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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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Incarnation Part 10: The Necessity of the Deity of Christ


"The ecclesiastical situation is similar to the political, where many Americans have advocated this or that part of communistic propaganda without knowing its source and aims. 

But put the question thus:  If the Virgin Birth is not an historical event, and if the body of Christ did not come out of the tomb, and if the Scriptures are often in error, what hope is there of long maintaining the deity of Christ?  Indeed, can one be said truly to believe in Christ if he denies these things?"   --Dr. Gordon H. Clark



The following words of Dr. Gordon H. Clark are a telling indictment of the current state of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches even in so-called "orthodox" or "conservative" Presbyterian denominations.  In fact, his words are almost prophetic since Dr. Clark passed away in 1985.  The situation today is even worse that it was in the mid 1980s.

Although the present temper of the churches with their doctrinal laxity and ecumenical obsession does not issue in explicit attacks on the Trinity, it would be a mistake to conclude that this doctrine more than others enjoys uniform acceptance.  Whether the Virgin Birth is rejected as an impossible biological miracle, or whether the creeds are eviscerated by making them symbolic, pointers, or myths, the very nature of the Godhead is called into question.
An attack against the citadel is not always frontal.  Sometimes the outer defenses are first put out of commission, one by one;  sometimes the foundations are undermined; sometimes the supplies are cut off.  This is not to suggest that all those who attack some doctrine or other intend to weaken their testimony to the deity of Christ.  It does not even imply that all those who deny the Virgin Birth are conscious enemies of trinitarianism.  The ecclesiastical situation is similar to the political, where many Americans have advocated this or that part of communistic propaganda without knowing its source and aims.
But put the question thus:  If the Virgin Birth is not an historical event, and if the body of Christ did not come out of the tomb, and if the Scriptures are often in error, what hope is there of long maintaining the deity of Christ?  Indeed, can one be said truly to believe in Christ if he denies these things?  Suppose one should say, I believe Napoleon was a real historical character who actually lived; but I reject the legendary accretions which say he put an end to the French revolution, became Emperor, fought Spain, Italy, Australia, invaded Russia, lost the battle of Waterloo, and was exiled on St. Helena.  But of course I believe in Napoleon!
Is this any more silly than to say, I believe in Jesus Christ, but of course miracles are impossible and the story of the resurrection is a kerygmatic myth?
There is either one Christ or there is none.  If Jesus was not the eternal Son of God, equal in power and glory with the Father, then let's have done with all talk about Christianity.  Let us admit honestly that we are Unitarians, Jews, Buddhists, or humanists.  But not Christians.  For the historical Jesus said, Upon this rock, of the deity of Christ, I will build my Church.  Some other organization may call itself a church, but it is not his.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation:  2001).  Pp. 34-35.

The doctrine of the incarnation of the eternal Logos in the human person of Jesus Christ is under attack on many fronts today, not least of which is the oblique attack on the doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture, the infallibility of Scripture, and the inerrancy of Scripture.  Some Evangelical theologians who still wish to be known as Evangelicals claim to believe in the same doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture as Warfield and Hodge but on further examination they have changed the meaning of the term to fit with their implicit acceptance of neo-orthodoxy.  Since everything we know about Jesus Christ and the trinity is logically deduced from the Scriptures, it is a serious departure to change the meaning of a theological term that has traditionally been understood as the fact that God literally inspired every jot and tittle of Scripture and every single word of Scripture such that even quotes from pagan poets and apocryphal books are a God breathed record and meant to convey a propositional truth.  In fact, Scripture is not analogical but propositional.  That is, God reveals His written word to us in logical, rational, and propositional form so that a system of dogmatic truths can be deduced from the Scriptures:

6.  The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) . . . 
Westminster Confession of Faith.  Chapter 1:6

This is not to say that the Bible contains no analogies, no metaphors, no similes, no parables, no poetry, and no apocalyptic material.  Far from it.  But what it does mean is that behind every parable, every metaphor, every analogy there is a proposition that can be logically deduced from the text by a good exegesis of the text.  The Evangelical method of exegesis is the historical and grammatical method, not the neo-orthodox method where the Bible is simply a record or analogy of revelation and not revelation itself.  When the Westminster, California and Westminster, Philadelphia theologians say that only God knows the system of theology in His incomprehensible mind and we only have an analogical system of theology, they are in effect--whether they realize it or not--saying that the Bible is not really God's inspired Word in every single word at every single point but instead the Bible is merely a human record or a framework of God's unknowable revelation in God's mind.  Their position is that there is no single point at which God's written Word, the Holy Scriptures, and the system of theology in God's mind coincide.  Not one.  This is nothing more than neo-orthodoxy.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark came under attack when he was a professor at the fledgling Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because he dared to stand for the classical view that the Bible is univocally the very inspired words of God in every single jot and tittle, every word.  It was Dr. Clark's position that if we know anything that is true, then God must know that same truth just as we know it and vice versa.  If we can know nothing God knows then obviously we can never know the truth whatsoever.  Does God know that David was the king of Israel, that Jesus Christ was literally and physically raised from the dead or that 2 + 2 = 4?  And it logically follows if we know those same truths, then we know what God knows on that single point of coinciding truth as a propositional statement.  This does not imply that we are omniscient nor that we are prying into the secret mind of God since revelation is not secret but revealed!  (Romans 16:25-27; Deuteronomy 29:29).  All truth originates in God's mind, not in empirical science, logical positivism, rationalism, or a blank tabula rasa or blank tablet.

The doctrine of the incarnation is intimately tied to the doctrine of the Trinity.  In fact, the early church had not fully developed their understanding of the biblical propositions and through a series of church synods and councils further deductions from Scripture were made so that it became apparent that in order to sustain the doctrine of Christ as both God and man there must in fact be three Persons within the one divine being, divine nature, or Godhead.  Three personal distinctions within one divine being or nature does not imply three separate gods, however, because this would violate the monotheism of the Hebrew shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and other proof texts.  (Mark 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Corinthians 8:4).


As Dr. Clark said many times, the Westminster Confession of Faith orders the doctrines of the propositional system in a descending order of importance.  The first three doctrines are:  1. Holy Scripture.  2.  The Holy Trinity.  3. Predestination.  Yet all three of these primary Presbyterian doctrines today are under attack in Evangelical denominations and Evangelical seminaries.  Creation is chapter 4 and Providence is in chapter 5.  Some churches just completely ignore these foundational doctrines and refuse to preach them.  Others outright attack them.  These preliminary doctrines lead up to the doctrine of the incarnation in chapter 8, Of Christ the Mediator.


So how can God be one God in essence and nature and yet three distinct persons within the one Godhead?  There is so much material on the doctrine of the Trinity that it would take several lifetimes to read and study it all in detail.  Here I will try to summarize the key points of the doctrine from a Clarkian and Scripturalist perspective and utilizing the classical Calvinist and Reformed theologians.


Since it is Scripture that defines God and His attributes as given in propositional form in the inspired texts, no doctrine of the Trinity can afford to dismiss Scripture as merely a record of God's revelation rather than revelation itself.  Although it is true that justification by faith alone or Sola Fide is the doctrine that Martin Luther said determines whether a church stands or falls, all the other doctrines in the Bible are equally important.  Without the doctrine of Scripture as fully inspired of God one cannot deduce the doctrine of justification in the first place.  The same can be said for the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of the incarnation.  Both of these doctrines are deduced from Scripture.  This is why Scripture or Sola Scriptura is primary in the Calvinist or Presbyterian system of dogma.  Every other doctrine flows out of Sola Scriptura.  Once the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy are undermined or rejected, everything else collapses.  There is no Christianity left--none at all.



To introduce the subject this treatise will begin with a chronological or historical approach, though eventually it will perforce become more logical than historical. At any rate we start with the Old Testament. This historical approach is not only convenient; it is pedagogically necessary also. Seminary students today, unless they came from Christian grade schools and high schools, have had little Scriptural or catechetical instruction. Accordingly, since the material out of which the doctrine of the Trinity is constructed is the Scriptural data, such passages must of necessity be kept in mind or else the discussion loses significance. Like any other treatise on the Trinity this one does not profess to give all the relevant material; it does profess to give more than some other volumes on Systematic Theology give. But the student must do some spade work of his own and is urged to search the Scriptures, for in them ye think (and think correctly) ye have eternal life.  [John 5:39].

Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity (Kindle Locations 77-83). The Trinity Foundation.



The biblical evidence for the doctrine of the trinity is extensive but the doctrine is only explicitly taught in the New Testament.  In Genesis 1:26 God says, Let us make man in our image.  Some have advocated the view that this verse teaches the trinity because the Hebrew word for God in that verse is Elohim, which is a plural word according to the Hebrew grammar.  But most scholars have interpreted this use of the word Elohim as a majestic plurality and not as a reference to the trinity:


Brown-Driver-Briggs
אֱלֹהִים2570 noun masculine plural (feminine 1 Kings 11:33; on number of occurrences of אֵל, אֱלוֺהַּ, אֱלֹהִים compare also Nesl. c,) 1 plural in number.
a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power....
From Biblehub.com's Strong's numbering link.

I could go through all of the biblical data but I think any systematic theology from a Reformed perspective can do that adequately.  Also, you can read Dr. Clark's book, The Trinity, which is available in ebook and paperback at the Trinity Foundation site.

The needed emphasis on the unity of God precluded any understanding of the Godhead as a Trinity. There were hints, however. The plural Elohim might have suggested some sort of plurality in the divine being; but with the idea of three absent, and no explanation given, it was natural to understand the word as a plural of majesty. But may we not suppose that the use of the name Jehovah three times and three times only in Numbers 6:24-26 and Daniel 9:19 is something more than a rhetorical or liturgical flourish? The same phenomenon occurs also in Isaiah 33:22.
Some theologians see more Old Testament anticipations of the Trinity than others do. I. A. Dorner (System of Christian Doctrine, Volume I) surely overdoes it. He not only takes the frequent use of Davar as indicative of the Logos, he even sees this Word in Genesis 1:3, 6, 9 (God said). He also mentions Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;” Psalm 107:20, “He sent his word.” Rather obviously the ancient Hebrews could not see the Trinity in Genesis one; but Psalm 107 indeed suggests some sort of plurality.

Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity (Kindle Locations 90-104). The Trinity Foundation.

As this discussion will be lengthy, I hope the reader will pardon me for postponing the discussion of the Athanasian Creed until later.  Also, in a future post, since I came from a Pentecostal background, I want to spend a little time discussing the oneness Pentecostal view of the trinity and the incarnation and show why their view is not only heretical but self contradictory.  The oneness Pentecostal will say that Jesus is God.  But does their view lend itself to the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ?


Index to posts on Clark's view of the Incarnation.
 

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