“Who Do You Say That I Am?”: A Question We Must Get Right!

By Allan Turner

It is from Jesus’ birth that most of the human race dates its calendars. For the past 2000 years, He has been the central personality of history. It is with His name that millions curse and in His name millions pray. Consequently, Jesus’ “Who do you say that I am?” question is undoubtedly the most important question in all the world. Was He, as many say, just a man, albeit a very good man, or is He, as the Bible teaches, God incarnate? It is to this question that we now turn our attention.

If Jesus is not just a man, but is also God, as we normally understand the ascription, and one either refuses or fails to recognize Him as such, then such a refusal or failure constitutes either apostasy or unbelief and places one under the condemnation of John 8:23 and 24, where Jesus grounded one’s eternal destiny on a proper view of who He is.

What The Theologians Are Saying

With this in mind, it is interesting to note what Dr. Robert L. Reymond, a systematic theologian of the Reformed persuasion, had to say in his new book, Jesus, Divine Messiah:

Today, one can find evidence virtually everywhere on every continent, in both Protestant and Roman Catholic circles—that the theologically “in thing” is to contend for a Jesus who was only man by nature and for a Bible that is virtually silent regarding the classical incarnational Christology of a two-natured Christ—true God and true man in the one person of Jesus [of Nazareth] (1990, page 2).

For New Testament Christians, it should not be surprising that false teachers are toying with a theology that so clearly identifies them as antichrists (cf. I John 2:18-22;4:3). Jesus Himself plainly taught that false teachers would be known by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20).

What The Bible Says

But, being neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic, and for the most part being unencumbered by the think-sos of modern theology, New Testament Christians have understood that the Son of God is God in the same sense that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are God. By God, we mean all the divine characteristics and attributes that make God God. When the Son of God or Divine Logos took upon Himself flesh (John 1:14) or, as the Bible says elsewhere, came in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:8) or was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), He did not give up His Divine nature in exchange for human nature. Within the man Jesus dwells (then and now) all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). From a scriptural standpoint, it is quite correct to say that the historical Jesus is never understood apart from His meaning as the very embodiment of the eternal God in time and space. The religion we practice is validated by the incarnation and sacrificial death of none other than God’s own Son.

What Some Theologians Among Us Are Saying

Unfortunately, the “in thing” among Protestants and Roman Catholics is now being espoused by those who would identify themselves as New Testament Christians. The vain surmisings of the so-called “process” and “kenotic” theologians are currently being touted by those among us who teach and defend the blasphemous and heretical idea that Jesus was “a man, just a man,” “an ordinary man like you and me.” These write:

Jesus, prior to his birth could adequately be described as equal with God. He divested himself of the glory, honor, divinity, godhood and became subject to the Father as a man. Whatever qualities and characteristics had been his as divine were foregone. Whatever privileges and powers there might have been were stripped from him. He was a man.

If we can be allowed to sum up the teaching of the kenotic theologians among us, they teach:

The person who was, is, and always will be the Son of God had a divine nature, which he gave up to become human. Because he was the son of his Father he could still be described as the Son of God, but he had become in full point of fact a man. This is to say, the one who became human was the person who had possessed the divine nature. He emptied himself of his divine nature and exchanged it for human nature. Whatever qualities and characteristics had been his as divine were foregone. While here on this earth, the Son of God did not have two natures—one human, the other divine—but had only one nature, which was human. While here on this earth, the Son of God was still God, but God emptied of all his attributes and characteristics. In other words, the Creator became a creature, that is, a man, just a man, an ordinary man, a regular guy like you and me.

As we have already pointed out, such a view of Jesus is contrary to Colossians 2:9, which conclusively teaches that, in the incarnation, the Son of God did not change in His divine nature or essential deity. The Son of God did not divest Himself of His godhood, divinity, or deity, either wholly or in part—such would be ontologically impossible. If God is His attributes and characteristics, then He cannot divest these without ceasing to be God.

Redefining Terms

Although he does not like to admit it, the kenoticist does not always use the ascriptions God, Godhood, Divinity, and Deity the way they have been traditionally understood. Actually, he uses these terms two different ways. According to him, they refer to the “person” of God, (1) with His divine nature or (2) without His divine nature. When accused of not believing in the Deity of Jesus while He was here on this earth (the way “Deity” has been scripturally and traditionally understood, i.e., “all the fullness of the Godhead”), the kenoticist equivocates on his usage of “Deity,” which he has used to mean the “person” of God divested of all His Divine qualities and characteristics, and cries: “I state unequivocally, here and now, that I do believe in the deity of Jesus before, during, and after his period of time on earth.” But, we rightfully ask, what kind of Deity does Jesus have: (1) Deity “stripped” of Godhood and Divinity or (2) Deity invested with Godhood and Divinity? Jesus simply cannot be both of these at the same time, and He certainly cannot be the former—which entails a radical redefining of the term “Deity” to mean the exact opposite of what it has always meant—without ceasing to be God. Therefore, controversy over the Deity of Jesus is no tempest in a teapot, as some claim.

More Theological Mumbo-Jumbo

According to Bruce Demarest, Professor of Systematic Theology at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, “A fundamental tenet of process theology is that the classical two-natures doctrine of Christ presupposes concepts that are out-dated, absurd, and irrelevant to modern minds” (“The Process Reduction of Jesus and the Trinity,” in Ronald H. Nash (ed), Process Theology, 1987, page 67). This is true, we are told, “for the reason that two entities (such as God and man) cannot occupy the same space at the same time” (Ibid.). Thus, it is interesting to note that some among us have called “silly” the idea that Jesus was fully God and fully human at the same time. Such is absolutely absurd, we are told, and would make Jesus a “200% something” and “there is no such creature.” In their writings they have said:

By what process can Jesus be said to be both divine and human at once? Was he a mixed breed—half-human and half-divine? Was he as one man said 100% human and 100% divine at the same time? Was he a monstrosity at birth possessing all the knowledge and power of the universe in the body of a baby? Was he superman as the modernists claim?

We think it’s about time that the theologians among us, whether kenoticists or processians, quit genuflecting to the think-sos of modern-day theology and return to the objective standard of God’s Word. Without such repentance, they, and those who hear them, will be eternally lost.

Controversy Is Necessary

We are disturbed by the fact that those who have stood against the heresy of the kenoticists and processians continue to be maligned as “mean spirited” cranks. This was, and is, in most cases, simply not so. But, we must never forget that Jesus Himself was a controversialist, and was surely perceived by some of His day as being too hard (cf. John 6:60-69). Of course, Jesus was a controversialist not because He received some kind of perverted joy from stirring up controversy for controversy’s sake—rather, He engaged in controversy for truth’s sake. He was not afraid to dissent publicly from doctrines He knew to be wrong, to expose error, and to warn His disciples of false teachers (Matthew 7:15-20; Mark 13:5,6,21-23; Luke 12:1). Can we, as followers of Christ, do any less?

Furthermore, Jesus was extremely outspoken in His language. He pulled no punches, calling those who opposed the truth “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14; 23:16,19,24,26), “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44), and even a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:23; 23:33). Realizing that we are not omniscient, we know that we, unlike Jesus, cannot judge a man’s heart. Nevertheless, entrusted, as we are, with the Oracles of God, can we not identify false doctrine and those who teach it? Have we become so enamored with “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10b) that we will no longer “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6: 11)? Have we become so positive in our thinking that we will no longer “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3)? In our efforts to be considered “nice,” will we totally disregard the context of “contend earnestly,” which says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who...deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4)?

Contrary to what 21st century, middle-class churchianity teaches, Jesus never taught us to be “nice to one another,” with all the ramifications of this modern-day expression. Rather, what He commands us to do is love Jehovah with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Love for God and our neighbor requires us to earnestly contend for “the Truth” (John 8:32) without misrepresenting or demonizing the one in error. Consequently, even though middle-class churchianity does not think “contending” for truth is very “nice,” New Testament Christians are going to do it anyway.

We are at war. The battles raging about us are real. Our duty is to serve the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 10:2). The only offensive weapon we have at our disposal is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). If we are ignorant of this Word, then we cannot effectively wield the sword, and we will eventually be subverted and overrun by the kenotic and process theologians, as well as the other spiritual barbarians lurking among us.

(Allan Turner is a preacher, writer, editor who lives in Corinth, MS. He has his own web site located at http://allanturner.com and is the editor of this on-line magazine. You can write him at allan@allanturner.com.)

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