Category Archives: Current Issues
There are certain positive actions that all of us as adult Christians can and should take if we are determined to help ease the tension over issues like the future unfolding of God’s plan or the age of the earth (areas that we disagree on):
(1) Determine to understand opposing views better and why they are held.
(2) Determine to be less caustic about other evangelicals and their views when they differ from your own.
(3) Determine not to suspect a person’s orthodoxy because he or she doesn’t agree with you.
(4) Determine to cooperate and build fellowship whenever and wherever possible with those evangleicals who hold different views than your own.
NEGATIVE ACTIONS NEEDED
(1) Avoid majoring on minors.
(2) Avoid unwanted dogmatism and conclusions.
(3) Avoid a holier-than-thou attitude.
(4) Avoid giving the impression that you have all the answers and others have all the problems.
(5) Avoid thinking a view must be without problems or it can’t be right.
An epithet appears in a Latin treatise designed to uphold Lutheranism and at the same time call for peace in that church. This treatise reportedly was published in Germany sometime between 1615 and 1630. The message of the poem is most fitting for our day as well, especially in regard to differences over God’s plan for the future. I can’t think of a better suggestion for action than this. Translated into English it reads:
“In essentials unity. In uncertainties freedom, In all things love.”
*SOURCE: Adapted from pp. 185-86 in The Last Days Handbook by Robert P. Lightner. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
By S. Michael Houdmann
Question: “Complementarianism vs. egalitarianism—which view is biblically correct?”
Answer: Summarized by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” complementarianism is the viewpoint that God restricts women from serving in church leadership roles and instead calls women to serve in equally important, but complementary roles. Summarized by “Christians for Biblical Equality,” egalitarianism is the viewpoint that there are no biblical gender-based restrictions on ministry in the church. With both positions claiming to be biblically based, it is crucially important to fully examine what exactly the Bible does say on the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.
Again, to summarize, on the one side are the egalitarians who believe there are no gender distinctions and that since we are all one in Christ, women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household. The opposing view is held by those who refer to themselves as complementarians. The complementarian view believes in the essential equality of men and women as persons (i.e., as human beings created in God’s image), but complementarians hold to gender distinctions when it comes to functional roles in society, the church and the home.
An argument in favor of complementarianism can be made from 1 Timothy 2:9-15. The verse in particular that seems to argue against the egalitarian view is 1 Timothy 2:12, which reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Paul makes a similar argument in 1 Corinthians 14 where he writes, “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Paul makes the argument that women are not allowed to teach and/or exercise authority over men within the church setting. Passages such as 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 seem to limit church leadership “offices” to men, as well.
Egalitarianism essentially makes its case based on Galatians 3:28. In that verse Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The egalitarian view argues that in Christ the gender distinctions that characterized fallen relationships have been removed. However, is this how Galatians 3:28 should be understood? Does the context warrant such an interpretation? It is abundantly clear that this interpretation does damage to the context of the verse. In Galatians, Paul is demonstrating the great truth of justification by faith alone and not by works (Galatians 2:16). In Galatians 3:15-29, Paul argues for justification on the differences between the law and the promise. Galatians 3:28 fits into Paul’s argument that all who are in Christ are Abraham’s offspring by faith and heirs to the promise (Galatians 3:29). The context of this passage makes it clear Paul is referring to salvation, not roles in the church. In other words, salvation is given freely to all without respect to external factors such as ethnicity, economic status, or gender. To stretch this context to also apply to gender roles in the church goes far beyond and outside of the argument Paul was making.
What is truly the crux of this argument, and what many egalitarians fail to understand, is that a difference in role does not equate to a difference in quality, importance, or value. Men and women are equally valued in God’s sight and plan. Women are not inferior to men. Rather, God assigns different roles to men and women in the church and the home because that is how He designed us to function. The truth of differentiation and equality can be seen in the functional hierarchy within the Trinity (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Son submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son. This functional submission does not imply an equivalent inferiority of essence; all three Persons are equally God, but they differ in their function. Likewise, men and women are equally human beings and equally share the image of God, but they have God-ordained roles and functions that mirror the functional hierarchy within the Trinity.
While he is not the author of every article on GotQuestions.org, for citation purposes, you may reference our CEO AT LOGOS, S. Michael Houdmann.
*SOURCE: Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/complementarianism-vs-egalitarianism.html#ixzz2sfAGBJYL
Recommended Resources for Further Study:
Two Views on Women in Ministry. Edited by Stanley N. Gundry, and James R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Women in Ministry: Four Views. Edited by Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse. Downers Grove, IL.: IVP, 1989.
Women and Men In Ministry: A Complementary Persepective. Edited by Judy TenElshof and Robert L. Saucy. Chicago: Moody Press, 2001.
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012.
Last night’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham attracted a huge international audience and no shortage of controversy—even before it began. Bill Nye, whose main media presence is as “The Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, co-founder of Answers in Genesis and founder of the Creation Museum, squared off in a true debate over one of the most important questions that the human mind can contemplate. That is no small achievement.
I enjoyed a front row seat at the debate, which took place even as a major winter storm raged outside, dumping considerable amounts of snow and ice and causing what the local police announced as a “Class Two” weather emergency. Inside the Creation Museum there was quite enough heat, and the debate took place without a hitch. Thankfully, it also took place without acrimony.
The initial controversy about the debate centered in criticism of Bill Nye for even accepting the invitation. Many evolutionary scientists, such as Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, refuse to debate the issue, believing that any public debate offers legitimacy to those who deny evolution. Nye was criticized by many leading evolutionists, who argued publicly that nothing good could come of the debate.
Interestingly, this points back to the famous debates over evolution that took place in nineteenth century England, when Anglican churchmen faced early evolutionary scientists in (mostly) civil public exchanges. Back then, it was the churchmen who were criticized by their peers for participation in the debate. Now, the table has turned, indicating something of the distance between the intellectual conditions then and now.
Of course, Bill Nye might have felt some moral obligation to debate the question, since he had launched a unilateral attack on creationist parents in a video that went viral last year. In that video, Nye told creationist parents:
“[I]f you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”
But if Nye had launched the attack, he did not arrive at the debate in a defensive mode. A protege of the late Carl Sagan and the current CEO of the Planetary Society, Nye was in full form last night, wearing his customary bow-tie, and immaculately dressed in a very expensive suit. He took notes with a very fine writing instrument. I like his style.
Ken Ham is a veteran debater on the issue of origins, and he was clearly prepared for the debate. Ham’s arguments were tight and focused, and his demeanor was uniformly calm and professional. The format allowed for a full expression of both arguments, along with spirited exchanges and questions submitted from the audience. What the 150 minute event lacked was any requirement that the debaters answer each other’s questions. That would have changed the way the debate concluded.
The central question of the debate was this: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Ham stuck to the question tenaciously. Nye, on the other hand, tried to personalize the debate and kept changing the question from creation to “Ken Ham’s creationism.” Ham was unfazed, and kept to his argument.
As the debate began, it was clear that Ham and Nye do not even agree on definitions. The most friction on definition came when Nye rejected Ham’s distinction between “historical science” and “observational science” out of hand. Nye maintained his argument that science is a unitary method, without any distinction between historical and observational modes. Ham pressed his case that science cannot begin without making certain assumptions about the past, which cannot be observed. Furthermore, Ham rightly insisted that observational science generally does not require any specific commitment to a model of historical science. In other words, both evolutionists and creationists do similar experimental science, and sometimes even side-by-side.
Nye’s main presentation contained a clear rejection of biblical Christianity. At several points in the debate, he dismissed the Bible’s account of Noah and the ark as unbelievable. Oddly, he even made this a major point in his most lengthy argument. As any informed observer would have anticipated, Nye based his argument on the modern consensus and went to the customary lines of evidence, from fossils to ice rods. Ham argued back with fossil and geological arguments of his own. Those portions of the debate did not advance the arguments much past where they were left in the late nineteenth century, with both sides attempting to keep score by rocks and fossils.
In this light, the debate proved both sides right on one central point: If you agreed with Bill Nye you would agree with his reading of the evidence. The same was equally true for those who entered the room agreeing with Ken Ham; they would agree with his interpretation of the evidence.
That’s because the argument was never really about ice rods and sediment layers. It was about the most basic of all intellectual presuppositions: How do we know anything at all? On what basis do we grant intellectual authority? Is the universe self-contained and self-explanatory? Is there a Creator, and can we know him?
On those questions, Ham and Nye were separated by infinite intellectual space. They shared the stage, but they do not live in the same intellectual world. Nye is truly committed to a materialistic and naturalistic worldview. Ham is an evangelical Christian committed to the authority of the Bible. The clash of ultimate worldview questions was vividly displayed for all to see.
When asked how matter came to exist and how consciousness arose, Nye responded simply and honestly: “I don’t know.” Responding to the same questions, Ham went straight to the Bible, pointing to the Genesis narrative as a full and singular answer to these questions. Nye went on the attack whenever Ham cited the Bible, referring to the implausibility of believing what he kept describing as “Ken Ham’s interpretation of a 3,000 year old book translated into American English.”
To Bill Nye, the idea of divine revelation is apparently nonsensical. He ridiculed the very idea.
This is where the debate was most important. Both men were asked if any evidence could ever force them to change their basic understanding. Ham said no, pointing to the authority of Scripture. Nye said that evidence for creation would change his mind. But Nye made clear that he was unconditionally committed to a naturalistic worldview, which would make such evidence impossible. Neither man is actually willing to allow for any dispositive evidence to change his mind. Both operate in basically closed intellectual systems. The main problem is that Ken Ham knows this to be the case, but Bill Nye apparently does not. Ham was consistently bold in citing his confidence in God, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the full authority and divine inspiration of the Bible. He never pulled a punch or hid behind an argument. Nye seems to believe that he is genuinely open to any and all new information, but it is clear that his ultimate intellectual authority is the prevailing scientific consensus. More than once he asserted a virtually unblemished confidence in the ability of modern science to correct itself. He steadfastly refused to admit that any intellectual presuppositions color his own judgment.
But the single most defining moments in the debate came as Bill Nye repeatedly cited the “reasonable man” argument in his presentation and responses. He cited Adolphe Quetelet’s famed l’homme moyen—“a reasonable man”—as the measure of his intellectual authority. Writing in 1835, Quetelet, a French intellectual, made his “reasonable man” famous. The “reasonable man” is a man of intellect and education and knowledge who can judge evidence and arguments and function as an intellectual authority on his own two feet. The “reasonable man” is a truly modern man. Very quickly, jurists seized on the “reasonable man” to define the law and lawyers used him to make arguments before juries. A “reasonable man” would interpret the evidence and make a reasoned judgment, free from intellectual pressure.
Bill Nye repeatedly cited the reasonable man in making his arguments. He is a firm believer in autonomous human reason and the ability of the human intellect to solve the great problems of existence without any need of divine revelation. He spoke of modern science revealing “what we all can know” as it operates on the basis of natural laws. As Nye sees it, Ken Ham has a worldview, but Nye does not. He referred to “Ken Ham’s worldview,” but claimed that science merely provides knowledge. He sees himself as the quintessential “reasonable man,” and he repeatedly dismissed Christian arguments as “not reasonable.”
In an unexpected turn, near the end of the event, Nye even turned to make an argument against Christianity on grounds of theodicy. He asked Ham if it was “reasonable” to believe that God had privileged a personal revelation that was not equally accessible to all. Nye’s weakest argument had to do with his claim—made twice—that billions of religious people accept modern science. He provided a chart that included vast millions of adherents of other world religions and announced that they are religious but accept modern science. That is nonsense, of course. At least it is nonsense if he meant to suggest that these billions believe in evolution. That is hardly the case. Later, he lowered his argument to assert that these billions of people use modern technology. So, of course, do creationists. There are few facilities in the world more high-tech than the Creation Museum.
Nye is clearly not a fan of theistic evolution, since he argued that a purely natural argument should be quite enough for the “reasonable man.” He seemed to affirm a methodological agnosticism, since he sees the question of a “higher power” or “spiritual being” to be one of little intellectual consequence. He did argue that nature is a closed system and that natural selection can allow for absolutely no supernatural interference or influence. In this respect, he sounded much like Stephen Hawking, who has argued that God may exist, but that there is nothing for him to do.
Ken Ham is a Young Earth Creationist (as am I), but the larger argument was over worldviews, and the debate revealed the direct collision between evolution and the recognition of any historical authority within Genesis 1-11. As if to make that clear, in making one of his closing arguments, Bill Nye actually went back to cite “this problem of the ark.”
The ark is not the real problem; autonomous human reason is. Bill Nye is a true believer in human reason and the ability of modern science to deliver us. Humanity is just “one germ away” from extinction, he said. But science provides him with the joy of discovery and understanding.
The problem with autonomous human reason is made clear by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:18-23 ESV).
The problem with human reason is that it, along with every other aspect of our humanity, was corrupted by the fall. This is what theologians refer to as the “noetic effects of the fall.” We have not lost the ability to know all things, but we have lost the ability to know them on our own authority and power. We are completely dependent upon divine revelation for the answers to the most important questions of life. Our sin keeps us from seeing what is right before our eyes in nature. We are dependent upon the God who loves us enough to reveal himself to us—and to give us his Word.
As it turns out, the reality and authority of divine revelation, more than any other issue, was what the debate last night was all about. As the closing statements made very clear, Ken Ham understood that fact, but Bill Nye did not.
The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared “reasonable man” and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS REACT TO HATE?
By Dan Darling
It’s no secret that the biblical sexual ethic, a beautiful monogamous relationship reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, has swiftly fallen out of favor in our culture. The recent declaration that Jason Collins, a veteran NBA center, has exposed the deep rifts in our society on the issue of homosexuality. While most of the world celebrated Collin’s courage, ESPN NBA reporter, Chris Broussard, a committed evangelical Christian, had his own courage to say, into a stiff wind of opposition, that Collin’s lifestyle choices conflict with the Christian faith.
Nothing in this story should surprise us. Society has been moving this direction for some time now. But what caught me off guard, I guess, was the public shaming of the Christian position on marriage. I heard many, well-respected sports commentators, guys I’ve listened to and followed for many years, seemingly equate Christians like Broussard with bigots and with the ignorant and unlearned. The sweeping intolerance of Christianity, the crude names leveled at Broussard and others seems to mark a new moment in our country. The reality is that holding the biblical sexual ethic will now invite open scorn. I only expect it to get worse. I only expect those who stand firm on the Scriptures to experience further persecution and hostility. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus himself promised that his followers would endure some level of persecution. “They hated me, they will hate you,” he predicted (John 15:18).
So the question is this: how now shall we live? What should our reaction be? In my view there are two wrong responses and one right one.
1) We can cave in and seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God. There is a growing movement in the evangelical world that is seeking to make complicated what the Scriptures make plain, namely that perhaps the Bible is not so explicitly condemning of homosexuality as we think. As a person wired to avoid conflict I’m sympathetic to the desire to find this in the Bible, but it is just not there. Jesus himself affirmed the law of Moses when he repeated the words from Genesis, “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to His wife” (Matthew 19:5). And while Jesus offered grace to the women who violated the biblical marriage ethic and condemned the Pharisees who wanted to stone her, he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t act as if her sexual activity out of marriage was okay. He said it was sin. Sin that brought him to this earth and nailed him to a cross. Sin he graciously has forgiven. Sin which invites the grace and holiness of God. As much as we want to cave in on marriage, because to do so would make our lives as Christians much, much easier, to do so is to abandon the way of Christ. I’m reminded of Peter’s words to the persecuted believers of the 1st Century, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:19).
2) We can ratchet up the angry, hateful, personal rhetoric. As shameful it is to cave in on Scriptural truth, it’s equally sinful to sort of use our position as an increasingly marginalized minority to lash out at those who don’t agree with us. But if we’re to take serious the truth we claim to uphold, we have to listen to all the words of Jesus, including his words, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48). And we have to listen to the words of that same Apostle Peter. The same guy who told us to “stand firm” also told us to do it with civility and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I find it interesting that Peter, speaking to an increasingly marginalized, persecuted group of Christians, found it important to say, essentially, “Make sure you suffer, not for your own evil, but for doing good” (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:17). In other words, we are to speak firmly, but with kindness, winsomeness, charity, and grace. If we are honest, we would admit that the Christian community does not always do this well. We should disagree with Jason Collin’s choices, but we should not mock him, we should not post crude or hurtful slurs online. We should not slander those who disagree with us. We should lead with grace, remembering that Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to offer salvation and life. Jesus came for sinners and so we should seek to love sinners as much as He did. We should, like Paul, remember that we are counted in that group: we are as much sinners in need of grace as the unrepentant homosexual. I find it interesting that Paul, at the end of his life, nearing the time of his martyrdom at the hands of a cruel despot, surveyed the entire landscape and said, “I am the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Imagine that. Paul looked around the entire world, saw wicked men like Nero and the soft Christians who betrayed him and yet said, “They may be sinners, but I’m worse.” What a spirit of humility! This is the spirit that should inform our engagement on these issues where most of the culture resists. We should as the Spirit to help us fight the urge to return rhetorical evil with rhetorical evil (1 Peter 3:9). We should reject the sort of knee-jerk, crude, mean-spirited kind of speaking that seems to characterize much of our public discourse. Civility is not unimportant and it’s not overrated and it’s not the enemy of courage.
3) We can respond with love and grace.
2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that “all who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” The level of persecution we face today in America is low-level at best. Much of what we think is persecution is simply consequences of our own inability to treat people with grace. But we’re moving into an era where our positions on the issues may invite charges of bigotry. This is where we must not react with surprise or fear–remembering that trials are an opportunity for joy (James 1:2) and occasions for growth and Christlikeness (John 15; James 1:2-4). Fear stems from a lack of faith and fear causes us to react in unloving ways. But if we believe that God is completely sovereign and that we have been tasked by Him to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), it is incumbent on us to model Jesus’ behavior and react to hatred and intolerance with grace and love. We should be wise about responding to every charge with a countercharge. We should hold our fire sometimes, as Jesus did in the face of false accusations (John 18:33-38). We should forgive others, looking to Christ’s own forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32) and His forgiveness of those who crucified him, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:42). We should not be defensive, whiny, petulant. We should work hard to see every human as someone worthy of respect (1 Peter 2:17), created in the image of God (James 3:9). We should not make our fight personal or political (Ephesians 6:12). The real enemy doesn’t have a human face, but is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). And our real hope is not in a short-term victory, but in the future hope of a coming kingdom, another world, a city whose builder and maker is God (Matthew 6:10; Hebrews 11:10).
As followers of Jesus, we’re not simply called to be counter-cultural with our sexual ethics, but also in the way we talk, speak, and articulate these things. If we are called to suffer for our faith, let’s pray God gives us the courage and grace to endure and that our lives are but a small glimpse of Christ within.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He is a weekly contributor to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Homelife, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He is a contributing writer for many publications including Stand Firm, Enrichment Journal and others. Dan’s op-eds have appeared in Washington Posts’ On Faith, CNN.com’s Belief Blog, and other newspapers and opinion sites. He is a featured blogger for Crosswalk.com, Churchleaders.com and Believe.com, Covenant Eyes, G92, and others. Publisher’s Weekly called his writing style “substantive and punchy.” Dan is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on TV and radio outlets across the country, including CNN, 100 Huntley Street, Moody Broadcasting Network, Harvest Television, The Sandy Rios Show, American Family Radio, the Salem Radio Network, and a host of other local and national Christian media. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. Daniel is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency
Now that the second part of the epic films series based on The Hobbit has been released in theaters. Here are nine things you should know about the original book and its author, J.R.R. Tolkien.
1. Tolkien started to create Middle Earth long before he thought up the story that would be set in that locale. Tolkien, who had an academic background in Germanic and Norse language and religions, started creating a mythology and elven languages in 1917 — over a decade before he ever thought about the characters that would appear in his stories.
2. Tolkien claims the idea for The Hobbit came to him suddenly while he was grading student essay exams. He took out a blank piece of paper and wrote, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” When he began writing the story, Tolkien believed he had invented the word “hobbit.” (It was revealed years after his death that the word predated Tolkien’s usage, though with a different meaning). Tolkien’s concept of hobbits were inspired by Edward Wyke Smith’s 1927 children’s book The Marvellous Land of Snergs, and by Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 novel Babbitt (like hobbits, George Babbitt enjoys the comforts of his home).
3. Released on September 21, 1937 with a print run of 1,500 copies, the book was already sold out by December. Since Nielsen started tracking books with their BookScan service in 1995, The Hobbit has not once fallen off of their list of the top 5,000 books. Because the book did so well, publishers requested a sequel in December of 1937. Originally, Tolkien presented them with drafts for The Silmarillion, but they were rejected on the grounds that the public wanted “more about hobbits.” Tolkein’s answer was the three-book series,The Lord of the Rings.
4. In 1960, Tolkien started rewriting the story to better match the tone of Lord of the Rings, which was written for an adult audience that grew up after reading the original version of The Hobbit. However, the publishers told him to forget about the revisions since the new version lost the original quick pace and light-hearted tone that everyone loved about the original.
5. There isn’t a single female character in The Hobbit, and the only woman mentioned by name is Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took.
6. Although “dwarfs” had appeared in pop culture before (e.g., Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Tolkien was the one who invented the word “dwarves.” Tolkien thought that the word “dwarves” paired better with “elves.” He later told a friend, “I use throughout the ‘incorrect’ plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it.”
7. “Possession” is a unifying theme in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Melkor wanted to have God’s power of creation, Gollum was twisted by his possessive love of his “Precious,” and Smaug was a dragon obsessed with material goods. In The Hobbit, Thorin explains his contempt for the possession-loving creatures: “Dragons . . . guard their plunder . . . and never enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the current market value; and they can’t make a thing for themselves. . . . “
8. In Tolkien’s posthumously published story “The Quest of Erebor,” Gandalf explains the reason he chose Bilbo to join Thorin’s expedition to the Lonely Mountain: Smaug the dragon would not be able to identify the aroma of one of the Shire-folk. Smaug was a great connoisseur of Dwarves, however. After eating six of their pack animals the dragon instantly recognizes the taste of a Dwarf-ridden-pony.
9. Tolkien denied that his stories were written for children:
That’s all sob stuff. No, of course, I didn’t… The Hobbit was written in what I should now regard as bad style, as if one were talking to children. There’s nothing my children loathed more. They taught me a lesson. Anything that in any way marked out The Hobbit as for children instead of just for people, they disliked-instinctively. I did too, now that I think about it. All this ‘I won’t tell you any more, you think about it’ stuff. Oh no, they loathe it; it’s awful. Children aren’t a class. They are merely human beings at different stages of maturity. All of them have a human intelligence which even at its lowest is a pretty wonderful thing, and the entire world in front of them. It remains to be seen if they rise above that.
*SOURCE – WRITTEN ON DECEMBER 9, 2012 BY JOE CARTER http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/12/12/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-hobbit/
In Search of the Historical Adam
Book Review by David P. Craig
In this counterpoint book the subject of the Historical Adam takes center stage. There are four views presented: (1) No Historical Adam – presented by Denis Lamoureux, Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph.s College in the University of Alberta; (2) A Historical Adam: The Archetypal Creation View – presented by John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College; (3) A Historical Adam: Old Earth Creation View – presented by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary; and (4) A Historical Adam: Young-Earth View – presented by William D. Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s College.
The format of the book is as follows: Each Professor writes on essay addressing three essential questions: (1) What is the biblical case for your viewpoint, and how to you reconcile it with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it? (2) In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views? (3) What are the implications your view has for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both? Upon answering these questions each scholar counters followed by a rejoinder from the presenter. At the end of the book there are two essays representing two different stances on the debate and impact on the Christian faith by Greg Boyd (Senior Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Philip Ryken (President of Wheaton College and the former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia).
I Appreciated the personal testimony of Denis Lamoureux’s pursuit of truth in the fields of science and theology. He has definitely wrestled with and struggled with all the issues at hand – as a non-believer, as well as a believer in Christ. Lemorourex concludes that his view of evolution disallows for belief in the historical Adam that is revealed in the Scriptures. He argues at length that the reality of history conflicts with modern science. He believes that ancient science (the view of the biblical writers) conflicts with modern science and therefore what we have in the Bible is God accommodating inerrant spiritual truths.
In summary “Lamoureux rejects scientific concordism, the idea that God chose to reveal through the Scriptures certain scientific facts and that modern science, properly understood, can be aligned with the Bible. To the contrary, he says the authors of Scripture had an ancient perception of the world, apparent in their belief in a three-tiered universe, their view of the ‘firmament,’ and elsewhere. When it comes to humanity’s biological origins, the biblical authors likewise had a primordial understanding. They held to ‘de novo creation,’ the belief that God created man and everything else directly, immediately, and completely, that is fully mature.”
Lamoureux argues that Adam did not exist, but that Jesus Christ is a historical person who died and rose again for our sins. He attempts to show how modern science has changed his views on interpreting the Bible through understanding distinctions between ancient and modern science, language accommodation, and his rejection of concordism.
I found his essay to be interesting, but unconvincing. I especially struggled with his weak theological explanation of the historical “Adam” from the lips of Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. I also struggled with his interpretation of Genesis 1-11 as not being historical. Lastly, I found his interpretation and methodology in arriving at his conclusions insufficient – leaving me with more questions than answers. I agree with C. John Collins assessment of his essay when he writes, “Lamoureux has followed a style of reasoning that is oversimplified, specifically in that he generally poses either/or questions with only two options; he does not consider whether there are alternatives.”
In contrast to Lamoureux, John Walton believes that Adam was a historical person. He believe’s that the primary emphasis of the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern literature is to demonstrate that Adam (and Eve) are archetypal representatives of humanity. He believes that Genesis 2 is not about the biological origins of Adam and Eve. He argues that Adam and Eve may not even be the first humans who came into existence or the parents of all humankind. Walton doesn’t reject or accept evolution, but his view does allow for evolution and an old earth. I found Walton’s essay to be difficult to follow and his discussion of archetypes to be interesting, but not totally sustainable.
C.J. Collins, like Walton, agrees that Adam and Eve were real historical persons. He demonstrates in his essay with great theological precision how a real Adam and Eve are necessary to demonstrate our need of Savior (the second Adam – Jesus) to save us from the sin we inherited as legitimate children of Adam’s race. He does a wonderful job of showing that the story line of the Scriptures reveals three major truths: (1) Adam and Eve as a pair represent humankind as one family; (2) Adam and Eve were created supernaturally by God; (3) Through Adam and Eve came forth sin. As a result all humanity is guilty before our creator God for our experience as sinners, and in need of redemption from the perfect Adam – the Lord Jesus Christ.
An interesting aspect of Collins’ view of Adam is that he may have been the chieftain of his tribe, i.e., there were perhaps many more people around when Adam and Eve were around. He is also critical of theistic evolution because it fails to account for the special creation of human beings as made in the image of God. He does not believe that a literal twenty-four hour days in Genesis One is required to maintain inerrancy.
Michael Barrick, expounds the most traditional of the four views presented. He argues for the supernatural creation of Adam by God, who is the father of all mankind. Barrick gives the most emphasis of the four views to the significance of Adam in understanding and applying the gospel. He holds to a literal twenty-four days and young earth perspective. He holds to a high view of the Scriptures and believes his view best accounts for the consistent testimony of the biblical authors (Moses and Paul) with Jesus’ teaching. Barrick’s essay argues that when science and the Bible have a conflict – science must always concede for Scripture is inerrant and totally authoritative on all matters it addresses.
In the concluding section of the book Greg Boyd and Phil Ryken (Theologian/Pastors) address the following issues raised by the other essayists by answering the following six questions: Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence (1) affect the rest of the Christian faith and those doctrines Christians have historically affirmed throughout the centuries? (2) shape a Christian worldview, especially the biblical story line from creation, fall, and redemption, to new creation? (3) have an impact on the gospel, or how the gospel is preached and applied, specifically in church? (4) have influence on how we live the Christian life and ‘do church’ as the body of Christ? (5) make a difference in our evangelical witness to a watching world? and (6) What is at stake in this debate for evangelicals in the church today?
Of the four views presented I found myself in the most agreement with Barrick, followed by Collins, then Walton, and lastly by Lamoureux. I think that Barrick’s essay was the easiest to read because it was the essay that took the passages of Genesis at face value – literally. The other three essayists seemed to have to do a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make their views work. This is a complicated issue. I appreciated the grace reflected by Lamoureux, Collins, and Walton in particular. Barrick came across more defensive and dogmatic than the other three. At the end of the day, this book deserves a wide reading. It shows the immense complexities of hermeneutics, science, theology, history, and inerrancy. I appreciated what each writer taught me – I gained new knowledge and insights on all five of these topics. I had many questions answered, and yet still have many unanswered questions. My hope is that this book will continue to spark theologians and scientists to work together in the pursuit of truth. I am grateful for the time invested by all the contributors and heartily recommend this book. It is a challenging read, but well-worth the effort.
IS THE BIBLE TRULY WITHOUT ERROR?
Reviewed By David P. Craig
Four primary topics are treated in this multi-view book: (1) God and his relationship to his creatures, (2) the doctrine of inspiration, (3) the nature of Scripture, and (4) the nature of truth.
Instead of allowing the author’s to simply give a defense of their positions – each scholar tackles the same outline and passages from their own perspective with reference to the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (ISBI). Therefore, specific scriptures are handled to demonstrate each view along the lines of three specific categories: (1) The factuality of Scripture, (2) canonical coherence, and (3) theological coherence.
The scholars therefore all interact with the following texts: Joshua 6, Acts 9:9 compared with Acts 22:9, and Deuteronomy 20 in relation to Matthew 5. Joshua 6 was chosen since current details of historical and archaeological evidence have called into question the accuracy of the text’s account of the destruction of of Jericho. The Acts passage which describes Paul’s conversion was chosen due to the apparent discrepancy between what the witnesses saw and heard during this event. For theological coherence the author’s grapple with the question “How is it that Deuteronomy 20 instructs Israel that the complete extermination of Yahweh’s enemies is a matter of Israel’s purity before and obedience to Yaweh, while Jesus subsequently says faithfulness to God requires nonretaliation and sacrificial love of enemeies (Matthew 5:38-48)?”
The scholars addressing these biblical, theological, and historical concerns are two biblical scholars (Michael Bird and Peter Enns), two systematic theologians (John Franke and Kevin Vanhoozer), and one historical theologian (Albert Mohler). Part one consists of Mohler’s and Enns’ essays in a section entitled “Perspectives on Inerrancy and the Past.” In part 2 Michael Bird (hailing from Australia) addresses “Inerrancy from an International Perspective.” In part 3 Kevin Vanhoozer and John Franke represent “Perspectives on Renewing and Recasting Inerrancy Today.” Each essay is then responded to by the other four scholars.
Albert Mohler’s essay was disappointing in that his argumentation was circular and sophomoric. Of all the essays in the book I was looking forward to his the most. It seems that he didn’t put the time into the essay that was necessary. He simply wholeheartedly agreed with ISBI and did a poor job with the biblical material. His historical study of inerrancy was limited to the mid-late 1900′s. Mohler’s essay was answered in broad strokes and an a priori apologetic that was redundant and unconvincing. Mohler does a much better job in his essays of response – especially in his response to Enns. I wish that the editors would have chosen a biblical scholar in place of Mohler (with his same postion) – because his handling of the biblical material was particularly simplistic and weak. It just seemed like Mohler’s schedule was too busy to put the necessary scholarship into his essay. However, I wholeheartedly agree with Mohler’s assessment of biblical inerancy when he says, “I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy…The afirmation of biblical inerrancy means nothing more, and nothing less, than this: When the Bible speaks, God speaks.”
Peter Enns came across as just plain “ticked off” at the whole idea of biblical inerrancy. He gave a plethora of reasons why he doesn’t think ISBI is a fair or accurate document. He does not adhere to inerrancy (as defined by ISBI) and calls it “erroneous.” The closest he comes to arriving at any position on the Bible is when he writes: “Scripture is a collection of a variety of writings that necessarily and unashamedly reflects the worlds in which those writings were produced. The implication of this metaphor is that an understanding of those historical settings can and should affect interpretive conclusions.”
Enns handling of the biblical material was influenced primarily by liberal scholarship. He believes the Jericho episode didn’t happen due to the archaeological evidence. He believes Paul’s conversion reports are blatant contradictions. Lastly, he thinks that the God of the Old Testament as described in Deuteronomy is different than the God portrayed in the New Testament. He writes, “Israel’s depiction of God vis-a-vis the nations unmistakably, and understandably, reflects the ubiquitous tribal culture at the time.”
Mohler writes of Enns, “So, taking Peter Enns at his word the Bible contains numerous passages that not only fail the test of historical accuracy (even to the point of questioning whether the exodus took place), but also present a false and dangerous misrepresentation of God’s very character and will.” The overall response of the other essayists was similar to my own own response. I felt that Enns was overly critical of Scripture, and didn’t really give a constructive or positive view of Scripture at all. It felt like his whole essay was reactionary and destructive. There was really no positive argument given. It was a lot like reading the “new atheists” – a lot of attack and very little evidence or support for their own view.
Michael Bird’s essay was perhaps the most interesting of the five. If he ever loses his job as a theologian he could become a night club comic. He provides humor in his essay and in his responses to the other essayists (especially humorous is his response to Enns). Bird has the difficult task of reflecting the idea of inerrancy outside of the USA. He covers a lot of ground and shares where he agrees and disagrees with ISBI. He provides a very balanced essay in his response to ISBI, his historical reflections on inerrancy around the globe, and his biblical argumentation – brief but very cogent and clear. One of the highlights of Bird’s essay was this gem, “The goal of revelation is not knowing facts about God but also enjoying fellowship with God.” Overall Bird’s essay is very witty, theologically insightful, and interesting.
Kevin Vanhoozer’s essay argues for what he terms “A Well-versed inerrancy.” He basis his definition largely on the historic tradition of Augustine. Vanhoozer proposes this definition of inerrancy, “to say that the Scripture is inerrant is to confess faith that the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly).” The bulk of Vanhoozer’s essay buttresses his definition of inerrancy with a particular interest in the terms “truth” and “language” and he ties these concepts to the writings and concepts developed by Augustine. His essay utilizes careful language and sophisticated theological and philosophical depth that one would expect of a top-notch systematic theologian. Vanhoozer handles the biblical passages with tremendous theological and exegetical skill.
Vanhoozer gives the practical importance of a well-versed inerrancy with these words: “Implicit in my definition of inerrancy is that we be not only literate readers who rightly see what proposition an author is proposing (the literal sense) and what kind of attention to this proposition is required (literary sensibility) but also right-minded and right-hearted readers who respond rightly to each and every communicative act of Scripture (Spirit-given literacy) Ultimately, a well-versed approach to inerrancy constitutes nothing less than a standing requirement that the community of Scripture’s interpreters become persons capable of understanding, loving, and participating in the truth.”
I love the conclusion to Vanhoozer’s essay where he quotes Augustine’s approach to the veracity of the Scriptures: “And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to the truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand.” Of all the essays, I found Vanhoozer’s to be the most theologically profound and exegetically sound.
John Franke does not believe that the ICBI should serve as the standard-bearer for inerrancy. He offers an alternative model – what he calls a fallibilist perspective, “inerrancy functions only within the limits of language alone. It applies to Scripture only in the context of the original settings in which the texts that we have were constructed, and its affirmations and teachings cannot be abstracted from those contexts and offered as absolute truth, because only God knows and is Truth…this means that the ultimate truth and inerrancy of the Bible are finally contained not in the particular narratives and teachings of individual texts but rather in relation to its intended purpose and function in the economy of God…the Bible is that language the Spirit appropriates and employs to effect the social construction of the Christian community.”
Therefore, for Franke, the Bible is essentially fallible because it was written by fallible human beings. He expects that the Scriptures will contain errors and in his discussion of the biblical passages he is not troubled in the slightest by the historicity of the conquest of Jericho, nor the historic details of Paul’s Damascus Road vision. He seems more concerned about the big picture than the little details of the Bible. In doing so – he never quite tells us what inerrancy is. He never tells us what truth is. I found his essay to be confusing, fragmented, and unconvincing in regards to his theology, epistemology, and exegesis.
On the whole this is a fascinating multi-view book. The terrain covered is theologically rich, historically insightful, and exegetically helpful. The final chapter written by Stephen M. Garrett and J. Merrick was just what the doctor ordered. It helped bring synthesis, clarification, as well as a much needed explanation of the continuity and discontinuity on the spectrum of issues presented throughout the book. I highly recommend this book for everyone who loves God’s Word and is seeking to know, love, and live out His truth as revealed in the Scriptures.
By Simon Turpin
Within the church, the creation vs. evolution debate is often looked upon as a side issue or as unimportant. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the acceptance of evolutionary theory, many have chosen to re-interpret the Bible with regards to its teaching on creation, the history of Adam and the global catastrophic flood in Noah’s day. Consequently, the very teachings of Jesus are being attacked by those who state that, because of His human nature, there is error in some of His teaching regarding earthly things such as creation. While scholars admit that Jesus affirmed such things as Adam, Eve, Noah and the Flood, they believe that Jesus was wrong on these matters.
The problem with this theory is that it raises the question of Jesus’s reliability, not only as a prophet, but more importantly as our sinless Savior. These critics go too far when they say that because of Jesus’s human nature and cultural context, He taught and believed erroneous ideas.
Keywords: Jesus, deity, humanity, prophet, truth, teaching, creation, kenosis, error, accommodation.
IntroductionIn His humanity, Jesus was subject to everything that humans are subject to, such as tiredness, hunger, and temptation. But does this mean that like all humans He was subject to error? Much of the focus on the person of Jesus in the church today is on His divinity, to the point where, often, aspects of His humanity are overlooked, which can in turn lead to a lack of understanding of this critical part of His nature. For example, it is argued that in His humanity Jesus was not omniscient and that this limited knowledge would have made Him capable of error. It is also believed that Jesus accommodated Himself to the prejudices and erroneous views of the Jewish people of the first century AD, accepting some of the untrue traditions of that time. This, therefore, nullifies His authority on critical questions. For the same reasons, it is not only certain aspects of Jesus’s teaching, but also those of the apostles that are seen as erroneous. Writing for the theistic evolutionist organization Biologos, Kenton Sparks argues that because Jesus, as a human, operated within His finite human horizon, then He would have made errors:
If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John [sic] wrote Scripture without error. Rather, we are wise to assume that the biblical authors expressed themselves as human beings writing from the perspectives of their own finite, broken horizons. (Sparks 2010, p. 7)
To believe our Lord was able to err—and did err in the things He taught—is a severe accusation and needs to be taken seriously. In order to demonstrate that the claim that Jesus erred in His teaching is itself erroneous, it is necessary to evaluate different aspects of Jesus’s nature and ministry. First, this paper will look at the divine nature of Jesus and whether He emptied Himself of that nature, followed by the importance of Jesus’s ministry as a prophet and His claims of the teaching the truth. It will then consider whether Jesus erred in His human nature, and whether as a result of error in Scripture (since humans were involved in its writing) Christ erred in His view of the Old Testament. Finally, the paper will explore the implications of Jesus’s teaching allegedly being false.
The Divine Nature of Jesus—He Existed Before CreationGenesis 1:1 tells us that “
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In John 1:1we read the same words, “
In the beginning . . .” which follows the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. John informs us in John 1:1 that in the beginning was the Word (logos) and that the Word was not only with God but was God. This Word is the one who brought all things into being at creation (John 1:3). Several verses later, John writes that the Word who was with God in the beginning “
became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Notice that John does not say that the Word stopped being God. The verb “. . . ‘became’ [egeneto] here does not entail any change in the essence of the Son. His deity was not converted into our humanity. Rather, he assumed our human nature” (Horton 2011, p. 468). In fact, John uses a very particular term here, skenoo “dwelt”, which means he “pitched his tent” or “tabernacled” among us. This is a direct parallel to the Old Testament record of when God “dwelt” in the tabernacle that Moses told the Israelites to construct (Exodus 25:8–9; 33:7). John is telling us that God “dwelt” or “pitched his tent” in the physical body of Jesus.
In the incarnation, it is important to understand that Jesus’s human nature did not replace His divine nature. Rather, His divine nature dwelt in a human body. This is affirmed by Paul in Colossians 1:15–20, especially in verse 19, “
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,” Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person.
The New Testament not only explicitly states that Jesus was fully God, it also recounts events that demonstrate Jesus’ divine nature. For example, while Jesus was on earth, He healed the sick (Matthew 8–9) and forgave sins (Mark 2). What is more, He accepted worship from people (Matthew 2:2; 14:33; 28:9). One of the greatest examples of this comes from the lips of Thomas when he exclaims in worship before Jesus, “
My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The confession of deity here is unmistakable, as worship is only meant to be given to God (Revelation 22:9); yet Jesus never rebuked Thomas, or others, for this. He also did many miraculous signs (John 2; 6; 11) and had the prerogative to judge people (John 5:27) because He is the Creator of the world (John 1:1–3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16;Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 4:11).
Furthermore, the reactions of those around Jesus demonstrated that He viewed Himself as divine and truly claimed to be divine. In John 8:58, Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders, “
Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. This “I am” statement was Jesus’s clearest example of His proclamation “I am Yahweh,” from its background in the book of Isaiah (41:4; 43:10–13, 25; 48:12—see also Exodus 3:14). This divine self-disclosure of Jesus’s explicit identification of Himself with Yahweh of the Old Testament is what led the Jewish leaders to pick up stones to throw at Him. They understood what Jesus was saying, and that is why they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. A similar incident takes place in John 10:31. The leaders again wanted to stone Jesus after He said “
I and the Father are one,” because they knew He was making Himself equal with God. Equality indicates His deity, for who can be equal to God? Isaiah 46:9 says: “
Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” If there is no one like God and yet Jesus is equal to God (Philippians 2:6), what does this say of Him, except that He must be God? The only thing that is equal to God is God.
In the Incarnation Did Jesus Empty Himself of His Divine Nature?Kenotic Theology—(Philippians 2:5–8)
A question that needs to be asked is whether Jesus emptied Himself of His divine nature in His incarnation. In the seventeenth century, German scholars debated the issue of Christ’s divine attributes while He was on earth. They argued that because there is no reference in the gospels to Christ making use of all of His divine attributes (such as omniscience) that He abandoned the attributes of His divinity in His incarnation (McGrath 2011, p. 293). Gottfried Thomasius (1802–1875) was one of the main proponents of this view who explained the incarnation as “the self-limitation of the Son of God” (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, p. 46). He reasoned that the Son could not have maintained His full divinity during the incarnation (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 46–47). Thomasius believed that the only way for a true incarnation to take place was if the Son “‘gave himself over into the form of human limitation.”’ (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 47–48). He found his support for this in Philippians 2:7, defining the kenosis as:
[T]he exchange of the one form of existence for the other; Christ emptied of the one and assumed the other. It is thus an act of free self-denial, which has as its two moments the renunciation of the divine condition of glory, due him as God, and the assumption of the humanly limited and conditioned pattern of life. (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, p. 53)
Thomasius separated the moral attributes of God: truth, love, and holiness, from the metaphysical attributes: omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Thomasius not only believed that Christ gave up the use of these attributes, (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience) but that He did not even possess them during the incarnation (Thomasius, Dorner, and Biedermann 1965, pp. 70–71). Because of Christ’s self-emptying in Philippians 2:7, it was believed that Jesus was limited essentially by the opinions of His time. Robert Culver comments on the belief of Thomasius and other scholars who held to a kenotic theology:
Jesus’ testimony to the inerrant authority of the Old Testament . . . is negated. He simply had given up divine omniscience and omnipotence and hence didn’t know any better. Some of these scholars earnestly desired a way to remain orthodox and to go with the flow of what was deemed to be scientific truth about nature and about the Bible as an inspired book not necessarily true in every respect. (Culver 2006, p. 510)
It is critical, therefore, to ask what Paul means when he says that Jesus emptied Himself. Philippians 2:5–8 says:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
There are two key words in these verses that help in understanding the nature of Jesus. The first key word is the Greek morphē (form). Morphē
covers a broad range of meanings and therefore we are heavily dependent on the immediate context to discover its specific nuance. (Silva 2005, p. 101)
In Philippians 2:6 we are helped by two factors to discover the meaning of morphē.
In the first place, we have the correspondence of morphē theou with isa theō. . . . “in the form of God” is equivalent to being “equal with God.” . . . In the second place, and most important, morphē theou is set in antithetical parallelism to μορφην δουλου (morphēn doulou, form of a servant), an expression further defined by the phrase εν ομοιωματι ανθρωπων (en homoiōmati anthrōpōn, in the likeness of men). (Silva 2005, p. 101)
The parallel phrases show that morphē refers to outward appearance. In Greek literature the term morphē has to do with “external appearance” (Behm 1967, pp. 742–743) which is visible to human observation. “Similarly, the word form in the Greek OT (LXX) refers to something that can be seen [Judges 8:18; Job 4:16; Isaiah 44:13]” (Hansen 2009, p. 135). Christ did not cease to be in the form of God in the incarnation, but taking on the form of a servant He became the God-man.
The second key word is ekenosen from which we get the kenosis doctrine. Modern English Bibles translate verse 7 differently:
New International Version/Today’s New International Version: “
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.”
English Standard Version: “
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
New American Standard Bible: “
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
New King James Version: “
but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
New Living Translation: “
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form.”
It is debatable from a lexical standpoint whether “emptied himself,” “made Himself of no reputation,” or “gave up his divine privileges” are even the best translations. The New International Version/Today’s New International Version translation “made himself nothing” is probably more supportable (Hansen 2009, p. 149; Silva 2005, p. 105; Ware 2013). Philippians 2:7, however, does not say that Jesus emptied Himself of anything in particular; all it says is that he emptied Himself. New Testament scholar George Ladd comments:
The text does not say that he emptied himself of the morphē theou [form of God] or of equality with God . . . All that the text states is that “he emptied himself by taking something else to himself, namely, the manner of being, the nature or form of a servant or slave.” By becoming human, by entering on a path of humiliation that led to death, the divine Son of God emptied himself. (Ladd 1994, p. 460)
It is pure conjecture to argue from this verse that Jesus gave up any or all of His divine nature. He may have given up or suspended the use of some of His divine privileges, perhaps, for example, His omnipresence or the glory that He had with the Father in heaven (John 17:5), but not His divine power or knowledge. “The humiliation,” of Jesus is not therefore seen in His becoming man (anthropos) or a man (aner) but that “as man” (hos anthropos) “‘
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8)” (Culver 2006, p. 514).
The fact that Jesus did not give up His divine nature can be seen when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration and the disciples saw His glory (Luke 9:28–35) since here there is an association with the glory of God’s presence in Exodus 34:29–35. In the incarnation Jesus was not exchanging His deity for humanity but suspending the use of some of His divine powers and attributes (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus’s emptying of Himself was a refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges as God. We can also compare how Paul uses this same term, kenoo, which only appears four other times in the New Testament (Romans 4:14; 1 Corinthians 1:17;9:15; 2 Corinthians 9:3). In Romans 4:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:17, it means to make void, that is, deprive of force, render vain, useless, or of no effect. In 1 Corinthians 9:15 and 2 Corinthians 9:3it means to make void, that is, to cause a thing to be seen to be empty, hollow, false (Thayer 2007, p. 344). In these instances it is clear that Paul’s use of kenoo is used figuratively rather than literally (Berkhof 1958, p. 328; Fee 1995, p. 210; Silva 2005, p. 105). Additionally, in Philippians 2:7 “to press for a literal meaning of ‘emptying’ ignores the poetic context and nuance of the word” (Hansen 2009, p. 147). Therefore, in Philippians 2:7 it is perhaps more accurate to see “emptying” as Jesus pouring Himself out, in service, in an expression of divine self-denial (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus’s service is explained in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In practise, this meant in the incarnation that Jesus:
Took the form of a servant
Was made in the likeness of men
Humbled himself becoming obedient to death on the cross.
In His incarnation Jesus did not cease to be God, or cease in any way to have the authority and knowledge of God.
Jesus as a ProphetIn His state of humiliation, part of Jesus’s ministry was to speak God’s message to the people. Jesus referred to Himself as a prophet (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 13:33) and was declared to have done a prophet’s work (Matthew 13:57; Luke 13:33; John 6:14). Even those who did not understand that Jesus was God accepted Him as a prophet, (Luke 7:15–17, Luke 24:19, John 4:19; 6:14; 7:40; 9:17). Furthermore, Jesus introduced many of His sayings by “amen” or “truly” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). I. Howard Marshall says of Jesus:
[Jesus] made no claim to prophetic inspiration; no “thus says the Lord” fell from his lips, but rather he spoke in terms of his own authority. He claimed the right to give the authoritative interpretation of the law, and he did so in a way that went beyond that of the prophets. He thus spoke as if he were God. (Marshall 1976, pp. 49–50)
In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 13:1–5 and 18:21–22 provided the people of Israel with two tests to discern true prophets from false prophets.
First, a true prophet’s message had to be consistent with earlier revelation.
Second, a true prophet’s predictions always had to come true.
Deuteronomy 18:18–19 foretells of a prophet whom God would raise up from His own people after Moses died: “
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). This is properly referred to in the New Testament as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ (John 1:45; Acts 3:22–23; 7:37). Jesus’s teaching had no origin in human ideas but came entirely from God. In His role as prophet, Jesus had to speak God’s word to God’s people. Therefore He was subject to God’s rules concerning prophets. In the Old Testament, if a prophet was not correct in his predictions he would be stoned to death as a false prophet by order of God (Deuteronomy 13:1–5; 18:20). For a prophet to have credibility with the people, his message must be true, as he has no message of his own but can only report what God has given him. This is because prophecy had its origin in God and not man (Habakkuk 2:2–3; 2 Peter 1:21).
In His prophetic role, Christ represents God the Father to mankind. He came as a light to the world (John 1:9; 8:12) to show us God and bring us out of darkness (John 14:9–10). In John 8:28–29 Jesus also showed evidence of being a true prophet—that of living in close relation with His Father, passing on His teaching (cf. Jeremiah 23:21–23):
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Jesus had the absolute knowledge that everything He did was from God. What He said and did is absolute truth because His Father is “truthful” (John 8:26). Jesus only spoke that which His Father told Him to say (John 12:49–50), so it had to be correct in every way. If Jesus as a prophet was wrong in the things He said, then why would we acclaim Him as the Son of God? If Jesus is a true prophet, then His teaching regarding Scripture must be taken seriously as absolute truth.
Jesus’s Teaching and Truth
Since God himself is the measure of all truth and Jesus was co-equal with God, he himself was the yardstick by which truth was to be measured and understood. (Letham 1993, p. 92)
In John 14:6 we are told that Jesus not only told the truth but that He was, and is, truth. Scripture portrays Jesus as the truth incarnate (John 1:17). Therefore, if He is the truth, He must always tell the truth and it would have been impossible for Him to speak or think falsehood. Much of Jesus’s teaching began with the phrase “Truly, truly I say . . .” If Jesus taught anything in error, even if it was from ignorance (for example, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch), He would not be the truth.
To err may be human for us. Falsehood, however, is rooted in the nature of the devil (John 8:44), not the nature of Jesus who speaks the truth (John 8:45–46). The Father is the only true God (John 7:28; 8:26; 17:3) and Jesus taught only what the Father had given to Him (John 3:32–33; 8:40; 18:37). Jesus testifies about the Father, who in turn testifies concerning the Son (John 8:18–19; 1 John 5:10–11), and they are one (John 10:30). The gospel of John shows emphatically that Jesus’s teaching and words are the teaching and words of God. Three clear examples of this are:
And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:15–17)
I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father. . . . But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. (John 8:37–38, 40)
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.(John 12:49–50)
In John 12:49–50 “Not only is what Jesus says just what the Father has told him to say, but he himself is the Word of God, God’s self-expression (1:1)” (Carson 1991, p. 453). The authority behind Jesus’s words are the commands that are given to Him by the Father (and Jesus always obeyed the Father’s commands; John 14:31). Jesus’s teaching did not originate in human ideas but came from God the Father, which is why it is authoritative. His very own words were spoken in full authorization from the Father who sent Him. The authority of Jesus’s teaching then rests upon the unity between Himself and the Father. Jesus is the embodiment, revelation, and messenger of truth to mankind; and it is the Holy Spirit who conveys truth about Jesus to the unbelieving world through believers (John 15:26–27; 16:8–11). Again, the point is that if there was error in Jesus’s teaching, then He is a false and unreliable teacher. However, Jesus was God incarnate, and God and falsehood can never be reconciled with each other (Titus 1:2;Hebrews 6:18).
Jesus’s Human NatureIt is important to understand that in the incarnation, not only did Jesus retain His divine nature, He also took on a human nature. With respect to His divine nature, Jesus was omniscient (John 1:47–51; 4:16–19, 29), having all the attributes of God, yet in His human nature He had all the limitations of being human, which included limitations in knowing. The true humanity of Jesus is expressed throughout the gospels, which tell us that Jesus was wrapped in ordinary infant clothing (Luke 2:7), grew in wisdom as a child (Luke 2:40, 52), and was weary (John 4:6), was hungry (Matthew 4:4), was thirsty (John 19:28), was tempted by the devil (Mark 4:38), and was sorrowful (Matthew 26:38a). The incarnation should be viewed as an act of addition and not as an act of subtraction of Jesus’s nature:
When we think about the Incarnation, we don’t want to get the two natures mixed up and think that Jesus had a deified human nature or a humanized divine nature. We can distinguish them, but we can’t tear them apart because they exist in perfect unity. (Sproul 1996)
For example, in Mark 13:32 where Jesus is talking about His return, He says, “
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Does this mean that Jesus was somehow limited? How should we handle this statement by Jesus? The text seems straightforward in saying there was something Jesus did not know. Jesus’s teaching shows that what He knew or did not know was a conscious self-limitation. The God-man possessed divine attributes, or He would have ceased to be God, but He chose not always to employ them. The fact that Jesus told His disciples that He did not know something is an indication that He did not teach untruths and this is confirmed by His statement, “
if it were not so, I would have told you” (John 14:2). Furthermore, ignorance of the future is not the same as making an erroneous statement. If Jesus had predicted something that did not take place, then that would be an error.
The question that now needs to be asked is this: Was Jesus in His humanity capable of error in the things he taught? Does our human capacity to err apply to the teaching of Jesus? Because of His human nature, questions are raised about Jesus’s beliefs concerning certain events in Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) states: “We deny that the humble, human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin.” Arguing against the position, Kenton Sparks, Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, in his book God’s Word in Human Words, states:
First, the Christological argument fails because, though Jesus was indeed sinless, he was also human and finite. He would have erred in the usual way that other people err because of their finite perspectives. He misremembered this event or that, and mistook this person for someone else, and thought—like everyone else—that the sun was literally rising. To err in these ways simply goes with the human territory. (Sparks 2008, pp. 252–253)
First of all, it should be noted that nowhere in the gospels is there any evidence that Jesus either misremembered any event or mistook any person for another, nor does Sparks provide evidence for this. Secondly, the language used in Scripture to describe the sun’s rising (for example, Psalm 104:22) and movement of the earth are literal only in a phenomenological sense as it is described from the viewpoint of the observer. Moreover, this is still done today in weather reports when the reporter uses terminology such as “sunrise tomorrow will be at 5 a.m.”
Because of the impact evolutionary ideology has had in the scientific realm as well as in theology, it is reasoned that Jesus’s teaching on things such as creation and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was simply wrong. Jesus would have been unaware of evolution as it relates to the critical approach to the authorship of the Old Testament, the Documentary Hypothesis. It is reasoned that in His humanity He was limited by the opinions of His time. Therefore, He could not be held accountable for holding to a view of Scripture that was prevalent in the culture. It is argued that Jesus erred in what He taught because He was accommodating the erroneous Jewish traditions of His time. For example, Peter Enns objects to idea that Jesus’s belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is valid, since He simply accepted the cultural tradition of His day:
Jesus seems to attribute authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses (e.g., John 5:46–47). I do not think, however, that this presents a clear counterpoint, mainly because even the most ardent defenders of Mosaic authorship today acknowledge that some of the Pentateuch reflects updating, but taken at face value this is not a position that Jesus seems to leave room for. But more important, I do not think that Jesus’s status as the incarnate Son of God requires that statements such as John 5:46–47 be understood as binding historical judgments of authorship. Rather, Jesus here reflects the tradition that he himself inherited as a first-century Jew and that his hearers assumed to be the case. (Enns 2012, p. 153)
Like Enns, Sparks also uses the accommodation theory to argue for human errors in Scripture (Sparks 2008, pp. 242–259). He believes that the Christological argument cannot serve as an objection to the implications of accommodation (Sparks 2008, p. 253) and that God does not err in the Bible when He accommodates the errant views of Scripture’s human audience (Sparks 2008, p. 256).
In his objection to the validity of Jesus’s belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, Enns is too quick in downplaying the divine status of Jesus in relation to His knowledge of the authorship of the Pentateuch. This overlooks whether the divinity of Christ meant anything in terms of an epistemological relevance to His humanity, and raises the question of how the divine nature relates to the human nature in the one person. We are told on several occasions, for example, that Jesus knew what people were thinking (Matthew 9:4; 12:25) which is a clear reference to His divine attributes. A. H. Strong gives a good explanation as to how the personality of Jesus’s human nature existed in union with His divine nature:
[T]he Logos did not take into union with himself an already developed human person, such as James, Peter, or John, but human nature before it had become personal or was capable of receiving a name. It reached its personality only in union with his own divine nature. Therefore we see in Christ not two persons—a human person and a divine person—but one person, and that person possessed of a human nature as well as a divine. (Strong 1907, p. 679)
There is a personal union between the divine and human nature with each nature entirely preserved in its distinctness, yet in and as one person. Although, some appeal to Jesus’s divinity in order to affirm Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Packer 1958, pp. 58–59), it is not necessary to do so, since:
There is no mention in the Gospels of Jesus’ divinity overwhelming his humanity. Nor do the Gospels refer his miracles to his divinity and refer his temptation or sorrow to his humanity, as if he switched back and forth from operating according to one nature to operating according to another. Rather, the Gospels routinely refer Christ’s miracles to the Father and the Spirit . . . [Jesus] spoke what he heard from the Father and as he was empowered by the Spirit. (Horton 2011, p. 469)
The context of John 5:45–47 is important in understanding the conclusions we draw concerning the truthfulness of what Jesus taught. In John 5:19 we are told that Jesus can do nothing of Himself. In other words, He does not act independently of the Father, but He only does what He sees the Father doing. Jesus has been sent into the world by God to reveal truth (John 5:30, 36) and it is this revelation from the Father that enabled Him to do “greater works.” Elsewhere in John we are told that the Father teaches the Son (John 3:32–33; 7:15–17; 8:28, 37–38; 12:49–50). Jesus is not only one with the Father but is also dependent upon Him. Since the Father cannot be in error or lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2), and because Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), to accuse Jesus of error or falsehood in what He knew or taught is to accuse God of the same thing.
Jesus went on to acknowledge that the Old Testament required a minimum of two or three witnesses to establish the truthfulness of one’s claim (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). Jesus produces several witnesses corroborating His claim of equality with God:
John the Baptist (John 5:33–35)
Jesus’s works (John 5:36)
God the Father (John 5:37)
The Scriptures (John 5:39)
Moses (John 5:46)
Jesus told the Jewish leaders that it is Moses, one of the witnesses, who will hold them accountable for their unbelief in what he wrote concerning Him, and that it is he who will be their accuser before God. New Testament scholar Craig Keener comments:
In Palestinian Judaism, “accusers” were witnesses against the defendant rather than official prosecutors (cf. 18:29), an image which would be consistent with other images used in the gospel tradition (Matt 12:41–42; Luke 11:31–32). The irony of being accused by a person or document in which one trusted for vindication would not be lost on an ancient audience. (Keener 2003, pp. 661–662)
In order for the accusation to hold up, however, the document or witnesses need to be reliable (Deuteronomy 19:16–19) and if Moses did not write the Pentateuch, how then can the Jews be held accountable by him and his writings? It was Moses who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt (Acts 7:40), gave them the Law (John 7:19), and brought them to the Promised Land (Acts 7:45). It was Moses who wrote about the coming prophet that God would send Israel to whom they should listen (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 7:37). What is more, it is God who puts the words into the mouth of this prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18). Moreover, Jesus
opposed the pseudo-authority of untrue Jewish traditions . . . . [and] disagrees with a pseudo-oral source [Mark 7:1–13], the false attribution of Jewish oral tradition to Moses. (Beale 2008, p. 145)
The basis for the truthfulness and inerrancy of what Jesus taught does not have to be resolved by appealing to His divine knowledge (although it can be), but can be understood from His humanity through His unity with the Father, which is why His teaching is true.
Furthermore, the New Testament strongly favors the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Matthew 8:4; 23:2; Luke 16:29–31; John 1:17, 45; Acts 15:1; Romans 9:15; 10:5). However, because of their belief in the “overwhelming evidence” for the documentary hypothesis, scholars (for example, Sparks 2008, p. 165) seem to come to the New Testament believing that the evidence of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch must be explained away in order to be consistent with their conclusions. The simple fact is that scholars who reject the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and embrace an accommodation approach to the evidence of the New Testament, are as unwilling as the Jewish leaders (John 5:40) in not wanting to listen to the words of Jesus on this subject.
The accommodation approach to the teaching of Jesus also raises the issue of whether He was mistaken on other such issues, as Gleason Archer explains:
Such an error as this, in matters of historical fact that can be verified, raises a serious question as to whether any of the theological teaching, dealing with metaphysical matters beyond our powers of verification, can be received as either trustworthy or authoritative. (Archer 1982, p. 46)
The accommodation approach also leaves us with a Christological problem. Since Jesus clearly understood that Moses wrote about Him, this creates a serious moral problem for Christians, as we are told to follow the example set by Christ (John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21) and have his attitude (Philippians 2:5). Yet, if Christ is shown to be approving falsehood in some areas of His teaching, it opens a door for us to affirm falsehood in some areas as well. The belief that Jesus accommodated His teaching to the beliefs of his first century hearers does not square with the facts. New Testament scholar John Wenham in his book Christ and the Bible comments on the idea that Jesus accommodated His teaching to the beliefs of His first century hearers:
He is not slow to repudiate nationalist conceptions of Messiahship; He is prepared to face the cross for defying current misconceptions . . . Surely He would have been prepared to explain clearly the mingling of divine truth and human error in the Bible, if He had known such to exist. (Wenham 1994, p. 27)
For those who hold to an accommodation position, this overlooks the fact that Jesus never hesitated to correct erroneous views common in the culture (Matthew 7:6–13, 29). Jesus was never constrained by the culture of his day if it went against God’s Word. He opposed those who claimed to be experts on the Law of God, if they were teaching error. His numerous disputes with the Pharisees are testament to this (Matthew 15:1–9; 23:13–36). The truth of Christ’s teaching is not culturally bound, but transcends all cultures and remains unaltered by cultural beliefs (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:24–25). Those who claim that Jesus in His humanity was susceptible to error and therefore merely repeated the ignorant beliefs of His culture are claiming to have more authority, and to be wiser and more truthful than Jesus.
Much of Christian teaching focuses, rightly, on the death of Jesus. However, in focusing on the death of Christ we often neglect the teaching that Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus not only died for us; He also lived for us. If all Jesus had to do was to die for us, then He could have descended from heaven on Good Friday, gone straight to the cross, risen from the dead and ascended back into heaven. Jesus did not live for 33 years for no reason. Whilst on earth Christ did the Father’s will (John 5:30), taking specific actions, teaching, miracle-working, obeying the Law in order to “
fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), came to succeed where the first Adam had failed in keeping the law of God. Jesus had to do what Adam failed to do in order to fulfill the required sinless life of perfection. Jesus did this so that His righteousness could be transferred to those who put their faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).
We must remember that in His humanity, Jesus, was not superman but a real man. The humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus do not mix directly with one another. If they did, then that would mean that the humanity of Jesus would actually become super-humanity. And if it is super-humanity, it is not our humanity. And if it is not our humanity, then He cannot be our substitute since He must be like us (Hebrews 2:14–17). Although the genuine humanity of Jesus did involve tiredness and hunger, it did not prevent Him from doing what pleased His Father (John 8:29) and speaking the truth He heard from God (John 8:40). Jesus did nothing on His own authority (John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 7:16, 28; 8:16). He had the absolute knowledge that everything He did was from God, including speaking what He had heard and had been taught by the Father. In John 8:28 Jesus said: “
“I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger notes that,
Jesus as the sent Son, again affirms his dependence on the Father, in keeping with the Jewish maxim that “a man’s agent [šālîah] is like the man himself.” (Kostenberger 2004, p. 260)
Just as God speaks the truth and no error can be found in Him, so it was with His sent Son. Jesus was not self-taught; rather His message came directly from God and, therefore, it was ultimately truth (John 7:16–17).
Scripture and Human ErrorIt has long been recognized that both Jesus and the apostles accepted Scripture as the flawless Word of the living God (John 10:35; 17:17; Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Unfortunately, this view of Scripture is attacked by many today, mainly because critics assume that since humans were involved in the process of writing Scripture, their capacity to err would result in the presence of errors in Scripture. The question that needs to be asked is whether the Bible contains error because it was written by human authors.
Many people are familiar with the Latin adage errare humanum est—to err is human. For instance, what person would ever claim to be without error? For this reason, the Swiss, neo-orthodox, theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968), whose view of Scripture is still influential in certain circles within the evangelical community, believed that: “we must dare to face the humanity of the biblical texts and therefore their fallibility . . .” (Barth 1963, p. 533). Barth believed that Scripture contained error because human nature was involved in the process:
As truly as Jesus died on the cross, as Lazarus died in Jn. 11, as the lame were lame, as the blind were blind . . . so, too, the prophets and apostles as such, even in their office, even in their function as witnesses, even in the act of writing down their witness, were real, historical men as we are, and therefore sinful in their action, and capable and actually guilty of error in their spoken and written word. (Barth 1963, p. 529)
Barth’s ideas, as well as the end results of higher criticism, are still making an impression today, as can be seen in Kenton Sparks’s work (Sparks 2008, p. 205). Sparks believes that although God is inerrant, because he spoke through human authors their “finitude and fallenness” resulted in a flawed biblical text (Sparks 2008, pp. 243–244).
In classic postmodern language Sparks states:
Orthodoxy demands that God does not err, and this implies, of course, that God does not err in Scripture. But it is one thing to argue that God does not err in Scripture; it is quite another thing that the human authors of Scripture did not err. Perhaps what we need is a way of understanding Scripture that paradoxically affirms inerrancy while admitting the human errors in Scripture. (Sparks 2008, p. 139)
Sparks’s claim of an inerrant Scripture that is errant is founded
in contemporary postmodern hermeneutical theories which emphasize the roll [sic] of the reader in the interpretive process and human fallibility as agents and receptors of communication. (Baugh 2008)
Sparks attributes the “errors” in Scripture to the fact that humans err: the Bible is written by humans, therefore its statements often reflect “human limitations and foibles” (Sparks 2008, p. 226). For both Barth and Sparks, an inerrant Bible is worthy of the charge of docetism (Barth 1963, pp. 509–510; Sparks 2008, p. 373).
Barth’s view of inspiration seems to be influencing many today in how they understand Scripture. Barth believed that God’s revelation takes place through His actions and activity in history; revelation then for Barth is seen as an “‘event”’ rather than coming through propositions (a proposition is a statement describing some reality that is either true or false; Beale 2008, p. 20). For Barth, the Bible is a witness to revelation but is not revelation itself (Barth 1963, p. 507) and, although there are propositional statements in Scripture, they are fallible human pointers to revelation-in-encounter. Michael Horton explains Barth’s idea of revelation:
For Barth, the Word of God (i.e., the event of God’s self-revelation) is always a new work, a free decision of God that cannot be bound to a creaturely form of mediation, including Scripture. This Word never belongs to history but is always an eternal event that confronts us in our contemporary existence. (Horton 2011, p. 128)
In his book Encountering Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible, one of the leading theistic evolutionists of today, John Polkinghorne, explains his view of Scripture:
I believe that the nature of divine revelation is not the mysterious transmission of infallible propositions . . . but the record of persons and events through which the divine will and nature have been most transparently made known . . . The Word of God uttered to humanity is not a written text but a life lived . . . Scripture contains witness to the incarnate Word, but it is not the Word himself. (Polkinghorne 2010, pp. 1, 3)
Like Sparks, Polkinghorne seems to be following Barth in his view of the inspiration of Scripture (misrepresenting the orthodox view in the process), which is opposed to the idea of revelation to divinely accredited messengers (the prophets and apostles). Therefore, in his view the Bible is not God’s Word but is only a witness to it with revelation seen as an event rather than the written Word of God (propositional truth statements). In other words, the Bible is a flawed record of God’s revelation to human beings, but it is not revelation itself. This view is not based on anything within the Bible, but is based upon extra-biblical, philosophical, critical grounds with which Polkinghorne is comfortable. Unfortunately, Polkinghorne offers a straw-man argument regarding the inspiration of Scripture as being “divinely dictated” (Polkinghorne 2010, p. 1). For him, the idea of the Bible being inerrant is “inappropriately idolatrous” (Polkinghorne 2010, p. 9), and so he believes he has a right to judge Scripture with his own autonomous intellect.
However, contra Barth and Polkinghorne, the Bible is not merely a record of events, but also gives us God’s interpretation of the meaning and significance of the events. We do not only have the gospel, but we also have the epistles which interpret the significance of the events of the gospel for us propositionally. This can be seen, for example, in the event of the crucifixion of Christ. At the time of Jesus’s ministry, the high priest Caiaphas saw the event of the death of Jesus as a historical expedient in that it was necessary for the good of the nation for one man to die (John 18:14). Meanwhile the Roman centurion standing underneath the cross came to believe that Jesus was “
truly was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). Yet, Caiaphas and the Centurion could not have known apart from divine revelation that the death of Christ was ultimately an atoning sacrifice made to satisfy the demands of God’s justice (Romans 3:25). We need more than an event in the Bible, we must also have the revelation of the meaning of the event or the meaning simply becomes subjective. God has given us the meaning and significance of these events through His chosen medium of the prophets and the apostles.
Furthermore, the charge of biblical docetism (that it denies the true humanity of Scripture), moves too quickly in presuming genuine humanity necessitates error:
Given an understanding of the Spirit’s work that superintends the production of the text without bypassing the human author’s personality, mind or will, and given that truth can be expressed perspectivally—that is, we do not need to know everything or to speak from a position of absolute objectivity or neutrality in order to speak truly—what exactly would be doecetic about an infallible text should we be given one? (Thompson 2008, p. 195)
What is more, the adage “to err is human” is simply assumed to be true. It may be true that humans err but it is not true that it is intrinsic for humanity to necessarily always err. There are many things we can do as humans and not err (examinations for example) and we must remember God created humanity at the beginning of creation as sinless and therefore with the capacity not to err. Also, the incarnation of Jesus Christ shows sin, and therefore error, not to be normal. Jesus
who is impeccable was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but being in “fashion as a man” still “holy harmless and undefiled.” To err is human is a false statement. (Culver 2006, p. 500)
One could argue that both Barth’s and Sparks’s view of Scripture is in fact “Arian” (denial of the true deity of Christ). What is more, Sparks’s contention that God is inerrant but accommodates Himself through human authors (which is where the errors in Scripture come from), fails to see that if what he says is true, then it is also possible that the biblical authors were in error in stating that God is inerrant. How in their erroneous humanity then would they know God is inerrant unless He revealed it to them?
Furthermore, orthodox Christianity does not deny the true humanity of Scripture; rather it properly recognizes that to be human does not necessarily entail error, and that the Holy Spirit kept the biblical writers from making errors they might otherwise have made. The assertion of a mechanical view of inspiration (God dictates the words to human authors) is simply a canard. Rather, orthodox Christianity embraces a theory of organic inspiration. “That is, God sanctifies the natural gifts, personalities, histories, languages, and cultural inheritance of the biblical writers” (Horton 2011, p. 163). The orthodox view of the inspiration of Scripture, as opposed to the neoorthodox view, is that revelation comes from God in and through words. In 2 Peter 1:21we are told that: “
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Prophecy was not motivated by man’s will in that it did not come from human impulse. Peter tells us how the prophets were able to speak from God by the fact that they were being continually “moved” (pheromenoi, present passive participle) by the Holy Spirit as they spoke or wrote. The Holy Spirit moved the human authors of Scripture in such a way that they were moved not by their own “will” but by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that human authors of Scripture were automatons; they were active rather than passive in the process of writing Scripture, as can be seen in their style of writing and the vocabulary they used. The role of the Holy Spirit was to teach the authors of Scripture (John 14:26; 16:12–15). In the New Testament it was the apostles or those closely associated with them whom the Spirit led to write truth and overcome their human tendency to err. The apostles shared Jesus’s view of Scripture, presenting their message as God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and proclaiming that it was “
not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Revelation then did not come about within the apostle or prophet, but it has its source in the Triune God (2 Peter 1:21). The relationship between the inspiration of the biblical text through the Holy Spirit and human authorship is too intimate to allow for errors in the text, as New Testament scholar S. M. Baugh demonstrates from the book of Hebrews:
God speaks to us directly and personally (Heb. 1:1–2) in promises (12:26) and comfort (13:5) with divine testimony (10:15) to and through the great “cloud of witnesses” of OT revelation . . . In Scripture, the Father speaks to the Son (1:5–6; 5:5), the Son to the Father (2:11–12; 10:5) and the Holy Spirit to us (3:7; 10:15–16). This speaking of God in the words of Scripture has the character of testimony which has been legally validated (2:1–4; so Greek bebaios in v. 2) which one ignores to his peril (4:12–13; 12:25). This immediate identification of the biblical text with God’s speech (cf. Gal. 3:8, 22) is hard to jibe with the reputed feebleness of the biblical authors. (Baugh 2008)
In the same way Jesus can assume our full humanity without sin so it is that God can speak through the fully human words of prophets and apostles without error. The major problem with seeing Scripture as erroneous is summed up by Robert Reymond:
We must not forget that the only reliable source of knowledge that we have of Christ is the Holy Scripture. If the Scripture is erroneous anywhere, then we have no assurance that it is inerrantly truthful in what it teaches about him. And if we have no reliable information about him, then it is precarious indeed to worship the Christ of Scripture, since we may be entertaining an erroneous representation of Christ and thus may be committing idolatry. (Reymond 1996, p. 72)
Jesus’s View of ScriptureIf Jesus’s acceptance and teaching of the reliability and truthfulness of Scripture were false, then this would mean that He was a false teacher and not to be trusted in the things He taught. Jesus clearly believed, however, that Scripture was God’s Word and therefore truth (John 17:17). In John 17:17, notice that Jesus says: “
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” He did not say that “your word is true” (adjective), rather He says “your word is truth” (noun). The implication is that Scripture does not just happen to be true; rather the very nature of Scripture is truth, and it is the very standard of truth to which everything else must be tested and compared. Similarly, in John 10:35 Jesus declared that “
Scripture cannot be broken” the “term ‘broken’ . . . means that Scripture cannot be emptied of its force by being shown to be erroneous” (Morris 1995, p. 468). Jesus was telling the Jewish leaders that the authority of Scripture could not be denied. Jesus’s own view of the Scripture was that of verbal inspiration, which can be seen from His statement in Matthew 5:18:
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
For Jesus, Scripture is not merely inspired in its general ideas or its broad claims or in its general meaning, but is inspired down to its very words. Jesus settled many theological disputes with His contemporaries by a single word. In Luke 20:37–38 Jesus “exploits an absent verb in the Old Testament passage” (Bock 1994, p. 327) to argue that God continues to be the God of Abraham. His argument presupposes the reliability of the words recorded in the book of Exodus (3:2–6). Furthermore, in Matthew 4, Jesus’s response to being tempted by Satan was to quote sections of Scripture from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:13, 16) demonstrating His belief in the final authority of the Old Testament. Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture to him “It is written . . .” which has the force of or is equivalent to “that settles it”; and Jesus understood that the Word of God was sufficient for this.
Jesus’s use of Scripture was authoritative and infallible (Matthew 5:17–20; John 10:34–35) as He spoke with the authority of God the Father (John 5:30; 8:28). Jesus taught that the Scriptures testify about Him (John 5:39), and He showed their fulfilment in the sight of the people of Israel (Luke 4:17–21). He even declared to His disciples that what is written in the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled (Luke 18:31). Furthermore, He placed the importance of the fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures over escaping His own death (Matthew 26:53–56). After His death and resurrection He told His disciples that everything that was written about Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44–47), and rebuked them for not believing all that the prophets have spoken concerning Him (Luke 24:25–27). The question then is how could Jesus fulfill all that the Old Testament spoke about Him if it is filled with error?
Jesus also regarded the Old Testament’s historicity as impeccable, accurate, and reliable. He often chose for illustrations in his teaching the very persons and events that are the least acceptable today to critical scholars. This can be seen from his reference to: Adam (Matthew 19:4–5), Abel (Matthew 23:35), Noah (Matthew 24:37–39), Abraham (John 8:39–41, 56–58), Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28–32). If Sodom and Gomorrah were fictional accounts, then how could they serve as a warning for future judgement? This also applies to Jesus’s understanding of Jonah (Matthew 12:39–41). Jesus did not see Jonah as a myth or legend; the meaning of the passage would lose its force, if it was. How could Jesus’s death and resurrection serve as a sign, if the events of Jonah did not take place? Furthermore, Jesus says that the men of Nineveh will stand at the last judgement because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, but if the account of Jonah is a myth or symbolic, then how can the men of Nineveh stand at the last judgement?
Fig. 1. Jesus’s view of the creation of man at the beginning of creation is directly opposed to the evolutionary timeline of the age of the earth.
Moreover, there are multiple passages in the New Testament where Jesus quotes from the early chapters of Genesis in a straightforward, historical manner. Matthew 19:4–6 is especially significant as Jesus quotes from both Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. Jesus’s use of Scripture here is authoritative in settling a dispute over the question of divorce, as it is grounded in the creation of the first marriage and the purpose thereof (Malachi 2:14–15). The passage is also striking in understanding Jesus’s use of Scripture as He attributes the words spoken as coming from the Creator (Matthew 19:4). More importantly, there is no indication in the passage that He understood it figuratively or as an allegory. If Christ were mistaken about the account of creation and its importance to marriage, then why should He be trusted when it comes to other aspects of His teaching? Furthermore, in a parallel passage in Mark 10:6 Jesus said, “
‘But from the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female’.” The statement “from the beginning of creation” (‘άπό άρχñς κτíσεως;’—see John 8:44; 1 John 3:8, where “from the beginning” refers to the beginning of creation) is a reference to the beginning of creation and not simply to the beginning of the human race (Mortenson 2009, pp. 318–325). Jesus was saying that Adam and Eve were there at the beginning of creation, on Day Six, not billions of years after the beginning (fig. 1).
In Luke 11:49–51 Jesus states:
Therefore the wisdom of God also said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,” that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
The phrase “
from the foundation of the world” is also used in Hebrews 4:3, where it tells us God’s creation “
works were finished from the foundation of the world.” However, verse 4 says that “
God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” Mortenson points out:
The two statements are clearly synonymous: God finished and rested at the same time. This implies that the seventh day (when God finished creating, Gen. 2:1–3) was the end of the foundation period. So, the foundation does not refer simply to the first moment or first day of creation week, but the whole week. (Mortenson 2009, p. 323)
Jesus clearly understood that Abel lived at the foundation of the world. This means that as the parents of Abel, Adam and Eve, must also have been historical. Jesus also spoke of the devil as being a murderer “from the beginning” (John 8:44). It is clear that Jesus accepted the book of Genesis as historical and reliable. Jesus also made a strong connection between Moses’s teaching and his own (John 5:45–47) and Moses made some very astounding claims about six-day creation in the Ten Commandments, which He says were penned by God’s own hand (Exodus 20:9–11 and Exodus 31:18).
To question the basic historical authenticity and integrity of Genesis 1–11 is to assault the integrity of Christ’s own teaching. (Reymond 1996, p. 118)
Moreover, if Jesus was wrong about Genesis, then He could be wrong about anything, and none of His teaching would have any authority. The importance of all this is summed up by Jesus in declaring that if someone did not believe in Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament) then they would not believe God on the basis of a miraculous resurrection (Luke 16:31). Those who make the charge that the Scriptures contain error find themselves in the same position as the Sadducees who were rebuked by Jesus in Matthew 22:29: “
Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God’.” The implication by Jesus here is that the Scriptures themselves do not err, as they speak accurately concerning history and theology (in context the Patriarchs and the resurrection).
The apostle Paul issued a warning to the Corinthian Church:
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.(2 Corinthians 11:3).
Satan’s method of deception with Eve was to get her to question God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). Unfortunately, many scholars and Christian lay people today are falling for this deception and are questioning the authority of God’s Word. We must remember, however, that Paul exhorts us that we are to have “the mind” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and “attitude” of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Therefore, as Christians, whatever Jesus’s belief was concerning the truthfulness of Scripture should be what we believe; and He clearly believed that Scripture was the perfect Word of God and, therefore, truth (Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; 17:17).
Jesus as Saviour and the Implications of His Teaching being FalseThe fatal flaw in the idea that Jesus’s teaching contained error is that, if Jesus in His humanity claimed to know more or less than He actually did, then such a claim would have profound ethical and theological implications (Sproul 2003, p. 185) concerning Jesus’s claims of being the truth (John 14:6), speaking the truth (John 8:45), and bearing witness to the truth (John 18:37). The critical point in all of this is that Jesus did not have to be omniscient to save us from our sins, but He certainly had to be sinless, which includes never telling a falsehood.
Scripture is clear is that Jesus was sinless in the life he lived, keeping God’s law perfectly (Luke 4:13; John 8:29; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Jesus was confident in His challenge to His opponents to convict Him of sin (John 8:46), but His opponents were unable to answer His challenge; and even Pilate found no guilt in him (John 18:38). The belief that Jesus was truly human and yet sinless has been a universal conviction of the Christian church (Osterhaven 2001, p. 1109). However, did Christ’s true humanity require sinfulness?
The answer to that must be no. Just as Adam, when created, was fully human and yet sinless, so the second Adam who took Adam’s place not only started his life without sin but continued to do so. (Letham 1993, p. 114)
Whereas Adam failed in his temptation by the Devil (Genesis 3), Christ succeeded in His temptation, fulfilling what Adam had failed to do (Matthew 4: 1–10). Strictly speaking, the question of whether Christ was able to sin or not (impeccability)
means not merely that Christ could avoid sinning, and did actually avoid it, but also that is was impossible for Him to sin because of the essential bond between the human and the divine natures. (Berkhof 1959, p. 318)
If Jesus in his teaching had pretended or proclaimed to have more knowledge than he actually had, then this would have been sinful. The Bible tells us that “
we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Scripture also says that it would be better for a person to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned than to lead someone astray (Matthew 18:6). Jesus made statements such as “
I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me” (John 14:10) and “
I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Now if Jesus claimed to teach these things and then taught erroneous information (for example, regarding Creation, the Flood, or the age of the earth), then His claims would be falsified, He would be sinning, and this would disqualify Him from being our Saviour. The falsehood He would be teaching is that He knows something that He actually does not know. Once Jesus makes the astonishing claim to be speaking the truth, He had better not be teaching mistakes. In His human nature, because Jesus was sinless, and as such the “
fullness of the Deity” dwelt in Him (Colossians 2:9), then everything Jesus taught was true; and one of the things that Jesus taught was that the Old Testament Scripture was God’s Word (truth) and, therefore, so was His teaching on creation.
When it comes to Jesus’s view on creation, if we claim Him to be Lord, then what He believed should be extremely important to us. How can we have a different view than the one who is our Saviour as well as our Creator! If Jesus was wrong concerning His views on creation, then we can argue that maybe He was wrong in other areas too—which is what is being argued by scholars such as Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks.
ConclusionOne of the reasons today for believing that Jesus erred in His teaching is driven by a desire to syncretize evolutionary thinking with the Bible. In our own day, it has become customary for theistic evolutionists to reinterpret the Bible in light of modern scientific theory. However, this always ends in disaster because syncretism is based on a type of synthesis—blending together the theory of naturalism with historic Christianity, which is antithetical to naturalism.
The issue for Christians is what one has to concede theologically in order to hold to a belief in evolution. Many theistic evolutionists inconsistently reject the supernatural creation of the world, yet nevertheless accept the reality of the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the divine inspiration of Scripture. However, these are all equally at odds with secular interpretations of science. Theistic evolutionists have to tie themselves up in knots in order to ignore the obvious implications of what they believe. The term “blessed inconsistency” should be applied here, as many Christians who believe in evolution do not take it to its logical conclusions. However, some do, as can be seen from those that affirm Christ and the authors of Scripture erred in matters of what they taught and wrote.
People say, “they do not accept the Bible’s account of origins in Genesis when it speaks of God creating supernaturally in six consecutive days and destroying the world in a global catastrophic flood.” This cannot be said, however, without overlooking the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus on the matter (Mark 10:6; Matthew 24:37–39) and the clear testimony of Scripture (Genesis 1:1–2;3:6–9; Exodus 20:11; 2 Peter 3:3–6), which He affirmed as truth (Matthew 5:17–18; John 10:25;17:17). Jesus said to His own disciples that those “
who receives you (accepting the apostles’ teaching) receives me” (Matthew 10:40). If we confess Jesus is our Lord, we must be willing to submit to Him as the teacher of the Church.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simon Turpin has a B.A in Theology and Inter-cultural Studies from All Nations Bible College UK (2010) and works full-time for an Evangelical Church in St. Albans. Previous to his studies Simon spent a year as part of a missions team working in North America, India and Germany sharing the gospel. Through his time in the church in England and overseas he saw the increasing need to use the creation message to share not only the truth of the Bible, but the full story of the message of redemption through our Creator and Saviour Jesus.Acknowledgment
The author is grateful for the helpful comments from AiG Research Assistant Lee Anderson, Jr., which were used to improve this paper.
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