Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Against Modalism 6: The Eternal Son 1

One of the great distinctions between generic Modalism (apologises to Modalists who differ) and Trinitarianism is the following:

  • Modalists believe that God the Father became incarnate in the humanity of Jesus Christ and that the Son became begotten in time at the point of the Incarnation. The Son is the "incarnate mode" of the Father. God is eternally one person.
  • Trinitarians believe that the one God has eternally consisted of three distinct persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son has existed eternally as God. Only the Son became incarnate, when "the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever." "Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul,being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin." (Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 21, 22).
I will try to show from Scripture that this orthodox belief is correct and the Modalist heresy is wrong. This will be a fairly simple exposition of these texts as I'm not writing a book, nor do I have the time.

John 1:1-3,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here we see that there was a person called “The Word” who was with God and yet was God. The Word is thus shown as both God and yet distinct from God. This Word is the only begotten of the Father, i.e. the eternal being called “the Word” is not the Father.

Who is “the Word”? Verse 14 and the rest of John 1 make clear that the eternal Word was made flesh as Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

Also, all things were made through the Word, so if the Son only came to exist at the point that Jesus’ humanity was conceived, then how could this be?

This shows both that the Son is eternal, very God and yet distinct from the Father.

See also here.

Colossians 1:15-17
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Again, all things were made through the Firstborn, so the Son did not begin to exist at the Incarnation. This repeats the theology of John 1, that all things were created by, through and for Him. Not only did the Son (as distinct from the Father) create all things, but all things were created through Him.Who was creating through the Son? It was the Father.

See also here.

John 17:5
And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Christ was with the Father before the World existed. He is shown as present in eternity and yet distinct from the Father.

See also here.

Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ was “in the form of God” and yet “equal with God” before His Incarnation. He was divine, distinct from God in some sense and yet equal with God. This glory that He had with the Father from all eternity he laid aside to take upon himself the “form of a bondservant” and “likeness of man” in His humiliation.

Paul clearly quote from Isaiah 45:23,24, where Yahweh says, “[T]o Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” All will declare Christ to be the Lord, or ‘Kurios’ in the Greek, which was the translation of the Hebrew ‘Yahweh’ in the Greek version of the Old Testament, due to the sensitivity about the divine name Yahweh among the Jews.

So Yahweh declares before the Incarnation something about Himself, which will happen in the person of Christ. This will be to the glory of the Father as distinct from Jesus Christ, whom all will confess is Yahweh.

All of this aligns perfectly with Trinitarianism which believes that Christ is the eternal Son of God, who is God, and yet distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. We believe that He joined to His divine nature a fully human nature, and that He will continue to have this divine/ human nature to all eternity.

See also here.
Continued...

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Polycarp said...

I posted a response on my blog.

I have been a subscriber to you blog for a while now and greatly enjoy it, however, I simply do not agree with you on this, and since you know as well as I do, this is a cornerstone issue, I feel that I must respond.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:36:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

You are right it is a cornerstone, and if you think that I am wrong you are also right to respond.

I await your response with interest.

Friday, April 11, 2008 8:36:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Polycarp's comments are here.

Friday, April 11, 2008 9:19:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

John 1:1-3,14
'Polycarp' says, "The Logos here is the embodiment of the Divine, His very image. Not a separate person. Logos is the thought of God, the reason of God, the plan of God." He goes on to translate v.1 as "In the beginning was the message, and the message was with God, and the message was God."

To 'Polycarp' God's reason has a distinct subsistence from God Himself. God's reason is with God. In fact, he goes on to say the Logos is both His reason AND the Good News of the Gospel. I respectfully ask, does this really make sense?

Conveniently when quoting Thayer's meaning of "logos", he leaves out the following (assuming my on-line source of Thayer's is really Thayer!):

3. In John, denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world's life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man's salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.

A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 B.C. to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. This word was well suited to John's purpose in John 1.


(There's Heraclitus again! We have substantiation of Hippolytus' claim that this pagan philosopher is probably the origin of Modalism. Oh, but let's not go into the murky waters of Greek philosophy!)

To get back to Scripture, the Word IS God and WITH God. It does not say, "The Word of God [i.e. the reason of God] was with God in the beginning." John could have said that, but he didn't. Why say that the Word WAS God? How does it make sense to say, "God's reason was God"?

v. 2 says, "HE was in the beginning with God...", not "IT was in the beginning with God..."

Now let us be fair and note that "Logos" is a masculine noun, however "Pneuma" is a neuter noun and the Apostles in writing of the Spirit instead changed the rules of Greek grammar and used a masculine pronoun for Him, so as not to undermine the Spirit's personality. John could have done the same here so as not to confuse us, and said "it".

In fact in talking about Christ as the Light (phos), which is a neuter word, again John uses a masculine pronoun. The passage over and over uses masculine pronouns emphasising the Word's personality.

Following 'Polycarp's' rationale, the logical conclusion is not that God himself became incarnate, but only His reason did. Is this what most Modalists believe? Do they not rather believe that the Father Himself actually indwelt Jesus Christ. That the Father suffered on the Cross?

I am convinced that Hendriksen is right when he says that John is not answering the heretics' Greek preoccupation with Logos. There is no indication from the rest of John's Gospel that the philosophical idea of "Reason" is what he is dealing with in it. his focus is on establishing Christ's deity and eternal Sonship - the only begotten of the Father.

Rather he is focusing on the Son revealing ("declaring") the "glory" of God and manifesting this "Light" to us.

This glory which He has had eternally with the Father: "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." (John 17:5)

I would ask those who read this to go over John 1 and ask yourself: is the Word God's reason, or is He God's Son?

I pray that through these imperfect and defective reasonings 'Polycarp' may come to a right knowledge of God. Amen.

Friday, April 11, 2008 10:53:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy said...

HI Timothy,
I always thought John's purpose on bringing in the Logos, was to set the Greek straight on who the Logos was, i.e., the Second Person of God from all eternity.

As if to say, Hey Greeks, let me show you who the Logos really is. And the Logos became flesh... and that is when we really discovered who He was.
Good post.

Friday, April 11, 2008 11:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Polycarp said...

Timothy,

I posted a response, and Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies (excerpts dealing with Noetus and Heraclitus) on my blog.

I took that picture looking over the New River near Hawk's Nest, WV.

You are right about the 'war' comment. I apologize. Discussion is better suited. Thanks for that!

Saturday, April 12, 2008 1:43:00 am  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

It possibly could be addressing the Greeks. However, although it used to be fashionable to say that this was a response to the pagan Greek philosophy, supposedly now most modern commentators are agreed that it has Semitic origins rather than Greek. I agree with this view.

Fundamentally, whichever purpose John was trying to achieve with using the word Logos, Trinitarianism is the only system that harmonises with this passage.

Saturday, April 12, 2008 11:01:00 am  
Anonymous Joel a.k.a. Polycarp' Quote said...

The following is the section in Joel's (a.k.a. 'Polycarp') blog to which I refer above:

Timothy Davis, of Ad Gloriam Dei, has finally reached some measure of providing scripture, however, his interpretation is a little off.

He starts by saying:

Modalists believe that God the Father became incarnate in the humanity of Jesus Christ and that the Son became begotten in time at the point of the Incarnation. The Son is the “incarnate mode” of the Father. God is eternally one person.

And goes on to comment about the Trinitarian doctrine, quoting from the Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 21, 22 which states:

“the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.” “Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul,being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.”

Of course, the interesting thing is that previously Mr. Davis has said that he didn’t rely upon early Church writers, but just where doe he think this ‘creed’ descended from? Were not the English and Scottish writers of this grand document, perhaps the grandest document (save the Authorized Version translation) that came out of the English Reformation, still using Roman doctrine? Isn’t that what a Reformation really is - reforming something?

His first scripture is John 1-3, 14 where he focuses on the word Word, or logos in the Greek. Some time ago, a blogger mentioned that theology should be constructed or deconstructed based on the Bible. So, should we place such heave emphasis on logos? Instead of placing our theology on the word, let the word tell us what it means.

Let’s read it this way:

In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.

Thayer says:

1) of speech
1a) a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea
1b) what someone has said
1b1) a word
1b2) the sayings of God
1b3) decree, mandate or order
1b4) of the moral precepts given by God
1b5) Old Testament prophecy given by the prophets
1b6) what is declared, a thought, declaration, aphorism, a weighty saying, a dictum, a maxim
1c) discourse
1c1) the act of speaking, speech
1c2) the faculty of speech, skill and practice in speaking
1c3) a kind or style of speaking
1c4) a continuous speaking discourse - instruction
1d) doctrine, teaching
1e) anything reported in speech; a narration, narrative
1f) matter under discussion, thing spoken of, affair, a matter in dispute, case, suit at law
1g) the thing spoken of or talked about; event, deed
2) its use as respect to the MIND alone
2a) reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating
2b) account, i.e. regard, consideration
2c) account, i.e. reckoning, score
2d) account, i.e. answer or explanation in reference to judgment
2e) relation, i.e. with whom as judge we stand in relation
2e1) reason would
2f) reason, cause, ground

Logos has enough theology behind it without us incorrectly placing more. What did John mean? John, who seemed to be steeped in study of the Old Testament, as well as the Book of Wisdom (vs Philo), understood logos to mean the embodiment of the divine nature.

Vincent, in his Word Studies points to the OT usage of the Hebrew as

The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry.

Can a man’s will be separated from him and act as a separate person? Hardly. The Logos here is the embodiment of the Divine, His very image. Not a separate person. Logos is the thought of God, the reason of God, the plan of God.

Translate it this way:

In the beginning was the message, and the message was with God, and the message was God.

What message? In Genesis, after the Fall, God told the serpent that his days were numbered, that a ’seed of a woman’ would ‘bruise’ his head. The message is the good news that man can be right with God once again.

In vs 14, John writes that the Logos tabernacled with man. We read of the same thing by Paul, when he wrote that Christ emptied himself of divinity to robe himself with flesh.

Nothing in the John’s prologue creates separation between God and the Logos, because the the Logos is God.

Sunday, April 27, 2008 6:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Joel a.k.a. 'Polycarp' Quote said...

To ‘Polycarp’ God’s reason has a distinct subsistence from God Himself. God’s reason is with God. In fact, he goes on to say the Logos is both His reason AND the Good News of the Gospel. I respectfully ask, does this really make sense?

I’ll ask Mr. Davis to reread what I actually wrote, which is: The Logos here is the embodiment of the Divine, His very image. Not a separate person. Logos is the thought of God, the reason of God, the plan of God. At no point did I actually conclude that the Logos is a distinct ’subsistence’ from the Father. As a matter of recorded fact, I said that their was NO separation. Further, God’s reason, His plan, His message is Himself. It is the Gospel.

Sunday, April 27, 2008 6:36:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

John 1:1-3,14 (cont.)

Joel,

You disagreed with my comment that you believed that "God’s reason has a distinct subsistence from God Himself." In doing so, you protested that you deliberately said that the Logos was "not a separate person".

I neither used the word 'separate', nor did I say you thought that God's Reason was a Person (otherwise you'd be Trinitarian ;). There is a difference between 'distinct' and 'separate' (as defined in another post).

You say that the Logos is God's Reason, but the passage states that the Logos was with God, i.e. to be with someone/ something you must be distinct in some sense from them.

Either "with" means absolutely nothing, or the logical conclusion is that God's Reason does have a distinct subsistence from Himself.

Would you ever say, "Joel's reason was with Joel"? What was John trying to communicate with saying that "the Word was with God"?

Sunday, April 27, 2008 10:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Joel a.k.a. 'Polycarp' Quote said...

John was defending the deity of Christ, when he said that the Logos was with God and trying to prevent the Jewish (Philo) misconception that the Logos was somehow subordinate and thus distinct from God.

‘With’ does not mean ‘distinct’ but simply with. My thoughts are with me; my words are with me; my actions are with me. Can any of these be thought to have distinctiveness applied to them?

Granted, in the modern American Judaical system, people tend to think that a criminal act is separate from the person who committed it, but is not a murderer a murderer because he committed murder? Can you separate the actions from the man or the Logos from the Speaker?

Monday, April 28, 2008 9:20:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Philo can hardly be termed a normal Jew. Clearly he was heavily influenced by pagan Greek thought. Heretical Jews are hardly John's concern. As you say, his concern is with promoting the deity of Christ. Christ was the visible Word, or Revelation of the invisible God (1 John :1-4). Yet, He was with God, andwas God.

You are still straining the normal use of words. Does it make sense to say, "Joel's thoughts were with Joel, and Joel's thoughts were Joel?"

This is a consequence of assuming that because God is one, that He cannot subsist in Three Persons. The idea of modes is utterly foreign to Scripture.

I warn you in love (however it may offend) that you are "twist[ing these words] to [your] own destruction, as [you] do also the rest of the Scriptures." (1 Pet. 3:16)

Carefully consider the passages of Scripture that I have set before you. It is better to be rejected by those you know and love for Christ's sake, and lose face, than to be rejected by Christ in the end because you reject His clear revelation of who He is.

Monday, April 28, 2008 9:43:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Again, the Scriptures say that the Word was God. How can God's thoughts be God?

Also, it says that the Word became flesh. How did God's thoughts become flesh? As I understand it, your type of Modalist believes that the unipersonal God (not His thoughts) became flesh as the Son (as opposed to the heavenly manifestation of the Father).

Monday, April 28, 2008 9:58:00 pm  

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