Musings on Christology

J.R. Ensey, a Oneness theologian, has defined Christology as
“The doctrine of, or concerning, Christ; all that relates to the history, the person, and the work of Jesus Christ; the study of how Jesus relates to the Godhead and how the Godhead features his eternality, his earthly Sonship, and His position as both the Prince of Peace and the Mighty God, simultaneously the promised Son and the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).”[1]
Christology[3] is a subcategory in theology that pertains more specifically to God as Jesus Christ as opposed to Yahweh or any other personal name of the one God. The term pre-existence should refer to, specifically, the metaphysics[2] of Jesus or God pre-existent to the Incarnation.

A “disjuncture of ‘Christology’ and ‘theology’ ”[4] has been observed among contemporary scholarship before—and more often since—the Coptic Gnostic library was found in Nag Hammadi in the middle 1940s. Since that discovery, a plethora of divergent theological and Christological thought have re-emerged, mostly thoughts that deny Christ’s absolute deity. A dividing of God and Jesus is a part of postmodern relativism that seeks to dilute the supremacy of Christ, thereby making God non-inclusive to the biblical texts. Oddly enough, Trinitarian epistemology[5] has produced dogma that articulates this position as well, only more delicately. Christ as a demiurge, a prophet, or a divine second person who vacillates to subordination, even in function, is simply another Jesus.

Around 1926, Frank Bartleman, a Oneness writer, penned these apt words:

“Some one has truthfully said, ‘The infinite truth of the Godhead lies far beyond the boundaries of logic, which deals only with finite truths and categories.’ But [Bartleman continued] the revelation of it is ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’ ”[6]
Of course, ‘in the face of Jesus Christ’ is a metaphor to Oneness beleivers, describing the fact that Jesus was the appearance or image of God to man, because “only through Christ can the full light of God’s glory become known.”[7] Most of conservative Christianity has no problem with Bartleman’s statements until we proclaim the supremacy of Christ, in God the Father's self-revelation, and the nature of His pre-existence.

The ever-developing Trinitarian doctrine asserts that Jesus pre-existed as the divine eternal second person before His Incarnation. Often, Oneness believers ignore the issue or are uninformed as to how Jesus actually pre-existed before the Incarnation and ultimately the Creation. However, Oneness theology does affirm pre-existence. Pre-existence from a Oneness perspective is that Jesus did pre-exist the Incarnation, but as God Himself and not as an eternal second person. Jesus is the single person of God that became man, the expression by which the eternal God has reconciled humanity (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:19) to Himself.

It is possible to argue away this fundamental issue, due to unfamiliarity or awkwardness of ‘pre-existence.’ Many are simply unprepared to questions about pre-existence and the God-man.

James White, a Trinitarian apologist, critical consultant for the New American Standard Bible Update (1995), and longtime antagonist of the Oneness movement, confirms the mutual urgency of understanding the pre-existence of Christ:

“One cannot easily disassociate the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ from that of his deity, as they are part and parcel of the same teaching.”[8]

The scholastic world is experiencing a shift or at the very least a ‘tug of war’ concerning Jesus and God. To Oneness believers Jesus and God are almost simultaneous terms, and is used often interchangeably. However, Marianne Thompson, noted author and professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, sees the ambivalence of scholars concerning Christ’s supremacy and states, “ . . . those who confess that ‘Jesus is God’ (usually) do not intend to posit an equivalence between ‘Jesus’ and God,’ where ‘God’ designates the one and only God, Israel’s God.”[9]
Meztger and Coogan confirm Thompson’s assertion:

“When we call Jesus God, it must be carefully nuanced: Jesus is not all that God is. He is the incarnation of that aspect of the divine being which is God going forth from himself in reactive, revelatory, and saving activity. In terms of later dogma, he is the incarnation of the Second, not of the First, person of the Trinity.”[10]
Therefore, it is crucial that we be sound and explicit in the area of pre-incarnation existence, for on it rises or falls one of two schools of thought—the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine of the Oneness of God. When the Oneness position is shown to be paramount, then we can say with the early Quaker[11] William Penn, “they [trinitarians] must necessarily conclude their kind of trinity a fiction.”[12]

[1] Ensey, J.R. The New Cyclopedic Theological Dictionary. Copyright © 1997 by Advance Ministries
[2] Metaphysics is used here in the supernaturalist view to refer to transcendent reality, i.e. reality of existence beyond the physical world.
[3] Christology, an epithet for Jesus, can specifically refer to the time when Jesus became Christ, i.e. the Messiah or the Anointed One.
[4] Thompson, Marianne Meye – The God of the Gospel of John – Eerdmans Pub. Copyright © 2001 pg. 4
[5] Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the study of knowledge.
[6] Bartleman, Frank – The Deity of Christ, What Think Ye of Christ? Is He God or Man?, L.A. California 1926 – Chapter One, paragraph 15
[7]Elwell, W. A. (1996, c1989). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. (electronic ed.) (2 Co 3:6). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[8] White, James—"The Pre-existence of Christ: In Scripture, Patristics and Creed"http://aomin.org/The_Pre_Existence_of_Christ.html
[9] Thompson, M.M.
[10] Metzger, Bruce M., Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Companion to the Bible – Oxford University Press © 1993 pg. 363
[11] “nearly half of all Quakers are Evangelicals” Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson's new Christian dictionary: The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs.
[12] Penn, William—The Sandy Foundation Shaken, paragraph 2 - http://www.abc-coggc.org/COGGC/gcpublications/jrad/JRAD%202-3-2.htm


brian said...

The more I learn of what Trinitarians believe the more confusing the Trinity seems to me. Scripture does not support this false doctrine! Unfortunately, most don't search it out--or we would have alot more converts to Oneness!

JN Anderson said...

Brian, I agree. Unfortunately alot of people do not diligently search the Scriptures, for themselves. Trinitarianism is a dogma that hinders many, many Jewish and Muslim people from accepting Christian monotheism (i.e. Oneness of God).

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)