gos. Thom. 44; Gos. Bar. 5:2). These sayings have caused much scholarly debate and anguish among Christians. The Aramaic original of the first saying was probably a broad statement saying that all sins and blasphemies on the part of or against persons (bar ʾenāšāʾ, a generic or collective term) will be forgiven, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. By translating the generic singular of the Aramaic with the plurals “the sons of men,” Mark means that all people will be forgiven all sins and blasphemies—except blasphemies against the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:28–29). The Q* tradition, probably best represented by Luke 12:10, took the saying to refer to blaspheming against the Son of man, or Jesus, being forgiven. Matthew 12:31–32 is a conflation of Q* and Mark.

The origin of these sayings has been discussed at length. The “Amen, I say to you” sayings (see Amen), such as this one, have been thought to have arisen either from Hellenistic Christian prophets* within the context of worship* or from a Jewish apocalyptic* milieu. However, it is yet to be shown how this unparalleled formula came to be attributed exclusively to Jesus. Indeed, the use of amēn in the Gospels is without parallel. In Jewish literature (e.g., Num 5:22; Deut 27:15; Neh 5:13; y. Soṭa 18b; b. Šebu. 36a) and the remainder of the NT (Rom 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; 1 Cor 14:16; 16:24; Gal 1:5; Rev 5:14; 7:12; 22:20) it was a response formula assenting to someone else’s blessing,* curse, oath,* word or prayer* (though see T. Abr. 8:7). Occasionally it was added to one’s own prayer as a concluding hope (Tob 8:8; m. Taʿan. 4:8). However, in all the strata of traditions in the Gospels it is used exclusively to introduce and confirm Jesus’ own words. This factor, along with the retention of “amen” in its Semitic form, the unusual Semitism of the phrase “the sons of men,” the accompanying sayings associating Jesus’ ministry with sinners, and the unprecedented scope of forgiveness, indicates the authenticity of the saying about all sins and blasphemies being forgiven.

The second saying, that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, appears to contradict the previous saying. However this is an established OT idiom (Gen 2:16–17; Ex 12:10) and is also found elsewhere in the NT (Mt 15:24–32; 25:29; Mk 2:17; 9:37; Jn 1:11–12; 7:16). In this way the gravity of the sin that is excepted is emphasized. In light of the harshness and severity of the saying, its authenticity can hardly be doubted.

2.1. The Unforgivable Sin. There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the nature of the unforgivable sin. For Jesus the ambiguous statement, as reconstructed above, would have meant that an attack on him was pardonable, perhaps because the public mystery of his true mission and identity could mean that it was done innocently (cf. Acts 3:17). However, an attack on the Spirit of God working in him was beyond forgiveness. That would be detracting from the power (see Authority and Power) and majesty of God. In turn, the saying shows that Jesus was conscious of unprecedented spiritual power at work through himself, which he considered to be self-evidently of God.

For Mark the two sayings meant that all sins are forgivable except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is, to have seen the power of his ministry, as in his exorcisms (see Demon, Devil, Satan), and then to say that Jesus had an unclean spirit was an attack on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work was thereby attributed not to God but to Satan (Mk 3:22; cf. Is 5:20). There can be no greater sin.

Matthew has a similar perspective, but by deleting the reference to Jesus’ contemporaries (Mk 3:30) he makes the sayings more obviously applicable to the early church. Thus for Matthew it may have been forgivable not to recognize the identity of Jesus (cf. 21:32), but there was no excuse for the Christian who did not recognize the work of the Spirit. That would amount to apostasy.

In Luke the saying appears in the context of teaching about the followers of Jesus being called on to defend themselves and their ministries (Lk 12:8–12). To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit would be to deny God and the work of his Spirit in their lives, especially his ability to support them in trying times. In Acts 5:1–5 Luke gives an example of an unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit.

  1. Jesus Accused of Blasphemy

All the Gospels agree that Jesus claimed or admitted equality with God—or claimed to be the Son of God (see Son of God)—and that this was considered by the Jews to be blasphemous and worthy of the death penalty (Mt 26:63–66; Mk 14:61–65; Lk 22:66–71; Jn 10:31–39; 19:7).

3.1. Blasphemy and God’s Prerogative to Forgive. In Mark 2:5 Jesus is reported as saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven” (par. Mt 9:3 and Lk 5:21). This passive expression would probably have been understood as an attempt to avoid pronouncing God’s name: “God forgives you.” The ambiguity of the statement “your sins are forgiven,” which is consistent with Jesus’ self-disclosure, could mean that Jesus was merely providing the man with assurance (cf. Mt 9:2, tharsei, “take heart”), reporting to the man the forgiveness God was offering him (cf. 2 Sam 12:13). However, the Aramaic expression reflected in the present indicative passive, “they are forgiven” (aphientai) means, “your sins are at this moment forgiven.” Indeed, the scribes are said to interpret the saying as Jesus himself offering forgiveness: “Can it be that this fellow thus blasphemes? Who can forgive sins but God?” (Mk 2:7 par. Mt 9:3 and Lk 5:21). In turn Jesus affirms that he was forgiving sins; that is, he did what the scribes considered to be the prerogative of God (Mk 2:10 par. Mt 9:6 and Lk 5:24).

As was seen above, in Jesus’ time there was a wide understanding of the nature of blasphemy. On the one hand, according to the narrow rabbinic definition of blasphemy, Jesus would not be guilty before the Law. In the Qumran document known as the Prayer of Nabonidus (4QPrNab), an exorcist is said to pardon the sin of a sick person. On the other hand, a more general definition of blasphemy known to Philo (Vit. Mos. 2.206) would indicate that those who observed Jesus may have thought he had encroached on the prerogative of God. Furthermore, there is a strand of tradition in the OT (Ex 34:6–7; Ps 103:3; 130:4; Is 43:25; 44:22; Dan 9:9), as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QS 2:9; CD 3:18; 20:34), in which God is clearly the one who forgives. Not even the Messiah (see Christ) was expected to forgive sins, only to be the means whereby God would forgive in the eschaton (Is 53; Jer 31; cf. Tg. Is 53:4–6). The offense, then, was the diminishing of God’s majesty and honor by usurping a role considered to be uniquely his alone.

3.2. Jesus Made Himself to be Equal with God. In John’s Gospel there are passages where statements by Jesus are said to provoke the Jews to accuse him of blasphemy or even attempt to carry out the death penalty for blasphemy.

3.2.1. John 5:16–18 provides the conclusion to the story of Jesus healing* a lame man at the Bethzatha pool and contains two accusations. The first is that “because he does these things” (hoti tauta epoiei) on the Sabbath* (cf. Jn 9:14; 20:30) the Jews persecute Jesus. The second accusation, of making himself equal to God, arises out of Jesus’ response to the first accusation. Jesus’ claim to be able to work on the Sabbath is based on his claiming the same right as his Father to work continually, including on the Sabbath (2 Macc 9:12; Ep. Arist. 210; Philo Leg. All. 1.5–6; Cher. 87–88; Corp. Herm. 11.5, 14; Exod. Rab. 30:6; Gen. Rab. 11:10). The Jews find fault in this not only because he claimed God to be his own Father (patera idion) but in claiming his capacity for common activity with God he also claimed to be equal with God. As in Mark 2:7 (see 3.1. above) the blasphemous act was in usurping the uniqueness or prerogative of God.

3.2.2. In John 8:58 Jesus says, “Before Abraham* was born (genesthai), I am (egō eimi).” In John’s Gospel egō eimi represents the name of God. So John portrays the Jews attempting to carry out the death sentence for blasphemy as set out in Leviticus 24:16. The historicity of this claim by Jesus has been brought into serious question by some NT scholars. Nevertheless, John is probably correct in indicating that, prior to trying him for blasphemy before the Sanhedrin,* the Jewish authorities perceived evidence of blasphemy in Jesus’ activity and his view of himself.

3.2.3. John 10:33 is the first time the official charge of blasphemy occurs in the Fourth Gospel. It would not be blasphemous for someone to describe Jesus as divine. According to Scripture God’s anointed would be called God’s Son (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chron 17:13). What would be blasphemous, according to John, is Jesus himself claiming this divine status for himself; the blasphemy of self-deification. Jesus answers the charge by quoting from Psalm 82:6, thereby showing that it is not blasphemous to refer to people like judges as “gods” through whom the Word of God came. Jesus also says that as he has been given this status (hagiazein) and sent into the world by the Father, it cannot be blasphemous for him to say “I am the Son of God” (10:36). The Jews are not satisfied. Perhaps they feel his answer is beside the point since Jesus is claiming to be more than a son of God in a reduced sense, for John says that they attempted to arrest Jesus (Jn 10:39). Although they were initially unsuccessful, they eventually took him to trial (Jn 19:7).

3.3. Jesus Tried for Blasphemy. Matthew and Mark agree that the charge of blasphemy was involved in the trial of Jesus (Mt 26:57–75 par. Mk 14:53–72; cf. Lk 22:54–71; see Trial of Jesus). Jesus is asked if he is the Messiah (su ei ho Christos; Mt 26:63 par. Mk 14:61 and Lk 22:67). Jesus’ two-part answer provokes the charge of blasphemy. In Mark the first part of Jesus’ reply was probably “I am” (egō eimi, 14:62, cf. Codex Koridethi anus [Θ]; Mt 26:63). The fact that Jesus took on a messianic title or identity which only God could bestow and confirm by his blessing may, in itself, have been considered blasphemous (cf. Jn 19:7; Acts 5:34–39). This may have caused Matthew to place the responsibility for the direct answer back on the high priest by having Jesus say, “You have said so” (Mt 26:64), and for Luke to have Jesus evade the answer. In turn both Matthew and Luke have Jesus say, in effect, that God will confirm his messiahship. The second part of Jesus’ reply is about the Son of man being seated at the right hand of Power (Lk 22:69; cf. Ps 110:1), and is generally agreed to belong to the reliable traditions about Jesus. In its original Jewish setting this saying was probably meant to emphasize God’s approval. This would have compounded the earlier blasphemous act of taking on a messianic title. In Matthew and Mark Jesus’ answer concludes with an allusion to Daniel 7:13 which reinforces Jesus’ claims of a unique relationship with God. As related in the Mishnah, the appropriate response for the high priest having heard blasphemy is to tear his clothes (cf. m. Sanh. 7:5).

See also Holy Spirit; “I AM” Sayings; Son of God; Son of Man; Trial of Jesus.

Bibliography. E. Bammel, ed., The Trial of Jesus (SBT, 2d ser., 13; 2d ed.; London: SCM, 1971); J. Blinzler, The Trial of Jesus (3d ed.; Cork: Mercier, 1961); M. E. Boring, “The Unforgiveable Sin Logion Mark III 28–29/ Matt XII 31–32/Luke XII 10,” NovT 18 (1976) 258–79; D. R. Catchpole, The Trial of Jesus (SPB 18; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971); J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979); O. E. Evans, “The Unforgivable Sin,” ExpT 68 (1957) 240–44; D. Juel, Messiah and Temple (SBLDS 31; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1977); O. Linton, “The Trial of Jesus and the Interpretation of Psalm CX,” NTS 7 (1960–61) 265–62; E. Lövestam, Spiritus Blasphemia (Lund; Gleerup, 1968); Str-B I.1006–20.

  1. H. Twelftree[2]

From Vines Expository Dictionary

  1. Verb.

blasphēmeō (βλασφημέω , (987)), to blaspheme, rail at or revile, is used (a) in a general way, of any contumelious speech, reviling, calumniating, railing at etc., as of those who railed at Christ, e.g., Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29; Luke 22:65 (R.V., “reviling”); 23:39; (b) of those who speak contemptuously of God or of sacred things, e.g., Matt. 9:3; Mark 3:28; Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 1:20; 6:1; Rev. 13:6; 16:9, 11, 21; “hath spoken blasphemy,” Matt. 26:65; “rail at,” 2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 8, Jude 10; “railing,” 2 Pet. 2:12; “slanderously reported,” Rom. 3:8; “be evil spoken of,” Rom. 14:16; 1 Cor. 10:30; 2 Pet. 2:2; “speak evil of,” Tit. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:4; “being defamed,” 1 Cor. 4:13. The verb (in the present participial form) is translated “blasphemers” in Acts 19:37; in Mark 2:7, “blasphemeth,” R.V., for A.V., “speaketh blasphemies.”

There is no noun in the original representing the English “blasphemer.”This is expressed either by the verb, or by the adjective blasphemos. See Defame, Rail, Report, Revile.

  1. Adjective.

blasphēmos (βλάσφημος , (989)), abusive, speaking evil, is translated “blasphemous,” in Acts 6:11, 13; “a blasphemer,” 1 Tim. 1:13; “railers,” 2 Tim. 3:2, R.V.; “railing,” 2 Pet. 2:11. See Rail.¶

Note: As to Christ’s teaching concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, e.g., Matt. 12:32, that anyone, with the evidence of the Lord’s power before His eyes, should declare it to be Satanic, exhibited a condition of heart beyond Divine illumination and therefore hopeless. Divine forgiveness would be inconsistent with the moral nature of God. As to the Son of Man, in his state of humiliation, there might be misunderstanding, but not so with the Holy Spirit’s power demonstrated.[3]

[1] Martin, R. P. (1996). Blasphemy. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 142). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Twelftree, G. H. (1992). Blasphemy. In J. B. Green & S. McKnight (Eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (pp. 75–77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Vine, W. E., & Bruce, F. F. (1981). Vine’s Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (Vol. 2, pp. 131–132). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.

Solus Christus – Through Christ Alone

Faith Theological Seminary Christ & Culture Seminary, 2016
in preparation for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017

Session 4 – Solus Christus – Through Christ Alone by Stephen Hague

(for pdf file, click here solus-christus-by-stephen-hague)

Contents

  1. Ancient heresies are mostly Christological 2
  2. Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency. 3
  3. Modern heresies are also mostly Christological 4
  4. The diverse Jesuses of our times. 4
  5. Modern views that do the same: see Ligonier survey “Our favorite heresies”. 5
  6. The Biblical Theology of Christ Alone in Scripture. 7
  7. Biblical Texts on Christ. 10
  8. Historic Confessions of Faith. 12

Introduction

The historical problem of religious faith has always been the question, “Will you serve and worship the Baals or will your serve, love, and worship YHWH?” The problem Israel faced in the land of the promise was perpetually that of not just worshipping and trusting in the Canaanitish idols, but so often presuming to add them onto the worship of YHWH, the true and living God. It was a kind of Yahwism plus, or YHWH plus Baal (as trivializing as “Coke plus”). The belief that they could have it both ways reduced the Almighty Lord of all creation to the lowly place of one of the many hundreds of ANE deities. Israel’s consistent failure to accept the all-sufficiency of the one and only true God as their Lord was their well-chronicled, disastrous down-fall and what led to eventual exile from the land, and the loss of the Temple and the Ark of the covenant.

  • This syncretism of faith and works, God plus the Baals, God and other false theological systems has been at the heart of the spiritual battle in all the ages. In the human condition of rebels, all people are prone to reject the purity of biblical faith that trusts in the all-sufficiency of God the Creator-Redeemer, as we see in each of the issues related to the Solas of the Reformation. Is this any less so with regard to Christ in the NT church age?
  • If Christ is our promised salvation, our only righteousness, our only Savior, our only Deliver-Redeemer (Isa 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jer 31:33, 34; Rom 11:26), our friend, our brother, our only true King of all Kings (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Tim 6:15), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8), the firstborn over all creation (Col 1:15) the Firstborn from the dead (Rev 1:5; Col 1:18), our only true High Priest (Heb 8), our only perfect mediator and reconciler (Heb 9:24-28; Col 1:22), Lamb of God (Jn 1:29; Rev 15:3; 22:3), the true prophet (Mt 10:41), the truly wise man (Mtt 5-7; Rom 16:27), the true Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the divine warrior who conquers death and Satan, the promised branch (Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12), the shoot (Is 11:1; 53:2), the Son of David (2 Sam 7), the Son of Man (Daniel 7, 70x in the Synoptics), the Son of God, the Word of God, the Last Adam,  the Suffering Servant (Mk 8:31; Mt 16:21-22; Lu 23:40-43; 24:13-21), and the Anointed One (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25; Acts 4:26). If Christ is our only mediator between God and humankind, why then do we so frequently seek to add something to him and his works? The big question we need to be clear about is, why only Christ, why is he alone all-sufficient?
  • We have heard from the Reformers how vital it is that we retain Scripture alone as our only rule of faith and practice, from which we plainly learn that grace and faith alone are at the core of the biblical gospel. We understand that we must never add to this: for our authorial revelation from God there is no scripture plus tradition, there is no grace and faith plus works in God’s economy of redemption. Most assuredly, there is no option for Christ plus someone or something else. Especially since the Scripture shows us Christ as the center of all, the all-sufficient Mediator for those redeemed by grace through faith alone (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:8).
  • Why is it then that most all the major heresies ancient and modern (both in the church and beyond) so often are Christological, distorting the Christ of the Bible? Indeed, there have been countless (and blasphemous) efforts to syncretize Christ with many idols of the nations

A.                 Ancient heresies are mostly Christological

  • Christ plus Allah, or Buddah, or Confucious, or Christ plus the Dali Lama, or Christ plus Mary, the Mother of God, the “Mediatrix of all graces” between God and humanity (as in the Roman Catholic theology that the Reformers rejected).
  • An example of syncretism between African animistic religion and Christianity is found in Haitian Voodoo. There are the extreme movements like the Raelian Movement, that believe that members of the Elohim civilization sent different prophets, including Moses, Jesus, Buddha and many others whose role was to guide humanity and to prepare humans for the future, all of whom were created as a result of a sexual union between a human woman and one of the Elohim. To Raëlians, this was possible because the Elohim had advanced DNA synthesis and genetic engineering. Some 100,000 people believe this nonsense. Other syncretisms include movements like Bahai’i that believes through a series of divine messengers, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, and Buddha religion was created to meet the needs of the time. We have also witnessed the revival of many ancient neopagan religions that draw from Judeo-Christian belief and syncretize it into various pagan belief systems, and this is particularly prevalent in the so-called alternative health movement and its many occultic beliefs and therapies often mixed up with Christian claims.
  • Each of these examples is quite obviously not Biblical Christianity, yet, consider the many aberrations in the history of the Christian church (that are still with us today) that we call Christian heresies, and particularly those concerning Christ Jesus:
  1. Docetists who believe that Jesus was divine, only appearing human
  2. Modalists who reject an orthodox understanding of the Trinity
  3. Arians and Ebionites who believe that Jesus was human but not divine
  4. Gnostics who believe that Jesus becomes a spiritual person, not physical
  5. Nestorians who deny that Jesus is both God and Man in a theanthropic union in his incarnation
  6. Socinians who believe that Jesus was only a man until his exaltation at his ascensionAll of these Christological errors had, of course, serious soteriological consequences (that we cannot explore here), but logically result from wrong premises about the very nature and character of God in Christ.

1.                  Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency

  • There are numerous examples in RC theology that convey a mistaken view of Jesus and his works. Even though Christ is exalted to the highest place in the scheme of God’s purposes, we find a long-standing example of Christ plus something . . . That is, it is not enough to exalt the supremacy of Christ yet not his exclusivity and all-sufficiency.
  • Relics and indulgences
  • Mass
  • Christ + works (grace + works) + veneration of saints and icons, seemingly endless prayers on rosaries to Mary, and the salvific addition of suffering now and in Purgatory
    Christ + Mary: Mariolatry — The church plays a mediatorial role as does Mary through the sacraments in which baptism removes original sin, penance deals with sins after baptism.
  • Jesus plus in RC theology: as my Dictionary of Catholic Theology sates it,

“Our Lord is the one adequate Mediator and Redeemer, but He graciously allows others, and Mary in a special and unique way, to have a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption” (p. 550).

So God’s graces come via Christ through Mary to us, and so with such reasoning, there must be a corresponding new doctrine of her perpetual virginity and sinlessness (her “immaculate conception”). In any heresy, even though the supremacy of Christ may be extolled, his exclusivity is not, departing from the biblical portrayal of Christ and his gospel. As Stephen Charnock states:

Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason.[1]
He that denies any essential attribute may be said to deny the being of God.[2]

  • Some of these RC ideas continue today among the billion RC’s in the world, but there is also a bewildering variety of different Jesus’ believed in today that go way beyond the Christ of the Bible. As in ancient times, modern heresies and misrepresentations of God and Christ are also mostly Christological.

B.                  Modern heresies are also mostly Christological

1.                  The diverse Jesuses of our times

These various versions of Jesus all include a divergent addition that seriously departs from the Scriptural presentation of Jesus in the NT:

  • The unknowable, Totally Other God in Jesus (of Karl Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy, the most influential in the twentieth century)
  • Jesus of the Kerygma (of whatever is preached “word” and existential encounter)
  • Jesus the Liberal (of the new religion of Liberal Historical-Critical reconstructions)
  • The dialectical Jesus (of the Process theologians)
  • Jesus the political revolutionary or social revolutionary (of Marxism and Communism)
  • Jesus the hippie and homosexual (of the 1960’s sexual-political revolution)
  • Jesus my buddy and fellow traveler and psychotherapist (of our self-esteemed, psychologized generation)
  • Jesus the hypothesis (of the critical scholars)
  • Jesus the schemer who faked his death (of the book the Passover Plot)
  • Jesus the liberal Jew (of the secular Jews)
  • Jesus the Process theologian (of the Process Theologians)
  • Jesus the contemplative mystic (of the monks and ascetics)
  • Jesus the ethicist (of the moralizers)
  • Jesus, the Christ of Faith (of the History of Religionists)
  • Jesus of “History” (“historical Jesus” of the historical revisionists)
  • Jesus the existentialist (of Bultmann’s existential encounter)
  • Jesus the failed eschatologist blunderer (death was failure)
  • Jesus the Apocalyptist (of the doomsayers and dooms-dayers)
  • Jesus the secular humanist (the exemplar of right living)
  • Jesus of the mystery cults and religions (of the Gnostics)
  • Jesus of the Gnostic myths (as in the DaVinci Code)
  • Jesus of “myth” (the mythological Jesus)
  • The demythologized Jesus (of the History of Religionists)
  • Jesus the peasant and vegetarian-proletariat (of the Vegans)
  • Jesus the nice (effeminate) middle-class teacher of brotherly love and humanitarian ethics, who wandered about in clean white robes spreading good cheer (of the liberal middle-class Protestants)
  • Jesus of the “upper story” (the leap of faith in Jesus, a Nonrational and contentless encounter with Jesus which is a non-propositional, experience Jesus in your heart of many Evangelicals). As I heard recently, that a well-known pastor is teaching that we do not need the Bible, we just need a relationship with Jesus!

These alternative Jesuses all raise the same question we began with: will you serve God or the Baals? They all assume that the Jesus of the NT is inadequate or insufficient.

2.                  Modern views that do the same: see Ligonier survey “Our favorite heresies”

  • There is quit a controversy, even among Evangelicals, that denies the necessity of a substitutionary atonement. We hear that a mainline denomination has removed the lines we just sang from the hymn, “In Christ Alone”: “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied”).
  • But the question is, can God simply forgive sin without any atonement for sin? If we trace out the entire story-line biblically, it becomes clear that the human condition of total moral depravity (guilt in Adam) and God’s holy and glorious character require of necessity a Savior who is uniquely qualified to bear God’s wrath out of his loving mercy. According to the recent Lifeway and Ligonier survey (“Heresies We Love,” CT, Oct, 2016), 48% of Evangelicals do not believe that all sin deserves God’s punishment, yet this heresy flies-in-the-face of the entire testimony of the story-line of Scripture. Even though 74% of Evangelicals also believe that individuals must contribute to their own salvation, this contradicts the entire story-line of Scripture, wherein we read in “Rom 3:10-11 (NASB95) as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;

There is no one who understands; no one who seeks God.

  • Since no guilty person can declare themselves righteous, nor make themselves righteous (indeed a serious logical contradiction), only one who is entirely innocent of all guilt is able to provide a satisfactory solution. This is why the only solution is in God Himself, and this is why there can be no other Savior, but One who alone is righteous, who is a human descendent of Eve to whom the promise was given; that Someone in their line of progeny would come and crush the serpent’s head and would reverse the curse of death and bring them to life again.
  • Once again, this is why we must correctly identify the Promised One when he comes, and not misrepresent who he is once he does. The history of the world revolves around this anticipation and supreme question, the question that the Old and New Testaments answer: “Who is this man?” . . . “What kind of man is this? . . . that even the winds and the waves, the devils, and the dead obey his voice! (Mtt 8:27).
  • For the many (majority today) who follow a merely human Jesus [as noted in the many Jesuses I listed], and oftentimes weak and sinful Jesuses (they are all ones made in our image), and for the 71% of Evangelicals who apparently believe that Jesus was the first being created by God, we propose that it would be impossible for the Savior of humankind and creation to be a mere created mortal! Indeed, one who is created could never bring redemption to the creation, since its Redeemer must be able to sovereignly reign over creation and have the omnipotent power to reverse his own curse and supernaturally restore every atom to his glorious and holy purposes; only one who is eternal and sovereign and without sin altogether is able and sufficient in himself alone to provide the solution in his most holy and glorious person. This is expressed in Col 2:

Colossians 2:9–10 (NASB95) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,         10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 1:13–29 (NASB95) 13 For He rescued 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 is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16   For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17   He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18   He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19   For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

C.                  The Biblical Theology of Christ Alone in Scripture

  • If the central theme of Scripture is redemption, then the central Person of Scripture is Christ Jesus who is The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of creation, who sustains it now and redeems it. He is the hermeneutical key to all of Scripture and reality; there can be none other, since he is the True Prophet/Priest/King/Wise man and fulfills all the promises and typologies in the OT as the Last Adam who completes both the Creation-covenant and Redemption-covenant as our Mediator.
  • In order to get the bird’s eye view of Jesus in the scope of biblical revelation, and to further answer the question of “Why only Christ? Or, “why Christ alone is the only way”? Why do we believe that Christ alone is all-sufficient for salvation and to fulfill God’s purposes?
  • To address this, we must consider the whole narrative of the story-line of the Bible’s Theology (Biblical Theology). This story begins and ends in the Paradise of God’s glorious and holy presence. This presence is in the fullest sense a covenantal relationship between God and his creation. In Eden, that relationship was a creational one within the moral context of God’s glorious perfections; it involved many wondrous qualities, tasks, and conditions. The conditions were in part probationary – a testing – of sorts, in which our fist parents failed miserably. The consequences of that failure were necessary, since all creation and creational activity were within the context of God’s holiness, glory, and love.
  • It is important to define these vitally important characteristics of God (since they are often collapsed into one another):

holiness: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (purity) of the attributes of God’s glory (his essential being). This is about WHAT he is like.

glory: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (magnificence) of God’s essential being. This is about  WHO HE IS.

love: God is love, characterizing all of his perfect motives and the perfect expression and application of his holiness and glory in all circumstances for all people (in judgment and mercy).

  • Tracing the following story, we find a story-line of redemption through the entire Old and New Testaments, and we understand the BT of covenant-realities in which God of necessity must hold his creation accountable for all immoral, unholy choices, SINCE HE IS HOLY. And, since God requires covenant-obedience from humanity as the only proper way to live in relationship to his glory (in his glorious presence), then a human must ultimately satisfy this demand, since it stems directly from God’s identity and the identity of humans created in his moral image. It also quickly becomes plain by logical necessity that only God could provide the remedy for this fall from compliance to God’s holy law and glorious presence: that is, a holy and sufficient reversal through redemption, purchasing back those cast into bondage. As Stephen Wellum states it:

o   “Ultimately, the only hope for Adam’s helpless race is found in another Adam, the last Adam, who unlike the first Adam and the entire human race, obeys, and who accomplishes in his life, death, and resurrection our redemption and justification.”[3]

  • Thus, the consequences of the Edenic failure was both wrath and mercy; God demonstrated both his perfect holiness and glory, as well as his perfect compassion, by immediately bringing a judgment curse on them and the earth, while simultaneously promising mercy in redemption (the “first gospel” Proto Euangelion of Gen 3:15). This promise of death and life is the hermeneutical key to all of following revelation in Scripture. This is the Messianic key to everything, as expounded from this point in the story-line unto the end of the age as described in John’s Revelation.
  • The response of God to Adam and Eve is both a promise of judgment and a new covenant of redemption. God’s glorious and holy character necessitates judgment on rebellion, and yet his holy love is free to show mercy. This is the origin of the only two “races” on earth: those who are under the curse “in Adam” and those who are under grace in “the promised seed.”
  • This also explains why it must be a human to satisfy God’s covenant requirements, since he originally created that context for joyful human obedience and love before the Fall. Only a divine person, a holy and perfect human person can fulfil the holy requirements of God for obedience to his covenant of life. That is why only Christ is all-sufficient to reverse the curse of death, since as divine (God incarnate) he represents humanity as a human person who is God in all of his holiness/glory and divinity. His character and his work he shares with no-one. This is why there can be NO Christ plus something else; not even his wonderful mother can have as the Catholic Dictionary stated, “a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption.”
  • This is the context for the line-promise of a new humanity of those who will be in grace and experience the mercy of God. This line of the promise would necessarily be a human, a man, a seed in the line of Eve who will be bruised, yet would be a victor over the deceiving Serpent, reversing the curse on the creation and their bodies, securing redemption for both the earth and the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This profound beauty of love from God for his own is the gospel thread we find in every book of the Bible (Rom 5.14 — 12

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”)

  • This line-promise can only be realized by One Person who is wholly perfect and sinless. By necessity his works must be holy and perfect to be sufficient to fulfill the original Adamic role of complete compliance to God’s holy and glorious character in the original Covenant of Creation. This logical necessity for a representative, One who is without blemish, is inescapable, since no imperfect, unholy, sinful substitute to stand in the place of sinners could ever satisfy God’s holy requirements. To be perfectly just, God must only allow the One who is without sin to pay the penalty for sin, in order to reverse the curse. That is, there can be no final balancing of the moral books in God’s universe unless One who is not under God’s wrath bears the full weight of that wrath in the place of those who cannot do so themselves. This is the marvel of the love of God demonstrated in Christ incarnate, fully human and divine, and what unites the entire story-line of Scripture.
  • The simple hermeneutical key to all of redemption history is the immediate context of every text, in which everything points both back to the past new-covenant-promise of redemption (Gen 3:5) and forward to its future fulfillment. Every biblical text has its context in this story-line of the redemption-promises of God, as well as the necessary eventuality of judgment.
  • From creation to new creation, God has a purpose and a plan for all creation, and his own way to complete his task. As Creator, he alone can be the Redeemer. This is the context of Jesus coming – as God incarnate, to assume in himself the full weight of his own glory, the penalty for guilt. The logic is irrepressible that God alone is sufficient for this task of redemption, and once Scripture establishes that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised to Adam and Eve, we know that there can be no other.
  • If that be the case, then here can be no Christ plus something . . . There can be no grace plus works (or penance, or baptism, or Masses, or indulgences, or relics, or anything) for those he vicariously assumes of their guilt and God’s wrath. Shedd writes, “God is the offended party, and he is the one who reconciles the offended party.”[4] There can be no forgiveness or remission of any penalty without proper propitiation (of the wrath of his holiness). There is no remission or release from penalty without full payment of the penalty. That is, there is no arbitrary remission of the penalty in God’s universe, in Scripture or in life. God would not be just, nor would a human judge be just, if crimes were simply pardoned without reason and just cause!
  • In the death of Christ, holiness and love are equally meted out, when “righteousness and peace, justice and mercy kiss each other” (Ps 85:10). No other humans, no saints, not Mary, no priests, nor sinners can fulfill this vicarious, propitiatory atonement which is efficacious and substitutionary, appeasing God’s wrath through penal, forensic purchase and ransom (or expiation for redemption), making restitution that sufficiently satisfies God’s holy standards and glory. This is why and how only Christ’s perfect righteousness is then imputed to the unrighteous by grace through faith and they are pardoned.
  • Lastly, this is why the atonement is of no value without faith; in itself it has no intrinsic power to save, and also why can be no other person involved in the dispensing of the grace of God in turning away his wrath and freeing us from guilt and the power of sin.
  • In conclusion, justice is necessary because of God’s glory, while mercy is God’s free gift of adoption into his covenant of redemption which flows out of his exceedingly great hesed love. That is why the answer to all our questions is SOLUS CHRISTUS! And, it is why we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and the Gentiles foolishness” ( 1 Cor 1:23). “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:3).

D.                 Biblical Texts on Christ

Acts 4:12 (NASB95)  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 20:28  “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1 Jn 2:2 (NASB95) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1 Jn 4:10 (NASB95) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 Cor 6:20 (NASB95) For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Gal 3:13 (NASB95) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Heb 1:1–3 (NASB95) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2  in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Heb 9:12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Col 1:16–17 (NASB95)  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Col 1:16–17 (NASB95) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made youd alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.e

Eph 1:9–10 (NASB95) He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

Eph 5:2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Rom 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

1 Jn 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world

1 Jn 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 Pet 1:2  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Pet 1:18-19 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

Rom 8:1–4 (NASB95) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.3  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Rom 8:28–39 (NASB95) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35       Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Pet 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 Thess 5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

Heb 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Heb 10:12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,

Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Defining the terms of redemption is essential to Biblical and Systematic Theology:

  • Propitiation
  • Vicarious at atonement
  • Efficacious
  • Ransom (Mtt 20:28)
  • Substitutionary
  • Penal
  • Reconciliation
  • Purchase
  • Redeem
  • Restitution
  • Satisfaction

If time allowed, we should consider also the many confessions of faith over the centuries of the church that beautifully summarize these concerns regarding the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ.

E.                  Historic Confessions of Faith

Westminster Confession of Faith:

Larger Catechism

  1. 9. How many persons are there in the Godhead? A. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;n and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.o
  2. 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father? A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names,s attributes,t works,u and worship,w as are proper to God only.
  3. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace? A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ,x who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father,y in the fullness of time became man,z and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct nature, and one person, forever.a.
  4. 1 Tim. 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. John 14:6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  Acts 4:12. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Christ alone is Mediator

Westminster Confession of Faith (A.D. 1647),

WCF ch 21.2 Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone;1 not to angels, saints, or any other creature:2 and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.3

1Mt 4:10; Jn 5:23; 2 Cor 13:14; 2Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; Rom 1:25; 3Jn 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 2:18; Col 3:17.

WCF Ch 8I

  1. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.  Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

Belgic Confession of Faith:

We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God— eternally begotten, not made or created,for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of God’s glory,”13 being like the Father in all things. Jesus Christ is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together. Moses says that God created the world;14 and John says that all things were created through the Word,15 which he calls God. The apostle says that God created the world through the Son.16 He also says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.17 And so it must follow that the one who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed before creating all things. Therefore the prophet Micah says that Christ’s origin is “from ancient days.”18 And the apostle says that the Son has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”19 So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

13 Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 14 Gen. 1:1 15 John 1:3 16 Heb. 1:2 17 Col. 1:16 18 Mic. 5:2 19 Heb. 7:3

London Baptist Confession:

“Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). .

[1] Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, two volumes in one, vol. 1, p. 90.

[2] Charnock, Existence, p. 89.

[3] Stephen Wellum, “Solus Christus: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters,” SBJT 19.4 (2015): 98.

[4] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol 1, p. 399

Pessimist or optimist?

Why I am not an optimist: the world is not as it ought to be, as seen in the cursed nature of the creation and the corrupt state of human nature and the eventual judgment on the godless world of unbelief for all who reject Christ as Lord and Savior.

Why I am not a pessimist: the world is not as it shall be, as seen in the glorious nature of the creation and the image of God in all humans and the eventual renewal of the earth and the resurrection of the body to life eternal for all who belong to Christ who is Lord of lords and King of all kings.


Pascal captures this Gospel sentiment so beautifully:

  • Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.
  • Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.
  • Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness. Pascal, Pensées, 192

“Jesus is a God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” Pascal, Pensées, 212

Something Rather Than Nothing & the Answer to Everything

“All people in this world are made to give evidence or to signify something.”
Robert Adams, Beauty in Photography, p. 60.

1.
Why is there something
rather than nothing?
Why is A not non A?
Unity and distinction,
differentiation and similarity,
freedom and responsibility,
one and the many,
promise and fulfillment,
signs and symbols,
something and nothing,
divine and human,
man and woman,
Creator and creature,
created and uncreated,
animate and inanimate,
humans and animals,
animals and plants,
comets, asteroids, planets,
names of unity
and distinction,
naming the names of all things,
animate and inanimate,
the Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
unity and differentiation,
without fusion,
distinction
without separation,
immanence and transcendence,
Name and Glory,
the Father from whom
all are named
by Adam as distinct man
from Eve,
in unity and distinction,
each one someone,
rather than no-one,
different, yet similar,
free, yet responsible,
human, not divine,
naming all, rather than nothing,
with freedom and identification,
identity, not non-identity,
persons, not non-persons?
This is unity and distinction,
the key to the universe
of all names, knowledge,
and reality, not non-reality,
stars, quarks, neutrinos
are something,
and why A is not non A,
and why something is not just anything.

This is the answer to everything.

2.
As trust is to construct
so sign is to consign
as signify is to entrust
so name is to design
as consider is to know
so compose is to specify
as find is to consider
so testify is to indicate
as acknowledge is to witness
so investigate is to concede
as speak is to designate
so declare is to unveil
as certitude is to signatories
so to allocate is to identify
as to regard one
as well as the other.

As to entitle is to envision
so to uname is to dismantle
as to deconstruct
is to names, signs, and symbols
metaphors, motifs, and allusions,
figures that direct and represent
as one against the other
as not the other.

As to assign is to find
so to unsignify is to disassemble
the one and the other,
as to mask is to obfuscate
so to classify is to unmask
the other
as to see is to discover
the names of all others
so to know is to love
as the apprised true beauty
of those identified
as truly signified.

Names to remember: all.

3.
Precepts on the theory of everything:

The definite article
definitely identifies
the thing it articulates.

The indefinite article is inarticulate,
but definitely identifies the thing as
indefinite.

There is no “thing in itself”
but the thing in relation to others,
in unity and distinction with each other.

The image is a sign
of the thing in relation,
and is not a thing in itself.

The sign is the significance
of the thing itself,
in unity and distinction from all other things.

The whole is not just One
but the unity of the many,
unique in themselves as one.

Dualism (divided fields of knowledge): two story living and some good news

platos_cave_escape_plan_t_shirtsIt is an obvious truism to note that human life is touched by many aspects of brokenness and fragmentation, since the fruits of disintegration touch every aspect of our lives. In order to consider some possible explanations for this, I suggest that it relates most directly to the spiritual/theological/ philosophical makeup of how we perceive reality (God and creation). This is seen especially in the way knowledge and understanding (worldviews) are fragmented into many polarizations of perspective. These then become the modus operandi of world-view development and expression, as well as living in this world.  For example, today there is the widespread belief that secular science provides “facts” while religion only affirms “values.” This is what is called the sacred/secular divide. I suggest that this is a myth born of the devaluation of the concept of truth as true to all that is. Indeed, truth can not only be about “values.” For it to be truth, it must concern total reality. Further, “secularism” is itself a religious world-view governed by disbelief in God and many other philosophical assumptions. Secularists often claim they have no religious assumptions or motivations, when in fact they are driven by deep religious assumptions governed by unbelief. Since such dualities are pervasively active today in the minds of many millions of people, it is helpful to consider them carefully to recognize and evaluate their insidious and often deleterious influence upon perceptions, beliefs, and actions (compiled from various sources, as follows . . .   To read more, click here.  Dualism, divided fields of knowledge, and biblical dichotomies

We laugh at honor . . .

DOC032515-002Another quote below from C.S. Lewis to expand on his famous quote about an educational text of his day that seems all so contemporary:
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” The Abolition of Man, p. 35.


“I think Gaius and Titius may have honestly misunderstood the pressing educational need of the moment. They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda — they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental — and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite tale. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, p. 24.