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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Incarnation Part 8






But divine attributes are not characteristics that are separate and distinct from the divine essence so that God can set them aside as one might remove a pin from a pincushion and still have the pincushion.  Rather, the divine essence is expressed precisely in the sum total of its attributes.  To hold that God the Son actually emptied himself in his state of humiliation of even one divine characteristic is tantamount to saying that he who "enfleshed" himself in the Incarnation, while perhaps more than man, is now not quite God either.  But as Bishop Moule once wrote, a Savior not quite God "is a bridge broken at the farther end."  Robert L. Reymond.


A Theological and Scripturalist Defense of Gordon H. Clark's Two Person View of the Incarnation

Part  8
By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

I apologize for not posting more recently.  However, work demands have been heavy and I have been reading the "authorized" biography of Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  I want to write a fair review of the biography by Douglas Douma so this post will be brief.  I will be posting a thorough review of the Douma biography shortly.  I mostly agree with his account of Dr. Clark's life but I have a few serious disagreements with his theological presentation and the conclusions he draws from a few brief encounters Dr. Clark had with Van Til later in life.  But I will save those comments for a later post.  For now I want to discuss in more detail the so-called Evangelical view of the incarnation of Christ that is usually identified as the sub-kenotic theory.

The sub-kenotic theory's purpose is to preserve the true humanity of Jesus Christ but unfortunately it does so at the expense of His true deity and divinity.  The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation asserts that Christ is both fully God and fully man.  Millard Erickson is a good example of the sub-kenotic view, which I believe was also taught by Henry Thiessen, a dispensationalist.  In reviewing Erickson's systematic theology, which I have not read since college, I found that Erickson has other problems in addition to his sub-kenotic view of the incarnation.  He also speaks in the affirmative of what can only be called a Barthian view of the biblical teachings on Christ, which Erickson calls the "kerygma", and the so-called "historical" Jesus Christ, the "real" person of Christ as opposed to the kerygmatic Christ that was taught by the early church and the later traditions of the Christian church after the apostolic period.

We have seen that each of these two seemingly mutually exclusive positions has certain strengths and weaknesses.  Is there some way to unite Christology from above [Barthianism] and Christology from below [modernism] so as to preserve the best elements of both while minimizing the problems of each?  Can the kerygmatic Christ and the historical Jesus, faith and reason, be held together?  Evangelicals are concerned to retain both.  This concern stems in part from the evangelical understanding of revelation:  revelation is both the historical events and the interpretation of them.  These are two complementary and harmonious means by which God manifests himself.  Both are therefore sources of knowledge of him.  

Millard Erickson.  Christian Theology.  Three volumes in one.  (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1985).  P. 673.

On the credits page Erickson acknowledges Bernard Ramm as his first theology professor, William E. Hordern, his doctoral supervisor, and most troubling, he credits Wolfhart Pannenberg as the inspiration of his own theology.   Unfortunately, Pannenberg was a neo-orthodox scholar from Germany.  (See:  Wolfhart Pannenberg).  Among other things, Pannenberg rejected the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration and biblical inerrancy.  Pannenberg allegedly believed in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ but a careful reading of Pannenberg's book, Jesus:  God and Man, reveals that Pannenberg rejected the physical and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Gospel accounts of the resurrection for that very reason.  Instead Pannenberg accepted only the account of Luke in the book of Acts where Paul encounters the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-7).  The reason for this is that for Pannenberg the "historical" resurrection is a vision experienced by Paul, not a literal and physical resurrection from the dead.  Pannenberg's so-called theology from below and his historical emphasis is a Barthian interpretation of history as mythological, not literal, history.  Pannenberg's theology is still very much neo-orthodox despite his idiosyncratic interpretations of history and the resurrection.  For Pannenberg the empty tomb is more significant than the resurrection itself because it can be historically verified.  But he neglected to notice that the only account we have of even the empty tomb comes from the inspired Scriptures.  Erickson likewise downplays the propositional truths of the inspired and inerrant Scriptures and instead opts for a strange blend between neo-orthodoxy and modernist liberalism.  Incidentally, I once visited my Christian philosophy professor, Dr. Jerry Walls, in his office at Asbury Seminary around 1992-1995.  At the time Pannenberg had recently lectured on the historicity of the resurrection and I approached Walls to mention to him that Pannenberg did not believe in the resurrection.  But Walls insisted that Pannenberg did believe in the resurrection.  I was dumbfounded to say the least.  The degree to which so-called Evangelical seminaries have been infected with neo-orthodoxy is disturbing.

At any rate, once it is noted that Erickson's mode of operation for his theology is infected with Barthianism and neo-orthodoxy, it is easier to see why he opts for the sub-kenotic view of the incarnation.  According to the classical liberal view, reason shows that it would be impossible for God to literally become incarnate in a human person or to literally unite Himself with a human nature.  Of course, only the second Person of the Godhead, the divine Logos became incarnate.  So classical liberalism taught the doctrine of the kenosis and that the Logos literally emptied Himself of deity and became a literal human being.  It is from this premise that the liberals assert the proposition that Christ was only a good moral teacher and not literally divine.  The Evangelical solution of Erickson allegedly compromises the two extremes of Barthianism and liberalism but both are actually denials of the incarnation.

This preliminary commentary on Pannenberg and Erickson's affirmation of Pannenberg's dialectical view of the historical resurrection was necessary to help my readers see the biases of Erickson and a possible explanation for Erickson's affirmation of a so-called Evangelical doctrine of sub-kenosis.  But exactly what is sub-kenosis?  We can begin to see where Erickson is headed when he denies that the incarnation is contradictory.

The idea of the incarnation of God is not inherently contradictory.  Brian Hebblethwaite has argued that the belief that the incarnation involves a contradiction stems from taking the incarnation too anthropomorphically.  To be sure, there is a paradox here, a concept which is very difficult to assimilate intellectually.  The function of a paradox, as Ian Ramsey has show, is to force our minds beyond the natural to the supernatural.  In this case, we are not predicating divinity of Jesus' humanity, or suggesting that God became an entirely different kind of God, or that one person was both limited and unlimited at the same time and in the same respect.  Rather, we are simply claiming that God voluntarily assumed certain limitations upon the exercise of his infinity.  He had similarly limited his options when he created humans.  Ibid., pp. 680-681.

Erickson tried to avoid a contradiction by asserting another contradiction, namely that God can be both immutable and mutable at the same time.  If God is eternally immutable and never changes, how can God place limitations on his divine predicates if in fact that God's attributes are an inseparable part of God's essence or being?  To say that God can limit himself means that God is not immutable and, according to Dr. Gordon H. Clark, would make God a finite god and not an eternally omnipotent and omniscient God who acts with teleological purposes within His creation.  If God is eternal, then God transcends the passing of time and is timeless.  According to the Van Tilians eternity is the passing of time in endless duration, not timelessness.  So here again we see the Van Tilians are the ones who confuse creation with the Creator.  God is eternally timeless as an eternally unchanging being and hence he cannot limit Himself without becoming less than the God defined by Scripture as an eternal God who is without beginning or end and who is from everlasting to everlasting.  (Hebrews 7:3; Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13; Psalm 90:2).   Worse, Erickson's Arminianism contends that God decided to change or become finite in order to allow humans to be sovereign over God.  Otherwise, libertarian free will could not be defended.  Of course this is all meant to defend God against the problem of evil.  But as Gordon H. Clark pointed out, libertarian free will nor a finite God solves the problem of evil as intended.

Another issue relevant to this discussion is what is a paradox anyway?  According to Dr. Gordon H. Clark a paradox is an issue that causes confusion in the mind; it is an apparent logical contradiction.  But do paradoxes have logical and rational solutions?  Yes, they do.  While the solution may not be readily apparent at first with much hard work a solution can be found.  To assert or presuppose that paradoxes have no solution is to adopt what can only be called a theology of irrational contradictions.  Erickson is to be commended for trying to solve the logical problem involved with the paradox of the incarnation but the question is whether his solution actually resolved the conflicting predications of humanity and deity or did his solution amount to a heresy that is equivalent to the full kenosis view?

Erickson's position can be demonstrated most accurately in the following quotation:

. . . While he did not cease to be in nature what the Father was, he became functionally subordinated to the Father for the period of the incarnation.  Jesus did this for the purposes of revealing God and redeeming man.  By taking on human nature, he accepted certain limitations upon the functioning of his divine attributes.  These limitations were not the result of a loss of divine attributes but of the addition of human attributes.


2.  The union of the two natures meant that they did not function independently.   Jesus did not exercise his deity at times and his humanity at other times.  His actions were always those of divinity-humanity.  This is the key to understanding the functional limitations which the humanity imposed upon divinity.  For example, he still had the power to be everywhere (omnipresence).  However, as an incarnate being, he was limited in the exercise of that power by possession of a human body.  Similarly, he was still omniscient, but he possessed and exercised knowledge in connection with a human organism which grew gradually in terms of consciousness, whether of the physical environment or eternal truths.  Thus, only gradually did his limited human psyche become aware of who he was and what he had come to accomplish.  Yet this should not be a considered a reduction of the power and capacities of the Second Person of the Trinity, but rather a circumstance-induced limitation on the exercise of his power and capacities.  Ibid., p. 735.



The inherent problem here is that Erickson confuses what God does and who God is.  Dr. Robert L. Reymond aptly pointed out that what is predicated of God's being or essence is who and what God is by nature and cannot be divorced from that nature or limited in any way without making God something other than God.  God cannot handicap himself because to do so would be to make God finite instead of omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  Erickson's contention that Christ in the incarnation laid aside equality with God without laying aside the "form" of God seems to imply a contradiction.  Erickson claims to reject the kenosis view but his own sub-kenotic view is for all practical purposes the same as the kenosis view.  Dr. Robert L. Reymond was straight to the point in his comments on this matter in both his lecture on false Christology (Demolishing the Stronghold of Rome's False Christology) and in his systematic theology:

Millard Erickson is a contemporary kenotic Christologist.  The theory in general advocates the view that God the Son "emptied" (ἐκένωσεν, ekenosen; see Phil. 2:7) or divested himself of certain of his divine attributes, such as omnipresence and omniscience, or of the use of one or more of them, in assuming human flesh.  Consider for a moment the effects of this view on the Son's attribute of omnipresence.  On several occasions I have asked evangelical pastors the question:  "After the Incarnation had occurred, did the Second Person of the Trinity still possess the attribute of omnipresence or was he confined to the human body which he had assumed?"  Many have opted for the latter construction, the necessary implication being that in the Incarnation God the Son divested himself of his attribute of being always and everywhere immediately present in his created universe.  But divine attributes are not characteristics that are separate and distinct from the divine essence so that God can set them aside as one might remove a pin from a pincushion and still have the pincushion.  Rather, the divine essence is expressed precisely in the sum total of its attributes.  To hold that God the Son actually emptied himself in his state of humiliation of even one divine characteristic is tantamount to saying that he who "enfleshed" himself in the Incarnation, while perhaps more than man, is now not quite God either.  But as Bishop Moule once wrote, a Savior not quite God "is a bridge broken at the farther end."   

Robert L. Reymond.  A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith.  (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 1998).  Pp. 615-616.

[See also:  Biblehub: ekenosen].


Following the logic of Reymond's remarks it must be pointed out that God is one God and one in essence and nature and the three Persons distinguished within that one Godhead are inseparably united.  According to Erickson's view, one of the three Persons must have temporarily limited himself and the other two did not.   So Erickson's sub-kenotic view creates unintended problems for the doctrine of the Trinity.  Gordon Clark deals with this issue in depth in his two books, The Trinity, and, The Incarnation.

Further, Reymond contends that the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation, meant to defend their view that the sacramental elements of bread and wine are the virtual body and blood of Christ, violates the distinction between the divine and human natures of Christ.  That is because to communicate ubiquity or omnipresence to the human nature is to divinize the human nature:

Catholic Christendom has not always and everywhere remained faithful to what it confessed at Chalcedon.  In the Lutheran churches, for example, a form of Eutychianism emerged that serves that church's peculiar view of the relationship of Christ's body to the physical elements of the Lord's Supper.  This may be seen in the Lutheran representation of the communication idiomatum ("communication of attributes"), whereby our Lord's divine nature at his virginal conception virtually "divinized" his human nature by communicating its attributes to the human nature.  Thus the latter is ubiquitous, Lutherans insist, and is really physically present "in, with, and under" the elements of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.  But such a Christological construction, in the words of Charles Hodge, "form(s) no part of Catholic Christianity."  Reymond, 615.

I fully agree with Reymond's assessment of the Lutheran doctrine.  Christ's body is present in one location in heaven, not everywhere present with God's Spirit.  But this raises an important question.  If the divine attributes cannot be communicated to the physical body of Christ, can the divine attributes be communicated to the human soul of Christ?  The Definition of Chalcedon says that the human nature of Christ possesses a genuine and reasonable human soul.  Is the human Christ omniscient?  Do the two natures vacillate back and forth?  J. I. Packer makes a remark in this regard:

Christians, focusing on Jesus' deity, have sometimes thought that it honors Jesus to minimize his humanness. The early heresy of Monophysitism (the idea that Jesus had only one nature) expressed this supposition, as do modern suggestions that he only pretended to be ignorant of facts (on the supposition that he always actualized his omniscience and therefore was aware of everything) and to be hungry and weary (on the supposition that his divinity supernaturally energized his humanity all the time, raising it above the demands of ordinary existence). But Incarnation means, rather, that the Son of God lived his divine-human life in and through his human mind and body at every point, maximizing his identification and empathy with those he had come to save, and drawing on divine resources to transcend human limits of knowledge and energy only when particular requirements of the Father's will so dictated.


The idea that Jesus' two natures were like alternating electrical circuits, so that sometimes he acted in his humanity and sometimes in his divinity, is also mistaken. He did and endured everything, including his sufferings on the cross, in the unity of his divine-human person (i.e., as the Son of God who had taken to himself all human powers of acting, reacting, and experiencing, in their unfallen form). Saying this does not contradict divine impassibility, for impassibility means not that God never experiences distress but that what he experiences, distress included, is experienced at his own will and by his own foreordaining decision.


J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs.  "Part Two:  God Revealed as Redeemer.  Two Natures:  Christ Is Fully Human."  (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993).  Logos Bible edition.  

Although Dr. Reymond did not mention Packer, it seems to me that Packer also opts for the sub-kenotic view since he contends that God can change by experiencing human limitations.  As I see it if the divine Logos does not replace the human soul of Jesus as the Apollinarian heresy contends, then Jesus must indeed be a genuine human person.  If on the other hand, we reject the Lutheran doctrine of communicatio idiomatum or imputing divine attributes to Jesus' human nature and soul, then Jesus must be a real human person as well.  The Lutheran view is a monophysite or Eutychian view that would make Jesus a mixture of two natures and therefore neither fully divine nor fully human.  It seems to me therefore that to say that the incarnate Jesus is one Person has implications that create apparent contradictions or paradoxes.  It would either be Apollinarianism to say that Christ is one Person or it would be Eutychianism because the human soul would be divinized.  If the human nature is impersonal and only the Logos is present under the incarnation, the result is Apollinarianism.  Also, as Dr. Clark pointed out, Apollinarianism is another way of espousing a kenosis view of the incarnation where God the Son empties Himself of deity for a temporary time on earth.  If we opt for one Person and that Person is the Logos, then the other option is Eutychianism where the divine attributes are imputed to the human nature of Christ and thus His human soul would be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  Again, this would mean that in the Incarnation Christ is neither fully God nor fully human but a cross blending of the two natures into one nature.


In the next installment on this series I will discuss the Trinity and Dr. Gordon H. Clark's solution to the problem of the unity of God's essence and His tri-personality as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is also impossible to discuss the Incarnation without including a discussion of Clark's view of the doctrine of man and the image of God.  I will be discussing that in a future installment as well.  However, before I do the next few articles I will be reviewing Douglas Douma's biography of Dr. Gordon H. Clark.




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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Incarnation Part 7



A Theological and Scripturalist Defense of Gordon H. Clark's Two Person View of the Incarnation
Part  7
By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

 
In this post I want to delve into the heresy of kenosis or the self-emptying of Christ during the incarnation.  Unfortunately a few dispensationalists, Pentecostals, and Baptists have adopted this view because they think it helps their arguments for libertarian free will or their penchant for spiritual gifts, miracles, signs and wonders.  What exactly is the doctrine of kenosis and where do liberals derive the doctrine?  The short answer is that it comes from a misunderstanding of a Greek word in Paul's epistle to the Philippians.

 
However, the difficult thing about doing Christian theology and deducing a systematic understanding of the Bible is that not only must the proof texts be properly exegeted and interpreted correctly, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV), but discussing one proposition or doctrinal point in isolation from the rest of the system runs the risk of heresy.  It is true that a single proposition may be absolutely valid, true, and correct as it stands alone.  But, for example, to say that justification by faith alone is the only doctrine that comprises saving faith is to reject everything else the Bible says.  We might as well reduce everything down to the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept," (John 11:35), as to say that justification by faith alone is the only essential doctrine in the Holy Scriptures.  All the Scriptures are inspired by God and all Scripture is profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  So if I jump around from one doctrine to another it is not that I am off topic but that I am trying to show how the doctrines fit together logically and without contradiction.  In fact, it is almost impossible to discuss the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus Christ without also discussing the doctrine of the trinity.  Because the early Christians knew that Jesus claimed to be both God and man and that He was one with His Father in heaven, it became necessary for them to work out exactly how to understand what Jesus had told them in the light of the Old Testament Scriptures and how that fit together logically with the inspired teachings of Christ and His apostles as this was recorded in the New Testament Scriptures:



If we put ourselves imaginatively in the situation of the early Christians, we can understand how puzzled they were when they tried to think of what sort of person Jesus Christ was.  The initial Jewish complexion of the Church was soon lost, and anyway, the Old Testament did not clearly indicate the nature of the Messiah.  The Gentiles, who soon became the overwhelming majority in the Church, could not, with their pagan background, easily understand the nature of Christ.  Nothing in paganism gave them any hint.  Accordingly it took the Church some centuries to digest the teaching of the Bible.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  1965.  2nd Edition.  (Unicoi, Trinity Foundation: 2001), p. 94.



As you may recall, the Protestant Reformation rejected the doctrine of sola ecclesia or the church alone as having the final authority and returned to the Scriptures as the final authority.  Sola Scriptura is or should be the final authority for all Protestants and Evangelicals today.  It is worth repeating that the Westminster Confession of Faith lists the system of doctrine deduced from the Bible in descending order of priority or importance beginning with Scripture in chapter one.  The doctrine of Christ does not occur until chapter eight.  The doctrine of the trinity is chapter two, meaning that the Puritan theologians thought that the doctrine of Scripture was most important followed closely by the doctrine of the trinity as the second most important doctrine. So in investigating the doctrine of the incarnation we need to see what the Bible actually says about the incarnation.  Does the Bible say that Jesus Christ emptied Himself of His deity during His time on earth as the man, Jesus the Christ?


The pertinent passage that liberals use to justify their reduction of Jesus Christ to mere humanity is in the pericope in Philippians chapter 2:


Philippians 2:5–11 (NKJV)    
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 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. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 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, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It would take too much time to go into a lengthy exegesis of this passage here.  However, it should be noted that verse 5 emphasizes intellectual understanding, not emotion.  We are to have the mind of Christ, not feelings and emotions of Christ.  One pastor of a Presbyterian Church in America told me that he had read Gordon H. Clark's books but not to bother with Clark's commentaries because his commentaries were not critical commentaries.  I beg to differ.  Although Clark's commentaries are not lengthy and do not go into great detail on grammatical issues and textual criticism, he does deal with these things in brief.  Clark's purpose in writing commentaries was to logically examine the text and show how liberalism sometimes uses irrational arguments and wrong grammatical arguments to inductively prove their liberal generalizations.  But it would take too long to go into great detail on this.

The real issue I want to focus on here is the liberal doctrine of the kenosis.  Kenosis is the Greek noun that liberals use to the alleged self-emptying of Christ but in the text the Greek word is actually a verb.  [Gordon H. Clark.  Philippians.  (Hobbs: Trinity Foundation, 1996), p. 56-57.]  In verse 7 the phrase "made Himself of no reputation" is actually just one word in Greek.  Greek uses formative verbs and participles where English sometimes requires several words to express the same idea.  You can compare several translations of verse 7 at the Biblehub.com website.  Several of them, including the NASB, say that Christ "emptied Himself" while the NKJV and the KJV say that He made Himself of no reputation, though I concede that Dr. Clark said that the term can be translated properly as "emptied Himself" it needs further interpretation. [Clark.  The Atonement.  1987. 2nd Edition.  (Hobbs:  Trinity Foundation, 1996), p. 44] .  Surprisingly so-called Evangelical translations seem to agree with the liberals on the meaning of Philippians 2:7.  Did Jesus really cease to be God during the incarnation?  Even the ESV, the preferred translation of most of the neo-Calvinist Evangelical denominations these days says that Christ emptied himself:
Philippians 2:7 (ESV)
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.


And even worse, the New King James Version has this footnote attached to the verb "made himself of no reputation" as footnote number 3:  "emptied Himself of His privileges".  This is very misleading and is actually reflective of a serious capitulation on the part of Evangelical scholars to the prevailing liberal view.  If we take this footnote seriously it reflects the sub-kenotic view of Millard Erickson, Henry Thiessen, and the many of the Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars and teachers, including my former professor at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God (Southeastern University), Lakeland, Florida, Dr. Michael Dusing.  As I said before, classical Pentecostals have an agenda to make the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit subject to volitional control and the exercise thereof available to those who have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit and baptized by the Holy Spirit as an empowerment for supernatural evangelism (See Acts 1:8; Acts 2:4).  Although this is not the heresy of adoptionism outright, it certainly does imply that heresy and, worse, it makes Jesus less than divine during the incarnation so as to make believers equal with Jesus in the authority to speak revelations and perform signs, wonders, and miracles.  (Mark 16:15-17).  Interestingly enough, Pentecostals do not agree with the liberal textual critics that the longer ending to Mark 16 is not in the original autographs.


In other words, Arminians, and especially Pentecostal Arminians, have an agenda to make man sovereign over the Creator by exalting libertarian free will over the sovereignty of God.  But Pentecostals go even further and make even the "operation" of the gifts of the Holy Spirit subject to the volition of the believer, though some classical Pentecostals emphasize that the gifts of the Spirit are subject to a sovereign distribution of the gifts as the Holy Spirit decides to distribute them.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).  But this is equivocal and unclear as to how the Spirit can be sovereign over miracles while giving humans cooperation in the execution of signs, wonders and miracles in the light of the Arminian doctrine of libertarian free will.  One Charismatic theologian and pastor, Vincent Cheung, a former student of Dr. Gordon H. Clark, even goes so far as to say that those who refuse to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in open rebellion against God:


The Bible commands Christians, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy" (1 Corinthians 14:1). If cessationism is correct but we do not know it, then we could still safely obey this instruction, although we will not receive what we desire. That is, if prophecy has ceased but I think that it continues, then I could still desire the gift of prophecy in accordance with this command, but I will not receive the gift of prophecy. No harm is done. 


On the other hand, since the cessationist teaches that prophecy has ceased, then although the Bible says "desire spiritual gifts," he will not desire spiritual gifts, since the spiritual gifts are no longer in operation, and what gifts people think they have are necessarily false. This also applies to prophecy in particular. So although Paul says, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt," the cessationist must treat all prophecies with contempt, since he believes that prophecy has ceased, so that all prophecies today are false. His view toward prophecy must be "reject everything" instead of "test everything." But again, if cessationism is false, then this person would be preaching rebellion against the biblical commands to desire and test spiritual manifestations. 


I find it interesting that Cheung himself denies that he is a Scripturalist or a Clarkian, yet one Scripturalist blogger is continually quoting and citing Cheung as if he were in fact a proponent of the Clarkian position.  Be it known here that Clark did not advocate Wesleyan experimental religion or experiential theology, most especially not that of the Charismatics or the Pentecostals.  For Clark experience is relative and directly opposed to propositional revelation and the system of theology that is to be rationally understood with the mind, not ecstatically experienced.  Clark opposed empiricism in all its forms, including religious experience.  It is Cheung who is in rebellion and he is in rebellion against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture:


Cessationism is the false doctrine that the manifestations of miraculous endowments such as those listed in 1 Corinthians 12 have ceased since the days of the apostles and the completion of the Bible. Although there is no biblical evidence for this position, a main motive for this invention is to secure the sufficiency of Scripture and the finality (completion) of Scripture. However, it has been shown that the continuation of miraculous manifestations does not in fact contradict these two doctrines or put them at risk. Thus cessationism is both unbiblical and unnecessary.


More than that, cessationism is also evil and dangerous. This is because if cessationism is false, then those who advocate this doctrine are preaching rebellion against the Lord.


Cheung.  Ibid.


In short, it is not only cessationism that is the basis for rejecting Cheung's brand of Charismatic theology but also because Cheung's view is not propositional knowledge but is instead based on non-doctrinal pietism, mysticism, and ecstatic religious experience or existentialism.  But I stray too far from the subject.  Be that as it may, I cannot ignore the implications that apply to the so-called third wave theology that is influencing even Baptist and Presbyterian denominations that were traditionally Evangelical.  Initially the liberal Episcopalians and liberal mainline Presbyterians were the first to embrace the charismatic movement, though the Roman Catholics soon were on board as well.  But because of the weakness of Arminian Evangelicalism and its tendency to drift in the liberal direction and the tendency to accommodate to the prevalent culture, the experiential theology of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and the church growth movement is spreading throughout the Evangelical denominations.  This is most evident in the Presbyterian Church in America where the regulative principle of worship has been rejected and contemporary worship in the charismatic style has replaced traditional hymns and reverential worship.


But back to our brief exegesis of the word kenoō in Philippians 2:7.  What is the original Koine Greek verb and what does it mean?  Biblehub.com is useful to show you what the Greek word looks like and the parsing of the verb:  ἐκένωσεν.  The transliteration is ekenōsen.  The word is parsed as an aorist active indicative in the third person singular.  (See:  Philippians 2:7).   Although the word can primarily mean self-emptying, it can also mean humbling oneself and making oneself of no reputation.  The Bauer Arndt Gingrich and Danker Greek lexicon says:


κενόω fut. κενώσω; 1 aor. ἐκένωσα, pass. ἐκενώθην; pf. pass. κεκένωμαι (trag., Hdt.+; pap.; Jer 14:2; 15:9; Philo; Jos., Ant. 8, 258v.l.) make empty. 

1. to empty pass. κενοῦται ὁ ἄνθρωπος the man is emptied Hm 11:14. Of Christ, who gave up the appearance of his divinity and took on the form of a slave, ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν he emptied himself, divested himself of his privileges Phil 2:7 . . .

2. destroy; render void, of no effect (Vett. Val. 90, 7) τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting 1 Cor 9:15. Pass. κεκένωται ἡ πίστις faith is made invalid Ro 4:14. ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ 1 Cor 1:17.—Also of pers. πολλοὶ ἐκενώθησαν many have been ruined Hs 9, 22, 3.
3. deprive of (its) justification pass. lose its justification 2 Cor 9:3 (c. καύχημα 2). M-M.*


William Arndt et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature : A Translation and Adaption of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer's Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch Zu Den Schrift En Des Neuen Testaments Und Der Ubrigen Urchristlichen Literatur. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 428.


How could Christ still be fully God if He made Himself less than God during the incarnation?  That is the problem in concise statement.  Evangelicals who wish to maintain respect in academic circles, capitulate to liberalism because they have similar starting points with liberals, namely empirical epistemology.  The BAGD lexicon does not even offer the translation that Christ is of no reputation.  But that is what classical Reformed theologians have said previous to the 19th century modernist revisionism:


For speaking in the person of the Mediator, he holds a middle place between God and man; yet so that his majesty is not diminished thereby. For though he humbled (emptied) himself, he did not lose the glory which he had with the Father, though it was concealed from the world. So in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 1:10; 2:9), though the apostle confesses that Christ was made a little lower than the angels, he at the same time hesitates not to assert that he is the eternal God who founded the earth. We must hold, therefore, that as often as Christ, in the character of Mediator, addresses the Father, he, under the term God, includes his own divinity also. Thus, when he says to the apostles, "It is expedient for you that I go away," "My Father is greater than I," he does not attribute to himself a secondary divinity merely, as if in regard to eternal essence he were inferior to the Father; but having obtained celestial glory, he gathers together the faithful to share it with him. He places the Father in the higher degree, inasmuch as the full perfection of brightness conspicuous in heaven, differs from that measure of glory which he himself displayed when clothed in flesh. For the same reason Paul says, that Christ will restore "the kingdom to God, even the Father," "that God may be all in all," (1 Cor. 15:24, 28). Nothing can be more absurd than to deny the perpetuity of Christ's divinity.


John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Book I:13:26.  (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).


These blog posts, however, are meant to show that Dr. Gordon H. Clark's thinking on the doctrine of the incarnation was incipient to his earliest days, though he did more fully develop his two person view of the incarnation toward the end of his life.  Also, it should be noted that Clark in no uncertain terms denies the doctrine that Christ emptied Himself of deity or that He laid aside his divine privileges or the free exercise of His incommunicable attributes during his time on earth.  Even Dr. Robert L. Reymond, friend of Dr. Gordon H. Clark, likewise said that the Evangelicals who were advocating for a sub-kenotic view of the kenosis—as if laying aside His divine privileges were different from emptying Himself of deity—were in fact advocating a false Christology.  (Sermon Audio: Demolishing the Stronghold of a False Christology).  In fact, Reymond names Millard Erickson in this lecture and calls his view a false Christology, though he stops short of calling it heresy.


I want to show Dr. Clark's view on the kenosis by quoting two of his books at length.  First from his book, The Atonement:


The verb kenoō, or the noun kenosis, expresses the idea of vain or empty.  The noun does not occur in the New Testament; the verb occurs five times:  Romans 4:14 speaks of making faith void; 1 Corinthians 1:17 speaks of making the cross of Christ of no effect; in 1 Corinthians 9:15 Paul refers to something that would make his glorying  void; in 2 Corinthians 9:3 it is boasting that should be vain; and Philippians 2:7 is the fifth instance.  It would seem strange to translate this verse as, "Christ made Himself of no effect."  He surely did not.  There is nothing wrong with saying, "Christ emptied himself," though it might be better to retain "made himself of no reputation"; and so far as translation goes, one could with a minimum of stretching it, say "humbled himself."


All these translations need interpretation.  The theory of kenosis suffers from a certain degree of vagueness and from its modification in several authors.  Henry Ward Beecher and others taught that the Logos so depotentiated himself of all his divine attributes that he completely ceased from his cosmic functions during the years of his earthly life.  This view denies that the Logos took the place of the human soul and makes Christ, at least in his activity, entirely human.  A variation of this holds that the Logos took the place of the human soul as it is in ordinary men, but that no divine prerogatives were exercised.  Martensen is even more confused.  Walter R. Martin wrote a small book for popular consumption,  Essential Christianity (Zondervan, 1962, 28-29), in which he says, "Christ did not exercise at least three prime attributes of Deity while on earth prior to his resurrection.  These were Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence."  Henry C. Thiessen in his Systematic Theology describes the kenosis theory as holding that Christ emptied himself of his relative attributes—his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence—while retaining his immanent attributes—his holiness, love, and truth."  Then further down the page Thiessen continues, "Instead of the above mentioned theory, the Scriptures teach, when taken as a whole, that Christ merely surrendered the independent exercise of his relative attributes.  He did not surrender the immanent attributes in any sense . . . .  Thus he was omniscient as the Father granted him the exercise of these attributes."


Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  The Atonement.  1987. 2nd Edition.  (Hobbs:  Trinity Foundation, 1996), pp. 44-45.


The point here is that Dr. Clark does not object to emphasizing the true humanity of Christ but to do so at the expense of His divinity or deity is to go too far in that direction.  Jesus is both God and man and neither nature should be compromised in the transaction.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus is not just "God in a body" as some television evangelists have ignorantly asserted as a misunderstanding of Hebrews 10:5.  (Clark, The Atonement, p. 43).  The error of Apollinarianism, that is that the Logos (John 1:1) replaced the human soul of Jesus, undermines both His full humanity and His complete deity.  Unless Jesus has a genuine human soul, he cannot be the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Galatians 3:20) because He would be less than fully human.  Though the liberals have attacked the deity of Christ, it is equally wrong to attack His humanity.  In order for the mediator to mediate between God and men He must be both fully God and fully man.  If He is less than fully God He cannot satisfy the eternal justice and the eternal penalty of God's wrath against sin and sinners.


But for those who say that Clark out of the blue wrote The Incarnation and became a Nestorian at the end of his life I will quote again:


. . . one must pay attention to the Scriptural basis for asserting that Christ was a man, that is, in ordinary language, that he had a human soul.


Now, the verses quoted, in addition to showing that he walked here and there, also predicate of him psychological activities that are not possible of God.  He got hungry, he got tired, he slept. [sic].  But "he who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep"; [Psalm 121:4; cf. Isaiah 40:28].  Jesus also experienced grief and sorrow.  He called himself a man, and Peter called him a man.  Deceivers and the antichrist deny that he came in the flesh; but since God's children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same.


Luke 2 and Mark 13 assert his humanity in most extraordinary terms.  As a boy, Jesus grew in wisdom as well as in stature (neither of which Jehovah could do); and he even grew in favor with God as well as with men.  In his adult life, he was ignorant of the date of his second advent.  Presumably he was ignorant of other things as well, but the Logos is omniscient.  The Scripture therefore attributes to Christ human psychological characteristics that cannot possibly be predicates of God.


But with all these finite creaturely characteristics so definitely asserted, it does not follow that the Messiah's essential deity was in any way impaired.  In its insistence on Christ's human nature, the Bible does not teach what has come to be called the theory of kenosis.


Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  The Atonement.  1987. 2nd Edition.  (Hobbs:  Trinity Foundation, 1996), pp. 43-44.


Although this book was written one year prior to The Incarnation, it shows that Clark did not just write a book espousing the Nestorian heresy at the end of his life as some of his critics have claimed; in fact, his view is not Nestorianism.  Instead this is a theology and philosophy that he deduced from the Bible and he had been saying similar things from early on in his career and which propositions came to fruition later in his life.  His commentary on Philippians, which also indicates the logical nature of his thinking on the Incarnation, was written in 1982.  In that book he says in reference to the trinity:


Nevertheless there are difficulties.  First, there are terminological difficulties.  Discussions on the Trinity have, over the centuries, utilized the words nature, essence, being, substance, subsistence, and the very unfortunate Latin term person.  These are hardly ever defined with precision.  For example, one would ordinarily think that a person must have a will.  But the orthodox doctrine allows the three Persons of the Trinity to have only one will among them, while surprisingly the incarnate Jesus has two wills and yet is not a human person.  Nestorianism, with its assertion that Christ was two persons, is considered a heresy.  Other theologians, orthodox or otherwise, distinguish between the substance of God and his nature.  But would not a substance without a nature lack all attributes?  And would not a substance without attributes or characteristics be a blank nothing?  . . .


Gordon H. Clark.  Philippians.  1982.  (Hobbs: Trinity Foundation, 1996), p. 55-56. 


As this post is getting lengthy, I will again pause here for further reflection.  But I am not done discussing the issue of kenosis as I want to show briefly the view of Millard Erickson, whose Christian Theology we used as a text for systematic theology classes at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God around 1988-1991.  I also heard Erickson lecture when I was a student at Southeastern College.  (Now called Southeastern University).


After I deal with kenosis I want to speak to the issue of the trinity and how Dr. Clark dealt with the issue of one God who is also three Persons and his view of propositional knowledge and how a person is defined in light of his logical Scripturalism.  This will be crucial in understanding his solution to the paradox of the incarnation.  I also want to flesh out Dr. Robert L. Reymond's response to the Lutherans view of consubstantiation and the sub-kenosis views as two examples of a false Christology.  I think Reymond also alluded to his disagreement with Dr. Clark's two person view of the Incarnation and I will comment briefly on that as well.
 

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