"What Think Ye of Christ?"

Although Jesus made sure that men understood His divinity and oneness with God, there are countless millions who through the ages have denied this.

Evangelist, Nile Union

JESUS asked the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ?" (Matt. 22:42). He asked the disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" Then He directed the ques­tion to the disciples them­selves, saying, "But whom say ye that I am?" (Matt. 16:13, 15). Although Jesus made sure that men understood His divinity and oneness with God, there are countless millions who through the ages have denied this. Today, among those who believe in Jesus, the Mohammedans, who constitute about one tenth of the world's population and who are scattered all the way from China to the shores of the At­lantic and from the banks of the Volga in Russia to the waters of the South Seas, deny not only His crucifixion but His divinity. Not only the Mohammedans but a number of Christian communities hold Unitarian (rejecting the trinity of the Godhead) and Arian (rejecting the deity of Christ) views —deny Christ His rightful place as a divine being who is absolutely without beginning. While one's belief in the historic doc­trine of the deity of Christ may seem to some a matter of little consequence, it did not seem so to Christ; and neither does it seem so to the people of God today. Of the twenty-two "fundamental beliefs" found on pages 29-36 of the Church Man­ual, two of these fundamentals deal with the doctrine of God emphasizing the doc­trine of the Trinity. No person refusing the belief in these doctrines could be per­mitted to become a member of the Sev­enth-day Adventist Church. Furthermore, any member who denies the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, advocating contrary beliefs, disqualifies himself from member­ship, and the church has full authority to disfellowship him (see Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, pages 42-46).

Those who refuse the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ claim that these doctrines are illogical and that they are not Biblical. These claims, how­ever, are made abortive from the study of God's Word, as we shall endeavor to briefly elucidate.

Those who claim that it is illogical for God to have a Son, and those who reason that if God has a Son it follows that He must have a wife, confine their thinking within the precise limitations of the mean­ing of the word Son. It must be admitted that man's knowledge and comprehension of ideas is dependent upon words. To try to portray the relationship between the three persons of the Godhead, using any of the some five hundred thousand words of our dictionary, would be an impossi­bility. In all probability, if the average man used a vocabulary of some 500 billion words (in which his comprehension would be proportionately enlarged), inspiration would have used a different term than Son to portray the fine relationship of Christ to the first person of the Godhead.

In accepting the doctrine that Christ was the Son of God we do not accept the fact that God had a wife; we only accept what revelation says about the Deity. This doc­trine, though inscrutable because there are no analogies to it in our finite experience, is yet definitely not self-contradictory. It is a doctrine, however, that is not more in­scrutable than that of those who believe in a solitary God, for no finite mind can com­prehend the eternity and self-existence of any being.

A Moslem who believes in an eternal, self-existent, omnipotent and omniscient solitary God believes this not because his finite mind can understand all about the nature of the Infinite but because he be­lieves in the inspiration of the Koran. Sim­ilarly, those who believe in the doctrine of the Trinity do so because Inspiration teaches this doctrine. We need not prove the Trinity; all we need to do is to prove the inspiration of the Bible and then ac­cept the revealed doctrine of the Inspired Book. It would be impossible for finite man to conclude anything about God's nature, whether He is one person or whether He is one God in three persons, without the aid of revelation. Man un­aided by revelation cannot accept the Trinity or the unitarian concept of the na­ture of God, because these doctrines do not simply tell us what God is to us but what He is in Himself.

The problem therefore of whether Unitarianism or Trinitarianism is correct does not hinge on man's capacity to fathom the nature of God as expressed in either of these two doctrines, for man cannot fully comprehend either of them except by as­suming that man's mind is in all respects the measure of the divine. It hinges, rather, on what Inspiration teaches. It further hinges on what constitutes the written word of God. There is ample evidence that proves the inspiration of the Bible and that it is God's book to man.

Main Anti-Trinitarian Objection Refuted

Paradoxical yet true, there are those who believe that the Bible constitutes God's written revelation to man and at the same time deny the Trinity. They claim that the Godhead or Trinity is not taught in the Bible. This claim is groundless and can be refuted from the Bible.

Among the objections of the anti-Trini­tarians is the textual evidence attesting the omission of the passages "in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth" (1 John 5:7, 8); "which is in heaven" (John 3:13); and the word "God" in 1 Timothy 3:16. (See The SDA Bible Commentary, on these verses.)

All we need say is that this is no evidence against the Trinity—nor indeed for it. If a later scribe, just to illustrate, had added in any verse of the Gospels the clause "and Jesus was clean," textual evidence would attest the omission of the clause. This, how­ever, will be no proof in any way that Jesus was not clean. It will only prove that we cannot base our belief on a clause of this kind. The Trinitarians do not base their belief in the Trinity on the above quoted texts, but rather in the collective teachings of the Bible, as we shall later point out.

Texts Misinterpreted

Several texts are misinterpreted by those who believe that God is absolutely and sim­ply one person and that Christ is not di­vine. These are as follows:

1. "The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). Here Christ, though equal with the Father, recognizes God as head. Priority does not necessarily mean superiority. In office, according to this text, man is first and woman is second, but they are both-human. The Father and the Son are differ­ent in rank, but they are both divine.

2. "And when all things shall be sub­dued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). This implies no in­feriority of the Son to the first person of the Godhead. We can ask, Why is it that the Son is not subject now? Why is it that this subjection will take place in the fu­ture? Would not that show equality—the Father committing everything into the hands of the Son? (see Matthew 11:27; Colossians 1:19). And the Son shall be sub­ject "that God may be all in all." No more can we accept that the verse teaches Christ's inferiority to the Father than we can ac­cept that Christ's subjection to the Father —so that "God may be all in all"—teaches that the Father is dependent upon Christ's subjection to Him in order to be all in all, and that Christ now is God's superior. This Christ is not, for they are equal (see 1 Corinthians 15:27). Rather this verse teaches the unity of purpose among the persons of the Godhead wherebv their ac­tivities carry out their united will.

3. "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). Before His incarnation Christ was "equal with God" (Phil. 2:6; John 1:1-3). We must understand Jesus in this verse to be speaking with reference to His incarna­tion.

4. "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father"

(Mark 13:32). This must be interpreted to mean that there were limitations con­nected with Christ's taking on human flesh: Jesus "made himself of no reputa­tion, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). Thus, for example, He was subject to physical fatigue: "Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well" (John 4:6).

5. "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14). This verse is not translated correctly. The New English Bible puts it this way: "The prime source of all God's creation." *

6. ". . . the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15). The New English Bible ren­ders it ". . . his is the primacy over all created things." * It would be absurd to insist on a literal meaning of the word "firstborn," for that would imply marriage and birth among the deity—a thought that even those who insist on the use of the word "firstborn" abhor.

7. ". . . that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). The New English Bible renders it ". . . that he might be the eldest among a large family of brothers." *

8. "The Lord possessed me in the be­ginning of his way, before his works of old" (Prov. 8:22). This has doubtless ref­erence to Christ (see Patriarchs and Proph­ets, page 34). The passage is allegorical and therefore no dogmatic conclusions are justi­fied, certainly not that Christ was created and brought forth by the Father at the be­ginning of His work. This allegory repre­sents wisdom as distinct from God, and that God possessed wisdom "in the begin­ning of his way." It would be erroneous to conclude from an allegory that God had a beginning or that wisdom is distinct from Him. If anything, the allegory proves that Christ is distinguished from the Father, and being represented as God's wisdom is as eternal as God Himself (Micah 5:2; John 1:1). Those who use the word "cre­ated" instead of "possessed" in this verse, following the Septuagint and not the He­brew, may conclude erroneous teachings.

(To be concluded)

* The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961.

 

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Evangelist, Nile Union

November 1961

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