Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Basic Look at Christology, the Humanity and Deity of Jesus Christ

Secularists and other religions will claim the man of Christ.  They will celebrate in the examples He gave us, but only focus on His humanity.  These people will speak of Him in the same context as Gandhi, Mohammad, Buddha, and consider Him a great teacher, maybe even a prophet.  However, these same people will then deny the deity of Christ.  As C.S. Lewis explained;
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.[1]
Who therefore is Christ and what is important about Christology?
            In the New Testament there is ample evidence of Christ’s humanity.  The Apostle John in his first epistle addresses how he, and other witnesses, had “heard, seen, beheld, and handled the Word of Life”.[2] Peter speaks about Christ’s resurrection in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:3, 17-21).  In his second epistle, Peter stresses the fact that he and the others did not “follow cleverly devised tales…but were eyewitnesses”.[3]  The Gospels also give proof of the humanity of Christ.  Two of the four Gospels give an account of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and all four gospels give an account of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  Even the Old Testament addresses the need for Christ to come in the flesh (Gen. 3:15; Deut. 18:15-18, Isaiah 53).  The deity of Christ is probably the most problematic for most secularists and theologians.  Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses will claim that Jesus never claimed deity, and the Jehovah Witnesses have gone to great lengths to try to remove all claims of deity from their particular translation.  However, if one is willing to look at the “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John they will see Christ’s deity.  In the New World translation the major I am statements are left intact, an example: “Martha said to him: ‘I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life…”.[4] 
            Other key Scriptures are the “I AM” statements in John (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 28, 58; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1; 18:5)  These are just some of many Scriptures that support the deity of Christ.
            Even in the Old Testament we see the deity of Christ.  Dr. Outland speaks about four scriptures that also identify the deity of Christ in the Old Testament. 
            Psalm 45 rejoices in one who is both royal groom and eternal Ruler.  Psalm 110 esteems the son of David who also towers over David as God’s final answer to worldwide human rebellion.  Isaiah 9 celebrates the birth of a child who, as our divine warrior and endless benefactor, will advance David’s kingdom successfully and infinitely. Daniel 7 reveals heaven’s decree of worldwide, eternal authority conferred on a celestial being who stands forth also as a man.[5]
            People who argue that Jesus could not be both fully-God and fully-man miss some key aspects of Christology.  Christ was “tempted in every manner as we are” yet also claimed the “ability to forgive sins” something only “God could do”.  Christ had omniscience as we see when he addresses Nathaniel, yet chose at times to restrict His knowledge in the situation of the woman suffering from a blood disease.  Christ could be fully-God and fully-man because He did not “empty Himself” of His deity, but simply of His glory.  The Hypostatic Union is basically “the deity and humanity of Christ exist without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”[6].
In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul explains the purpose of Christ becoming incarnate to save humanity.  Because sin entered into the world by a man, it was necessary for righteousness to also enter into the world through one man.[7]  This man had to be perfect, “tempted in every area as we are yet without sin”[8].    The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain that the “shedding of blood is necessary for the forgiveness”[9] of sins.  Jesus’ incarnation was necessary so that the payment of sin could be paid to satisfy the Law.
When one overemphasizes the deity of Christ it can devalue His sacrifice on the cross, and the fact that He “emptied Himself” for the sake of mankind.  To deny the deity of Christ brings into question the very character of Christ, and removes the possibility of Him being a good teacher.  When we overemphasize the humanity of Christ it disallows salvation from being accessible, and all people are therefore condemned.  To deny the humanity of Christ also denies the possibility of salvation to all people because there is no payment that has satisfied the demands of the Law.
Through Church history there have been several challenges to Christology.  As one evaluates these claims it appears there are two fronts of attack.  Dr. Buswell presents a chart where he demonstrates these attack fronts.[10]  The first front actually came from those who denied the humanity of Christ and would include the Docetists, Apollinarians, and Eutychians.  One simply needs to look at Philippians 2:5-11 and John 1:1-18.  The second front, which is the more common today, is the attack on Christ’s deity.  This doctrine was supported by the Ebionites, Arians, and Eutychians.  Christ clearly claimed deity in numerous incidents through the “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John.  A clear example is in John 8:48-59.
In my own personal life the humanity of Jesus is very important.  Even though He was fully God, still He spent great amounts of time in prayer.  He was about His Father’s business, and gives me an example of what I need to follow in bringing people the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As long as the LORD allows me, my desire is to be following after the example of Jesus. 

Buswell, J. Oliver. "The Person of Christ, His Deity and His Humanity." In Soteriology and Eschatology, 46. Vol. 2 of A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973.

Hall, J.H., ed. "Council of Chalcedon." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 218.-19. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity: A Revised and Enlarged Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books, the Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality. Macmillan paperbacks ed. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1952.

Morgan, Christopher W., and Robert A. Peterson, eds. "The Deity of Christ and the Old Testament." In The Deity of Christ, 58. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2011.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillian Publishing Company, 1952), 56.
[2] 1 John 1:1 (New American Standard Bible)
[3] 2 Peter 1:16 (New American Standard Bible)
[4] John 11:24-25 (New World Translation)
[5] Raymond Outland, “The Deity of Christ and the Old Testament,” in The Deity of Christ, ed. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 58-59
[6] J. H. Hall, “Council of Chalcedon,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 219
[7] Romans 5:12-19 (NASB)
[8] Hebrews 4:15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
[9] Hebrews 9:15 (HCSB)
[10] J. Oliver Bushwell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), 46

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