Jesus

A Puritan on the Hypostatic Union

If the divine nature had been converted into the human, or the human into the divine, there would have been a change—but they were not. The human nature was distinct from the divine nature. Therefore there was no change. A cloud over the sun makes no change in the the sun. Just so, though the divine nature is covered with the human nature, it makes no change in the divine nature.
-Thomas Watson

Staples Gives the Real Christmas Story

From Jason Staples:

In the first (recently published in NTS), he shows (in spite of the constant threat of the Spanish Inquisition) that Luke 2:7 in fact involves no “inn” (the word traditionally translated “inn” actually suggests an extra room or “place to stay”), nor does Luke suggest that Jesus was born in a stable, barn, cave, or anything of the sort. It’s an excellent article, and though it might take the fun out of nativity scenes for some folks, it is well worth the read for those interested in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth.

The end result is that in Luke’s account, Mary seems to have given birth in Joseph’s family’s house in Bethlehem, being forced to put Jesus in a manger, which would have been in the main room of the house, since they didn’t tend to have barns or stables for their animals like in the modern world, instead bringing the animals inside. Luke 2:7 is probably best translated something like this:

And she bore a son, her firstborn child, and they wrapped him in baby cloths and laid him in a manger, because they had no space in their accommodations [for him].

Yup, that’s right. No stable, no inn, no innkeeper. But on the plus side, it’s better exegesis of what Luke actually says. So it has that going for it. Which is nice.

Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of John – part 2

Part I can be found here: [link]

Jesus on Lazarus

The Lazarus incident has several very interesting features. The first is that Jesus seems to instantly know the condition of Lazarus when he is told that Lazarus is sick:

Joh 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus says it is not an illness that leads to death. But Lazarus dies. Is it the case that Jesus was incorrect but was ultimately made correct through God’s intervention? Is it the case that Jesus knew the entire episode would play out with Lazarus dying and coming back to life? Was Jesus just confident that if Lazarus died, that God would resurrect Lazarus (as evident in Jesus’ claim that Lazarus’ condition would be used for God’s glory)? Was Jesus just under the impression that Lazarus would be healed by God? It is hard to say.

The scene seems to flash forward a couple days until Lazarus dies. Jesus seems to know this, and says:

Joh 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
Joh 11:15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Was Jesus waiting for Lazarus to die? Possibly. Did Jesus know that Lazarus would die? Possibly. Did learning of Lazarus’ death prompt Jesus to set out for Judea? Possibly. It is not clear how Jesus has and is using his knowledge here.

Jesus sets out for Judea. In Judea, Jesus meets Martha. Jesus tells her that Lazarus would rise again. The grave is opened and Jesus thanks God for hearing him:

Joh 11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
Joh 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is confident that God answers all his prayers. This suggests that Lazarus was healed by Jesus’ prayers to God and that God’s power was at work. Does this reflect back to Jesus’ assurances that Lazarus would be healed? Is Jesus just confident that God is powerful and answers prayer, or is this passage about foreknowledge? It seems to be a passage about Jesus’ relationship with God, not about knowledge.

Jesus knows what God will do because Jesus wishes God to do those things. The causality flows from Jesus to God. One would assume the knowledge accompanies this trust. If this is the case, the story of Lazarus might be of one in which Jesus sets up a situation to prove that he has God’s favor. Jesus hears Lazarus is sick, waits for things to turn south, and then arrives to make things right. Again, this text is probably not about knowledge but relationship.

Jesus Has Come for the Hour

In John 12, Jesus is said to have not been weary of the final hour:

Joh 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

The most straightforward reading is perhaps a rejection of what is written in the other gospels, where Jesus prays to be saved from the crucifixion. If Jesus is saying this in emotionless confidence, then it would be in contrast to his behavior elsewhere. But Albert Barnes attempts to rectify John with the other gospels:

Father, save me – This ought undoubtedly to have been read as a question – “Shall I say, Father, save me?” Shall I apply to God to rescue me? or shall I go forward to bear these trials? As it is in our translation, it represents him as actually offering the prayer, and then checking himself. The Greek will bear either interpretation.

To Albert Barnes, the solution is that Jesus said these words in perplexity. Jesus was wondering if he should pray to be released from the crucifixion or go through with the crucifixion. If this is the correct reading, it fits that Jesus was “troubled” (per the text), that Jesus believed the future was open (per other texts in John), and Jesus could persuade God to forgo the crucifixion (per the other gospels).

Jesus Figures out the Hour has Come

In John 13, the text talks about Jesus coming to the realization that his hour has come. This text is ambiguous. Did Jesus always know the exact hour? Or did something indicate to Jesus that his time had come? The use of “hour” here seems to be a more specific timeframe than other uses of “hour” in John, as consistent with normal figurative speech:

Joh 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

This text does not indicate heavily about the extent and use of Jesus’ knowledge.

Jesus Knows Judas will Betray Him

Jesus then proceeds to host the last supper. In this supper, Jesus’ betrayal comes up in conversation. Jesus makes a convert comment towards Judas and the narrator follows with:

Joh 13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus then follows this by claiming that Judas’ betrayal is predicted by scripture:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
Joh 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Calvinist James White claims verse 19 is an allusion to Isaiah 43:10 and a deity claim. Isaiah 43 reads:

Isa 43:9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.
Isa 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

John 13:19 and Isaiah 43:10 seem to only share parallel concepts. The words, themselves, seem to have different phrasing. Isaiah has “witness”, “know and believe”, and lacks the “before and after” terminology. It might be a jump in logic to style John as a deity claim based on Isaiah 43 rather than a Messiah claim based on the immediate context. As seen from the woman at the well, knowledge of things gave prophet status, not necessarily deity status.

The previous verse, verse 18, is an allusion to Psalms 41:9. The phrases are directly parallel. Compare:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

Psa 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

It would be strange that Jesus alludes to two separate Bible verses in two very different manners just one verse apart. It is more reasonable to think that Jesus is making a combined claim, one that God will raise him up and overcome his enemies (the context of Psalms 41) and that this will prove he is Israel’s Messiah.

In any case, the disciples do not understand anything Jesus is saying (which would make a knowledge based deity claim even stranger). Jesus, later, becomes troubled and point blank says he will be betrayed:

Joh 13:21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Joh 13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.

The disciples continue to be confused and do not understand even after Jesus indicates Judas will betray him. Satan then enters Judas:

Joh 13:27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

In verse 2, the Devil is said to put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Is “Satan entering Judas” a figure of speech, meaning Judas acted on the thoughts the devil planted in verse 2? Or was Judas possessed? Why does John 13 introduce the Devil and Satan in relation to Judas? The Devil is mentioned only 3 times in John, and Satan only once. Perhaps, Satan is being used in a sense of personification. Judas became adversarial after Jesus indicated Judas would betray him. Jesus then tells Judas to go, and Judas proceeds to leave.

Jesus links Judas’ betrayal to God being glorified. This links back to John 12:27 where Jesus questions whether to forgo the crucifixion. In John 12, Jesus links his hour coming to God being glorified. In John 12:28, God speaks back to Jesus claiming to be glorified again. Could John 12 have been the defining moment when Jesus resolved on this outcome, cementing the events?

How did Jesus know that Judas was to betray him? Was it based on character (Judas is described by John as robbing the donations (Joh 12:6) and was picked for his bad character (Joh 6:70))? Was Jesus’ knowledge based on fatalism? If so, how does that fix the crucifixion not being a fixed event in John 12. Was Jesus’ knowledge based on the works of the Devil (who entices Judas in verse 2 and is equated with Judas in 6:70)?

The mechanism for this knowledge is probably not fatalism or future exhaustive knowledge. The text goes out of its way to involve the Devil, literally or figuratively. This serves as motivation for Judas.

Part 2 conclusion

Jesus is styled as knowing much about Lazarus, possibly even setting up the scenario. Jesus possibly states that the crucifixion can be avoided if he so wished. Jesus then knows that Judas is in the process of betraying him (predicted in earlier texts).

Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of John – part 1

Reblogged from Realityisnotoptional.com:

I was recently challenged on the concept of Jesus in the gospel of John. The challenger stated that Jesus is depicted as omniscient or semi-omniscient. Jesus, throughout the gospel of John, seems to have access to God’s knowledge (and power) and utilized it on a regular basis.

The first thing to note about the writing style of John is that it is more ethereal and cryptic than the other gospels. John introduces about 90% new material, and uses that material in such a way that it presents Jesus as more divine than the other gospels. Much more of Jesus’ statements are contextless and not very concrete. There is a lot of confusion for the listeners and the readers. The text sometimes, but not always, follows up with clarifications.

The book also tends to divorce Jesus from his Jewish apocalyptic primary message depicted in the other gospels. This suggests a late date of writing, when the followers of Christianity began to expect the imminent end was not so imminent and the Gentile mission was larger. The book seems to be written to later Greek converts (having to define terms such as “Rabbi” and “Messiah”). The cryptic nature probably appealed more to the Greek sense of mystery than the Jewish sense of apocalypticism.

Jesus shows clairvoyance

Jesus is depicted as having access to much of God’s knowledge. There is a very early scene in which Jesus recalls having seen someone in a place where Jesus was not present:

Joh 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Joh 1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Joh 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus’ knowledge of the character of Nathanael is based on seeing Nathanael earlier. Something about this scene gave Jesus the indication that Nathanael was doing something under the fig tree that spoke to his character. Perhaps Nathanael was in prayer. Jesus’ claim would be that God showed him Nathanael’s prayer.

Jesus knows the character of man

In the second chapter, Jesus is said to know the character of his new converts. He knows not to trust them, because he understands “man”:

Joh 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
Joh 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people
Joh 2:25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

How this is worded seems to say that Jesus knew the general character of man, especially the people who are claiming to be his disciples. This instance seems to be referenced in a much later context:

Joh 6:60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
Joh 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

If John 6:64 is a reference to John 2:25, it would appear that Jesus knew who would betray him because he knew the character of the people with which he was dealing. Unlike the John 1:48 instance, Jesus is not tapping into divine knowledge for this event.

Jesus acquires new information

John 4 begins with Jesus learning about the actions of the Pharisees. In this case, Jesus did not have foreknowledge or clairvoyance (assumedly) about something that happens.

Joh 4:1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John
Joh 4:2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),
Joh 4:3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.

Jesus is operating in a manner in which he learns something, after it happens, and then Jesus responds accordingly.

Jesus knows a woman’s past

John 4 cuts to Jesus interacting with a woman at a well. In this interaction, Jesus is able to recall events from this woman’s life with accuracy:

Joh 4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
Joh 4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Joh 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

To this woman, that Jesus could recount her past put Jesus in the role of a prophet, someone who communicates with and for God. The woman’s normal interpretation of these events is not to bestow omniscience on Jesus, but to understand Jesus as operating through the power of God.

This passage reveals several idiomatic expressions, hyperboles. The woman says that Jesus “told me all that I ever did” and she says that Christ would “tell us all things.” These normal idiomatic expressions are very important, because within John, the disciples tell Jesus that Jesus knows “all things”:

Joh 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

The phrase “all things” most naturally is limited to a hyperbolic expression that needs to be taken in context. It would be a mistake to assume some sort of literal and metaphysical sense to these words unless the context is explicit.

Jesus changes the future

Jesus’ ministry is entirely in the context of saving people from things that can happen. One does not see in Jesus a sense of fatalism. Jesus warns people that their actions will be responsible for future contingencies. Jesus attempts to avert the worst with warnings.

In John 5, Jesus warns someone he has just healed that he needs to refrain from sinning to avert judgment:

Joh 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Jesus attempts to save people:

Joh 5:34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.

Jesus uses the power of God

Consistent with the events of Nathanael and the woman at the well, Jesus makes the claim that his power is through God.

Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

And:

Joh 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus tests the disciples

Although Jesus generally knows people’s hearts, sometimes Jesus tests them in specific ways to learn what they will do:

Joh 6:5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
Joh 6:6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Jesus planned on performing a miracle, but wanted to see if the disciples would put their faith in Jesus’ power. The disciples are thinking of the non-miraculous, and seem to fail the test.

Jesus knows that Judas will betray him

Later in John 6, Jesus has a falling out with many of his disciples. These are probably many of the same disciples that Jesus did not trust in John 2:25. Jesus calls them out and then a bunch leave. The text then states that Jesus knew they were not true converts, adding in that Jesus knows who would betray him:

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

The text then identifies that individual, by name:

Joh 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
Joh 6:69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Joh 6:70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
Joh 6:71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

How does Jesus know Judas would betray him? The knowledge about the other disciples was per their character. Would it not be safe to assume Jesus knew the character of Judas? There are no hints of divine information sharing in this text.

Jesus avoids dangerous situations

After this, Jesus decides to avoid Judea because there would be a chance he would die:

Joh 7:1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

Jesus, here, is not operating with exhaustive future omniscience, but is minimizing risks of future occurrences by avoiding dangerous situations. Someone with exhaustive future omniscience could easily inject themselves into dangerous situations and overcome. Someone operating within the bounds of human activity, with some divine help, needs to take precautions.

Jesus eventually does go to Judea, but is careful not to let that information out:

Joh 7:10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

Jesus’ divine protection

In John 7, Jesus gives a speech that incites the authorities. They attempt to arrest him, but Jesus escapes. The stated reason is that “his hour has not come”:

Joh 7:30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

Perhaps this is because Jesus was given divine protection. If this is the case, divine protection thwarts what would have been. The future is being changed through divine action. The Jews are thwarted at the end of chapter 8 where they attempt to stone Jesus:

Joh 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus runs away. This is reoccurring:

Joh 10:39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

Jesus learns about a man

In chapter 9, Jesus heals a blind man. The Jewish authorities expel the man from the synagogue for declaring Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus learns about this and then seeks out the man:

Joh 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Part 1 conclusion:

The text presents Jesus as knowledgeable, with the ability to tap into God’s power. Jesus is not depicted as omniscient. And the future is portrayed as flexible and indefinite.

Apologetics Thursday – Sacks Sees Jesus as a Compromise

In The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, Rabbi Sacks speculates about the role of Jesus in Christianity:

So remote is the God of pure being – the legacy of Plato and Aristotle – that the distance is bridged in Christianity by a figure that has no counterpart in Judaism, the Son of God, a person who is both human and divine. In Judaism we are all both human and divine, dust of the Earth yet breathing God’s breath and bearing God’s image. These are profoundly different theologies.

While Sacks is correct to note that Jesus is used as a stop-gap by modern Christians between the “incommunicable” god of the Platonists and man, Sacks appears to assume this was the original state of Christianity. But Christianity was born in Judaism. All the early Christians were Jewish and were entrenched in solid Jewish theology and eschatology. It was not until the rise of Paul that the Gentiles were courted. The religion of Christianity never did invent Jesus as a bridge between an unknowable god and between man. Instead Jesus is depicted as a mediator, much like the Holy Spirit (they both advocate to God on our behalf (1Ti 2:5, Rom 8:26)). That Jesus and the Spirit advocate to the Father is directly counter to any Platonistic notion of god. Why would one try to sway an immutable and incomprehensible god?

The Bible depicts Jesus praying to God and asking God to change His mind (Mat 26:39). The picture is primarily relational, not metaphysical. When Jesus states “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Joh 14:9) this is not a bridge between the knowable and the unknowable. Instead, this is Jesus telling the disciples who they will meet when they finally meet God.

Morrell on Jesus the Open Theist

From Was Jesus an Open Theist:

1. Jesus rebuked his disciples for evidently not believing that the future was flexible and not fixed, or that it could be altered. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matt. 26:53. Here we see Jesus teaching open theism and essentially rebuking his disciples for not believing in open theism. Jesus was saying that he had a free will choice between alternative possibilities.

2. “And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.” Mark 13:18. Here Jesus taught the open theists view of prayer, that prayer can literally affect, determine, and change the future. If there were no alternative future possibilities that were as of yet undecided, prayer for the future would be useless and vain. If all future events were already an eternal fixity, praying for certain events in the future to happen or not happen or to happen a certain way would not matter one iota.

3. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Matt. 24:22. Here Jesus taught not only that God has the sovereign ability to change the future (aka open theism) but that God has in fact, in this particular, changed the future. The Bible, in both Testaments, teaches God’s ability to lengthen or shorten a man’s days. Thus, the future is flexible and changeable, not eternally fixed and concrete.

The Real Christmas Story

Reprinted from reality is not optional (also see Jason Staples on related issues:

christmas

Everyone knows the story of the birth of Jesus: Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, they checked all the hotels but all rooms were sold out, they then came across kindly strangers who offered to allow them to stay in their barn, and there Mary gave birth to Jesus. Shepherds and wise men both converged on the scene to celebrate. It is a nice story, but almost everything about it is false.

The birth account of Jesus is found in only two of the Gospels (Matthew and Luke). Those two accounts are very divergent in themselves. They almost replicate no information between each other. They do fit together, however, if they are understood as they are written.

According to the book of Luke, Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth when they decide to travel to Bethlehem for a Roman census. While in Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus. The text of Luke says that Mary wrapped Jesus in cloth and placed him in an animal feeding trough because there was no room for them in the inn:

Luk 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Modern readers are quick to think that the word “inn” means a hotel, like Holiday Inn or the Marriot Inn. But this is not the word being used. That meaning does not make sense in context either. Joseph is traveling to a city from which he has relatives. He stays in this city for some time, waiting for the census to be accomplished. It is supposed he checks for motel rooms, and after not finding any he decides to sleep in a barn for weeks until Mary gives birth. That is not how the story goes.

Instead “inn” is the word for guestroom. In Luke 22:11, this “guestroom” is used for the place of the house where Jesus has his last supper. Guestroom was a part of any house reserved for guests. When Luke 2:7 says that there was no room in the guestroom, Joseph is at a relative’s house. Every Christmas all of America experiences the same thing: too many relatives are staying in one location and not everyone gets the nice bed. Joseph and Mary never checked for a hotel, instead their extended family called dibs on the nice places to sleep at a relative’s house. It is that or because they were expecting the birth they wanted more floor space for convenience. In this case, the relocation would be voluntary.

Furthermore, Joseph and Mary were not forced outside to have Jesus in a barn. In the modern world we think of great red barns when we think of farmers. The animals live in nice pens, and the farmer sleeps in some sort of white farmhouse. But in ancient times, farmers lived with their animals. Animals provided warmth at night. And rural peasants could not necessarily afford a second structure dedicated just to animals. The farmer lived where they worked and worked where they lived.

Part of the Joseph’s relative’s house was reserved for animals. It is this part of the house in which Mary gave birth. The text points to this. It says “Mary laid Jesus in a manger [animal feeding trough] because there was no room in the guestroom”. Mary had to relocate to a different part of the house to have Jesus. The nearest place to lay a newborn baby was a small structure filled with hay: the manger.

After Mary gives birth, Luke describes how shepherds come and worship him. There is no mention of the wise men so common to modern depictions. And there is a good reason for this: the wise men did not visit for another year or so. Matthew’s account does not detail the birth of Christ, but instead events soon after.

When the wise men first come to Judea, this is to find the already born “King of the Jews”. The star apparently appeared as Jesus was being born and it takes the wise men quite some time to travel to Jesus’ location. The text refers to Jesus as a “young child” several times. This is the same word for when the young children approached Jesus in his later ministry. Young child meant anything from toddler to teenager.

This is the age of Jesus when he met the wise men. The text does not talk about the shepherds or the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. All of these things are assumed to be in the past. Jesus was born long before, and seems to have continued living in Bethlehem for several years before he moved to Egypt (fleeing those who wish to harm him).

Because Jesus was born at the appearance of the star, this is why Herod kills all children less than 2 years of age. Herod wanted to kill his rival “King of the Jews” who had already been born sometime before. They were seeking a child aged between a newborn and a toddler.

The last misunderstanding is commonly known. Although various renditions of Jesus’ encounter with the wise men show only three wise men, the precise number of wise men is unknown. It is just assumed that there are three wise men because they present three types of gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

In Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, three wise men are shown offering the gifts. The mother of Brian shows hesitance at the myrrh but accepts the frankincense and gold. In ancient times, all three of these gifts were valuable commodities. Each wise man might have presented a little from one or more categories (along with unnamed presents) or multiple wise men might have presented duplicate gifts (no one has ever complained about getting two or more gifts of cash for Christmas). The number of gifts does not limit the number of wise men.

Compounding the problem, in later accounts the three wise men are named and given backstories (Melchior, Jaspar, and Balthazar). This helped cement the image of three wise men in Christmas stories. But the names and number of wise men can most definitely be described as later embellishments of the account in Matthew.

The Real Story

If the accounts in both Matthew and Luke are correct, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem for a census. They stay with a relative for a time, but because too many people were staying over (or Mary needed more birthing space) they sleep with the animals in the main part of the house. When Mary finally gives birth to Jesus they place Jesus in a feeding trough as shepherds come to worship. Joseph decides to stay with his relatives for some time in Bethlehem, and within a couple of years a group of wise men appear to worship and give gifts. Joseph is then warned that Herod wishes to harm Jesus, and Joseph moves to Egypt (financed by the wise men). It doesn’t make for a good Hollywood depiction of Jesus’ birth, but that is how the text reads.

Boyd on Peter

Gregory Boyd from Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views:

23. Also at play in the betrayal narrative is that Peter had been clinging to a mistaken militant concept of the Messiah (see, e, g., Matt. 16: 21 – 23). This is why Peter appeared so bold while Jesus was working miracles and the crowds were following him, yet revealed himself to be a coward once Jesus was arrested and the crowds turned against him. God’s purpose in having Jesus give the prophecy of Peter’s denial was to reveal to Peter the sinfulness of his own character and help him discover the true, self-sacrificial nature of leadership in the kingdom. The kingdom Jesus ushered into the world advances not by conquering people but by loving, serving, and dying for them (as Jesus was already showing Peter in the garden; see John 18: 10 – 11; cf. Luke 22: 50 – 51). I do not believe it is a coincidence that after the resurrection Peter was made to affirm three times his love for Christ and that Jesus then uttered another prophecy over him. Far from denying Christ, Peter was now ready to follow Jesus to the point of dying just as he died (see John 21: 15 – 19).

Gunton on God and Jesus and Seperate Will

From Act and Being: Towards a Theology of the Divine Attributes:

And yet the gospel account appears to require at least two wills somewhere, as crucially in Gethsemane. When Jesus says, `not my will, but yours be done’, the gospel appears to imply that it is at least conceivable that the Son will will other than his Father. To avoid the problem of there being two wills in God, two were attributed to Christ. There must be in Christ himself, it was argued, two wills, a divine will and a human will, and what we see in Gethsemane is the human nature’s will accepting that of the divine nature.

Fisher on Jesus being Lower than the Angels

Christopher Fisher provides commentary on Hebrews 2:9:

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

The entire thrust of the whole passage is to prove to his audience that Jesus was superior to the angels. Jesus would be in charge of the apocalypse, not the angels. Apparently, in the time of the author there were rumors that Jesus a powerless messenger. Hebrews counters that idea. One would think that if the author was trying to communicate the strange idea that Jesus was “setting aside” his Godhead to make himself “lower than the angels” that this point would be explicit as to heighten the overall point of the chapter. Instead, what is present is a desperate attempt to show that Jesus, although less powerful than the angels, would be superior to them in the coming apocalypse. The context does not fit an Augustinian understanding.

Because Godhood is not synonymous with omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience or any other Greek concept, Jesus can be lower than the angels yet be divine. As Will Duffy pointed out to me, the entire passage undermines the basic concept of immutability, the heart of the Augustinian concept of God. The Augustinian obsession with extra-Biblical attributes forces them into strange interpretations of these texts.

Apologetics Thursday – Christ Died for His People

By Christopher Fisher

An exchange on ChristianForums.com:

Originally Posted by FreeGrace2:
But there are NO verses that teach that Christ died ONLY for some, whatever you’d like to call that group.

Apologetic_Warrior responds:
There are plenty of verses take Matt 1:21 for example:

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notice “will save” not might or possibly, and notice “his people”, in the context of the Gospels “his people” are the “sheep”, not the goats.

If Christ came to make a general sacrifice for sins, making it possible for anyone, then why do we read that “HE will save”. It doesn’t add up to insert notions of Jesus, coming to die for everyone but saving his people….meaning he died equally for those who are not his people, for those burning in hell. So where does that leave the efficacy?

Calvinist Apologetic Warrior believes that Jesus died only for the election. He believes that Matthew 1:21 is evidence of this fact. But this is not what “Jesus’ people” implies or means in Matthew. The Jews were expecting a Messiah to save Israel (not Gentiles and not “certain elect”). Here is Zacharias’ prophecy:

Luk 1:67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
Luk 1:68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,
Luk 1:69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
Luk 1:70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,
Luk 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us,
Luk 1:72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,
Luk 1:73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

So God is saving “his people” (whose father is Abraham) from the hand of their enemy (as predicted by prophets) in order to fulfill the covenant. This was the covenant to David and Israel (not the gentiles). The prophets predicted a rise in Israel’s fortune (not shared promise with Gentiles). Absolutely none of Zacharias’ prophecy fits the context of Jesus dying for a select few elect including a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. It fits the context of Jesus coming to save Israel.

In fact, the term “his people” always refers to corporate Israel, both the saved and the damned. Paul connects “God’s people” with “Israel”, some of whom are rejected:

Rom 11:1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Here is Paul’s point: because God is cutting off Israel, this does not mean He is casting off all of Israel. God still gets to fulfill His promises. Paul clarifies:

Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

So a remnant of a larger body of God’s people is saved. This counts as God saving “his people”. A striking note is that Paul has to explain this to his reader. This was not common knowledge.

Here again Paul differentiates between Gentiles and “God’s people”:

Rom 15:10 And again he says: “REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE!”

When Matthew 1:21 states that Jesus will save “his people” from their sins, this is corporate Israel. The context indicates this, Jesus’ ministry to the Jews illustrates this, and later authors also point this out.

Olson on Limited Atonement

Arminian Roger Olson writes in a recent post:

I am well aware, of course, that five point Calvinists (and many Calvinists are “four pointers”) have their interpretations of all scripture passages that point to universal atonement. But I agree with the late Vernon Grounds, long-time president of Denver Seminary and evangelical scholar and statesman, that “It takes an exegetical ingenuity which is something other than a learned virtuosity to evacuate these texts of their obvious meaning: it takes an exegetical ingenuity verging on sophistry to deny their explicit universality.” (“God’s Universal Salvific Grace” in Grace Unlimited [Bethany House, 1975], p. 27)

For full post, click here.

Boyd on Power Worship

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Gregory Boyd wonders why Christians worship power:

Second, and most important, while I do not find it at all surprising that pagans typically define a deity’s greatness by his or her level of control over others – humans, after all, have worshiped power since the dawn of history – I am nonplussed as to why followers of Jesus would ever think this way. At the center of the New Testament is the shockingly beautiful revelation that Jesus, the crucified Son of God, reveals what God is really like. Jesus is the very “radiance of God’s glory” and the one and only “exact representation of his being” (hypostasis) (Heb 1:3)… If our thinking about God was unwaveringly fixed on Jesus, I honestly cannot see how we could ever conclude that God’s greatness is primarily about how much control he exerts over others. To the contrary, in Jesus we discover that God’s greatness is most clearly revealed in the foolishness and weakness of the cross (1 Cor 1:18-25).

Jesus Was Not Controlling

From the Cruciform View on Sovereignty:

After talking about sovereignty and providence in Systematic Theology II today I’m reminded of how often Christians automatically equate God’s “sovereignty” with being all controlling.
Yet, our clearest image of God’s power—of God’s very nature (Heb. 1:3)—is Jesus lowering himself to the role of a servant, washing his disciples’ feet, using his miracles to heal victims of oppressive demonic power, and allowing himself to be brutally murdered when he could have just as easily defeated his murderers with violent force.

In Jesus, I do not see a God who lords his all-controlling “sovereignty” over His creation, but rather I see a God who willfully limits his power, to the point of becoming a servant and defeating evil through his inexhaustible love on the cross.

For full post, click here.

Enyart on Judas and Fatalism

From the TheologyOnline debate Does God Know Your Entire Future. Bob Enyart writes:

Settled Interpretation: By elevating the quantitative attributes of omniscience, control, omnipotence, and immutability, above God’s qualitative attributes of being relational, good, and loving, Calvinists believe that God is glorified more by Judas carrying out his treachery, than if he had repented and being broken, sought forgiveness.

Open Interpretation: Because the quantitative attributes should not take precedent over God’s being relational and loving, which are among His highest attributes, therefore no creaturely action can glorify God more than to obey the greatest command, which is to love Him. Thus if Judas had repented, Jesus would not be angered, but overjoyed, as the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine to recover the one lost sheep. God would care nothing of Judas failing to live up to the expected betrayal, as compared to the glory of reconciliation.

So let me restate your question into its historical narrative. Earlier, Judas had left the upper room after finding out that Jesus already knew about his betrayal. In the evening after dinner the Lord took the eleven for a walk over the Brook Kidron and up the side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. And in that garden, the Lord spoke the most mournful prayers ever uttered, about the dear cost of our salvation. And now watch what Calvinists think is their greatest nightmare, and see what Openness possibilities would look like actually playing out in human history. As Jesus is praying, the traitor appears, but not with a cohort of temple guards. He comes alone. And he stumbles, and falls at the feet of his Lord. “Master…, I…, I…,” but he can’t stop crying. “Master…, Master…,” his words not able to break through his sobs. Peter stirs, and awoken by the wailing, comes to see what is happening. He has a weapon, but does not need to draw his sword. For no guards were there. And Malchus was still back at the high priest’s courtyard, warming himself at a fire of coals. Peter sees his fellow disciple, Judas, prostrate and consumed in tears. He was pleading with the Lord, for something Simon couldn’t understand. Judas was overcome with grief, and the sound of wailing brings James and John, who see Jesus put his arms around Judas’ head. And the Lord cleans his nose and eyes with the edge of His robe. Then the Lord asked him, “Who are you seeking?” And Judas couldn’t answer. And so He kissed him, and said, “I know, Judas, I know.”

“I forgive you.”

Sam. Consider the entirety of who Judas was and ever will be. What could he ever have done that could have glorified God more than to repent in Gethsemane? If Judas had repented, as did Nineveh after God promised destruction in forty days, God would not cease to be God. Rather, He and the angels in heaven would rejoice. The Evangelists would not feel defeated, but they would glory recording such an event in their Gospels, as does the Scripture when Nineveh repented and avoided God’s prophesied destruction forty days later. Jonah lamented that God’s mercy superseded His prophecy (though it did!). And Settled View proponents seem to suggest they would do likewise. Calvinists always bring up Judas, suggesting that God could not be God if Judas had repented, but He survived Nineveh. Actually, God wanted to be wrong about Nineveh, because love influences Him. And God could have survived Judas also. If Judas had repented, Christ might have given Matthias a different task, of engraving this story into the walls of the New Jerusalem [Rev. 21:14] just beneath the name of Judas Iscariot. Calvinists do not lament the fact that Nineveh repented (true?). And it would be EXACTLY the same situation if Judas had repented.

Apologetics Thursday – Peter’s Denials

By Christopher Fisher

From Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views. William Craig Lane questions Open Theism based on Jesus predicting Peter’s denials:

Boyd’s attempt to explain away Jesus’ predictions of Peter’s denials as an inference from his flawed character is fanciful. Granted that Jesus could infer that Peter would fail him, how could he infer that Peter’s failure would come in the form of denials, rather than, say, flight or silence, and how could he infer three denials before the cock crowed twice? In the absence of middle knowledge, Boyd’s claim that God “orchestrated” the circumstances implied that God took away the freedom of the servant girl and all the other in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, as well as those at the arrest of Jesus.

When Classical Theists imply that omniscience was necessary to know that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, it is useful to start with the well-established fact that Jesus did not know everything:

Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus was not omniscient, yet he predicted Peter’s denials. Lane must then assume that Jesus gained his information from God or that Jesus (not omniscient) just knew Peter’s actions. The first case has little scriptural evidence. The second defeats Lane’s initial point.

This cannot be stressed enough. Jesus (who was not omniscient) predicted Peter’s denials. When your evidence defeats your position, your evidence may not be very good.

William Craig Lane offers alternative hypotheticals to Peter’s denial. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter chooses to flee. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter remains silent. Hypothetically, pretend the Bible recorded either. In both cases, an intellectually honest reader would clearly recognize that Lane, in an effort to salvage the “prophecy” would interpret three silences, or three fleeings, or any combination of the above as a “fulfillment” of prophecy. When the classical theists read the Bible, farfetched latitude is given for “prophecy fulfillment”. See the prophecy of Tyre. When the prophecy turns out very straightforward, zero latitude is given. To be intellectually honest, a classical theist would have to acknowledge there are countless ways in which the “prophecy” could have been fulfilled or explained away if it had failed.

Say it failed. Say Peter, instead, repented. Nineveh repented after Jonah proclaimed “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. The Classical Theists see that prophecy as a warning. There is no reason that if Peter repented that they would then not claim that Jesus’ prophecy was of the same category.

In other words, no matter what happened that night, the classical view would excuse the events. The only reason they hold it as “proof positive” of future events is that it was specific and it came true. Never mind that Jesus was not omniscient and that Jesus himself probably did not want his own prophecy to come true. Prophecy is often warning, and Jesus was making a point to Peter. Jesus was not attempting some magic forecasting trick.

Lane’s follow-up is that the people in the courtyard would have no free will. Lane assumes that some people would not freely inquire about the latest celebrity gossip unless they were forced. Again, the classical theist is enforcing a weird standard that is foreign to human experience. People are naturally gossip minded and love to ask questions about the latest exciting news. It does not take a particularly powerful or skillful person to influence three people to ask about the latest happenings. As Bob Enyart points out in a 2007 debate with Gene Cook:

Enyart: Whenever we debate… a settled viewer, they pretend that we’re saying that God is impotent that He can do nothing. But God is the creator God… so therefore He can do things. Like He can get people to name a baby Cyrus and He can get a rooster to crow. He can do some things…

Cook: [chuckles] That gives me great comfort, Bob, that: “God can do some things”.

Enyart: Well, that’s what we are up against. Doctor Lamerson denied that God could get a rooster to crow unless He foreknew that it would crow.

Jesus and Election

By Christopher Fisher

1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 Elect [eklektos] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

In 1 Peter 2, Peter writes that people were “chosen” or “elect” according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. In the Augustinian mindset, this is some sort of predetermination of people, almost like a guest-list of people that will be saved. But this is not at all how Jesus uses the word “elect”.

Two times in Matthew, Jesus states “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Context is key to understanding this phrase. In both contexts, Jesus illustrates with a parable. In no context does the events indicate the Augustinian interpretation of election.

In Matthew 22 is found the parable of the wedding feast. It is a very odd story:

Mat 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
Mat 22:3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
Mat 22:4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘
Mat 22:5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
Mat 22:6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
Mat 22:7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

A rich man is hosting a wedding for his son and invites all the guests. The feast is prepared and waiting for the guests. All the guests had to do was show up. The invitation is made on several occasions. Eventually some individuals even kill the messengers; the king extracts swift vengeance on the murderers.

Mat 22:8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’
Mat 22:10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The banquet is prepared, but was been refused by the normal guests. The king has to change his plan and then outreach to the masses in order to fill his banquet table. He invites anyone and everyone. But some who came to the wedding, were not suitably dressed:

Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
Mat 22:12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The “rich” man, who could afford to dress nicely but declined, that is the one who was thrown out of the banquet. It is in this context that Jesus states:

Mat 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [eklektos]

This is not at all what the Calvinists think of when they talk about election.

The parable mirrors Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom. God reached out to convince mainstream Israel to be saved, but they declined. God reached out to them time and time again. But they responded with rejection and murder of God’s prophets. God then responds by broadening His invitations for salvation, reaching out to all classes of society (Jesus’ primary ministry was to the sinners). Some of these people respond, but not all of them in an acceptable fashion. God casts those individuals out. The remaining are “elect”. Election is not a guest-list filled with approved names. The idea is the exact opposite. Election is about individuals choosing God.

Apologetics Thursday – How God Names Babies

In Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, Ware is giving evidence that God knows the future when as a side note he writes:

Even more remarkable is the prediction of a future king to whom God gave the name Cyrus nearly 200 years before his parents gave him that exact name.

Ware, here, is perplexed that God could know a name of a baby 200 years in advance. In Ware’s mind, there is no other way to know the name of a future baby than to meticulously see the entire future.

In real life, there are plenty of ways to ensure a baby is named what you desire. You could pay the parents. You could threaten the parents. You could convince the parents. You could publish a popular nickname for someone, supplanting their given name. The possibilities are endless. God is powerful, ensuring a name of a future baby does not seem as impressive as Ware would have us believe. The text itself is found deep in a long series of chapters proclaiming God’s power (Isaiah 40-48). In the text, the author stresses the point God knows what will happen because God is powerful and He will bring it to past. The text is the exact opposite of Ware’s understanding: that God knows what will happen because He mystically sees the future. That the text stresses God’s power as the mechanism makes it antithetical to the knowledge mechanism. It is evidence against the Augustinian view of God!

But all this aside, Ware ignores very similar events in the Bible: the naming of both Jesus and John the Baptist.

Jesus’ naming was easy. God sends an angel to Mary and the angel tells Mary what to name Jesus:

Mat 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Being told by an angel what to name her child is convincing enough for Mary. Mary promptly names her child “Jesus”. Could Cyrus’ parents have had an angelic visit? If God controlled all things, as some Calvinists claim, why would God have to convince Mary in the first place? Mary had a free choice as to naming Jesus and chose the name provided by God.

Another naming story occurs in the person of John the Baptist. In Luke 1, a priest named Zacharias encounters an angel. The angel prophecies that Zacharias would have a son and call his name John:

Luk 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Zacharias waxes skeptical. He does not believe he will have a son. Zacharias points out he is old. The angel responds by striking Zacharias mute until the things that are prophesied are completed:

Luk 1:18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Luk 1:19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
Luk 1:20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Not only was Zacharias struck mute but he was also given an implicit threat. Zacharias would have the child, but would only be granted the ability to speak once the child was properly named. This is precisely what happens:

Luk 1:24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

Luk 1:57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.
Luk 1:58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Luk 1:59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.
Luk 1:60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
Luk 1:61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”
Luk 1:62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
Luk 1:63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.
Luk 1:64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.

Notice that it is exactly after the moment that Zacharias names John that he is allowed to speak again. Zacharias had already been proven wrong about his wife getting pregnant. For at least 9 months, Zacharias sat mute contemplating the angel’s words. When the angel stated “these things take place”, the angel was including the naming of John the Baptist. Implicit in Zacharias’ mind was that if he deviated from the angel’s instruction then he would not be granted voice. In other words, God coerced Zacharias into naming his son “John”.

God did not force Zacharias’ mouth to say “John”, and Zacharias could have still named John something else (presumably). But Zacharias weighed his options and preferred naming his son sensibly. God used power to fulfill His will.

This is how God can easily deal with an uncooperative agent. Because God is powerful, He can capture fleeing prophets in the mouths of fish and polymorph arrogant kings into wild beasts. What Calvinism does is downplay God’s power. God can only know things because He mystically sees the future, but that is not at all how the Bible depicts God. God knows things because He is powerful to achieve them. God can make these things happen in spite of human free will. When Ware assumes otherwise, he demeans God.

God-is-open

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Misses God’s Will

By Christopher Fisher

In Their God is Too Small by Bruce Ware, Ware quotes John Sanders:

It is God’s desire that we enter into a give-and-take relationship of love, and this is not accomplished by God’s forcing his blueprint on us. Rather, God wants us to go through life together with him, making decisions together. Together we decide the actual course of my life. God’s will for my life does not reside in a list of specific activities but in a personal relationship. As lover and friend, God works with us wherever we go and whatever we do. To a large extent our future is open and we are to determine what it will be in dialogue with God.

Ware replies:

REAL FATHERI mean no disrespect when I ask, Whom should I believe: Jesus, or John Sanders? The contrast is that glaring. For Jesus, prayer with the Father was never a matter of deciding the actual course of his life together in dialogue with the Father. As he instructed his disciples to pray, “your will be done,” so he lived his life. Recall that Jesus said, over and again, things like, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28), and, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). From beginning to end, Jesus sought to accomplish what his Father had sent him to do. Even in the garden, facing the biggest test of faith imaginable, Jesus prayed, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

In Ware’s rush to mock Sanders, he commits several logical errors. The primary error is that God’s will necessarily means some sort of minutely detailed overall plan. When Jesus prayed “not my will but yours be done” this is not “let your meticulous control over every facet of my life be done”. This is, in context, about one event: the crucifixion. Note that Jesus willed to not be crucified. Jesus literally asks to be let out of the task: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”. Jesus is probing God for a way to fulfill God’s plan for redemption through another means than crucifixion. Jesus thought that he could influence God and that the future was not set in stone. Jesus then lets it be known that God should default to God’s original plan. This would be like me telling my children, “Please come watch a movie with me, but if you do not want to then you do not have to.” It is a relational statement (!), deferring preference to the other party. Jesus thought his petition could influence God. What does Ware think Jesus is communicating to God?

Likewise, when Jesus tells the disciples to pray that “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” this implies that God’s will is not being done on earth. People are rebellious. Jesus came to preach repentance. John the Baptist came to “prepare the way of the Lord”. God’s will is that people act righteously. Submitting to God’s will does not mean letting God control every flick of every eyelash. God is not interested in micromanaging. God gives overall direction. Ware commits the logical fallacy of Equivocation. Ware just assumes he knows what “God’s will” is and that God wills certain events in every person’s life.

In reality, Sanders is correct. God enters into a “give-and-take relationship of love”. God does not plan who we will marry or what house to buy. Those are things we can decide with God. There are limitless possibilities under God’s will. Submitting to God’ will in no sense is incompadible with a “give-and-take relationship.” God just wills that people act righteously, and there is countless ways in which to do that.

Here is Paul, telling us the will of God:

1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
1Th 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
1Th 4:5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
1Th 4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

Knowing God through Jesus

An excerpt from Christopher Fisher on learning about God through Jesus:

Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus is a picture to Christians of whom God is. What did Jesus show the disciples? Was it the traditional Latin attributes of God (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, timelessness, and immutability)? The answer is clearly no.

Jesus admits to not being omniscient (Mar 13:32).

So in what sense did Jesus show his disciples “the Father”? It was in his actions, his relationship, his teachings, and his emotions. If Calvinists are to claim Jesus is God, they are at a loss to explain how not a single one of their championed attributes are shown through Jesus.

When a Calvinist plasters attributes of God onto a PowerPoint in church, think about which ones are shown in Jesus. This is a good test to see the differential in how Jesus portrays God and how Christians portray God. How do Christians measure up? Do they focus on the attributes that Jesus cares about? Or do they have their own private value system?

For full post, click here.

Judas Was Not Predestined or Foreknown to Betray Christ

Excerpt from W Scott Taylor:

The important nuances of Greek syntax is evidenced here and seriously undermines the traditional view of Judas’ being either foreordained or foreknown to betray Jesus…

“And one of you is a devil.” Jesus does not say that Judas was a devil when he chose him, but that he is one now. In 13:2 and 27 John speaks of the devil entering Judas. How soon the plan to betray Jesus first entered the heart of Judas we do not know (12:4). One wonders if the words of Jesus did not cut Judas to the quick.”

This should be a relief to those who have wondered how in the world Jesus’ betrayal could have anything to do with God’s plan of Salvation.

To read more, click the link.