The Dual Nature of Christ

How are we to understand the temptation of Christ in light of the doctrine of “Dual Nature”? Meaning, if Jesus was fully God and fully man, how serious was the temptation that he endured in the Wilderness, or for that matter, throughout his entire life?

It is easy to understand how Jesus as a man would undergo temptation as it is common to the human experience. So, it would seem that the issue lies within the implications of Jesus’ deity. James 1:3 says, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” But in Hebrews 4:15 we are told that “…we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One (Jesus) who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” These two passages seem to create a conflict between the two natures of Christ.

Before I tackle this issue let me first demonstrate from Scripture that Christ indeed had two natures within his singular being:

As God, Jesus:                                                          However, as man, Jesus:

-was worshipped (Mt 2:2,11; 14:3)                             -worshipped God (Jn 17)

-is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor 1:1-2)                          -prayed to God (Jn 17:1)

-is called God (Jn 20:28; Heb 1:8)                               -was called man (Mk 15:39)

-called the Son of God (Mk 1:1)                                  -was called son of man (Jn 9:35ff)

-is sinless (1 Pt 2:22; Heb 4:15)                                   -was tempted (Matt 4:1)

-knew all things (Jn 21:17)                                            -grew in wisdom (Lk 2:52)

-gives eternal life (Jn 10:28)                                         -died (Rom 5:8)

-and is indwelt by the fullness of God (Col 2:9)        -had a body of flesh (Lk 24:39)

Do you see the difficulty of synthesizing these texts into an easy to understand doctrine of Christ’s deity and humanity? Well, I am going to give it my best shot in 300 words or less. Here it goes:

We see in Scripture that the divine nature and human nature of Christ coexisted within his person. The scriptures mentioned above tell us that God cannot sin and is not even tempted by sin, and yet the passage from Hebrews states clearly that Christ has been tempted in every way as we are and yet he remained sinless. From the vantage point of the divine I think it would be safe to conclude that Jesus could not have sinned. But from the human perspective Jesus MUST have been truly tempted. So the question becomes, if the divine nature of Christ keeps him from sinning then how could he have even been truly tempted?

Everything Jesus did, he did by looking at the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner…” Here is my question… Is this anything different than what our own experience should be? I would say no. Jesus was modeling for us, in every aspect of his life and ministry, exactly what we are supposed to do and be. Since we are not divine beings but are indwelt by the divine, I believe Jesus modeled this aspect of redeemed humanity for us. Looking to the Father and empowered by the Spirit.

Here is another example: In Matthew 12:22 Jesus was casting out demons. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting them out by the power of Beelzebub (Satan). Jesus accused the Pharisees of being guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Why the Holy Spirit? Why not Jesus? I believe it was because every miracle he preformed he did by the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the apostles. If Jesus operated in his deity, it would seem that all of his miracles would have been done in his own power, but over and over again Jesus performs the miraculous through the power of the Spirit and by the prompting of the Father.

Last point for this short blog: Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” I believe that Jesus is speaking of his humanity here. God has no reason to fulfill his own law, the law was created for man. God would have no problem fulfilling His own law, but man has always fallen short of God’s law. It makes sense, that in his humanity, not in his deity, Jesus came to show how a human should live under the law of God. Again, Dominion of the world was given to a man, was lost by a man, therefore I conclude it must redeemed by a man. This is why Paul says in Philippians 2:5,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Paul seems to be saying that Christ laid aside his deity to embrace and live in his humanity. This doesn’t not mean that Christ ceased to be Divine, only that he worked from the perspective of his humanity as an example of servanthood and humility for us. Also in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is an obvious allusion back to the creation narrative in reference to the creation of man in Genesis 1:26. In 1 Cor. 15:45 Paul says, 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” So, Paul seems to picture Jesus as the prefect human, the perfect image of God, His perfect likeness. Jesus is what Adam should have been but he sinned. Therefore, Jesus is the perfect example of what man was intended to be from the beginning.

Ask yourself this: If there is no way Jesus could have sinned, what was the purpose of the temptation in the wilderness? To prove who he was to Satan? Nope, Satan already knew who he was. Was God trying to prove it to Jesus? Nope, He already knew too. It seems to be because Jesus could have really given in to the temptations and yet he never did. Notice that the first two temptations consisted of Satan trying to get Jesus to exit out of his humanity and make use of his deity. The last temptation is Satan tempting Jesus as a human to take a short cut in reclaiming lost creation.

Jesus never sinned because, as man, he kept his eyes on the Father, keeping perfect fellowship with Him… and yet, as the Divine he was the Word. As a man, Jesus was sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in his life, and because he did these perfectly, he never sinned. Could Jesus have sinned? Sure, he was human, but because he trusted in the power of the Spirit and the Word of God and the will of his Father, he did not succumb to temptation and he never sinned. Also, from the perspective of the Divine nature, Jesus would never choose sin. The issue has more to do with capacity than it does with weakness. There are many things in my own life that I have the capacity to do, but because of my predisposition I will never act on that capacity. I believe the same is true of Christ and his nature and capacity.

These are just my thoughts, and I do see this as a third order issue. Therefore, there can be disagreement and continued fellowship. However, I believe there must be agreement that Christ was fully divine and fully human. That is non-negotiable. How those two natures were utilized (or unutilized) will always be an interesting inquiry!

Did Roman Aristocrats Fabricate the Jesus Story?

covert

An article has been floating around the internet about Joseph Atwill’s upcoming event “Covert Messiah” taking place in London this week. Atwill maintains a theory that the Flavian dynasty (a Roman aristocratic family) fabricated the Jesus narrative as an attempt to quell Jewish rebellion in Palestine during Rome’s occupation of the land in the first centuries. Instead of continuing a costly military campaign, the Roman government decided to wage “psychological warfare” in the form of inventing Christianity.

The event this week will most likely follow the same flow of thought found in Atwill’s work “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus.” In it, Atwill, a self-proclaimed “successful businessman” and “long-time student of Christianity”, lays out a lengthy argument that the Flavian aristocrats “created [Christianity] to serve as a theological barrier to prevent messianic Judaism from again erupting against the empire (Atwill, 333.)” Additionally, he argues that the Gospels were created as a satire of Titus’ military campaign throughout Judea.

So, does he have a point? Did Roman aristocrats fabricate the Jesus story in order to pacify the rebellious Jews? There are some major assumptions in Atwill’s work that must hold true in order for his theory to work. Let’s look just six of them.

1. The Entire New Testament Was Fabricated in Support of the Jesus Myth

In order for Atwill’s theory to be correct, the Flavian intellectuals would have needed to fabricate four different Gospel accounts (not including the pseudepigrapha) along with the Epistles, one history book, and a prophetic vision of the future.

This seems highly unlikely. The New Testament is a library of an array of voices, literary types, writing styles, and intellectual expressions. It is apparent that they were written by different authors at different times with different messages in mind. A consistent and fabricated theme is simply not found in the New Testament.

2. A Handful of Parallels Out of Dozens of Narratives Are Sufficient Evidence for Fabrication

Atwill gives a handful of parallels out of dozens of narratives found in the New Testament as proof of a Jesus–Titus parallel connection.

One would expect many parallels between Jesus and Titus to exist in order for Atwill to make such an astonishing claim. However, that’s not the case. In fact, when you get into his book there are only seven major parallels (as far as his conclusion is concerned – Atwill, 336-337). Seven parallels out of dozens of episodes in Jesus’ life. That does not seem like enough evidence to warrant the conclusion that the entire New Testament was fabricated in support of the Jesus myth.

3. The Pacification of the Jews Was Accomplished Through The Demolition of Their Religion

The Flavian aristocrats must have believed that changing the Jewish religion to Christianity would help pacify them.

This seems highly unlikely. Many foreign cultures attempted to stamp out the Jewish religion, which they saw as a source of rebellion. As history shows, that never worked. The Greeks attempted to replace Jewish culture with their own (Hellenism), but that failed. The Romans attempted to replace Jewish government with their own government, but that also failed (until well after Jesus’ life).

Furthermore, we see in the Book of Acts that the early Christian church caused all sorts of problems with the Jewish community. How was this supposed to quell Jewish rebellion?

4. The Romans Traded Warfare for Philosophy

The Romans, who were incredible military strategists, would have cast aside what they were good at for something they weren’t.

If there was one thing Rome did well it was warfare. Philosophy, on the other hand, didn’t come naturally. They borrowed much of their thinking from Greek culture and expounded on it. It seems unlikely that the Romans, after decades of trying to suppress the Jews, would give up militarily and give “psychological warfare” a try.

siege
The Romans were brilliant military strategists who relentlessly beat their enemies into submission. Fabricating worldviews was not in their arsenal…

5. Atwill Is the First Guy to Make This Discovery in 2,000 Years

No one in 2,000 years has made a Jesus–Titus connection until Joseph Atwill.

Atwill is claiming that he discovered something that thousands and thousands of scholars have over looked for the past 2,000 years. Well… if anything, at least his hubris is in check.

Also, Atwill is not in good company. Jesus mythicists have not found many friends in the academic community. Even New Testament critics such as Bart Ehrman believe Jesus was real person.

6. The Romans Fabricated A Story, Then Persecuted People for Believing It

Roman persecution plagued the early church for believing in something the Romans made up.

This makes no sense at all. Why would the Roman government fabricate a religion, trick everyone into believing it, and then punish them for believing it?

CONCLUSION

Atwill sees parallels where parallels don’t exist. He gathers a small pile of questionable evidence and heralds it as a mountain of condemnation for Christianity. He does this alone, having been the only person in 2,000 years to make such connections, but rarely questions why he’s the only one who came to the conclusions that he has.

Unfortunately, many people will buy what this self-described “successful businessman” is selling them, which is a convenient lie to disbelieve in the savior who loves them. And by selling I mean literally selling. The cost to hear Atwill share his rocky logic is $40.00 (£25) a ticket. The market is demanding reasons to disbelieve Jesus and Atwill is willing to supply that demand.

Perhaps he should change his seminar’s title to “Covert Me$$iah”

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Joseph Atwill, Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus (Berkeley, Cali.: Ulysses Press, 2009).

Associate Contributor: Alan Reynolds (@walanreynolds)

Why Ray Comfort’s “Evolution vs. God” Isn’t Actually That Helpful

Livingwaters.com
Image / Livingwaters.com

Recently, Ray Comfort released a documentary titled “Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith.” Comfort, an ardent proponent of young earth creationism (YEC), which promotes biblical literalism concerning Genesis 1–3, created the video in hopes of instilling doubt in the minds of the general public about the trustworthiness of evolution.

Presumably, the hope behind such a documentary would seek to bolster the trustworthiness of scripture for evangelism purposes. Having viewed it a few times, there is no doubt in my mind that Comfort is well-intentioned; however, I believe this video is not actually that helpful to the greater Science v. Faith public dialogue.

To be sure, Evolution vs. God will most likely not turn many heads. A quick scan across the internet reveals that it has already become the laughing stock of the non-theist community – a moot point, of course. Yet it is the other audience viewing the video, the Christians, who may well receive a false hope that Comfort’s documentary is an extremely effective tool for the gospel.

Why? Because Evolution vs. God just isn’t really that helpful whether you’re a YEC, intelligent design proponent, theistic evolutionist, or any other flavor of theistic creationism. It is unhelpful because it is poorly executed and falsely advertised as having accomplished something it has not.

GOTCHA JOURNALISM

So what’s the big deal? Why isn’t this video helpful? Two words: gotcha journalism. Unfortunately, Comfort’s video is a classic example of it.

Throughout the entire video, Comfort interviews students and university professors about their belief in evolution. He repeatedly commits that most notorious of philosophical fallacies, appeal to authority, by supposedly stumping evolutionary experts in their own fields of research.

The unspoken message comes across very clear – since studied evolutionists cannot provide observable evidence for evolution, it must be false. However, it should be observed that the authority Comfort appeals to isn’t the best pool to draw from. Throughout the video, he speaks with 26 students (presumably undergraduates) while only speaking with 4 professional academics. Not to offend, but this may not be the best sample of evolutionists to draw conclusions from.

Not only this, but there were many students who weren’t even biology majors. Some were geology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, environment science, and physics majors. Stumping a geology major in evolution does not disprove the theory, just as stumping a criminal justice major in theology doesn’t disprove the existence of God.

(There was just something cringeworthy about watching Comfort question geology and physics majors about evolution, recording their confused reactions, and heralding it as a victory for creationism.)

Furthermore, when questioning his interviewees about evolution, Comfort devotes a substantially smaller amount of attention to professors or academics compared to students.  Obviously, students will not formulate the same calibre of responses that professors or academics will, and Comfort is well aware of this.

All this leads to a documentary full of gotcha journalism. It comes across as tacky, misleading and, frankly, ineffective. So, after watching a documentary laden with gotcha journalism, as Christians we should honestly ask the question, “How is this helpful for Jesus?”

BACK TO WHAT MATTERS

In my opinion, Comfort needs to get back to what matters – the gospel. Of course, he presents a version at the end of the documentary, but gets to the gospel only after wading through a thicket of loaded questions and, presumably, highly edited responses. (After all, we cannot know for sure the extent or persuasiveness to which the interviewees answered Comfort’s questions.)

What Comfort is doing through Evolution vs. God is mirroring the same boorish tactics used by New Atheists in order to instill doubt in the minds of Christians. We complain about the ornery antagonism from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but when it is done in reverse do we cheer? When Comfort corners an undergraduate geology major about the massive implications and issues surrounding evolution, do we not see the correlation of Harris broad stroking Christians are backwards, unthinking fools?

Comfort does apologetics evangelism an injustice with this documentary while heralding it as having shaken the foundations of faith in evolution. The formula we should engage in does not start with “debunking” evolution. What matters in sharing the gospel isn’t trying to “disprove” evolution outright.  Sharing the gospel is about getting straight to the point – starting at Jesus – and working your way outwards from there.

Watch “Evolution vs. God” here.