Responding to Christianity's Critics

Does the Bible Teach the Divinity of Christ?

Once again we find ourselves with the claim that the Bible does not at all teach Christ’s divinity. This is a response to an article I had read online and hopefully this post will be very short. Yet before continuing, it must be said that the author of the post was very respectful and logical in his remarks and thinking and as such we ought to give credit where credit is due. Furthermore, I quite liked the manner in which he reached out in love towards Christians—it wouldn’t at all be wrong to call his conduct almost Christ-like and it is in the same spirit that I write my response to his claims. I apologize in advance if I unknowingly fail to reciprocate the same level of kindness in my post (if such is the case, know that this was certainly not my intention).

Now, I have said this before but prior to moving on with the rest of this post, it would do us well if I were to repeat it here: arguments such as the one presented by 6sman simply cannot work, they are self-serving and will invariably crumble under scrutiny. They rely on merely interacting with only one set of data while ignoring everything else which contradict one’s point. They cannot account for the body of evidence that we are presented with within the Holy Bible but merely with a few of these and, not surprisingly, only those which fit the point that we would like to make. To the reader, you will be met with two forms of argumentation: one which only takes account of a small subset of the evidence available to us, and another which takes everything into account. At the end of this presentation, you really ought to ask yourself who made the better argument and whose presentation can actually harmonize everything that the Bible says concerning Jesus Christ.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” — John 8:32 ESV

The author of the article in question, presents us with 5 syllogisms by which he aims to disprove the divinity of Christ which he believes is not attested in the Bible at all. Here, they will be enumerated one by one and as part of my reply, I will repeatedly show how his argument suffers from the problems I have already listed in the above paragraph.

God is the Maximal Being. Jesus was Inferior. Jesus, therefore, was not God! […] Now Jesus speaks no parables when he said, as in John’s Gospel: Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent (Jesus) greater than He (the Father) who sent him. [John 13:16] Here we see Jesus[p] placing himself below God, in other clearer terms: …the Father is greater than I. [John 14:28] So if we were to follow the above principle that any-one having some greater than himself isn’t God, and truly believe God is the greatest conceivable being, and acknowledge that Jesus [p] by his own admission is not the greatest being, then it follows reasonably that Jesus is not God. — 6sman (emphasis mine)

The Christian should never deny that Christ is subordinate to the Father (the Father is the First Person of the Trinity and the Son is the second; the Father is unbegotten and the Son is indeed begotten, the Father sends and the Son is sent etc.) but one must wonder what type of inferiority is spoken of here? Positional inferiority or ontological inferiority? Let us mark the difference between the two first:

( a ) Positional inferiority (otherwise known as Functional Submission): is inferiority (I hate to use this word given its less than pleasant connotations however I find myself using it due to the precedent set by 6sman) of relation such as what many Christians and Muslims find exemplified in the relationship between the husband and his wife. The wife is submissive to the husband—not because she isn’t his equal in nature, but rather as a willful choice on her part. This is the example of Sarah, and she is praised for it and called the mother of believers (1 Peter 3:1-7) because of her character and faith. Sarah was equal to Abraham in being—whatever was true of the human nature which was possessed of Abraham was equally true of Sarah. In no way can she be said to be objectively inferior to her husband and yet she chose to submit herself to him. Most Muslims will agree with this being the proper dynamic between the husband and his wife (and it certainly is the one which is espoused within the Qur’an and Hadith collections) and yet I know of none who would claim that positional inferiority renders the woman truly inferior to her husband. Positional inferiority does not render one unable to exercise the very same prerogatives enjoyed by their partner. Abraham may have been able to ask Sarah to prepare a meal (Genesis 18:6) but she likewise could also make demands of him, as she did concerning Hagar and her child (Genesis 21:8-13). More could be said concerning the matter (let us not even speak of Rebecca and Isaac!) but suffice to say that should she will it, the woman is perfectly capable of exercising the very properties which arise from the same human nature that she and her husband mutually possess. She lacks nothing and is indeed his equal and although positionally inferior, this does not detract from her capacity to do any of those things which arise from the same nature that she and her husband possess (should she of course decide to employ these). This point is quite important and it is imperative that the reader not forget this because it will serve to tie up this argument.

( b ) Ontological Inferiority: is inferiority of character, nature, being. This does not have to do with choosing to be submissive in one’s role but rather being objectively submissive in one’s nature. To illustrate, while the woman can choose to be inferior towards her husband in role, the dog cannot choose to be inferior to his master in being because it is simply a fact that the human being is of a qualitatively higher order than the other various animals in existence. Ontological inferiority speaks of an objective inferiority, unlike the concept of positional inferiority. That is, the animal does not possess the same attributes as the human and as such they are unable to exercise the same prerogatives as her (while Sarah could in fact exercise the same prerogatives as Abraham because they both possessed the same nature and as such hers was only a subjective inferiority which she placed upon herself).

Now why did we have to go through the above? Because we must realize that statements which imply an inferiority of some sort must be properly examined in order for one to come to know exactly of which sort of inferiority is being spoken of. The author of the article to which this response is directed at implies that Christ’s inferiority is of an ontological persuasion yet is this at all correct? To find our answer we must keep in mind what it means to be positionally and/or ontologically inferior. With this in mind, let us see in what manner the Bible presents the Christ:

Jesus is equated to God (1 Corinthians 2:8), called the creator of all things (John 1:3), is worshiped (Luke 24:51-52), is threatened to be stoned for making himself equal to God (John10:33), demands to be honoured in the exact manner in which the Father is honoured (John 5:23), claims to have existed before his human birth (John 3:13), claims to have existed before Abraham (John 8:58-59), claims to have existed before the creation of the world (John 17:5), is described as indwelling God himself (John 1:18), claims that to have seen him is to have seen the Father (John 10:30), claims to share the exact same glory as the Father (John 17:5), claims to be able to do whatever the Father does (John 5:19), claims to have all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

If Christ were indeed inferior in being to the Father (and thus not God in nature) then how could the above statements at all be said? Can a mere prophet be said to have existed before God created the world? Can a mere prophet demand to be honoured in the exact same way that God is honoured? Can one imagine worshiping a mere prophet, can one imagine showering this individual with the very praise due only to God (seeing as this is the manner in which God is honoured and Christ demanded the same thing)? How then could Christ demand such a thing if he were not God himself? Let the reader note that none of the above points are dealt with in the article by 6sman. Instead he gives his audience a very skewed perception of the truth claims contained in the bible concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ is only positionally inferior to the Father then he is in nature identical to the Father and as such is God himself. If Christ is only inferior in role and not in being, then he can certainly speak of the Father being greater than him (because this refers merely to relation) and yet at the same time he can also readily appropriate for himself the very prerogatives of God because he himself is this very God in nature. This could not be the case were the Christ indeed objectively inferior to the Father as 6sman claims (for then the nature of the Father and Christ would be of a qualitatively different order and as the dog no more can claim to the fundamental prerogatives of his master, so neither could Christ appropriate for himself and moreover exhibit the functions, titles, and powers of God). If 6sman’s position was truly correct, then we should not find statements such as in the above paragraph where the Christ quite clearly appropriates for himself the very prerogatives of God. The reader must ask themselves, whose argument is more correct? Is it the argument sustained by the individual 6sman, the very argument which cannot be sustained when all of the evidence is presented? Or is it my argument, the argument which can indeed harmonize all the factors?

“For all the facts harmonize with a true account, whereas the truth soon clashes with a false one.” — Aristotle

Harmony. This is the crucial thing that Muslim arguments on this matter all fail to achieve. They simply cannot account for all the evidence and in fact only work insofar as one keeps their readership ignorant of the full body of evidence. I have noticed this time and time again and it is more than obvious that the article to which I am responding to exemplifies this issue yet again. The author of the article does not deal with the entire body of truth presented to us within the bible and to tell a half-truth is the same as telling no truth.

God is Omniscient. Jesus was in-cognizant. God, it follows, isn’t Jesus! […] Jesus denies knowledge of parousia for himself, then affirms it as an exclusive property of God. Jesus’ negation of self-omniscience implies un-equality with God in His Divine attributes. Confronted with this problem, Christians take refuge in stating that Jesus ‘as human’ did not know, but had full knowledge ‘as God’. To dispel this counteraction I say Jesus speaks here as not mere servant, but as the Son i.e. what Christians would regard as his true personality. — 6sman (emphasis mine)

It would seem that the author is not satisfied with the Christian response but is this at all warranted? His counter-point concerning the fact that the passage speaks expressively of Christ’s status as the Son in no way damages the Christian response. The Second Person of the Trinity truly did become man and as man he veiled his full glory to the point where he withheld from himself the free exercise of his divine prerogatives and relied solely on the Father. This is not to say that he ever lost any of the divine attributes—no, he simply did not exercise these to the extent that would be proper of him and instead chose to live the life of a common man (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:14-18). The Son is both God and man and as man he certainly was limited but as God he was without any constraints. ‘The Son’ refers to the God-man and as such Christ can truly speak of ‘the Son’ not knowing the day nor the hour because while he veiled his glory in his humanity, it certainly was the case that he did not allow himself access to this knowledge. Yet does this mean that the Christ in his divinity did not possess all knowledge? Certainly not because the bible is quite clear that even in his earthly life the Christ knew all things (John 16:30; 21:17). If Christ truly did not possess omniscience (instead of merely limiting himself from accessing the knowledge he has always had) then how at all could he be said to know all things? Moreover, what are we to make of the following where Christ quite clearly claims to know the time of the parousia?

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. […] 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” — Revelation 22:12-13 & 16 NIV

In light of the above, can the author’s argument at all be maintained? If the Christ did not possess omniscience, then what are we to make of the instances where it is said that he does indeed possess omniscience? If the Christ truly had no idea of when he would return, how then could he give his disciple a time-frame for when he would return (i.e. “Look, I am coming soon!”)? Let us once again remember the words of Aristotle—the truth is that which is able to harmonize all of the evidence.

God is Omnipotent. Jesus was subordinate. Hence, Jesus couldn’t be God! God is necessarily Omnipotent, fully capable of exercising whatever He so wills, for His power encircles everything and beyond. Whereas, human capability is in-essential, derivative and confined. […] Jesus[p] professing to just that declared: I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. [John 8:28] And he said: I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. [John 5:30] […] Jesus’ intention, power, judgment were by-product of God given ability, not by necessity of him-self, as a result; Jesus lacked omnipotence and disqualifies as the Deity. — 6sman (emphasis mine)

Once again the answer is that in his earthly life, Christ limited his free exercise of the divine prerogatives that were rightly his and instead relied solely on his Father. As the Bible declares, “he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself.” Once again, we must always interact with all the evidence and when we do so, we find again that the author of the article in question is thoroughly mistaken. Case in point, God’s word is replete with statements which explicitly declare that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, created all things (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-17, 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:1-3). If Jesus Christ created everything in existence then we can be sure that he is omnipotent because it is only an omnipotent being that can create ex nihilo. Moreover, it is somewhat disingenuous to claim that the Bible portrays Christ as being but a man when one is quoting from a gospel which starts off like this:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. […] 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:1-4 & 14 NIV

The Christian claim has always been that Christ is both God and man. This is why one is able to find passages to the effect that Christ quite clearly is a man and yet at the same time find passages which declare that Christ is in fact the One true God Himself. Notice that the opponent of the Christian cannot make sense of these passages where Christ is quite clearly presented as God and as such has to pretend to both himself and his audience that these do not exist in order for his argument to at all work. Yet this is faulty argumentation and even worse, dishonest. It is only the Christian position which can make sense of everything the Bible says concerning Christ and this has been—and continues to be—seen throughout this response to 6sman’s article.

God is Absolute Holiness. Jesus was susceptible. Therefore, Jesus couldn’t be God. Never have I put forward the narrative of Jesus’ satanic temptation sin the wilderness, except that I find Christians tracing their footsteps. In the synoptic Gospels we read: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you”, he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God,and serve him only.’ “[Mat 4:8-9] Temptation itself is antonym to Divinity, the Bible states so: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. [James 1:13-14] — 6sman (emphasis mine)

I have seen the above argument before and as the reader can probably surmise, it once again relies on ignoring those things which clearly contradict the author’s claims. I won’t go into a discussion on it here because I have already soundly refuted it within this response to a comment posted by someone else on the same subject. Once again, one ought to note the consistency of my argument and how it accounts for all the data while the Muslim argument invariably does not.

Jesus was mortal. God is Immortal. Therefore, God cannot be Jesus! […] And so a Christian can say: God (Jesus) died for me on the cross, but wait a minute: God, being Immortal and ever-living, cannot die! If it si [sic] said that only the human part of Jesus [p] died then where’s the great sacrifice? […] Either Jesus[p] wasn’t God (since he died), or he never actually die [sic]. — Ibid. (emphasis mine)
The above is also easily refuted when one understands that death happens to the body. Death is not the cessation of existence, it is merely the end of our physical function and given that God as he is in himself is spirit, then the divine nature cannot experience death. This however, does not exempt God from being able to assume a physical body and allowing it to experience death as all humans do. The great sacrifice comes from the fact that it is in virtue of God’s infinite worth that even the body he assumes becomes of infinite worth and if such a body (or in our particular case, the whole person) was brought forth as the payment for our sin then it only follows that this payment would be of infinite worth as well. The claim that Christ cannot be God because God is immortal and Christ admittedly died (and was resurrected) shows an acute misunderstanding of the Christian claim. We do not say that the divine nature experienced death but rather only the human nature—as such, the being of God never died yet nevertheless the God-man truly did die. Counter-intuitive perhaps but certainly not contradictory to reason (for more on the dual-nature of Christ see here). Clearly the author’s argument is based on a confusion wherein he supposes that the properties of one nature are necessarily communicated to the other and such is not the case. In fact, even humans are both mortal and immortal—the body dies but the soul exists forever. As such, the properties of the soul (immortality) is not transferred to that of the body (hence why the body is mortal).
In light of everything that has been said above, it is more than obvious that the Muslim position is based on a failing argument that cannot be sustained when all the facts are laid out on the table. Their position relies on a misuse of the Bible through quote-mining in order to make the Christian holy book say something that it clearly does not. That is deplorable and certainly calls into question one’s character.
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7 responses

  1. Pingback: Things I Love about Jesus « Jesus Carries Me

  2. Pingback: Christianity’s African Roots – Kingdom of Axum Ethiopia | Anna Renee is Still Talking

  3. Salam,

    I have written a response to your post, not as a rebuttal but as appreciation for considering and valuing my views. I hope you’ll consider it with an enlightened heart and pardon any impoliteness that may have slipped from my tongue in answering questions, even accusations you raised.

    Your brother, 6sman.

    http://wp.me/p1kG44-3N

    June 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    • Thanks for the comment. I will take a look at it soon and most likely write a final response.

      God bless,

      methodus.

      June 28, 2011 at 4:37 PM

  4. Pingback: In Response to ‘Does the Bible Teach the Divinity of Christ?’ « 6sman

  5. Pingback: Why does God allow suffering?

  6. Pingback: Talking About Logic « God Omnipotent

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