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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

John Robbins' Comment: W. Gary Crampton on the Incarnation

I fail to see how John Robbins or Gordon H. Clark solved anything. What Robbins says below is ambiguous at best and in all honesty sounds more like Nestorianism than hypostatic union of two "natures" in one man. If Christ is two separate persons as Robbins insinuates below, then it seems to me inescapable that both Robbins and Clark were heretics who denied that the Word "became" flesh. (See John 1:1-2, 14). Furthermore, Scripture makes it clear that those who deny that Jesus Christ is literally God, who came to earth in human flesh and human form, are not Christians (2 John 1:7; Philippians 2:5-8).

I can no longer recommend the God's Hammer blog or The Trinity Foundation for this reason. Reformed believers are advised to avoid both resources as heretical. What is particularly disturbing is that this heresy is hidden from public view. One will not see it openly stated in any position paper or Trinity Review article because those in charge of The Trinity Foundation do not want Christians to know that they have divided Christ into two persons and therefore have denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the humanity of the Logos. Since both the divine and human are one Person in Christ, whatever can be said of one nature can be legitimately said of the other because they are united hypostatically in Jesus Christ. He is God. He is man. He is both in one person just as the three persons of the Godhead are one God. The difference is that in Christ there are two distinct natures instead of one divine nature as in the trinity.

Anyone who says that Jesus is God must accept that He is also human and vice versa. The two cannot be separated without making Jesus less than God.

Not only so, but Sean Gerety does not seem to understand the issues of Apollinarianism and the monothelite view. Apollinarianism would say that the Logos "replaced" the human soul. So when Sean Gerety said, "...Objectively the persons think the same thoughts, but unlike the unity that obtains in the Godhead, Jesus as a human person also still grows in knowledge," he unwittingly fell into the monothelite error since he implied that there is a unity of will in Christ. Gerety seems to be back pedaling here. Earlier he ridiculed me as "irrational" for suggesting that it is possible for Jesus to know and not know at the same time. Now he seems to be advocating monothelite views and at the same time conceding that it is possible for Jesus to be one person who is both omniscient and at times ignorant. I really wish Gerety would make up his mind whether he's going to be rational, irrational or heretical?

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Sean's remarks:

I'm still wondering what the unity is in the two-person theory. One advocate said it was inexplainable. Another said it was a unity in the individual man. I'm not sure how either answer helps clarify the two-person position.

IMO that Clark was arguing for a similar type of generic or propositional unity that obtains for the Trinity. I think his treatise on the Trinity lays the foundation for understanding the Incarnation. Objectively the persons think the same thoughts, but unlike the unity that obtains in the Godhead, Jesus as a human person also still grows in knowledge (I would add that thoughts pass through his mind and are not an immediate eternal intuition), can be ignorant of things (like the date of His return), be tempted just like us, and die (see Charlie's comment I lifted above).

If a person is a given set of propositions (which are the meanings of declarative sentences and not the sentences themselves), I would think the two person theory could perhaps be pictured as a somewhat smaller circle expanding (i.e, as in growing in wisdom) within a larger circle represented by the sum total of true propositions in the Second Person.

For me I thought that the quote from John Robbins at the close of Clark's book was helpful, so I'll provide it again here and also include the final paragraph of the book:

The relationship that obtains between the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, and Jesus is unique, unlike that between the Logos and every other man who comes into the world (see John 1:9). The Logos did not merely light the mind of Christ; the Logos Himself is fully in Christ. Christ could therefore say, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." No mere prophet could make such an astounding claim. Prophets, inspired by God, possess some of the divine propositions. Christ, however, possess them all, as the author of Hebrews argues in the first chapter. *All* the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

If, as seems to be the case, we now have a solution to the puzzles of the Incarnation, a solution that avoids the contradictions and meaningless words of the traditional formulations, a solution that is supported by Scripture itself, we are obliged to accept it. Jesus Christ was and is both God and man, a divine person and a human person. To deny either is to fall into error. Once the key terms are defined and clearly understood, the Incarnation is an even more stupendous and awe-inspiring miracle than the Church has hitherto surmised. – J.W.R.

See all comments on the God's Hammer post here.


Roger Mann said...

(This is broken up into two posts, due to its excessive size)

Here's Gordon H. Clark, commenting on the Westminster Confession 8.2, prior to his descent into heresy in his final book before he died, The Incarnation:

The first three lines of section ii refer back to the doctrine of the Trinity in Chapter II. Jesus Christ is "very and eternal God." Unlike angels, the physical universe, and mankind, he never came into existence. He is not a creation. He is the Creator. He is God and equal with the Father.

Since this chapter as a whole deals with the mediatorial work of Christ, the remainder of section ii naturally goes beyond the doctrine of the Trinity and centers on Christ's incarnation. This second Person of the Trinity became man...

Accordingly it took the Church some centuries to digest the teaching of the Bible. First came the doctrine of the Trinity, formulated by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. The next important advance was to define the doctrine of Christ as one Person with two natures. This was done at Chalcedon in A.D. 451...

The main idea is not too difficult to understand [unless, of course, you are Sean Gerety, Drake Shelton, Denson, a host of other "Clarkians" on the God's Hammer blog, or Clark himself in his waning years -- RM]. In order to serve as a mediator, the Son of God had to become man. This is most evident with respect to the crucifixion. Obviously if the mediator was to die on the cross, or died in any way, it was necessary that he have a body. A pure Spirit could not be executed. As it says in Hebrews 2:14, "Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."

But the distinguished evangelist, previously mentioned as having no creed, was quite wrong when he described Jesus as "God in a body." What we call the incarnation involves more than God's taking a body. What the second Person of the Trinity took to himself was "man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof." That is, Jesus had a human mind as well as a human body [notice that Clark identifies a "human mind" here as an attribute common to "man's nature" not a characteristic of "personhood" per se]. It was only because he had a human mind that he could advance in wisdom, as well as stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52)...

Roger Mann said...

In addition to the view that Jesus was "God in a body," a theologian by the name of Nestor conceived Jesus Christ to be two different persons: one person purely human, the other purely divine [precisely the same view that is being aggressively advanced on Sean Gerety's blog]. Another attempt was to conceive of the Savior as neither God nor man, but a sort of "chemical" mixture in which the characteristics of the components were both lost. The student is urged to look up Nestorianism, Eutychianism, and Docetism in a theological encyclopedia. The subject matter is very interesting.

Eventually the Council of Chalcedon, after nearly four hundred years of church history, arrived at the orthodox doctrine that "two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion."

This Chalcedonian doctrine is necessary to support the function of Christ's mediatorial office. The reason is that if Christ were a mere man, he could not function as a mediator; nor could he if he were simply God. In both cases he would be confined to one extreme and fail to link the two. If Christ were neither God nor man, but an angel or something else, he would be a barrier between God and man rather than a mediator. But as both God and man, as truly God as man and as truly man as God, Christ can be the Mediator and unite God and men. (What Do Presbyterians Believe?, pp. 93-95)

Too bad Clark didn't retain this careful, sober thinking in his later years, when he heretically maintained the following:

The usual theological treatment of the problem is so self-contradictory that nearly any escape looks promising. After stating that Jesus was a man, a "true'' man, the theologians continue by arguing that he was not a man at all -- he was only a "nature." For them the boy in the temple and the assistant carpenter in Nazareth was some set of qualities attaching to the Second Person. But this is impossible [proving that he had come to reject the biblical doctrine the Logos "became flesh" -- RM] for two reasons. First, it attaches contradictory characteristics to a single Person. He is both omnipotent and frail; he is both omnipresent and localized; he is omniscient, but he is ignorant of some things. In the second place, closely related to the first, the characteristics of an ordinary man cannot possibly attach to Deity [once again denying the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation -- RM]. The Logos never gets tired or thirsty; the Logos never increases in either stature or wisdom. The Logos is eternal and immutable. How then can these human characteristics possibly be characteristics of God? But by irresponsibly assigning such qualities to God, the theologians contradict their other statement that Jesus was a true man. Even the word true betrays the weakness of their position. Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay. The Scripture simply says, 'The Man Christ Jesus.'" (The Incarnation, p. 76-77)

Clarkians would do well to follow the early Clark here and to reject the latter.

Charlie J. Ray said...

You're right, Roger. Clark was unbalanced. Calvin's discussion of the issue in the Institutes is better than Clark and Calvin wrote in the 16th century!

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jesus was fully man. Clark gets that part right. But he does not realize that Jesus must be fully God as well. It sounds to me as if Clark doesn't even put God in a body!

Roger Mann said...

Jesus was fully man. Clark gets that part right. But he does not realize that Jesus must be fully God as well. It sounds to me as if Clark doesn't even put God in a body!

Well, Clark's later heretical view seems to logically place God in a human body in the sense that the divine second Person merely takes up residence or indwells a distinct human person in an especially "unique" way. In other words, the human person (Jesus) receives more of God's indwelling presence than other men do (i.e., he receives the Spirit "without measure" and "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily"), but nevertheless the divine and human persons remain separate from one another for all eternity. It is only the distinct human person (as opposed to the second Person of the Godhead in full possession of a human nature) that grows in wisdom, is ignorant of some things, and suffers and dies on the Cross. Truly, the two-person heresy leave us with no genuine Incarnation at all. And without a genuine Incarnation, "the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8) was never crucified in our stead, and the second Person of the Trinity never purchased the church of God "with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).

Sean is now backtracking a little, and writes:

[In Clark's later position] The Second Person did take on flesh and in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9). Two minds were joined as one so that Jesus could say “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, but because they were two-minds or persons as Clark defined it and not one, no rift in the Godhead occurred on the cross (which is impossible) and a real person did cry out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.”

But in what sense can two "minds" be joined together in any meaningful sense in two different "persons" with two different "natures?" Not only does Sean not say, but he can't say! As I've mentioned before, the three Persons of the Trinity are "joined together" by equally participating in the One divine "nature." The reason the three Persons do not have three separate "minds" and "wills" is because the terms "mind" and "will" are attributes of the one divine "nature" -- not characteristics of subjective "personhood" per se.

However, in the heretical two-person view of the Incarnation, if the divine Person has His own "mind" and "will" in accordance with His divine "nature," and a different human person has his own "mind" and "will" in accordance with his human "nature," then there can be no real metaphysical union between the two persons. The only way there can be a genuine metaphysical union between the human and divine "natures" is if the second Person of the Trinity assumes to Himself a complete human "nature" (with a limited human mind and will) while retaining His essential divine "nature" (with the infinite divine mind and will) -- without conversion, composition, or confusion (i.e., the hypostatic union as asserted in the orthodox and biblical doctrine of the Incarnation). Moreover, in the orthodox doctrine both the divine and human "natures" are subjectively "personal" by being hypostatically united in the second Person of the Godhead. There is nothing confusing or contradictory about that.

Scott said...

This is a serious charge Charlie that I will have to investigate. I am a fan of a lot of Gordon's books although I have never read the one you mention. I have never read Gordon deny the deity of Christ or that Christ is God in the flesh or the literal virgin birth.

I just happened upon your blog and am not familiar with all of your posts but I happened to notice that one of your favorite books is the systematic theology by Robert Reymond in which he denies the eternal generation of the Son. Keith Mathison has made an implied accusation against him as being Arian (another serious charge)in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura p241. I wonder where you stand on this and would recommend to you the excellent and levelheaded discussion of Millard Erickson in his book Who's Tampering With The Trinity?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hi, Scott...

I appreciate your comment. It's been awhile since I read Robert Reymond's book and I don't have it handy at the moment because some of my library is in storage. However, from what I can remember Reymond's controversy was not the eternal procession of the Son but rather the "dual procession" of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. Reymond rejects the so-called "filioque clause" in the Nicene Creed and in the Athanasian Creed. It is true that the phrase "and the Son in "I believe in the Holy Ghost, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son..." was a later addition. "And the Son" was added in the 6th century by the western church.

While I strongly disagree with Reymond on that point, denying the dual procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son does not rise to the same level of heresy as denying that Christ is one Person. To deny that Jesus Christ is one person who is both divine and human in hypostatic union is to deny the deity of Christ and the incarnation. In other words, denying the definition of Chalcedon 451 A.D. raises way more issues than denying the dual procession of the Holy Spirit--that is whether or not the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or whether He proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

By all accounts, Gordon H. Clark in his last book, The Incarnation, did in fact put forth the doctrine of Christ as being two persons rather than one person. That would mean that the Logos never fully becomes human and it would mean that the man Jesus Christ is not fully God either. There would be two separate persons who appear to be united but are not. That is a heresy called "Nestorianism."

Clark's extreme reliance on reason and philosophy led him to this position because he could not reconcile how an unlimited God could also be limited in human form. Also, Clark reasoned that the monothelite heresy, in response to which the church said that Christ had both a divine will and a human will, implied there were two distinct persons in Christ, one human and the other divine.

I am no philosopher but I have sense enough to know that not all mysteries are solved here through reason and philosophy. Revelation trumps reason and tradition. The best we can do is follow reason as far as it goes and leave the rest to faith.

Scripture clearly says that Jesus is both God and man without compromising either of the two natures or beings/essences. (John 1:1-3; John 1:14; John 1:18; Colossian 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3)

Hope this helps...


Charlie J. Ray said...

I forgot to mention that I'm not familiar with Keith Mathison. Now that I reflect I seem to remember there was something in Reymond's book about whether the Son is eternally generated by the Father or whether or not the Son is eternally self-existent. As I said, I don't have my copy handy so I can't speak without reviewing that portion of the book.

I would have to say that the doctrine of eternal generation versus eternal self-existence of the Son is a mute point since the Son is fully divine and God is by definition eternally self-existent. Aseity is by definition one of God's attributes. Since all three persons of the Godhead share the same divine nature it follows that all three are eternally self-existent.

Reymond if I remember correctly objected to the doctrine of an eternal generation of the Son on the basis of the aseity of the Godhead. It seems to me that Reymond makes a valid point in that eternal generation implies that the Son is not eternally self-existent. Either way this is not a primary heresy unless it denies the Trinity or implies Arianism, etc.

As for Millard Erickson... I haven't read the book you mention. But I did read Millard Erickson's entire systematic theology in college. I did a minor in systematic theology at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God.

Needless to say, Erickson is an Arminian so I don't read him that much anymore. I had a huge problem with Erickson's doctrine of kenosis, or the self-emptying of Christ. That doctrine says that Christ emptied himself of the incommunicable attributes of deity: omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. That doctrine more or less denies Christ's full deity. At least that is what I remember about Erickson's position. I have the book packed away so I can't verify that for sure. I'm just going on memory.

Erickson did his doctorate at Tubingen in Germany, which is a very liberal seminary. I have found those influences in his writings. Most likely that's where he got his doctrine of Kenosis as well. One of Erickson's mentors was Wolfhart Pannenberg, who is extremely liberal.

The short answer, though, is it is best to read widely so you can get a variety of viewpoints rather than going with one or two systematic theologies. I prefer conservative Reformed theologians and classical Reformed theology from the time of the Reformation and shortly after. I particularly like the Princeton divines from the 19th century.

God bless,


Charlie J. Ray said...


It looks like Mathison's book raises a legitimate issue. Too many Presbyterians and Evangelicals lightly discard the creeds and confessions. The 39 Articles strongly uphold the three main creeds because they draw their most certain warrant from Holy Scripture.

Article VIII

Of the Three Creeds

The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

I think Robert Reymond demonstrates this prejudice against the creeds. Part of the reason might be that the Westminster Confession and the Catechisms do not uphold the creeds formally. The Dutch Reformed standards, The Three Forms of Unity, does uphold the three "catholic" or "universal" creeds in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession.

Lord's Day 7 quotes the Apostles' Creed.

Although the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession do not list the creeds, the doctrines of the 4 main creeds are drawn from over and over again. See: Creeds



Charlie J. Ray said...

Did Clark Cross the Line into Nestorianism?

Scott said...

Yeah Charlie, I am not an Arminian either (although Millard would probably prefer we call him a Molinist see p387 of his Sys. Theo.) but I believe an Arminian can be correct on some doctrine such as a 6-24 hr day creation or the Trinity and, since I matriculated from a liberal Southern Baptist school which taught Barthianism myself, I don't usually hold it against people where they went to school. After all the "great creeds" such as the Nicene were written by Catholics. And since Nicene predated the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy it is hard to know where they stood on predestination.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hi, Scott... Actually, the Molinist position is a variation of Arminianism with its theory of middle knowledge. I was an Arminian for most of my life until I graduated from Asbury Seminary when I became a Calvinist.

I'm not a fan of Barth or neo-orthodoxy because I believe it is simply a another form of liberalism and has much in common with Arminianism.

The creeds were not written by the Roman Catholics since the Roman Catholic Church evolved over time. It became what it is today sometime after the split with the Eastern church over papal supremacy, etc.

Augustine was ahead of his time. Although he was not a Calvinist, he was the inspiration for the Lutherans and the Calvinists during the Reformation.

Predestination was taught by Augustine because it is in the Bible.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Asbury is an Evangelical, Wesleyan holiness seminary that trains mostly United Methodists and Free Methodists. Though they do have pentecostals and other holiness denominations like the Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Salvation Army, etc.

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