Post Number: 53
|Posted on Monday, March 21, 2016 - 9:49 pm: || |
As I am currently attending The Master's Seminary, I was intrigued to come across an article from TMS's academic journal on the impeccability of Christ. It is rather long, so you may not have the time to read it fully. But it is interesting to see what the issues among evangelicals are, given our SDA perspective.
Could Jesus have sinned? This is an important question, and its affirmative answer by Seventh-Day Adventists has led critics to argue that the church has a less than orthodox view of Christ's deity. Scripture, of course, clearly states that God cannot sin.
In my interactions with evangelicals, however, I was surprised to discover that the impeccability of Christ was open for debate to not a few individuals. The journal article argues that Christ's kenosis ('emptying' incarnation) allows for one to believe that Christ could have sinned in his human nature, while retaining his impeccability in his divine nature. This seeming contradiction resembles the mystery we must accept concerning the Trinity, etc. The two main arguments for some form of Christ's peccability seem to be that, 1) he was truly human and, 2) that Scripture affirms he was tempted in every way we were.
I don't find the first argument appealing, as I don't consider the ability to sin to be an essential attribute of human beings. We will not be able to sin in heaven, for example. Shall we therefore cease to be human? The second argument, however, is more tricky. If Christ's temptations were genuine, does this not imply that He had some ability to sin? How could he represent us as a high priest if He differed from us in this one respect (in his human nature)?
Ultimately, I think I come down against any notion of peccability (perhaps at the expense of Christ's likeness with us). The Bible is all about the superiority of Jesus Christ. This is His story, not ours - He is the conqueror, the hero. He is the Holy One of God...and to my mind any introduction of peccability opens the door to Christ being seen as more as our example, at the expense of Him being the God-man who saves us.
What do you guys think? Here is a link to the journal article: http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj11f.pdf
Post Number: 15354
|Posted on Monday, March 21, 2016 - 11:36 pm: || |
Kaspars, I haven't read this article, but it's a subject I've grappled with over the years and read about as formers have discussed it.
I have come to believe firmly that Jesus Christ is/was impeccable. He had very real temptations, but the "ability" to sin isn't what made Him like us. In fact, Jesus' temptations were much, much greater than anything we ever experience; He was tempted not to take on the imputed sin of the human race and thus experience the wrath of Godóthat is a temptation we will never experience. He suffered far more deeply in His temptations than we ever could suffer. We suffer as individuals struggling against our flesh; Jesus was sinless as He struggled with the temptations involved in being the Substitute sacrifice for the human race.
Ultimately, the hypostatic union of human and deity that defines Jesus' two natures yields mysteries we simply cannot explain or understand. As I see it, one of those mysteries is that God cannot sin; thus, Jesus could not have sinned because His identity was always God the Son even though He is the Son of Man. How? I don't know...but I do know that human nature cannot "trump" divinity.
I find that a lot of trouble ensues when we try to resolve theological mysteries (which are simply things that have not been revealed to us) with logic or philosophy.
Ultimately, Jesus could not have been our Savior and Substitute if He were not both fully human and fully Godówithout negating His deity at all. He always knew what was in a man (John 2). He knew what men were thinking and asked why they were thinking evil thoughts. He was the One who could give rest; He is appointed to judge the living and the dead. He fulfilled the Law.
Moreover, His sinlessness was more than a disciplined avoidance of sin. He was born spiritually alive. In that respect, as a man, He was different from every other human ever born (Adam and Eve were not born). He was born spiritually alive from the moment of conception, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He never had to be filled with the Holy Spirit (as was the unborn John the Baptist), or born again.
Jesus' was able to make free moral choices all His life. We are born unable to make free moral choices until we are brought to life spiritually. This fact sets Him apart from all of us...yet it does not negate the biblical fact that He is like us and suffered in every way like we do.
I cannot explain these mysteries, but I do see that His impeccability is necessary for Him to be my perfect Substitute and Sacrifice and Savior. If He is not eternally (even as the incarnate Lord Jesus) fully God, He cannot qualify to take on the sin of the entire human race.
I do see the peccability arguments as diminishing Jesus, yet Colossians 1 and 2:9 are very, very clear that the fulness of deity dwelt in Him bodily. That's the FULNESS of deity...including His impeccability.
At least...that's how I have come to understand it.
Post Number: 54
|Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 10:05 am: || |
Post Number: 55
|Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 10:21 am: || |
I think you hit a point that I have thought of myself. When the issue of sin comes up, Christ's divinity trumps His humanity. Jesus was frequently tired and had to rest - yet in His divine nature, He was simultaneously upholding the universe. But if Christ was in fact peccable, then that would directly contradict His divine nature in a way that other limitations in his human nature do not do. To me, the qualifier ("yet without sin") at the end of Hebrews 4:15 may seem to even indicate that the author is asserting Christ's impeccability. The participial phrase "choris amartias" (without sin) almost looks like a description of Christ's nature, rather than an explanation of what He accomplished.
Post Number: 15357
|Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 12:52 pm: || |
Very interesting point, Kaspars. Yes, it seems so to me as well. I don't know Greek, but the NASB translation does seem to make the point that "without sin" is not an accomplishment but a description of His nature and identity.
Post Number: 1855
|Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 1:21 pm: || |
I truly don't claim to have the answers on this one, just a few things I've turned over in my mind when grappling with this interesting theological point:
1) It's correct that there are some things that are true of Jesus' human nature that are not true of His divine nature. For instance, in His human nature He could become tired and hungry. However, none of these things are an affront to His divine nature. Being tired or hungry is not a sin and it is not offensive to a holy God. But if we're talking about actual sin, that is something that is deeply offensive to God. It is something that God cannot do and still be God. So if Jesus is both *FULLY* God and fully man (not just some half way mix of the two), as orthodox Christianity affirms, then how can He truly be FULLY God and commit sin while in a hypostatic union of natures? That just doesn't make sense to me.
2) I sometimes have wondered if we are making a mistake by projecting our own fallen nature and it's inclinations and desires on to Christ who did not have a fallen sin nature. So, yes, Jesus was tempted in all things, but what does that mean to a person without a fallen sin nature?
We experience temptation as a deep, dark, desire to do that which is offensive to God. Sometimes it pulls at us to the point where we feel like it is a constant struggle to resist. Temptation often invades our thoughts and causes us to imagine the sin and to desire the sin. Sometimes we feel the pull and the desire to sin so strongly that we give in, even knowing it's wrong, and commit the sin anyway, to our shame. But is that what the author of Hebrews means when he talks about Jesus being tempted in all things? I'm not so sure.
Does a Holy God, who has added unfallen sinless humanity to Himself, feel torn apart by the desire to sin? Does He waver? Does He imagine the sin in His thought life and consider the gratification that the sin might bring? Is fantasizing about sin a sin of the mind? I just don't know if the way we as fallen humans experience temptation is exactly the same.
I've always wondered if what the author of Hebrews is saying is something like, "Satan, the world, people, threw every temptation that you or I have every experienced at Jesus, yet He never sinned" As opposed to, "Jesus struggled mightily in his mind over every temptation, just like you and I, yet He managed not to sin". He can sympathize with us because He's experienced it first hand, but perhaps not exactly in the same way given the fact that He is God and man, and unfallen man at that.
Just a few musings.
Post Number: 15358
|Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 4:01 pm: || |
As always, very clarifying, Chris. I like the way you describe the process and effects of sin in the fallen human mind as a way of showing that a sinless Man would be tempted but with a very different experience. What you say seems supported by Jesus' declaration in Matthew 7 that adultery is equally defined as internal lust as it is by external action, and murder is equally killing and calling a brother "fool".
(By the way, we're linking to your article on Adventists not celebrating Easter in this week's Proclamation Update email.)