Neither gods nor dogs

What is the nature of human nature? What are we intended to be…. and to do? The Feast of the Incarnation, when the Son of God took on human flesh is the perfect time for a meditation on this very subject. Professor K. Scott was giving a chapel address at Asbury last month, and he was stressing that God created our world in such a fashion that we might grow up and grow into our true humanity, like Jesus himself who, according to Lk. 2.52 ‘grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and human beings’. Scott went on to say that all too often when we compare ourselves to Jesus we immediately become frustrated and despair precisely because the disparity between God and humankind is so great. How could we imitate God, after all.

Think for a moment of a stereotype contrast between your own day and a day in the life of Jesus. Jesus rises early and prays for four hours. I get up, wash my face and make the coffee. Jesus heals two people before breakfast, I put on my robe and read the morning paper online. You get the sense of it, and it leaves the average Christian thinking that such comparisons are inherently self-defeating. If Jesus is the model of true humanity, then I shall never be truly human. End of story. We are our own worse enemies (see the Pogo cartoon above). We are weak and vulnerable and constantly fail at things. Why not just one more failure at being truly human? Comparing us to Jesus just ratchets up the sense of inevitable failure.

As it turns out however, this is not quite the way to think about this topic. First we must ask ourselves how we were created, and the answer is we were created to be neither gods (sorry Mormons) nor dogs. We were created to be something in between. Neither the masters of our own fate nor the dogs who cringe at their master’s feet waiting to be led around on a leash. Now of course either of these images of ‘true humanity’ will have a certain appeal. If we are like gods, then we ‘can climb any mountain, ford any stream, follow any rainbow until we find our dream’. If we are inherently godlike then we can save ourselves, and what need would we have of the Incarnation, unless it be just an illustration of our own innate potential. The Bible of course flatly denies that this is the nature of true humanity. Indeed God himself is constantly saying things like ‘I am God and not a human being’ (Hos. 11.9). We need to listen to that credo. The key here is that we are called to be both truly human and Christ-like without developing a messiah or god complex. For as it turns out, we are called to emulate Christ’s true humanity, not his divinity.

Oddly enough in this world of high danger and terrorism and high uncertainty about what the future holds, there are all too many Christians who are prepared to trade in the heady prospect of being truly human for accepting that we are simply dogs on God’s leash. We need not make plans, we need not grow up, we simply need to allow ourselves to be led around by our higher power, our master. We are simply called to be perpetual infants in Christ, who need not worry about discerning or carrying out or growing into God’s will because, after all, God is in complete control from before the foundations of the universe and my will really has nothing to do with it. Of course this is a bit of a rhetorical exaggeration to make a point, but to the degree that it is true, to that same degree it prevents us from seeing what God intended for us to be, prevents us from being all we can be as truly human and never gods.

Interestingly enough, it is precisely when we abandon the high calling to be truly human and emulate Christ that we descend to being like lesser creatures like dogs barking at one another, viciously defending our own turf, attacking others who invade our space, devouring other people resources, urinating on other country’s lawns, and so on. It is not an accident that Daniel, when he envisions world empires other than the empire of the Son, the kingdom of God, calls them beastly, sub-human, self-centered, brutal, vicious, led by beasts with powerful and ugly horns on their heads. This also is not a vision of true humanity at all. It is ‘the one like a Son of Man’ who comes down from above and gives us a glimpse, however fleeting, of true humanity. So what does that look like?

First of all, we need to understand, that Incarnation means the Son of God deliberately took on human limitations of time, space, knowledge, power, and mortality in order to be truly and fully human. He did not renounce his divinity, but he did refuse to draw on his divine prerogatives— the omnis, as they are called— omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent etc. No, Incarnation means that while Jesus had access to the omnis, his great temptation as Lk. 4/Mt. 4 show was to push the God button and obliterate his true humanity, obliterate the limitations he assumed since conception. Notice that in the temptation in the wilderness Jesus does not say ‘I’m God, God can’t be tempted, ergo…. be gone Satan’. No, Jesus had real temptations to act in ways only the divine Son of God could act, and he resisted them. I’ve known a lot of persons who could turn bread into stones (ever been to a church potluck dinner?) but I’ve never met a sane person who was tempted to turn stones into bread and believed it was possible. Jesus resisted the Devil in the desert by using only the two resources we have to use— the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Jesus lived his whole human life drawing on those resources, the same two resources we as Christians have to use to live a godly life. Now we begin to get a glimpse of true humanity. Humans have God and his Word as a guide and an aid empowering and enlightening us, but God is not going to make all our decisions or live our lives for us. We must grow up. We must make free choices, and most of all we must relate to the God of love with love– freely, openly, and without pre-determination. True love, like true freedom, requires space, and a lack of predetermination. Otherwise, at the end of the day the inevitability of things is running the show, and we shall never be free, never truly love, never emulate Christ.

Here is a question you may have never considered? Did God pre-destine every move that Jesus made before he ever sent his Son to walk the earth? Did Jesus, as truly human and also truly divine, have the power of contrary choice? Could he have possibly sinned? That depends on how you envision the nature of God’s sovereignty and how it works, and how you envision the nature of true humanity and how that’s supposed to work. It depends on the depths of self-abnegation the Son underwent to become truly human, doesn’t it? If, as Paul suggests, Jesus was like Adam, only gone right, tempted like all of us in every respect, save without giving in to sin, what does that tell us? Did either the first or the last Adam have true freedom, the power of contrary choice, or were they led around on a leash called pre-determination? It is my view that God is love, as 1 John says, and that he has made us all with the capacity to truly love— freely, fully, and without predetermination. Indeed, were there predetermination, there could be no love as defined in the Bible itself. Being created in the image of God and renewed in the image of Christ means that God has gambled on our growing up and growing into true humanity where we become what we admire, we become Christ-like without becoming gods.

Becoming truly human requires space, time, a modicum of free choice so true love becomes possible. It means God has to allow us to fail, just as parents must do with their children if they ever hope for them to grow up, cut the apron strings, and become mature adults. The relationship of God with his human creatures has that same tension, that same delicate dance as the relationship between parents and their grown children. You can advise, but they must consent. You can urge, but they must feel the urge. You can cast a vision, but they must catch the vision. And if you cross the line and violate their growing maturity, violate their will, and they become co-dependent or decide they do not have to grow up, then you have stripped them of their potential of becoming truly human, all they are meant to be. Of course, there are extreme circumstances where that line has to be crossed as a lesser of two evils. When you have an adult child that is a cocaine addict, there has to be tough love, and sometimes even a violation of their immediate wills or urges. Of course that is true. But that is no model of how it ought to be, or how God always intended it, or how love should normally work. No indeed.

To be truly human means to understand we shall never be gods in our lives, nor should we degenerate into mere animals led around by our urges, needs, beastly instincts. It means to be something in between these extremes. It means to be like a Jesus who accepted all the natural limitations of being human without ever excepting the inevitability of sin. It means being like a Jesus who lived his life in constant communion with his Father, and by the Word of God, led by the Spirit of God. It means he, and we, never outgrow our need for God and his Word and his Spirit, but at the same time, we are on a journey towards Christ likeness, towards being Jesus friends, being his brothers and sisters, not merely his slaves. And this means we must grow into the way of making Christian adult choices. There are moments in Paul’s letters where he treats us that way, and says things like ‘let each be persuaded in their own minds’ (about the day of worship issue, for example). He says things like ‘evaluate your maturity level, and whatever you cannot do in good faith, is sin for you, even if it is not sin for a strong mature Christian’. Jesus and Paul call us to pursue true humanity, true maturity in Christ, and not view that as an impossible dream or an exercise in pure futility.

As it turns out, full conformity to the image of Christ does not mean we become gods. It means we partake of the true human nature of Christ in the spirit, but also by resurrection in the flesh when he returns. What does it mean to grow up in Christ, and to emulate his true humanity? Read again the Gospels including the birth narratives asking that question. Read again about a Mary who willingly and freely said to the angel ‘be it unto me as you have said, I am the handmaiden of the Lord’ and a Jesus who said ‘did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business?’ which is rapidly followed by the commendation that this very statement, and yet the paradoxical free choice to go home with and honor his parents showed that he was continuing to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and human beings. Figure out what that looks like for yourself, and then set yourself on a course to live into it. During this Christmas season perhaps instead of being like babes in toyland we might contemplate finally growing up in Christ. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

  • ScottW

    Prof. Witherington-
    Thank you for the wonderful piece! It is right on target in substance and emphasis but off target in title and a major premise: we were created to be gods. This was the center of soteriology of the early Church, it’s understanding of Theosis, from St. Irenaeus to St. Athanasius to St. Maximus the Confessor…(“God became man so that man might become a god.” (cf. St. Atanasius On the Incarnation 54:3). The problem is that we tend to have a non-Christian theology (doctrine of God). All the aforementioned Fathers understood that our Lord Jesus was the Incarnate Word of God and the Image of God, so to become a god is to be transformed into the image of Christ because as it says in Col 2:9, “For in him (Christ) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” ESV. St. Maximus the Confessor speaks of theosis having to do with growth of love, in Christ, of the believer. Essentially, this is in agreement with Pauline theology. This was our created destiny from the beginning in God’s economy as divine image bearers. In essence, what you wrote, in substance, is St. Irenaeus’ take on soteriology and Christian formation. Evangelicals in the Weslyan tradition cannot forget their indebtedness to the theological vision and doctrine of the Eastern Fathers through John Wesley.

  • Ben Witherington

    Actually Scott that would be heresy. It was the temptation of the Dark One, that ‘you shall be as gods’. Theosis, as a theology, is based on the singular passage in 2 Peter which refers to being partakers of the divine nature. This does not refer to divinization of human beings. It does not refer to being ontologically different as a result of being saved by Christ. The creator/creature distinction is neither obliterated nor blurred by salvation. Maximus the confessor is nearer the mark than the quote from Athanasius. And one more thing. The early church fathers had a variety of opinions on what you call theosis. There is no univocal endorsement from Irenaeus to Maximus on this subject, but rather a variety of interpretations and views. The chief problem with quoting a text like Col. 2.9 is the assumption that it refers to the humanity of Christ as well as his divinity. A better translation would be the whole presence of God dwells within him, fully. This is not about the divinization of his humanity. John Wesley did indeed engage with Ephrem of Syria on issues of sanctification, but he clearly enough repudiated the idea that ‘ye shall become as gods’. The discussion of being conformed to the image Christ, has to do with being conformed to his perfect humanity, not his divinity.

    Blessings,

    Ben W.

  • http://TruthWhys.com Dan Salter

    Love this article. Thanks much. Will pass it on to my Bible study.

  • Dan

    “… It was the temptation of the Dark One, that ‘you shall be as gods’. – - looks like Ben Witherington is writing his own scriptures… again not uncommon with many who claim ‘modern’ Christianity and make it their own…

    I have to agree with Scott, as well as many more other early Christian scholars and teachers than Scott mentioned, and is so plainly taught in the Bible. . . that mankind, as children of God we all are created in the image of God, just as our children are made in our image [in the Bible it states a son of Adam was made in his image using the same wording] : “…And God said Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)
    “…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…” (Genesis 1:27), and all are destined if they but do what is asked…

    “…The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, if so be that we suffer with him in the flesh that we may be also glorified together…” (Romans 8:16-17)

    “…To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne…” (Rev 3:21)

    And as divinity suggests, we will be different: “…Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood [note and understand it says "blood" and not "bone" - which is how Christ overcame death and was resurrected with a "glorified" and "incorruptible" body of 'flesh and bone'] cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all [it says "all"] be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, Death is Swallowed up in victory…” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)

    Yet we must keep this in mind. . . “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him…” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6)

  • Ben Witherington

    Well Dan there is a huge huge difference between being created in the image of God and being God! The question you have to ask is… in what way are humans created in God’s image, and how does this differentiate them from all other creatures? They are created beings, like all other creatures and therefore, certainly not like God who is eternal, omniscient etc. So again, in what way are we like God? Not ontologically, that’s clear enough. So are we all knowing? Nope. Are we omnipresent? Nope. Are we all powerful? Nope. Most conservative commentators on Genesis believe the text is referring to either: 1) our capacity for personal relationship with God, which other lower order creatures do not have, or 2) our ability to serve as mini-creators, or mini-rulers (‘fill the earth and subdue it’). Which ever you go with, it has nothing to do with us being, or being transformed into gods. Nothing at all.

    BW3

  • ScottW

    Prof Witherington-
    In your response it appears to me that you understand the doctrine of theosis as a form of apotheosis, which is not the case. It is not a breach of the Creator-creation divide; theosis means that, in Christ, believers truly participate in God’s life through his energies (not his essence)and are transformed by the Spirit of God. Theosis is the flip side of the Incarnation; through the divine humanity of the crucified and risen Christ God is bringing us into a Trinitarian embrace, so to speak. For the Fathers, it was the in the passion (the death on the Cross and Resurrection) where the revelation of God, namely Jesus’ divinity, is truly manifested, in concert with the Carmen Christi.

    Below is a an excerpt of a talk by Prof. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary on the revelation of God in Christ as the foundation of Christian theology and its implications for Christian formation :

    “Theology as Confession

    To understand further the particular nature of theological discourse, we must look more closely at how the first “theologians” spoke about Christ. It is a striking fact that, with one exception, the disciples are presented in the canonical Gospels as continually failing to understand who Jesus is. The one time that Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mat 16.16)—a confession following which Jesus begins to explain how he must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and be raised—Peter is then called “Satan” for attempting to get between Christ and his Cross (Mat 16.23).

    Whatever the disciples heard about Jesus’ birth from his mother, or about his baptism from others, whatever divine teachings they themselves heard from his lips or miracles they saw him doing with their own eyes, even transfigured on Tabor in glory—they abandoned him at the time of the Passion. Neither did the empty tomb persuade them. When the women arrive at the tomb early in the morning, they are perplexed, not knowing what to make of it being empty; they require an angel to explain what has happened. The Christian faith is not based on the empty tomb, for this “bare fact” requires interpretation—was the body perhaps stolen? The same holds true for the resurrectional appearances: when he appears, not only did they not recognize him, but they start telling him about this Jesus who was put to death, and that the tomb was found empty (Lk 24.22-4). The Christian faith is not based on the appearances of the risen Lord. It is only when the crucified and risen Christ opens the Scriptures to them to show how it was necessary for him to have gone to his Passion to enter his glory, that the disciples’ hearts began to burn, so that they were prepared to recognize him in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24.28-35).

    The disciples did not come to a true knowledge of the revelation of God in Christ by hearing reports about his birth, nor by accompanying him for a period of time. This simply reflects the fact that the usual methods of human knowledge—scientific analysis, historical inquiry or philosophical reflection—are inadequate when the desired object of knowledge is God, for God is not subject to human, physical or mental, perception, but shows himself as and when he wills, just as the risen Christ comes and goes at his own pleasure, and, as we have seen, disappears from sight once he is recognized, so that he does not remain as an external object for our scrutiny (we are to become his body, his tangible and perceptible presence in this world). Neither was it merely seeing Christ on the cross that prompted the disciples, finally, to know the Lord, nor even the report about the empty tomb or the encounter with the risen Christ: the tomb is empty, but this in itself is ambiguous, and when he appears he is not immediately recognized.

    Rather, the disciples came to recognize the Lord as the one whose Passion is spoken of by the Scriptures (meaning what we call “the Old Testament”) and encountered in the breaking of the bread, at which point, consuming his offering, they become his body. These two complementary ways—the engagement with the Scriptures, understanding how Christ “died according to the Scriptures and was raised according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15.3-5), and sharing in the Lord’s meal, “proclaiming his death until he comes” (1 Cor 11.26)—are what Paul has received and handed down (from the Lord himself in the case of the eucharistic meal) to later generations (cf. 1 Cor 11.23, 15.3). They are, as it were, the matrix and the sustenance of the Christian tradition, within which theology speaks.

    If this is so, then Christian theology proceeds by reflecting upon the crucified and risen Christ understood through the medium of the Scriptures (the “Old Testament”) in the context of the liturgy. This one is “the image of the invisible God,” “in whom the fullness of divinity dwelt bodily” (Col 1.15, 2.9)—there is no surplus of divinity, as it were, elsewhere, to be discovered by any other means. Christian theology is intrinsically confessional and scriptural, in the sense that it does not simply affirm a mere “historical” statement, for instance, that Jesus “was crucified under Pontius Pilate,” something that anyone on hand that day could have verified. Instead, theology affirms that the one who was crucified is the Son of God; this is a confession of faith, and one, moreover, that the disciples were able to make only once the risen Christ opened the Scriptures to them.

    And as a confession, it also makes demands upon those who profess their belief: the affirmation that, as St Athanasius put it, “the one who ascended the cross is the Word of God,” is only truly demonstrated by those who “put on the faith of the cross” and, by their death in baptism and manner of living thereafter, become the body of Christ born again in the Virgin Mother, the Church.

    Transformative Word

    Having considered briefly how theological language developed—what is its starting point and mode of operation—we also gain an insight into how theology speaks, and what it does.

    The fourth-century assertion that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father, for instance, should not be taken as an attempt to define how two persons relate to each other “out there,” in the articulation of a “Trinitarian theology,” but as an affirmation that what we see in Christ, as proclaimed by the apostles, is what it is to be God, yet other than the one he calls Father, and that this is known only in and through the Spirit, who is therefore also what it is to be God.

    Likewise, the Chalcedonian Definition is not an attempt to articulate a better metaphysics of personhood, but the affirmation that divinity and humanity are found together with the same “face,” in the same “being”: that is, that we do not have to look to this to see what it is to be God, and to that to see what it is to be human—both are revealed to us in one and the same, as the Definition puts it, “without confusion, change, division or separation.”

    And this fact—that Christ reveals to us his Father and shows us what it is to be divine, by an action, death, which is all-too-human—is what makes all theology a transformative, and truly pastoral, discourse. The one who before the Passion was known by the disciples as human, after the Passion is recognized by them (through the opening of the Scriptures) to be divine—the very same one! This means, to express it as forcefully as I can, that it is in and through the action that expresses all the weakness, impotence and futility of our created human nature—our subjection to death—in and through this, Christ shows himself to be truly divine, voluntarily taking this upon himself.

    As one tries to comprehend this, one is simply lost for words.

    It is perhaps not surprising that our all-too-human response to the revelation of God in the crucified and exalted Christ, understood through the Scriptures by the power of the Spirit, is to talk about something else—to make theology into an abstract discourse, or, like Peter before the Passion, to try to separate Christ from the cross. In one way or another, all the various heresies, against which the Fathers fought, attempted to dissolve the apparent paradox of Christ showing us what it is to be God through how he lived and died as human—or rather, died and lived, for it is his death which then enables the disciples to understand what he did before.

    The Docetists denied that he was truly human, claiming that he only appeared to be such. Arius denied that he was truly divine, for how can one who is as divine as the Father, suffer in such a manner? Dioodore, Theodore and Nestorius, though affirming his full humanity in a manner palatable to today’s taste, do so at the expense of separating his divinity from his humanity: Christ no longer shows us what it is to be divine in the way that he is human, and so we remain, once again, separated from God.

    The clear testimony of Scripture is that “Man shall not see God and live” (Ex 33.20). Even in the case of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, our recognition of him coincides, as we saw, with his disappearance from sight. What we are left to contemplate is his activity, that which St Gregory of Nyssa describes as “the transcendent power of divinity.”

    And as God is the creator of all, this transcendent power can only be manifest in that which is other than he. In fact, St Gregory continues, this is the central mystery of the apostolic proclamation:

    All who preach the Word point out the marvel of the mystery in this respect: that ‘God was manifested in the flesh’ (1 Tim 3.16), that ‘the Word was made flesh’ (Jn 1.14), that ‘the Light shone in the darkness’ ([Jn 1.5), ‘the Life tasted death’ (Heb 2.9), and all such declarations which the heralds of the faith announce, whereby is increased the marvel of him who manifested the superabundance of his power by means external to his own nature.

    What is beheld in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is the transcendent power of divinity manifested in that which is not divine—in flesh, in darkness and in death. Yet this manifestation is simultaneously their transformation: the darkness no longer remains dark but is illumined; Christ’s death becomes the source of life to all who take up their cross to die to the world and sin; and human flesh is now flesh of the divine Word of God, and becomes Word, for we perceive the Incarnate Word in the apostolic proclamation of the crucified and exalted Christ, while the place where the Word becomes incarnate is now those who confess him, who are his body.

    This transformative power of the Word of God is at work now in the confession of Christ. When the disciples finally come to confess Christ, they must also confess their own complicity in his death. Responding to his threefold denial of Christ, Peter must affirm three times that he loves Christ. And in both events he is standing by a charcoal fire (Jn 18.18, 21.9)—an allusion to the vision of Isaiah, who, after seeing the Lord enthroned in his heavenly temple, cried out: “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts,” but then saw a seraphim place in his mouth a burning coal taken from the altar, with the words “Behold this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sins forgiven” (Is 6.1-7).

    Likewise before the persecutor Saul becomes the apostle Paul, he is confronted by the Lord asking “Why do you persecute me?” and is converted, recovering his sight and receiving baptism and the Holy Spirit through one of the persecuted members of the body of Christ (Acts 9.1-19). Whereas previously Paul held that while persecuting the Church he was “blameless as to righteousness under the law” (Phil 3.6), now persuaded that Christ is indeed the savior of all, the only conclusion he could draw was that all stood in need of salvation. Only now could he contrast Adam, through whose disobedience sin and death entered the world, with Christ, whose righteousness has become the means of life (Rom 5.12-14). The solution comes first, and then the problem is discerned.

    The transforming vision that the encounter with Christ effects with respect to the comprehension of the Scriptures, brings about a similar transformation in our own lives. Before the encounter with the Christ proclaimed according to the Scriptures, we do not understand that—and how—we are sinful. We might know that we have some problems, but we usually think that we can overcome them, should we want to (through the means offered us by various therapies and counseling, should we need them). It is also clear to us that the world is beset by problems; but if we are honest, we would probably say that, if only everyone were to agree with us, most of these problems would be resolved. That we are sinful, broken and subject to death, to the very core of our being, is something that we can only begin to comprehend in the light of Christ, a light which simultaneously forgives, redeems and recreates. When we think about ourselves, we think of all the various experiences that we have had, told from the vantage point of the present, and that past acting in the present in ways of which we are largely unaware, and so to which we are subject unknowingly and involuntarily.

    But the encounter with Christ provides a new, and yet eternal, vantage point from which to understand one’s own past: we are invited to see our own past retold as nothing less than our own “salvation history.” In this nothing is left aside or glossed over, as being too shameful or painful, something that we would prefer to forget, but which even as “forgotten” continues to act negatively in the present. Rather, just as it was in and through that which is all-too-human, his death, that Christ shows himself to be God, so also it is in and through our sinfulness and brokenness that we come to know the transforming and loving power of God, not that we should thereby sin some more, as Paul warns (Rom 6.1-2), but to see ever more clearly how deep our brokenness extends. “It is,” St Isaac of Syria affirmed, “a spiritual gift of God to be able to perceive one’s own sins,” and such a one is greater than those who see angels or raise the dead by their prayers.

    To plumb the depth of our fallenness is to scale the heights of divine love. The more we are given the grace to see in this way, the more we begin to understand how everything is encompassed within the divine works of God: standing in the light of Christ, we can see him as having led us through our whole past, preparing us to encounter him. He alone knows the reason why he has led each of us on our particular path, for we walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5.7), but it is a faith that all things are in the hands of Christ, and that “in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Rom 8.28).

    In this way, then, such theology is not merely words about God, but a living and active word. It does not merely report what happened in the past, nor pretend to describe, objectively and in an uninvolved manner, a God who is “out there” and his dealings with creation. It is nothing less than the proclamation of the Word of God to this world, allowing it to be at work through us here and now.

    Such are some of the things that are implied by St John’s attention to words as the tools of the priest, when his words convey the Word of God, such that the Word is dynamically effective even now, transforming the vision, understanding, and reality of those willing to hear.”

    Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

  • Ben Witherington

    Thanks for this Scott. The humanity of Jesus was not, and is not divine. It is simply transformed by the resurrection into a permanent state immune to disease, decay and death. Furthermore, it is the humanity of Jesus that dies on the cross, of course, as only humans are mortal. As the creeds say, the two natures are connected but they should not be confused. The idea of perichoriesis confuses the matter, and is not Biblical. Blessings on you as well. The real question is—- what does it mean for us to be partakers of the divine nature. You think it means something more than I do. I think it means what 2 Peter says—- namely it has to do with the knowledge of God, or is gained through the knowledge of God, to stick more closely to the Greek of 2 Pet. 1. BW3


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