1.22.2010

When Did Jesus Speak As The Father?


Recently I was asked, "When did Jesus speak as the Father." Of course this question was driving at problematic use of terms in Oneness theology which says that Jesus is the Father. I avoid saying that in an equivocal sense because it does not seem logical or coherent. To get to the question, however, I would say the deity of the Father was Incarnate in the Son (e.g. Heb. 1:1-3). Jesus even said the Father was in Him (John 14). John 3:34 also tells us that the one whom God has sent utters the words of God. I would say, in order of revelation, it is easier to find Him speaking as the Son of God, or Daniel's "son of man".

The deity and humanity of Christ was united inseparably, just as you or I cannot be separated from the genetic contributions of our parents without harm. Therefore isolating the properties of the Incarnation will further confound the complexity of the Union altogether. Trinitarians should readily admit this to be true from their perspective as well, especially concerning the properties of the divine persons of the Trinity.

I believe there is only one person of God, and that person was Incarnate in human nature (Heb. 1:1-3). As far as I have found, no other meaning is provided in the text of Scripture. Pronouns and prepositions do not necessitate the meaning of plural persons especially in the normal understanding of the term person. It does not demand that corporeal realities are present since that would violate monotheism. Special meaning is the only retort for Trinitarians here but this contradicts theology since when it is properly appropriated is meant to transmit a reasoned understanding of the study of God. The Trinity contradicts such an outcome.

The Incarnation is a wondrous work of the Divine yet it cannot be fully understood. There are some things such as the prayers of Christ that may never be satisfactorily explained by anyone (see Matt. 17:46 or John 17:5). In John 2:19 it is recorded of Christ that when his body or temple is destroyed "I" will raise it up. This is said in light of the Incarnation but it also shows Christ speaking with divine prerogative. Jesus is the One who is fully human and fully divine. Jesus also speaks as no mere man as he pronounces before Abraham was "I AM" (John 8:58). The "I" of John 2:19 cannot be separated from the same singular deity of the Father who was Incarnate in the Son of God through the virgin womb of Mary. Jesus was the visible image of the very being of God (Heb. 1:3) and his divine nature is identical to that of the Father. Every characteristic of the Father is also characteristic of Jesus, the Son. There is no distinction between the Father and Jesus except those produced by His humanity.

In the John 17:5 text we are not forced to conclude that communication there is only between two persons, especially in the traditional sense. The prayers of Christ are probably given to us as examples of Christ's life of obedience and humility. In this text the Father is not speaking. In this text Jesus is praying, as God manifest in flesh, to God whom He knew was also somewhere other than Himself. This can only happen by the miracle of the Incarnation. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). If so, then God was in Christ as He prayed. This does not mean that Jesus prayed to a different divine person who is also God but as a man "approved" by God praying to God before His disciples. This is something Christians do to this day. God is inside of us yet we pray upward to Him as well. Jesus cannot be our perfect sacrifice if he was not human in every way. This means that Jesus had to pray (Ps. 65:2).

13 comments:

Michael said...

Hello,

Nice to meet you. From my perspective, the existence of a subject-object relationship between the Father and Son proves to be one of many problem areas within Oneness theology. Especially in light of the fact that no Oneness writer has ever put forth a cogent and consistent explanation of how this relationship exists within a uni-personal God.

You divulged your unitarian assumption rather cleary when you stated "it does not demand that corporeal realities are present since that would violate monotheism." Let me ask you, who defines monotheism, the text, or the reader of the text? Where do you get the basis for monotheism, in the Old Testament, or in the superior revelation of the New Testament?

In regards to John 17:5, your assertions prove untenable both textually and logically. I have written about this, and I would like to invite you to my site: www.onenesspentecostal.net

Their you'll find articles dealing with communication between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and John 17:5.

Regards,
Michael

Also, perhaps you might enjoy reading the definition of Chalcedon 451, as it is the definitive statement on the historic understanding of the hypostatic union.

JN Anderson said...

Michael, thanks for your reply. It is nice to meet you as well. I read your reply and perused your website. Specifically your comments on John 17:5. I did not find the argument convincing and that it did not include anything concerning the actual communication between the Father and Son. Please give me a link.

It may be easier or more beneficial for us to look at one verse at a time. Esp. as it relates to the subject-object relationship you mentioned.

I also do not believe that Oneness theology is Unitarianism. We are not Unitarians, although we do reject the Trinity we do affirm His deity.

Michael said...

I have written an article about John 17:5 specifically entitled "A Response to the Oneness Interpretation of John 17:5." This article was not written for the purposes of dealing with the communication issue, but to refute the notion that John 17:5 does not prove a pre-incarnate, co-existing Son. If you feel that my argument in this article is not convincing, I'd like to hear why.


So far as communication, I have written an article entitled "An Examination and Refutation of Modal Communication."

This can all be found on the front page of the site; onenesspentecostal.net

JN Anderson said...

Michael, I read your article on Modal Communication. Well done and some very good information. I disagree however with your conclusions. I am not trying to be offensive, but you do have a website “dedicated” to refuting Oneness Pentecostalism. I have no problem with that but do wonder what your association is with Oneness, besides your desire to simply posit a view?

First, I do not believe Dulle is seeking the benefits of Trinitarianism but is trying to get Trinitarians, specifically, Protestant Trinitarians to evaluate their view. I suggest that they must fully break off from the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. You have not protested enough in my opinion.

Second, your view seems to be circular. It seems you have the Son, in some sense, also praying to the Son. The critique against Oneness then is many times a critique against Trinitarianism. You must begin with a Trinitarian hermeneutic to end up with Trinitarism as well IMHO. For example, 17:3 states:

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. NRSV

Note, that “and” or καί is a connective conjunction for “only true God” and “Jesus Christ”. It is my understanding of the Trinity that there is only One God in being but is made up of three persons. In this case of Trinitarianism you have the Incarnate Son praying to God, which is also Himself. Unless you demote the deity, no matter if it be functional or positional, this position is not tenable. A demotion of deity is a demotion of deity which is against the text of Scripture and vilifies the notion of co-equality amongst the Trinity. Any type of separation here seems to violate the interpenetration of the Trinity as well.

As Oneness I can find agreement with Alister McGrath, also a Trinitarian, in Studies in Doctrine:

In one sense, Jesus is God; in another, he isn’t. Thus Jesus is God incarnate-but he still prays to God, without giving the slightest indication that he is talking to himself! Jesus is not identical with God in that it is obvious that God continued to be in heaven during Jesus’ lifetime, and yet Jesus may be identified with God in that the New Testament has no hesitation in ascribing functions to Jesus which, properly speaking, only God could do.

You also note, “The love between the Father and Son would consist of one person loving his incarnate self; a situation that is not even close to what is written in sacred scripture.”

You are characterizing Oneness based upon your interpretation of its teachings with which I disagree. Oneness teaches that the Father became Incarnate and that human existence is the Son of God who is resurrected and has taken on a glorified body and will be the One who is seated upon the Throne in Glory. The express image, to humanity, of the person of God, in a visible means that corresponds to how he has created us—an image creation.

Michael said...

Hello again,

Let me first say that I love this kind of dialogue; where two people who take the text seriously can speak frankly about these issues without getting harsh or personal. Thanks!

The Reformation never dealt with the doctrine of God in it's most essential sense. The Reformation existed to restore the biblical gospel, the doctrines of justification and sanctification, and I might add, the doctrines of grace. The doctrine of the Trinity is one that is founded solely in the text and is supported by the vast majority of patristic writings. It is not a Roman doctrine, as Peterinal supremacy and the Roman surge had not overtaken the church in total when the doctrine was identified and systematized in response to the attack of heretics. I contend that it is a Christian doctrine, even as the doctrine of justification by faith alone is a Christian doctrine.

You stated "It seems you have the Son, in some sense, also praying to the Son."

There is not a distinction within the Son in Trintarianism. The same Son who is fully human is also fully God. Therefore, it would be an impossibility for Him to authentically pray to Himself. (Check out the Chalcedon Definition of 451AD.) Whereas men like Dulle and Bernard tend to assert the opposite. The normative usage for the title "God" is used for the person of the Father in the New Testament (John 10:36, 13:3, 16:27, 20:17,Rom 1:7,15:6, 1Cor 1:3, 8:6, 15:24, 2Cor 12-3, etc). It is also important to recognize the economic subordination of the Son in light of the incarnation (Phil 2:5-11).I have also written more about this in the article "Why You Ought to be a Trinitarian" and in my exegesis of Phil 2:5-8. Particularly in the former, I address that issue in detail.

You stated "Oneness teaches that the Father became Incarnate and that human existence is the Son of God who is resurrected and has taken on a glorified body and will be the One who is seated upon the Throne in Glory."

This I think this is a great error. It was the Word that became flesh, not the Father. The Father, should He have become flesh, would not be the Son but the Father. Your assumption presumes that the addition of a human being to the person of the Father constitutes a change in personage; the human Son. This both violates God's immutability and reduces the relationship and distinction held throughout the text into a shell game. The addition of a human nature to the Son would not constitute a change in the being of God, but the addition of a being to the person of the Son.

Michael said...

Oh, my association with Oneness Pentecostalism;

A number of years ago I began working with a Oneness minister. I was ignorant of his beliefs so far as the doctrine of God for quite some time. One day, I was witnessing to a JW, albeit badly. This co-worker of mine was present, and I figured that since he was a believer, and since he was older than I, he might help me convince this JW of the doctrine of the Trinity. Needless to say, that day he informed me of his beliefs. At the time, I was an unequiped, uneducated Christian. He and I began a years long dialogue, and I have since become intimately familiar with both my faith and his. This relationship caused at times a crisis of faith in my life. I had the choice to believe his superior arguments and abandon my tradition or examine the scriptures and see what they taught about these issues. My knowledge of Oneness is born out of that relationship, although it has grown into a full on, in depth study of the movement and it's doctrines. I have become completely convinced of the biblical neccessity for the doctrine of the Trinity after years of studying the text. I believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be the only doctrine that satisfies the totality of the scriptures. The website is an ongoing extension of that.

Personally, I believe very much so in the absolute sovereignty of God. I believe one of the many reasons God allows heretical teachings to exist on His earth is to sharpen His people and to provide His people one more way to regard the Lord Jesus as holy.

How did you become Oneness, or was it your tradition to begin with?

JN Anderson said...

If the Son, then, is “fully God” it seems you have, in Trinitarian terms, God the Son praying to God, which also includes the Son. I do believe that the deity of the Son pre-existed but not the begotten Son. Eternal Son is not coherent IMHO and even some Trinitarians, such as the late Walter Martin, agreed. The only way to solve this issue is to yield to subordination in some sense, e.g. functionally or positionally, ontologically or economically.

I believe that the distinction between the Father and Son exists by the Incarnation. The idea or terminological usage of “ontological” or “economical” trinity is only found in the 1900’s. In my opinion, it was created, as a conceptual tool, to respond to the criticisms by Unitarians or criticisms of the Trinity. For example, as I have been pointing out there is subordination in the Trinity, although not of the Arian flavor. The “ontological” and “economical” language is used to gloss over this distinction seemingly since it is in the economic Trinity, alone, that subordination is supposed to extend. However, how do we know there are two such forms of the Trinity? If we are going to use the ontological Trinity to make statements about the economic Trinity then we should be able to make statements about the economic Trinity using our understanding of the ontological Trinity. In this case, either Jesus is subordinate or not and I don’t believe you can have it both ways.

In fact, usage of the ontological and economic Trinity language is used to soften the blow of subordination, not of the Arian type of course. For example, when Jesus prayed was this only for the sake of his flesh? If so, then what does this say about his eternal nature? Nothing, it is lost in the supposed economical Trinity. The distinctions we make in the economic Trinity should logically follow to those of the ontological Trinity. I do not believe there can be any subordination of Jesus no matter if it is in essence or position.

You also say that “the Word” is what “became flesh, not the Father.” Is the “Word” then distinct from the Father? Separate? If so, where do we actually see this idea in the text of Scripture?

As Oneness we do believe that one God existed as Father, Word, and Holy Spirit before the Incarnation. The distinction arose in the Incarnation of the Son of God. For Oneness, Jesus is the Incarnation of the undivided Godhead and for Trinitarians it is one of the three persons who has become Incarnate. This understanding must appeal to some sort of new revelation since the OT usage of God is stated without mention of the Trinity. Therefore, the word “God” when used in the NT is done so with the OT definition in mind. Especially John since he was a Hebrew.

Four chapters earlier we read:

Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. NRSV


It is apparent then that receiving the Holy Spirit is equivalent to receiving all three. In John 17:6 we go on to see that the Father was revealed to the world in the name of Jesus. In Matthew’s account, the Son of God was also given the name of Jesus (Matthew 1:21). Even more, John informs us that the Holy Spirit, which Oneness sees as God in spiritual action, comes to believers in the name of Jesus (John 14:26).

I do not believe God’s immutability is violated either. The distinction, by way of the Incarnation, is existential. The deity of God, His metaphysical essence, never changes since Jesus was fully God and impeccable. I do not feel there is any violation of immutability since the existence changes, but not His deity.

Thanks for the discussion Michael. It has been penetrating to say the least. I look forward to your replies.

JN Anderson said...

I think your story is interesting. Thanks for sharing. I was raised in the UPCI. My father became a Home Missionary when I was 10 years old. My mom was Catholic and my father was Baptist. I am not licensed with the UPCI but do believe in its major doctrinal tenets such as the Oneness of God and the New Birth. I went to a Oneness bible college (JCM) but later decided to understand both sides and attended Liberty University for 4 years. During that time I have turned my faith upside down and right side up. Some things did not stick and others did. I plan to pursue graduate studies soon.

I have had some experience with witnessing to JW’s too. I enjoy discussing the nature of God with them. Especially the deity of Christ.

Michael said...

You stated "God the Son praying to God, which also includes the Son."

The person of the Son possesses two natures; divine/eternal, and human. These two natures belong to the one person of the Son. There is not a dichotomy between these two natures; for both belong to one (1) person. The person of the Son transcendent is the same person of the Son created incarnate. It is not as though the one person of the Son can communicate from one nature to another, as they are one person, not two. To understand the prayers of the divine Son, we must understand the nature of the Son's redemptive role. A solid examination of Philippians 2:5-11, the prologue of John (among other texts) is a must. The pattern presented to us is this; co-equal co-existence with the Father, voluntary humilation in the incarnation, atonement/fulfillment of purpose, resurrection/ascension, and finally exaltation. The humilation carried with it a temporal subordination, albeit volitionally undertaken by the Son. It was the Son who submitted Himself to the redemptive will of the Father.The Son's humilation had within it a voluntary veiling of divine perogatives, not a full kenosis. This subordination being temporal, in conjunction with the genuine humanity of the Son merits a Son who depends upon His Father in prayer. Although, during this humilation, it was the Son who upheld the universe by the word of His power.

Dr. Martin did not believe in eternal Sonship in the sense of the pre-incarnate existence of the Father-Son relationship. He believed that the Son did in fact exist, but only as the co-equal second person of the Trinity. This view is by far a minority within Trinitarianism, and is relatively easily refuted. I should also note that Dr. John Macarthur held a similar view some time ago, but has abandoned it in favor of eternal Sonship. But, perhaps a topic for another day.

You stated " Is the “Word” then distinct from the Father? Separate? If so, where do we actually see this idea in the text of Scripture?"

The Word is indeed distinct from the Father. There is nothing separate in the Trinity, only a eternal distinction in personages. The Trinity is the epitome of unity and harmony. I see a very obvious distinction between the person of the Word and the Father in John 1:1-2/14, among other texts.

Michael said...

You stated "This understanding must appeal to some sort of new revelation since the OT usage of God is stated without mention of the Trinity. Therefore, the word “God” when used in the NT is done so with the OT definition in mind."

You have failed to recognize the doctrine of progressive revelation. We do not read the OT absent of the fuller revelation found in the NT. We read the OT as Christians, (using the Historical-Grammatical method of course) we do not impose assumptions made from a Judaic understanding of the text of the OT onto the NT. It is the NT that refines and defines what is meant by the many monotheistic decrees of the OT. For example, the Apostle pulls directly from the Shema when he states in 1Cor 8:6 "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
The correlative equivocation being the title LORD and Lord is evident. The greater more clear revelation is the NT, as it testifies the nature of God perfectly and fully. The OT is a lesser revelation in that it does not disclose the nature of God in total. Why? Simply because of the existence of the NT, we must assume that God's revelation of Himself by His Son must take presedence.

You appeal to the "name of Jesus" fails to understand the semantical range of the word "name." Name in this sense means, authority, positional power, etc. For instance, if I was to say, "stop in the name of the law," you would not take that in a wooden literal sense. Why do so here? Matt 1:21 is a birth narrative, whereas the Name your appealing to is actuall Lord. It is the name Lord that is the name above all names. Not the name Jesus. The Spirit came testifying the truth of Jesus, and as it is written He procedes from the Father on behalf of the Son. Therefore, as the Spirit of truth ("I am the Way,the Truth, the Light" John 14:1) comes, He does indeed come in the name of Jesus, but not in the wooden sense you intend.

The issue of immutability gets complicated quick, as it relies heavily upon philosophical pre-suppositions that have a tendency in my experience, to unpack rather roughly.

JN Anderson said...

Michael, thanks for the penetrating dialogue. This is useful to us and for those reading. I think we agree in many areas here.

For example, I reject a Nestorius Christ as well. My point in saying what I did was to point out the fact that the Trinitarian criticism of the Oneness view here can indeed be applied in reverse.

We do not believe the Son is praying to the Son either. We believe Son is praying to the Father. Jesus is distinct from the Father, not separate as you affirm, in Oneness theology because of the Incarnation.

Therefore, the communication here is valid. Communication is also not limited between tat of two persons either. The comments by Hawthorne in my original post demonstrate this.

The problem I have here though is that the “temporal subordination” cannot, for some reason, be applied to the ontological Trinity. Else what use are the prayers of Christ? Purely symbolic? The distinctions one can make in the economic Trinity should logically follow to those of the ontological Trinity. I do not believe there can be any subordination of Jesus no matter if it is temporal or non-temporal. Indeed the very deity of Christ, which I would say is from the Father, is from an atemporal standpoint.

You stated that there is a very “obvious distinction” between the Word and the Father in John. Can you pick a particular verse because I believe this is an argument from silence. I find that the Word was “with” God and “was” God. An interpretation of “face to face” must first presuppose that person(s) are indeed asserted in the passage to begin with and I reject this notion.

You also mentioned progressive revelation. Most scholars, such as McGrath, Metzger, or Comfort suggest that the Trinity is a progressive revelation but that it is not even clearly found in the NT. It is something that developed in a post-Apostolic era and is therefore a dogma in my opinion. I do agree with progressive revelation to some degree but I do not agree that it radically alters former revelation, especially to the degree that the Trinitarian construction implies. The implications of the Trinity, IMHO, violate monotheism. Even the early believers during the time of Tertullian felt the same, and they were the majority where he was at the least.

Do you see the “one God” in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as a reference to the Shema? Also, if "Lord" is a reference to YHWH then Jesus is that One YHWH. I do not see this text as a Trinitarian proof text. You used this text to refer to a distinction. If "God" in this verse refers to the Father (I believe it does) who would then be "distinct" from Jesus, then it appears there is two Gods since the initial reference to God is to the Father and Lord to Jesus.

Michael said...

JN,

I do not believe there is anything "separate" within in the Godhead as you suggested. The distinction between the Father and Son is personal and relational.

Secondly, regarding the issue of communication; whether or not you reject the idea of the two natures communicating is not the issue. Both Nestorian and the modal communication theory possess the same fundamental flaw. The distinction you affirm between the Father and Son is a distinction between the transcendent existence of one person and the existence of His incarnate self. See the problem? The communication is still dependent on ONE person. Subject-object communication and relationship require two persons by definition. Not to mention what Paul states about the blessed Spirit in Rom 8. I have already addressed this in article you read in detail. . .

Your statements about the temporal subordination of the Son need to be teathered to a text. This doctrine is one that I am prepared with text in hand, to defend; Phil 2:5-11, the prologue of John, among various other texts. Let me emphasize, I am not arguing for a full kenosis or a divestment of any divine attributes. But, instead the temporal veiling of those attributes along with a submission to the Father, undertaking voluntarily by the Son.

So far as John 1:1: you can read my exegesis at the website, there I lay out a refutation in detail. I pay particular attention to the third clause, where I do believe modalism is completely ruled out.

The Trinity is a doctrine that is soley founded in the text. However, as with most all of the doctrines of the Christian faith, the church identified and systematized the doctrine over time.

Progressive revelation in the reformed sense, does not deal with extra-biblical revelation, but the nature of biblical revelation. I wrote a couple of articles about that too, where I address this very issue.

JN Anderson said...

Michael, earlier you said:

"no Oneness writer has ever put forth a cogent and consistent explanation of how this relationship exists within a uni-personal God."

I think your argument will end up being circular. At least I think you are attempting a criticism here that could be stated about the properties of the persons of the Trinity? In fact, do you actually believe the Trinity can be perceived rationally?

Adversus Trinitas

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