Understanding God

At the beginning of 2018 I wrote an essay on the Fatherhood of God in which I tended to equate God as Creator with God as Father, but on reflection I consider this somewhat misleading. More recently I was reading Russell Aldwinckle’s work on Christology entitled More Than Man where the author refers to the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father (p.167) and, perhaps needless to say, I have my doubts about the appropriateness and intelligibility of this. I therefore deem it necessary to clarify my own thinking and perhaps that of others at the same time.

God as Father in the OT

First, it is obvious to all readers that the Bible begins with reference to the eternal God as Creator of the visible physical creation, and one could be forgiven for thinking that only later does he become Father. Indeed, it is regularly pointed out that despite Acts 17:28, for example, where the Creator God is seen as the Father of all men on the natural level that he is normally regarded as the Father of Israel, his chosen nation, only collectively as is suggested by Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1. (1* On the fatherhood of God in the Old Testament, see e.g. Chris Wright.) It might also be pointed out that it was Jesus himself, the natural Son of God born of woman (Gal. 4:4), who taught his disciples to call God Father as in the Lord’s Prayer.

Eternal Son

It is widely held in the churches that Jesus was the Eternal Son even in his pre-existence. For instance, the Nicene Creed refers to the Son as eternally begotten of the Father. But is this legitimate? After all, even Kevin Giles, who has written a full-length book, contending in the vein of Athanasius for the eternal generation of the Son, admits that in relevant passages like John 1 and Philippians 2 Jesus is not referred to as the Son. Rather in the former passage he is termed the Word of God and in the latter as being equal with God. In view of the fact that ‘Son’ implies subordination this is perhaps not surprising. And it would seem that to refer to the Word as the Son would surely send the wrong message. To say this, however, raises questions.

Wife/Mother

So far as we normal created human beings are concerned, reference to God as Father and to Jesus as eternal Son should immediately prompt us to ask who the wife of God is. To cite but one example, Aldwinckle (p.165) suggests that the parent-child relationship as applied to God includes the fullness of parental experience at its highest on the side of both father and mother and asserts that God transcends the sexual differentiation completely. He adds that God is neither father nor mother but (somewhat oddly) the perfect parent. This may be an interesting speculation, but is it intelligible? Without supporting evidence it is, in my view, totally unconvincing for reasons I will now explore.

First, the exclusively masculine thinking which characterises traditional Christian thought arguably requires a corrective, as Aldwinckle referring to Carl Jung concedes. After all, practically all Christians confess the role of the Virgin Mary in the birth of Jesus. But when considering God himself Aldwinckle and others like him ignore the basic significance of human relationships which are established by him as Creator. After all, he is not simply an anthropomorphic reflection of man (as I maintain in my essay on the Fatherhood of God). By definition, a father presupposes a mother, a husband a wife and a son a mother and a father (cf. Heb. 7:3). Does our God whom we describe as Creator fit the bill? As already implied above, not at the beginning, for a creator is not necessarily a father. Later, however, the picture changes. For our God not only created the earth but with the intention of ensuring that it was inhabited (Gen. 1; Isa. 45:18). Now one of these inhabitants was man (Adam) made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28) and, according to Luke 3:38, God was his father. (2* Cf. the sons of God in Gen. 6:4 on which see my Who Are The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4?.) This, however, disposes us to ask who Adam’s mother was, especially in view of the fact that the second Adam had one!

Since man as flesh is regarded throughout Scripture as dust, clay, earthy (see e.g. 1 Cor. 15:47) and since, like all the animals, he derives from the earth (Gen. 1:24; 2:7,19, etc.), we are forced to the conclusion that the earth itself was Adam’s mother which, in the words of Isaiah, God himself ‘married’ (Isa. 62:4f.), hence man’s dual nature as body and soul, flesh and spirit. If it is then complained that this makes Adam different from the second Adam, that is hardly true. Apart from the fact that Paul sees Jesus as deriving from the earth in Ephesians 4:9 (cf. Ps. 139:15) we must remember that after God had finished creation (Gen. 2:1-3), procreation, which recapitulated creation (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), took over. How do we know this? The answer lies in the fact that woman (Eve) becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). This is clearly how Paul saw matters for, while presumably acknowledging the truth of Genesis 1:27, he nonetheless differentiates between the two sexes in 1 Corinthians 11. There he depicts man as the image of God and woman as the glory of man. In other words, just as God ‘married’ (mother) earth, which was his glory (cf. Dt.11:11f.; 8:7-10) or delight (Isa. 62:4) like Ezekiel’s wife (24:16,25), to produce inhabitants, so man marries woman who is his glory to produce children who are termed the fruit of the womb (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9). And in case we have any doubts about Jesus’ earthly origin at his incarnation, apart from Ephesians 4:9, he is referred to as the fruit of the womb in Luke 1:42. To be born of woman, of course, means, as David realized long before, that we are the offspring of Adam (cf. Gen. 5:1-3) from whom Eve stemmed (Gen. 2:21-23) (3* Adam’s rib is surely a metaphor, even a euphemism, cf. Prov. 23:22; Heb. 7:10.) and were therefore originally fashioned as seed in the earth (Ps. 139:15). It was as such that we are sown in our mother’s womb which symbolizes the Garden of Eden (Ps. 139:13, cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:18).

Creator/Father/Mother/Son

In light of the evidence, then, we are led to the view that in eternity the Creator God was not a father but chose to become one when he fertilized or sowed the earth (mother) to produce man (Adam), his son (Luke 3:38). Thus, once created, man the seed-bearer and image of God (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1-3; 1 Cor. 11:7) procreated his own progeny by fertilizing woman who typified the earth. In this way, Jesus himself became flesh for he was born of woman (Gal. 4:4), though his Father was God himself. As the Son of God he was clearly God in person and identity and like Adam he was made in the image of God so that he could aspire to gain the generic image of God as man, which was the divine intention from the start (Gen. 1:26; 5:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).

Of course, this brings to the fore associated doctrines. First, the Creator God, though immutable in character is not statically paralysed in essence (nature) and activity, but, like a young man who can rejoice over his bride (Isa. 62:5), he has the choice and capacity to become the Father which he was not before. Second, Jesus, who was God the Word in eternity, was able, willing and free to become the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 10:5) and therefore a true human being. (4* By expressing myself this way I deny eternal subordinationism.) If this is so, the idea that he could have at one and the same time two natures a la Chalcedon is ruled out of court. It is clearly denied in the NT which states explicitly that the Word became flesh. In other words, the Word changed his nature without ceasing to be who he was in identity and person, that is, God the Word. (5* In view of the traditional claim that at his incarnation the Word could not divest himself of his divine nature without ceasing to be God, it perhaps needs to be explained here that if man, God’s creature, can change his nature without ceasing to be human as at his transformation, cf. 1 Cor. 15:48-53, so can the Creator change his nature without ceasing to be divine.) Expressed alternatively, like his Father the Son was immutably static or stable in character (Heb. 13:8) but dynamically active in purpose. Scripture makes it quite apparent that nothing is impossible with God and that he can do as he pleases (Mt. 19:26; Luke 1:37, cf. Dan. 4:35).

God’s Pleasure

So what did he please to do? Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8,19), and love has its own reasons for spreading that love abroad as Israel had been informed at a comparatively early stage in salvation history (Dt. 7:7f.; Jer. 31:3). Thus it is that in the NT that love is demonstrated supremely in John 3:16 where we are told that God so loved the world that he gave us his Son to redeem us as foreshadowed in the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. Just as it is true that an ordinary married couple in normal life usually share their love with their children who are an expression of their love, so it is with God. But at this point we do well to remember that God is the initiator, the originator, the model, the pattern, the paradigm of love that we his creatures follow or imitate (cf. John 15:16). Little wonder that the marriage feast of the Lamb, which includes us his Bride, is the goal of creation (Rev. 19:7-9).

Note

It is a sad fact that the church has often held defective views on sexual love despite the Song of Solomon and Paul’s comments in 1 Timothy 4:3f. (cf. Heb. 13:4). According to Scripture it is said to be the creation, even the reflection, of God himself (Gen. 1:28; 2:24; Isa. 62:4f.) and the way of all the earth (Gen. 19:31, cf. Ezek. 16:8). It also receives the endorsement of Jesus himself, the ultimate bridegroom (e.g. Mt. 9:15; 25:1-13), even though he himself did not marry while he was in the flesh (Mt. 19:5). Yet we do well to bear in mind that Paul suggests in Ephesians 5 that the union between God and man is a profound mystery with the implication that it will only be properly appreciated when it is finally consummated in heaven (cf. Isa. 62:5).

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Reference

Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son, Downers Grove, 2012.

Christopher J.H.Wright, Knowing God the Father through the Old Testament, Oxford, 2007.

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After-thought

Just as creatorship should not be confused with fatherhood, so creation should not be confused with birth though the two seem to overlap in Genesis 2:7 and Jeremiah 1:5, for example. Between creation and birth (gestation) there is a great deal of evolution both in the Garden of Eden and in a woman’s womb (Ps. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5f.; Mark 4:26-28).

Jesus The Perfected Man – The Epitome of Creation and Evolution

Preamble

Everyone who reads the Bible is aware that God the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Expressed alternatively, Jesus, the man, pre-existed as God in the form of God (Phil. 2:5-11). If we ask why he changed his nature and became man made in the image of God, the answer is simply to save sinners, as his name implies (Mt. 1:21). More fully expressed, he came to save mankind from the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:14-17). History had proved that no one had been capable of gaining the glory of God (cf. Rom. 2:7,10) by keeping the law which was the precondition of salvation (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.). All to the very last man and woman had come short (Rom. 3:23, cf. 5:12; 6:23). So, in order to gain the righteousness that the salvation or regeneration of man required, God in Christ came to achieve it on man’s behalf. In other words, as a true man himself he had to serve as man’s representative and achieve the perfection of God in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.).

Historically speaking, the church has misconceived what the incarnation involved. It has tended to believe a la Augustine that originally God created a perfect world which was marred by man’s sin and also that man himself was initially perfect but “fell” bringing about a cosmic curse from which redemption is required. The truth is, however, that the visible creation, which had a beginning (Gen. 1:1), was naturally perishable (corruptible, subject to decay) and temporary (Rom. 8:20; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:11) from the start as was (the) flesh that derives from it (Gen. 1:24; 2:7,19). So in order to serve as the second Adam Jesus began (cf. Isa. 7:15f.) where Adam began (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) in complete innocence (cf. Dt. 1:39) with the intention of achieving the perfection (Mt. 5:48) or glory of God from scratch. Though created like all human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, basic capacity), he had to gain his complete likeness through testing in the course of his development and maturation (Gen. 17:1; Ex. 15:25; Dt. 8:2,16; 30:15-20, etc.).

If this is in fact the case, we can expect to see the human career of Jesus delineated in Scripture in more detail. It should be obvious to all that he did not begin perfect (complete, mature) either morally or physically. In fact he was necessarily like his first human forebear, Adam, who (as has already been implied) has absurdly been regarded as initially perfect instead of morally innocent as one who did not know good and evil (Gen. 3:22, cf. Isa. 7:15f.) and physically undeveloped. Perfection (completeness or maturity) had to be acquired as he evolved with the passage of time and sought the glory and honour required by his Father (Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9). While it may be true that Jesus is presented to us correctly in Scripture as the perfect image of God (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, etc.), it is more accurate and intelligible to say that he was perfectED as such (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. Gal. 3:3; Phil. 3:12-14, etc.). Clearly a process was involved.

The Creation of Jesus

A process, development or evolution, however, needs a beginning, and while the eternal Word was not created Arian-wise, his incarnation as man involved his being given a created body of flesh fashioned from his heavenly Father’s seed in his earthly mother’s womb (Heb. 10:5, cf. Ps. 139:13; John 1:14).

Jesus’ Human Development

So, at his incarnation in the image of both God and man (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1-3), Jesus as the seed of his Father (1 John 5:18b) was conceived in a woman’s womb which recapitulated the Garden of Eden where the first Adam had originally been placed. In other words, he did not begin as seed created literally in the ground as Adam had been (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15f.), but in order to retain his link with mankind in general (cf. Mt. 1:1-11; Luke 3:23-38) as the seed of his Father he necessarily gestated in the womb of the Virgin Mary (cf. Jer. 1:5) who herself derived ultimately from Adam (Gen. 2:21-23). He was thus born of woman who as flesh and the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20) re-enacted the role of mother earth in procreation. In this way, he recapitulated the experience of Adam as second and replacement Adam (cf. Ps. 139:15f.; Eph. 4:9f.; Heb. 10:9b).

(Note: It perhaps needs explaining at this point that Adam was manufactured (made by hand) as seed in the ground, cf. Ps. 139:15; Gen. 2:7, and was therefore perishable seed, cf. 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:47a. By contrast, Jesus as the Son of God stemmed from imperishable seed from heaven, 1 Cor. 15:47b, and so had indestructible life, Heb. 7:16, even before as flesh he was born again, John 3:7. However, he gained his perishable humanity from his mother, Gen. 3:15, and though permanently alive in the spirit, he died in the flesh, 1 Pet. 3:18, or ‘in Adam’, 1 Cor. 15:21f. It was as perishable flesh that he was first resurrected, then transformed at his ascension so as to become a life-giving spirit, 1 Cor. 15:45.)

Gestation and Birth

As the seed of his Father, Jesus gestated in the Virgin’s womb for the standard nine months (cf. Luke 1:36) before finally being ‘born of woman’ (Gal. 4:4). Of course, at this stage there was no outward sign of his being different from any other baby, though his identity was in some sense revealed to representative people like neighbouring shepherds and visiting wise men (foreign astrologers). Needless to add, he underwent Jewish rites like circumcision and presentation in the temple that were common to male children of the chosen race. As usual, his infancy and weaning were otherwise uneventful and relatively inconspicuous.

Under the Covenant with Noah

It is important to note, however, that this meant that his early life was uncovenanted like that of his forebears in general. On the racial level, what eventually became the covenant with Noah had not been established at the beginning doubtless because the condition of the immediate descendants of Adam, the antediluvians, was infantile despite their physical maturity. For a covenant, pact or agreement to operate, an element of development (perfection) was intrinsically necessary. Without this, mutuality, agreement or reciprocation no matter how minimal was impossible, for babies lacking conscious intelligence resemble undiscerning irrational animals. So, since the Israelites as a race had, as ‘children’, been enslaved in Egypt, Jesus relived or recapitulated their experience in his own childhood (Mt. 2:15, cf. Gal. 4:1f.). In light of this, we may assume that rather like Moses before him Jesus grew and increased in wisdom during his period of childlike bondage (Acts 7:22, cf. Luke 2:40).

Under the Covenant with Moses

On his return to his own country, Jesus doubtless having been apprised of the covenant promises made to his forefather Abraham continued his progress towards perfection under the law of Moses (cf. Gal. 3:23-25; 4:2), as Luke indicates (Luke 2:41-52). It was at this time that his circumcision which was a national marker took effect and as a teen-ager he became a son of the commandment. He now had to take personal responsibility for keeping the law which was the precondition of life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17,21, etc.). It was also during his stint under the law that he would have appreciated the significance of his relationship with David (cf. Mt. 1:1). For he was not simply going to be representative of his people as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) but also as their promised Davidic King (cf. 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89; Jer. 23:5; Mark 15:18; John 19:19).

Under the New Covenant

Life under the law was intended only as a stepping stone. By its very nature as instruction it was temporary and provisional (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8). However, no one in the history of Israel had ever transcended it for the simple reason that no one had ever succeeded in keeping it (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20, etc.). The Jews as sinners all (1 Kings 8:46, etc.) were thus prisoners of hope (Zech. 9:12), and Jesus as the first and only one to keep the law was uniquely to embody that hope (Col. 1:27). Having pleased his Father, he was baptized by (with) the Spirit and fitted to fulfil all righteousness as God’s regenerate Son (Mt. 3:13-17). Filled with the Spirit (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27) he was now able to pioneer the regenerate life (that is, live a heavenly life here on earth doing his Father’s will, cf. Mt. 6:10,33), but to do this effectively he had to empower those who believed in him to do the same. He achieved this, first, by laying down his fleshly life to cover their sins and thereby to inaugurate the new covenant, and, secondly, by sending the Spirit to sanctify them (Eph. 1:13f., cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; John 17:17).

Resurrection and Transformation

Jesus’ death for his people’s sins necessarily required his resurrection and as a consequence God raised him up demonstrating acceptance of his sacrifice (Acts 2:23f.). But since flesh and blood cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God, his physical resurrection required in turn a bodily transformation (1 Cor. 15:50). And it was only after his ascension transformation and session at the right hand of God that Jesus was able to send his Spirit to complete his work on earth (John 14:15-31; Acts 2). However, he was now the perfected man, the complete image of God and seated as such at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). He had not only regained his pre-incarnation glory (John 17:5) but he was also empowered as man who had received the generic nature of God to exercise universal rule (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22, cf. Rom. 1:4).

Jesus Man Perfected

In sum, Jesus, the Word made flesh, had evolved from ground to glory (Eph. 4:9f., cf. John 3:13; 13:3, etc.), and seated at God’s right hand he had been made perfect (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, etc.) like his heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21). Alternatively expressed, as man he had achieved the perfection of the glory he enjoyed before the foundation of the world (John 17:5; Rev. 22:4) and was now in a position to ensure that his disciples would see that glory (John 17:24). Little wonder that we are called to be conformed to his image and to be glorified in our turn (Rom. 8:29f.; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). As our human representative and Saviour he had blazed a trail for us into heaven and the very presence of God (Heb. 2:5-18; 9:11,24; 12:2).

Conclusion

The final truth is, then, that Jesus, having achieved perfection in the image of God as man, epitomizes the creation and evolution (perfection) of mankind as both individual and race. (1* If he is the vine, we are the branches, John 15:5. If he is the Son, we also are sons, fellow heirs, Rom. 8:14-17, and brothers to boot, Heb. 2:10-18.) Most significantly, Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3, cf. Phil. 2:9-11) and to him we all owe allegiance (Rom. 10:9) just as we do to God the Father (cf. 1 John 2:23; 5:1).

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See further my

Perfection

The Human Path to Perfection

The Journey of Jesus

The Exaltation Of Jesus

The Ascent of Man

Jesus the Epitome of Evolution (Perfection)

Manufactured Or Not So

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

etc.

An Alternative Approach to Infant Baptism

(I have already written Why Infant Baptism is Unchristian. Here I am adopting a slightly different approach.)

The question confronting us is: Since there is no clear example of infant baptism in Scripture, is it biblically, theologically and even anthropologically viable? The question clearly requires an answer.

First, while Hebrews 6:2 refers to baptisms or washings (ESV), John’s baptism with a view to repentance belongs to the old covenant. However, John himself as the last OT prophet and the herald of the Messiah is well aware that it will be superseded or supplemented by a superior baptism with the Spirit performed by Jesus (Mark 1:8).

Baptism belongs to the New Covenant

This suggests of course that Spirit baptism belongs exclusively to the new covenant and is beyond John’s range of competence. After all, as Jesus says on different occasions, though John was a burning and shining light (John 5:35) he was only the greatest of naturally born men or men born of woman (Mt. 11:11). When, however, in Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus requests John to baptize him, not surprisingly since he has already proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), John demurs. Apart from his own perceived incompetence, his assumption is that Jesus does not need to repent. For all that, Jesus urges him to go ahead on the ground that it is fitting for him, Jesus, to fulfil all righteousness. What does Jesus mean by this? Surely that though keeping the law was the precondition of life or regeneration (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:28, etc.), still more was required if he was to attain to the perfection of his Father. Regeneration was, however, the first indispensable step towards perfection as babyhood is to both physical and spiritual adulthood (1 Cor. 3:1; Heb. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:2). As the author of Hebrews indicated, the perfection of God went beyond mere obedience to the letter of the law (Heb. 7:18f.; 8:7). Paul also was well aware of this for, when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, though truly converted and a genuine Christian he nonetheless recognized that perfection still lay ahead of him and the goal of the heavenly prize had to be striven for with might and main (Phil. 3:12-14, cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Old Covenant Life Prior to New Covenant Life

If this is a true picture of the situation, we are forced to infer that life begins and is lived under the old covenant which forms a temporary provisional stage prior to experience under the new covenant. (1* On covenant theology, see my Covenant Theology in Brief.) In other words, as the author of Hebrews implies, when someone comes to faith in Christ the ministry of the old covenant is superseded and the new established (Heb. 10:9, cf. 8:13; 2 Cor. 3). Little wonder that John considered that he needed to be baptised by Jesus. However, in the event he was to die as old covenant believers in general had died before him (cf. Heb. 11) and this was before the death and resurrection of Christ. Yet even John in the providence and purpose of God was to achieve perfection despite what was tantamount to his chronological disqualification (Heb. 11:39f.).

The Order of Salvation (Ordo Salutis)

It is here of course that the order of salvation is so critically important. Our Augustinian tradition has taught us that on account of the disabling effect of original sin (2* Original sin as usually understood is not a biblical doctrine. See my various articles on original sin including The Redundancy Of Original Sin and Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.), regeneration must precede faith and justification. But this is clearly not so. Ungodly and therefore unregenerate sinner though he was, Abraham was the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:5), a shining exemplar of faith under stress. In the words of Luther he was at once justus et peccator, justified though still a sinner. For him as for all OT believers regeneration was a promise that would be fulfilled in the future (cf. Dt. 30:6; Jer. 31:34), that is, when Jesus had met the precondition of life which was keeping the law (Lev. 18:5). Prior to him no one had kept it: all the rest to the very last man and woman had failed. Like Adam (and later Paul, Rom. 7:9f.) they had lost their initial innocence, become sinners and were hence disqualified (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:10, etc.). (3* On the order of salvation see, for example, my Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology, etc.)

Baptism

However, the relevance of this to baptism remains to be established. It can be argued and indeed the church has apparently almost universally assumed that since the new covenant has now been inaugurated, the old covenant has become obsolete and irrelevant (cf. Heb. 8:13). New covenant times demand different practices, and instead of being circumcised baby boys now need to be baptised as members of a Christian society. Once we say this, however, apart from noting certain inconsistencies like the baptism of baby girls, the so-called Christian Bible which includes the OT seems to have got lost. What do I mean? As John Stott averred when dealing with the preaching of the law, God did not send Christ into the world at the start but at the appropriate time or, as Paul says in Galatians 4:4, when the fullness of time had come (ESV). A long program of education and preparation preceded it. Then quite remarkably Stott says that the law still performs the same function. If it does, it implies recapitulation or, as he rightly maintains, that every individual man’s spiritual history becomes a microcosm of God’s dealing with the human race (4* Authentic Christianity, pp.334f., cited from Our Guilty Silence, p.98, London, 1967.).

What does all this signify? The truth is, as was asserted above, baptism belongs to the new covenant but babies by definition belong to the period of the uncovenanted physical creation. Though not literally created in the earth like Adam, they are born of woman who typifies the earth as Adam typified the creator God (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7,12). They are thus (pro)created by human parents as Isaiah noted long ago (Isa. 45:9f.). If procreation is creation recapitulated, it is necessary to treat babies as what they really are. To apply baptism which signifies faith, repentance and regeneration to them is to ride roughshod over the OT which deals with creation and man’s subsequent physical, mental and spiritual development from the beginning. In other words, infant baptism implies Marcionism, the early church heresy whereby the OT was disregarded and God’s plan of salvation subverted. (5* Marcion was a second century heretic who denied the continuity between the OT and the NT, Israel and the church and even between the God of the OT and that of the NT.) The plain fact is that we all like Adam and Eve whose (fleshly) children we are by nature (Gen. 5:1-3, cf. Heb. 2:14f.) begin at the beginning, at (pro)creation, not at the onset of Christianity. As such mutatis mutandis (making the appropriate changes) we all, both as individuals and as a community, recapitulate both the creational and covenantal history of the race. This, of course, is what was taught especially by Irenaeus in the early church but was eventually lost to view by Augustine of Hippo by whose thinking and worldview the churches have been governed since the fifth century. (6* On Augustine, see my Augustine: Asset or Liability?.)

Jesus the Epitome of Covenant Theology

It has always seemed strange to me that if infant baptism is appropriate for Christians, Jesus who constitutes our model or paradigm was baptised as an adult as Abraham was circumcised as an adult. If he was truly human, we may well ask: Why the difference? Assuming Jesus was the perfect or rather the perfected man (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28, etc.), the one who developed (as surely man should and indeed must evolve or develop) fully and sinlessly until he attained the complete image of God and hence sat down at his right hand (Heb. 1:3,13, etc.), then we his followers must surely do the same. (7* On human development, see B.B.Warfield’s essay on the human development of Jesus in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B.Warfield 1, ed. John E. Meeter, Nutley, 1970.) So what is the picture?

The Perfection (Maturation) of Jesus

In order to become the second Adam Jesus initially had to repeat or recapitulate to perfection first Adamic life (cf. 1 Cor. 15:47) in the flesh (cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,17). So he was first flesh, born of woman in an animal stable. Then, having completed his infancy, he went as a child under the covenant with Noah like his ancestors before him to heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15, cf. Acts 14:17; 17:25-27, etc.). Next, on his return to Israel he began his necessary stint under the law of Moses as a son of the commandment (cf. Luke 2:40-52). Then, having uniquely kept the law to his Father’s satisfaction, he received the blessing of the Spirit which remained on him (John 1:32; 3:34), was born again (John 6:27) and completed the work his Father had given him to do (John 17:4). Finally, once he had atoned for the sins of his people, he was glorified with the glory that he had before the world existed (John 17:5, cf. Heb. 2:9) thereby guaranteeing the glorification of all who believed in him (John 17:24; cf. Rev. 3:21).

Jesus our Covenantal Pattern

Now if the previous paragraph is a true picture of the maturation process undergone by Jesus, the one and only fully perfected man, it must surely be the model or paradigm of ours if we are genuinely human. Like him we are all born of woman (Gen. 3:20; Gal. 4:4) who through Adam derived from the ground (cf. Ps. 103:14; Eph. 4:9). As such we enter innocent and sinless like the animals into an uncovenanted world. (8* Even Jesus was born in a stable. See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) Again like him as children we pass through a preceding heathen stage under Noah before we receive instruction under the law like the Jews in general. (9* While it is true that only Jewish (circumcised) boys as teenagers were specifically under the law of Moses, their education is mirrored by our modern three-tier system in which the ‘schoolmaster’ figures (Gal. 3:24f. KJV.) However, since we all prove incapable of keeping the law in order to achieve regeneration (Lev. 18:5), it is only as believers in Christ that we are born again in preparation for our eventual entry into the kingdom of God (John 3:5-7; 7:39; 1 Cor. 15:50-53). Glorification in the presence of God is, of course, our ultimate goal (Rom. 8:30).

Conclusion

In light of the above, our conclusion must be that baptism is a Christian rite, the sign of repentance, faith, justification and regeneration. If as John Stott implied in the passage referred to above we are not born Christian but become Christian as both individual and community, the baptism of infants implying especially their regeneration is to turn theology on its head and begin where we should end! The Bible is thoroughly teleological. Just as progressive revelation is widely recognised, so faith should be too. (10* The relativity of faith suggesting diminished responsibility is nowhere better brought out than in Hebrews 11. This ought to be of profound comfort to bereaved parents. Assuming recapitulation, if the ‘child’ Noah who was clearly unregenerate could be saved, so can our children who come short of a credible profession of faith in Christ.) Only against this background can evangelism make sense.

False Worldview

The basic problem with infant baptism is that it reflects a false worldview inspired and dominated by the false dogma of original sin. (11* See my Worldview, The Biblical Worldview.) The Bible teaches us that once man is created, he develops or evolves or is subject to perfetion and hence the (hi)story of man. The same can be said of the individual who is (pro)created (cf. Isa. 45:9f.) and grows to maturity. Physical, mental and spiritual development follow in accordance with the purpose of God. Personal growth is a major theme in apostolic teaching (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Eph. 4:11-24; Phil. 3:12-14; Heb. 5:11-6:2; 1 Pet. 2:2, etc.). So if we start at the end with the spirit as baptism implies (Gal. 3:3) instead of at the beginning with the flesh (1 Cor. 15:46-49), we inevitably become immersed in confusion and find ourselves at odds with history, personal experience and notably with modern science. This ought not to be.

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See further my:

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Man’s Fourfold State

Recapitulation in Outline

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

Jesus the Epitome of Evolution (Perfection)

Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology

The Redundancy Of Original Sin

etc.

Man’s Creation and Perfection (Evolution) Tabulated

FIRST ADAM SECOND ADAM
Created as seed ( Ps. 139:15f; Gen. 2:7.) The Word of God (John 1:1)
condensed to seed (Eph. 4:9,
cf. “contracted to a span”,
C.Wesley)
Conceived in Garden of Eden
(Gen. 2:8,15)
Conceived in Virgin’s womb
(cf. Gen. 3:20)
Gestation to fleshly (animal)
maturity till dawn of
knowledge and sin
Gestated in ignorance (cf.
Rom. 9:11) till birth as baby in
animal stable. Normal infancy
still in ignorance (Isa. 7:14-16)
Expelled from Garden = born.
Antediluvian ‘infancy’ under
curse to flood
Cared for by rational parents
(hence no curse) till cleansing and weaning (cf. 1 Pet.3:21)
Covenant with Noah: first
racial child
Childhood under covenant
with Noah
Abrahamic covenant promises
To heathen Egypt
Through wilderness to
Promised Land
Abrahamic covenant promises
To heathen Egypt
Return to Promised Land
Under law of Moses Son of the commandment
at age 13
Davidic covenant promise Davidic covenant promise
Temple Temple
Temple and sacrificial system
destroyed
Law kept so new birth
(Lev. 18:5), atonement once
for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:12;10:10)
Prisoners of hope Regenerate life, physical
death, resurrection,
transformation, glorification,
perfection
(Mt. 5:48; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 3:21)

The heathen (without the law) and Jews (like Muslims) still in bondage under law (Gal. 4:21-25) face judgement, but Christians, who are justified by faith in Christ and born again, are free (Gal. 4:26,31) and will not be condemned (Rom. 8:1f., etc.).

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See further my:

Perfection

The Ascent of Man

The Journey of Jesus

Jesus the Man

Jesus the Epitome of Evolution

The Perfection of Paul the Apostle

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

The Chicken or the Egg

etc.

Jesus the Epitome of Evolution (Perfection)

Many Christians, especially fundamentalists, manifest basic antipathy to the very concept of evolution and constantly rail against it without defining it. They tend to think in terms of either creation or evolution. This is hardly surprising since they accept without equivocation the Augustinian worldview which posits initial perfection, the original righteousness and holiness of Adam, fall, curse and the final redemption of creation. However, it ought to be obvious to anyone who is a serious reader of Scripture and considers his own development that this scenario is vulnerable to criticism.

Creation

First, it is vital for us to recognize the fact that creation, like procreation which recapitulates it (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), is a fact of life. As the Bible indicates, all visible things have a beginning. Science at one time supported the view that the material world was eternal and Fred Hoyle, the famous British scientist, for example, once held to the steady state theory. More recently, the evidence has forced scientists to infer that the universe had a beginning (cf. the big bang) and has evolved to its present state along with much else including man himself.

Second, whatever has a beginning also has an end (Gen. 8:22; Mt. 24:35) and even scientists concede that ‘creation’ is transitory and headed for eventual destruction sooner or later. In other words, it is not eternal.

So far as Christians are concerned, this scenario causes difficulties. The underlying problem is that the ecclesiastical worldview is more Augustinian than biblical (1* See my Worldview, The Biblical Worldview.) and does not allow for this. What do I mean?

Sin and Curse

It is traditionally held in the churches, that is, in their creeds and confessions like the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Thirty-nine Articles of the C of E, that God originally created a perfect world and that Adam and Eve were initially righteous and holy but (mysteriously) sinned and ‘fell’. Since they were the designated lords of creation, their failure resulted in a cosmic curse with the result that the state of affairs portrayed in Genesis 3:14-19 continues to this day and is held to be endorsed by Paul in Romans 8:18-25.

The Biblical Picture

Birth and Infancy

But is this the biblical picture? We have only to look at Jesus for the answer. First, at his incarnation or creation in the image of Adam (Gen. 5:1-3, cf. Luke 3:38) through his mother he became a product of the earth and inevitably took on some of its main characteristics. In short, he first had a beginning. Whereas the first Adam began literally in the ground, Jesus was ‘born of woman’ (Gal. 4:4) who typified the earth in procreation (cf. Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11; Eph. 4:9f.). What does this teach us? That he did not begin perfect, that is, mature or full-grown as Athene in classical mythology is said to have sprung from the head of Zeus and as Adam is said by traditionalists to have begun or been created. This view of course stymies all ideas of development or evolution which is surely the corollary of creation. (2* Scripture makes it abundantly clear that once he had finished his work of creation, Gen. 2:1-3, God did not lapse into inactivity, John 5:17,19,30, cf. Ps. 121:3f.) Bluntly, once he had been formed as seed like all flesh and conceived, Jesus gestated, developed or evolved first in his mother’s womb as Adam had developed in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race. But whereas Adam evolved to full physical maturity before gaining knowledge (of the commandment) like a child before leaving the Garden womb (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46), Jesus was born in an animal stable knowing neither the law nor good and evil as an innocent baby (cf. Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:14-16; 8:4, etc.). In fact, Jesus lived out his infancy, as we all do today in blissful ignorance. However, once he had come to knowledge (i.e. gained rational self-consciousness) and begun his childhood under the covenant with Noah, like his forebears, he lived as a slave in Egypt (Mt. 2:15; Gal. 4:1).

Adolescence

On his ‘escape’ from Egypt and return to the Promised Land which like creation was very good (Gen. 1:31; Num. 14:7) but impermanent (Heb. 3,4), he became a Son of the Commandment and lived under the guardianship of the law of Moses (Luke 2:40-52; Gal. 3:23f.).

As an avid reader of the OT, however, Jesus must have been well aware that he would never reach his intended maturity or perfection by remaining under the law (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2). In any case, had not Moses (Dt. 30:6), Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel (11:19f.; 36:26f.) pointed to a new covenant which would transcend the deficiencies of the old? And had not Adam himself been taught that sin would deprive him of life (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5, etc.)? So clearly his aim was to seek glory and honour, keep the law and thus gain eternal life. This he did to the satisfaction of his heavenly Father who baptized him with the Spirit, who remained permanently on him (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27), thereby spiritually regenerating him (Mt. 3:13-17). This is clearly the teaching of John 3:1-7 which indicates the necessity as opposed to the imperative of the new birth for all flesh (mankind). So far as Jesus was concerned, it put him in a position, or qualified him, to lay down his fleshly or old covenant, first-Adamic life in atonement for the sins of all who were to believe in him. (3* If he had died while under the law, his death would have been permanent and clearly the wages of sin. As regenerate, he was the Son who had something to offer, cf. Mt. 17:24-27; John 10:17f.; Eph. 2:10.) Thus, though sinners were incapable of gaining eternal life by keeping the law themselves, they were nonetheless capable of receiving their acquittal and justification by faith in Jesus. In this way they met the precondition of salvation (Lev. 18:5). Here it perhaps needs to be pointed out that though OT believers in general were never able to exercise faith specifically in him for obvious historical reasons, the atonement was retro-active (Heb. 9:15; 11:1-40). In other words, whoever is saved by faith owes his salvation to Christ whether he is aware of it or not (cf. Ezek. 16:59-63; Mt. 8:11-13). In the book of Revelation the three races or three covenant peoples (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32) all give praise to the God of salvation. They are the twenty-four elders, representing faithful Christians and Jews, and the four living creatures clearly representing the heathen and children (Rev. 4:6b-11; 7:9, cf. Mt. 8:11).

The Perfection of Jesus

Having died for his sheep, Jesus’ perfection or evolution was completed first by his resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:39; John 20, etc.), then, since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50) by his ascension transformation to heaven. When this occurred, having been perfected (Mt. 19:21; Heb. 2:10; 4:14; 5:9; 7:28), he took his place at his Father’s side and was declared Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). In plain truth he had progressed from ground to glory as man (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb.1:3). He who was freely made flesh, but only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9), conquered in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). And we who follow in his trail-blazing footsteps (Heb. 6:20; 12:2) as we are led by the Spirit are conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29) and do the same (Rev. 3:21).

Summary

Apart from B.B.Warfield’s essay on The Human Development of Jesus, I have nowhere come across a better summary of Jesus’ evolutionary ascent from earth to heaven (cf. John 3:13; 6:62; 16:28), etc.) than that of Professor William Barclay who wrote in his book Crucified and Crowned, “Through man’s disobedience the process of the evolution of the human race went wrong …. But in Jesus Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly carried out and realised in obedience to the purpose of God” (p.100). (Quoted by Michael Green, p.59).

See further my:

Perfection

The Ascent of Man

The Journey of Jesus

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

Jesus The Perfected Man – The Epitome of Creation and Evolution

Man’s Fourfold State

More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulation

Creation: Evolution, Recapitulation, Perfection

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

etc.

Notes

1. If the second Adam underwent evolution, the first Adam who was his type (Rom. 5:14) clearly did so too. The early chapters of Genesis must be interpreted in that light. The analogy of faith is important.

2. Naturalistic evolution embraced by agnostics, atheists, materialists, et al., is a complete enigma and confessedly meaningless and purposeless. If they ask who made the eternal God, we must ask who or what made temporal evolution? Surely it is obvious that evolution needs creation to set it in motion just as our own perfection (maturation) requires procreation to initiate it. It should further be noted that mere development without change or mutation as in animals leads to eventual oblivion (cf. John 6:63) and this is what Scripture teaches. Apart from evolution which is the law and corollary of creation, this world in which we presently live is futile (Rom. 8:20), and if the resurrection of Jesus is not true, we are as Paul says left in misery (1 Cor. 15:17).

3. The widespread view that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection leads inexorably to the conclusion that Jesus’ evolution or (process of) perfection was incomplete. By his resurrection he overcame death, but by his transformation he overcame creation’s natural corruptibility or divinely ordained proclivity to decay.

4. It would appear that the Roman Church which is thoroughly Augustinian (original righteousness, original sin, curse, etc.) is not so infallible after all. Its Pharisaical tendency to drag its feet and resist reformation is contrary to the forward movement and dynamism that is intrinsic to Scripture. (3* See my No Going Back.) Regrettably the same is true of some Protestant churches despite the motto of the Reformed which is Semper reformanda (Always reforming). Like Israel of old (Jer. 7:24; Acts 7:39), they want to go backward not forward, back to the nations, to Egypt, to tradition, the Fathers, Reformers, Puritans, Victorians (cf. The Oxford Movement), and the like. But the way is forward as the author of Hebrews, for example, urges (Heb. 6:1-3, etc.). To posit the redemption of creation on account of sin as many do is to go backward. Our calling is a heavenly one (Phil. 3:14,20; Heb. 3:1) and was so from the start (cf. Gen. 2:17; John 3:13; 13:3, etc.).

5. Procreation recapitulates creation (cf. Isa. 45:9f.). Men as the image of God typify God and fertilize women who typify (mother) earth (Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11). Thus we all have a beginning which is followed by gradual evolution or process of perfection (completion). Physically, we reach perfection then decline like creation itself till death; spiritually, we follow Jesus to ultimate perfection in the presence of our eternal God (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5; Rev. 3:21).

6. Jesus was flesh only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9). He remains human but not incarnate in heaven (1 Cor.15:50). He is as man the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3, 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).

7. The church has taught descent (Fall) from an initial “high estate”. The Bible teaches ascent from an initial low estate (cf. Eph. 4:9; Phil. 2:7f.) despite sin which is atoned for.

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References

Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus, London, 1984.

Meeter, ed., The Shorter Writings of B.B.Warfield, Vol. 1, Nutley, 1970.

The Perfection of Paul the Apostle

Perfection has not been well understood in the course of the history of dogmatic theology. Usually it is associated with sinlessness, thus Jesus who was sinless is regarded as perfect. This, however, though true, is somewhat misleading. James 1:4, for example, gives us a better indication of what perfection means, that is, completeness or maturity which is something that is acquired not stamped on us automatically. Even Jesus was perfected (e.g. Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. 2 Tim. 1:10) but only after a stint under the law followed by a titanic struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil. And the same is certainly true with regard to Paul whose very call was to suffering (Acts 9:16).

Infancy

With this in mind we can begin to understand the career of Paul. First, it is vital for us to realize that he did not believe in original sin and so did not see himself as born sinful. This idea was foisted on him by Augustine of Hippo who misinterpreted (on the basis of a false translation it must be conceded) Romans 5:12. In other words, Paul saw himself as beginning his life not (originally) sinful ‘in Adam’ or, as it is often put, ‘dead in sin’ by (birth) nature, but in total ignorance and therefore innocent like all babies (cf. Dt. 1:39). Rather the pattern of his life followed (recapitulated) that of his first parents Adam and Eve who initially knew neither good nor evil (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22). In light of this it should occasion no surprise when Paul tells us in Romans 7:9 that he was once alive and did not die until he broke the commandment which promised (eternal) life (Rom. 7:10). There was only one time when he was alive apart from the law and that was when he was in his infancy (cf. Dt.1:39). Once he had outgrown it and was capable of understanding the commandment, he broke it and discovered like Adam and Eve long before that the wages of sin was death (Gen. 3:1-7,19; Rom. 6:23).

Clearly Paul recognized the truth of Genesis 8:21 that he was evil not as a totally ignorant baby but as a child who in the process of his development had gained some understanding. After all, he himself later plainly taught that where there is no law (knowledge, understanding) there is no transgression (Rom. 4:14; 7:8, cf. John 9:41; 15:22,24). (1* At this point many would object and assert that even babies die. They do indeed but the inference we must draw from this is that their death is natural like that of innocent animals (Rom. 8:20f.). Wages, which are earned by law-breaking, are not involved.)

It is as a comprehending child that Paul learnt the transgenerational (negative) parental commandment as Adam and Eve had done in the Garden. However, it is important to note as Romans 7:11 clearly implies he had first, like Eve, been deceived into sin before rebelliously breaking the commandment like Adam, a point that he later draws our attention to in 1 Timothy 2:14.

Nature Under Noah

Though a Jew, Paul was born a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 21:39; 22:3) and a Roman citizen to boot (Acts 22:25-28). In light of this it is little wonder that he later claims that he was indebted to both the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish (Rom. 1:14). Here the assumption is that like Moses before him (Acts 7:22) and even Jesus (cf. Mt. 2:15; Luke 2:40) Paul increased in knowledge from a variety of sources like all normal children as they begin their pilgrimage and gain maturity under the covenant with Noah. And this of course includes the heathen (cf. Dt. 4:19).

Law Under Moses

As a Jew, Paul obviously conformed to the pattern of all male Jews and at age 13 became a son of the commandment. He further tells us that as a Pharisee he was brought up among his own people and in Jerusalem (Acts 26:4) where he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, a widely respected Pharisee and teacher (Acts 5:34) who educated him according to the strict manner of his fathers’ law (Acts 22:3). In Romans 7, however, he first sketches the sinful, even fatal condition of those who have lived in bondage to the law and then have experienced release to serve in the new life of the Spirit (Rom. 7:1-6). Next, after touching on his inability to deal with the tenth commandment, he goes on to give his readers in apparent reminiscence an autobiographical glimpse of his career before becoming a Christian. In brief he explains that the good law, while promising life as it had in Adam and Eve’s case (see vv. 9-12), in the event brought death. Though elsewhere (i.e. in Phil. 3:4-6) he can claim to have lived successfully as a Jew, his later reflection in Romans 7:13-24 revealed inner turmoil and conflict. But what is of prime importance is that he eventually recognised that despite all his herculean efforts and deep desire to do what is right, he had proved an abject failure. At bottom he needed a Saviour and he found one in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

Grace Under Christ and the Spirit

It was while he was still mesmerised by the law that in his zeal for God he persecuted people of the Way to death (Acts 22:3f.; 26:9-11). Such was his fanatical commitment to Moses that Paul was obviously on his way to becoming the complete or perfect persecutor. But God was patient with him as he had been long before with the Amorites (Gen.15:16) and would be again with all those whom he wished to come to repentance (2 Pet.3:9). So Paul who later said he was forgiven because he had acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13) was stopped in his tracks on a persecuting foray to Damascus. This he describes three times and it obviously had a profound effect on him. Indeed, it changed his life and by the grace of God that of many others too. After receiving healing and general help from a Christian disciple called Ananias and others (Acts 9:17-19) he began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9:20) and to prove that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 9:22). Of course, this almost immediately provoked an angry and potentially violent reaction from his former companions with the result that Paul himself, now the butt of persecution, had to escape through the wall of Damascus being lowered to the ground in a basket.

What apparently followed was a period of profound mental and spiritual orientation in Arabia (Gal. 1:17) where instead of going to Jerusalem to consult the original apostles, under the direction of the Spirit he presumably began to sort matters out and think through his faith. It was perhaps during this time that Paul realised that it is impossible for anyone no matter how dedicated (cf. Rom. 7:21-24) to be perfected by the flesh and the law (cf. Gal. 3:1-5 and Heb. 7:18f.) Nothing less than the Spirit of God and the new birth could bring a man to the degree of maturity that would satisfy even Paul himself. After meeting briefly with Cephas and James he went to Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:18-21). And it was not until fourteen years had passed that he went to Jerusalem to consult with the rest of the apostles and to confirm that the gospel he was proclaiming matched theirs.

Having received the approbation of James, Cephas and John, Paul then having been entrusted with preaching the gospel to the Gentiles apparently went off to Antioch to be followed some time later by Peter. It was there that Paul showed his remarkable maturity and theological acumen, for he boldly opposed Peter to his face over the latter’s weakness and inconsistency when dealing with the Judaizers. It was not so much a question of doctrine but of practice (Gal. 2:11ff.).

Thus Paul was launched on his mainly Gentile mission which, despite his much affliction, persecution and suffering, involved opening the eyes of many from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). His apostolic labours did not finish until he was finally executed in Rome. As he himself expressed it, he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19) and was convinced that at the end there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Alternatively expressed, having been a slave, then a servant, he had finally achieved perfection as a son (Rom. 8:12-17, cf. Gal. 4:1-7).

Perfection

This assertion, however, begs questions. After all, he complained in his letter to the Philippians that he was not already perfect, though that was clearly his aim as it had been that of Jesus (Mt. 5:48; 19:21). In other words, while still in mid-career Paul saw that he had more to do and was under obligation to be faithful till death. So, forgetting what lay behind, he had pressed toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12-14). For Paul perfection, which was the goal of man from the start (cf. Gen. 2:17; 17:1; Lev. 11:44f.;18:5; 19:2, etc.), was achieved as he was led by the Spirit in union with Christ (Rom. 8:1-17) who had finished his pioneering work (John 17:4; 19:30; Heb. 6:19f.) and sat down triumphant at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:22). Just as the OT saints had reached perfection through faith in God (Heb. 11:39f.), so all who put their trust directly in Jesus did too (Heb. 5:9). Since he had conquered, so would they (John 14:3; Heb. 2:10). In fact, they would be more than conquerors (Rom. 8:31-39), and, needless to say, Paul himself, having fought the good fight and finished the race would be prominent among them (2 Tim. 4:7).

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See further my:

Covenant Theology in Brief

Perfection

Man’s Fourfold State

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

The Human Path to Perfection

Jesus The Perfected Man – The Epitome of Creation and Evolution

Jesus the Epitome of Evolution

etc.

Sketching Human Creation and Evolution

Introduction

In my view the traditional worldview inherited by the church from Augustine of Hippo (d.430 A.D.) which posited an original perfect creation including a holy and righteous Adam and Eve followed by sin, fall and cosmic curse is false to the Bible. Initial perfection (completeness, maturity), which is contrary to the divine modus operandi as revealed in Scripture, history, experience and science, renders evolution or development of any kind redundant, even impossible. After all, the difference between the fall of man and his ascent is fundamental. What follows is an attempt to sketch the true view which is not merely much more realistic but also more accommodating of genuine as opposed to naturalistic evolution.

1. Mankind was created or brought into being (Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3) out of (mother) earth like all seed-bearing flora and fauna (Gen. 1). Adam and Eve, though created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), were hence dust or clay (Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23).

2. Adam was transferred as seed to gestate in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15) which was obviously the womb of the race.

3. Eve (woman) was taken out of Adam (Gen. 2:21-23) and, since she functioned as the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20), she typified the earth as Adam typified God himself (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7,12).

4. Once initial creation was complete (Gen. 2:3), in the providence of God procreation took over (cf. Isa. 45:9f.). Thus as the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7) man imitates the activity of his Creator and fathers or begets children in his own image (Gen. 4:1f.,25; 5:1-3).

5. Man’s male offspring follow suit in their turn. In other words, each generation repeats the experience of the previous one and so on transgenerationally (Gen. 4:17-5:32). And just as the individual grows and develops, so does the community or race as a whole. Put otherwise, the individual is the race in miniature. It should be noted, however, that separation (individual) and solidarity (race) are basic features of biblical theology and anthropology.

6. Genesis 5:1-3 properly appreciated make it clear that each generation begins at the beginning like Adam as the image in principle of God and inherits neither the moral nature nor the physical stature of its parents. Moral status is acquired by personal reaction to commandment or law (Rom. 6:16; 7:9f.; Eph. 2:1-3) as it was in Adam and Eve’s case (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:14-24). Initially, there is neither sin nor righteousness (cf. Rom. 9:11) since there is no law or knowledge by which to determine or define them (Rom. 4:15; 6:16, etc.). So, we all begin like our first parents knowing neither good nor evil on both the moral and natural levels (cf. Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22). Until we personally transgress, we remain innocent and unaware of pain (Dt. 1:39, etc.).

7. It is evident from Genesis 2 and 3 that Adam and Eve did not acquire knowledge until they were physically mature. To express the issue alternatively, when they left the Garden womb (= were born), though physically adult, they were mentally and spiritually infantile. This implies that prior to their acquisition of knowledge, they lived off the land like animals (Gen. 2:16). Furthermore, they apparently bred instinctively, again like the animals around them. This is a reasonable inference from the fact that the woman’s pain in childbirth is said to have increased greatly as knowledge dawned and sin became a possibility (Gen. 3:16).

Note on Adam and Eve

Adam, the man, and Eve, the woman, were obviously single individuals but they epitomized and represented mankind, the race, tribe or community which explains their great age. Even today individuality only becomes distinct or pronounced with development. Cattle, sheep and the like vary little individually and even human babies born in maternity wards in hospitals have to be tagged for identification purposes. It might be usefully added at this point that in light of universal ignorance, the idea that thorns and thistles, Gen. 3:17-19, not to mention death were the consequence of sin is a major mistake. At the start, if man did not (could not) sin it was because, like a baby, he had no knowledge (Dt. 1:39; John 9:41; 15:22,24, cf. Rom. 4:15; 7:9f.). This being so, we must necessarily conclude that he had no consciousness of his environment and that it was in any way any problematic (cf. Gen. 3:17-19). As far as I am aware, this remains true of babies and animals even today!

8. Assuming the truth of the above, mankind’s evolution after initial creation followed the pattern mutatis mutandis we know by personal experience of procreation. However, at the start, since Adam’s development to physical adulthood preceded and outstripped by far his mental maturation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46), the antediluvians resembled animals in transition like human babies. Needless to say, if such was their condition, their native fleshly or animal constitution virtually guaranteed their limited dominion on the one hand and their meagre mental/spiritual development on the other. In light of this, failure to obey the commandment and rampant sinfulness and violence (Gen. 6:5-13) led inevitably to curse when the earth was not properly tilled as required (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Gen. 2:5; Prov. 24:30-34). This culminated in the curse of the flood and the death of all but Noah and his family who became the first recognizable heathens. This can only remind us of the enormous scale of infant mortality in the ancient world. But it also points up the lack of development of the stillborn suggesting their subhuman state. Even Noah’s ‘baptism’ was figurative (1 Pet. 3:21).

First Covenant and Heathenism

9. Following the mere (negative) commandment given to the ‘infant’ Adam, the first covenant was established with Noah (Gen. 6:18, etc.). This immediately suggests not only his greater maturity than that of his predecessors but his racial ‘childhood’. Though this covenant embraced the animals too guaranteeing their preservation, they were clearly unconscious of it. How could they recognize rainbows or name the rest of the animals? Despite their obvious sinfulness and heathen status, Noah’s children were capable of exercising faith (see espec. Heb. 11). (1* It might well be asked at this point how it was that Abel, Enoch and others who never acquired covenant status were able to exercise faith. The answer surely lies in the fact that they were adults. If they had sufficient knowledge to sin – for without knowledge of law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.) – they also had enough knowledge on which to base their faith (Rom. 10:14,17). It was under this covenant that mankind began to take on personal characteristics like creativity that we associate more readily with modern adults (Gen. 10f.).

The Abrahamic Covenant of Promise

10. The first palpable move away from heathenism auguring a culminating future appeared with the covenants made with Abraham. They promised much and remain relevant even today. There was, however, much to occur in the meantime.

The Mosaic Covenant of Law

11. Slavery in Egypt was symptomatic of the immaturity of both the race and the individual as Paul indicates in Galatians 4:1-3. Even Jesus as truly human (incarnate) was subject to it as Matthew in particular realized (Mt. 2:15). The time came when Moses having learned the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22) was able to separate the children of Israel from the peoples in general (Lev. 20:24). At this point the law serving as a wall of separation came into effect. This experience, like the Passover (Ex. 12:41-51), was recapitulated in all subsequent generations both as individuals and communities (cf. Ex. 13:8; Acts 9:4). The fact that circumcised boys became sons of the commandment at age thirteen indicates that only adolescents were involved. Of course it was during the dispensation of law that the covenant promises were made to David.

The Messianic Covenant

12. The problem with living under the law is that it locks those held captive by it permanently in adolescence (Gal. 3:23). Clearly there is a further step to take in man’s evolution to spiritual maturity. This step, which was implicitly promised as early as Genesis 2:17 and made more explicit by the prophets Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel in particular (11:19; 36:26f.), proved unattainable because it hinged on keeping the law to perfection (Lev. 18:5). Needless to say, no one succeeded in achieving this (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23). Since God intended saving his people himself (Ps. 130:9; Isa. 45:22, etc.), it remained to Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, to meet the condition of life, freedom and sonship (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). Thus as man, the incarnate Son who had pleased his Father under the law and been born again (or from above), he was qualified to lay down his natural life (flesh, Col. 1:22) not only to save his people from their sins but to give them by faith the righteousness which was the precondition of life for them.

The Blessing of the Spirit

13. But an alien or legal righteousness is not enough. Even ‘adults’ need to improve or be conformed to the image of their Creator. After baptism and regeneration Jesus himself worked towards his Father’s perfection (Mt. 3:15; 5:48; 19:21, cf. Phil. 3:12-14) which, once achieved, resulted in his transformation ascension. Then, in accordance with the plan of God, we who believe in him follow the trail he has blazed.

14. In fact human evolution is summarily and conveniently sketched by Paul in Galatians 4:1-7. We begin as babies born of woman who through Adam stemmed from the earth. Then as children we become slaves who follow the race into adolescence. (2* Cf. Modern education’s three-tier system.) Next, we graduate into the freedom of adulthood or maturity en route to perfection. In other words, we are first slaves, secondly, servants and, thirdly, sons and heirs. (3* See further my Perfection, The Human Path to Perfection.) Having begun in an earthly paradise we progress towards a heavenly one where God himself dwells and is finally seen in Christ (Rev. 22:1-5).

Conclusion

Human evolution is from ground to glory and is implied in John 1:9-13; Romans 1:16-3:31 (racial); Romans 7-8 and, of course, Galatians 4:1-7 (individual). Recapitulation, or the repetition of a pattern, is basic to our understanding of it.

Note

According to Michael Green in his The Empty Cross of Jesus (p.59), William Barclay remarked in his Crucified and Crowned (p.100) that in Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly effected in obedience to the purpose of God.

The Fatherhood of God

Early in 2018 a fellow church member sent me a short newspaper cutting referring to a church in Sweden which suggested that Christians shouldn’t refer to God as “the Lord” or “He”. The reason given for this was that God is not human and is beyond our “gender determinations”. So, we may well ask why God should be called either Father or mother when it would appear obvious that God is sexless. The question is then, how do I respond to this view which would seem to be inspired by misunderstanding and perhaps feminist theology?

First, it is worth noting that despite the Bible’s reference to God as Father both as Creator (e.g. Luke 3:38; Acts 17:28; Eph. 3:15, cf. Rev 4:11) and Re-creator (e.g. John 1:13; 3:8; Eph. 4:6), the assumption among feminists and others seems to be that the word is an anthropomorphism. In other words, it is borrowed from the world of man and is wrongly applied to God. This assumption is questionable, as we shall see.

While it must be strongly affirmed that in the Bible both male and female are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26f., cf. Gen. 5:2; 9:6; James 3:9), nonetheless in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul distinguishes between man and woman asserting that the former is the image and glory of God and the latter is man’s glory (1 Cor. 11:7). (1* Arguably, a case can be made out for this differentiation in Genesis 6:2. See my Who Are The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4?.) Unless we draw the unwarranted conclusion that the apostle is contradicting what is so clearly taught in Genesis 1:27, he is making a point highly relevant to our discussion. Rather than asserting inherent male superiority as opposed to chronological priority, in light of the chapter in general and other teaching of Scripture (2* For instance, for Jesus the woman with a disabling spirit, Luke 13:16, is as much a child of Abraham by faith as a man, Zacchaeus, Luke 19:9.), he is pointing up a difference of role or function which has its roots in creation and reflects the activity, even the nature, of the Creator himself. Let us probe further.

We are told by Isaiah who clearly had an eye on Genesis 1 that God created the world to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18, cf. v.12. Note also Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2). This being so, when we consider that God created man (and the animals for that matter, Gen. 1:24; 2:19) out of dust (see espec. Gen. 2:7), it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that God had to make the otherwise desolate land in which he delighted (Dt. 11:12; Jer. 12:10, cf. 1 K. 9:3) fertile by ‘marrying’ it (cf. Isa. 62:4). (3* Scripture makes some pointed comments regarding desolation. See note below.) In other words, man and animal since they derived from both (the Spirit of) God as Creator (Father) and the earth (mother) became animated flesh, dust or clay (cf. Job 10:9; Ps. 103:14; 1 Cor. 15:47). If this is the case, it is reasonable to infer on the assumption of recapitulation, the repetition of an initial pattern, that since all animals and plants were created as seed-bearers, the intention was for them to reproduce their own kind (Gen. 1:11 passim). But the point seems to have been universally missed that when procreation took over from initial creation (Gen. 2:1f.), men as the image and glory of God imitated their Creator and fertilized or inseminated their wives who were their delight and glory. (4* Genesis 6:2. Ezekiel’s wife is referred to as the delight of his eyes, Ezek. 24:16, cf. vv. 21,25. Note also Jer. 12:7; 24:6.) It was surely in this way that Eve (or woman) who typified the earth became the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). This becomes all the more plain when we realize that Adam as the prototype of all human beings according to the flesh was created as perishable seed (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23) and as such was placed, or rather sown, by God in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, to gestate (Gen. 2:8,15). In view of this, we are led to infer that Adam’s progeny who were also created in his image and the image of God (Gen. 5:1-3) followed suit in their turn by sowing their seed in the garden womb of their wives (e.g. Gen. 5:6-32).

Given the above and the plan of salvation in general, it is hardly surprising to learn that just as the earth is meant to be sown, bear fruit (Gen. 1), be fully inhabited and eventually to produce a harvest (Mt. 13:1-8, etc.), so is a woman who typifies it as the book of Deuteronomy in particular emphasizes (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9). In fact, the image of a woman giving birth first in pain then in joy is a frequent one in the Bible. It is used by Jesus (John 16:20f.) and even by Paul of himself (though a male) in Galatians 4:19 (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6-8,18.). What is more, it is used even of creation giving birth to a final spiritual harvest (Mark 13:8; Rom. 8:22). (5* Indeed, we might note that God’s rest and satisfaction occurred when he had finished creation, Gen. 2:1-3, and note still further Jesus’ own pain at his crucifixion and his eventual joy after it was finished, John 19:30; Heb. 12:2.)

So, we can sum up the evidence produced thus far by saying, first, that just as God as Creator Father fertilized or inseminated the earth (mother) at creation to produce inhabitants, so man, the image of God, inseminates his wife (cf. Heb. 7:10; Prov. 23:22; John 1:13) at procreation to produce children. In this way Eve who was dust (Ps. 103:14) as derived from Adam becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). Second, just as a pregnant earth or field (Mt. 13:38, cf. Rom. 8:22) produces fruit leading to harvest (cf. Mark 4:26-29), so a woman’s womb likewise produces fruit which is eventually harvested (Mt. 3:10,12; 13:30,39-43; 24:31). And it is worthy of note that even Jesus as truly human (incarnate) was the fruit of his mother Mary’s womb (Luke 1:42, cf. Job 15:14; Gal. 4:4). Furthermore, it was he who became the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-23) and the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15).

Of course, feminists, even women in general, might take offence at the idea that they resemble productive land, all the more so when they become aware that Paul goes so far as to claim that they will be saved through child-bearing (1 Tim. 2:15). They might well feel that they are being regarded merely as baby factories! But that would be to over react, for there is much more involved. Child-bearing, like fruit-bearing, both physical and spiritual as such, is hugely important in the Bible (see e.g. Ps. 127:3-5) and is integral to the formation of the race, human society, family life and ultimately the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33) where it is no longer necessary (Luke 20:34-36, cf. Heb. 7:23; 1 Cor. 15:50. (6* Cf. Hurley, pp.68,223). Commenting on the general blessing of God in Genesis, Gordon Wenham (p.24) adds: “God’s blessing is most obviously visible in the gift of children, as this is often coupled with being fruitful and multiplying.”

But another point must be addressed. Some women, like land, are barren as the stories of Sarah (Genesis 16), Hannah (1 Samuel 1) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:7) remind us. In the event these three overcome their problem and in accordance with the divine intention, first indicated in Genesis 1 (cf. 9:1, etc.), prove wonderfully fruitful. Not so Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 12) and Tamar (2 Samuel 13). Their lives involved tragic loss emphasizing the fact that virginity, implying fruitlessness, was a matter of deep regret, even reproach (Isa. 4:1; Luke 1:25), and as such normally contrary to the will of God (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:4). (Pace Roman Catholicism which idolizes Mary’s putative perpetual virginity.) This, of course, prompts questions with regard to Jesus, the second Adam, who never married, at least on earth but conspicuously will do so in heaven (cf. Mt. 22:1-10; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 14:4, etc.). He, however, was the son of God in a much more fundamental sense than the first (cf. Luke 3:38). The latter was created out of the earth; the second was the eternal Word incarnated. (7* Arius, an early church heretic, was wrong! Jesus pre-existed as the Word and was created as flesh, John 1:1,14; Heb. 10:5. Of course, his divinity was compatible only with man who was not merely flesh but also made in the image of God. The difference at this point between the baby Jesus and the animals in the stable at Bethlehem was fundamental.)

But Jesus (and perhaps Paul) was not alone as one who never married for one reason or another. The question arose in OT times as Isaiah 54:1 (the desolate woman) and 56:3-5 (the eunuch) make apparent. The point is that the physical infertility or barrenness of both men and women made in the image of God does not render them spiritually fruitless (cf. Gal. 4:27). And from a biblical point of view this is much more important. The reason why Jesus did not marry and to all intents and purposes became a physical eunuch or dry tree was that his reason for coming into the world was to epitomize, inaugurate and foster the spiritual kingdom of God (Mt. 19:12). In light of this, it is helpful to bear in mind the fact already noted that in the next world there is neither flesh (dust, 1 Cor. 15:50) nor death thus making marriage and procreation unnecessary (Luke 20:34-36). (8* According to the Bible there are two things that are said to be the way of all the earth: procreation and death, Gen. 19:31; Jos. 23:14; 1 K. 2:2, cf. Heb. 7:23f.) Thus, even as Christians still in this world, we are taught to seek the things that are above (Col. 3:1, cf. Phil. 3:14) and to consider ourselves as already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20, cf. Eph. 2:6; Heb. 12:22). After all, the Jerusalem above (Gal. 4:26) is a mother who is fertilized by the Father who creates new creatures by his Spirit (John 1:13; 3:1-8; Heb. 12:9b). So, we are not simply born again but more importantly from above! Otherwise expressed, we are the very seed of God in the process of gestation before being born into the new world or regeneration (1 John 3:9; 5:18; Heb. 12:23, cf. Mt. 13:38a). No wonder John speaks in awe when he states that we are called the children of God (1 John 3:1).

Conclusion

In light of the evidence presented above, we are virtually forced to infer that the designation ‘Father’ is not an anthropomorphism as many nowadays imply. Scripture assures us that all fatherhood (Eph. 3:15) stems from the God who is the God and Father of us all (Eph. 4:6). In fact, he is the Creator of all things (Rev. 4:11) and without his activity the earth would be barren, uninhabited like a desolate woman without a husband. In other words, the word ‘father’ far from being an anthropomorphism is in fact a theomorphism, a word stemming from the Creator God himself who formed man made in his image out of mother earth to populate it by procreation with woman, the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).

Note on Desolation

Desolation is frequently referred to in the OT especially with respect to land. It occurs when it is untilled, unworked, unsown, unplanted (Jer. 2:2,21), and unfruitful because it is uninhabited (Gen. 2:5; Isa. 6:11; 27:10; Ezek. 36:33-38, etc.) or neglected (Prov. 24:30-34, etc.) and requires man to exercise his dominion over it. Here we may note the nature of the created earth early in its evolutionary development from its apparently chaotic beginning (Gen. 2:5, cf. 3:23). But desolation is by no means confined to land. Women like Jephthah’s daughter and Tamar are also its victims (cf. Isa. 54:1; Gal. 4:27). Mary, Jesus’ mother knows full well when she is visited by the angel Gabriel that she is a virgin (Luke 1:34, literally ‘since I do not know a man’) little realizing that the father of her promised child will be God himself. Normally, a woman without a husband is desolate and cannot bear fruit (Luke 1:42). But when she is overshadowed (Luke 1:35) by the Spirit of God like the earth (cf. Gen. 1:2) she can become fertile (cf. Isa. 62:4f.). On the other hand, it is when temples (Mt. 23:38) and bodies (James 2:26, cf. 2 Pet. 1:13f.) lack the spirit that they are dead (cf. Job 12:10; 34:14f.).

Afterthought

Every normal man is a seed-bearer and, in imitation of God whose image he is, he looks for somewhere to sow his seed. Whereas God as Creator sowed Adam as seed (cf. Ps. 139:15f.) in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15), man as procreator sows his seed in the garden womb of his wife (cf. Ps. 139:13) who duly bears fruit (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9, etc.) in children. (9* Not without reason did Job (3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18), who suffered much, curse the day they were born into this harsh, inhospitable world that we all know so well. By contrast, life in the womb was (making the necessary changes) as paradise had been for Adam. It is by no means surprising then that the heavenly paradise sketched in Revelation 22:1-5 is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden or paradise regained.) The latter then proceed to recapitulate the experience of and to repeat the practice of their parents and so on transgenerationally (Gen. 5:1-3). Since the race as a whole develops like the individual who is the race in miniature, it eventually achieves the perfection or maturity of Christ (Eph. 4:13-16, cf. 2:18-22; Heb. 11:40). It is then that the fatherhood of God is perfected or consummated (Eph. 3:14-21, cf. Rev. 4:11; 7:12). Thus finished or perfected ourselves we enter God’s rest as he himself did (cf. Heb. 4:8-10, cf. Rev. 14:1-5,13). So, at last we form the household of God (Heb. 3:1-6, cf. 10:34; 11:10; 12:22f.; 13:14; Eph. 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:1-6) under the headship of Christ, our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-13), to whose image we are conformed (Rom. 8:29). This was our heavenly Father’s intention from the start, the very plan of salvation (Eph. 1:1-6, cf. John 14:1-3).

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References

James B. Hurley, Man & Woman, Leicester, 1981.

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.

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See further my:

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …

Fruitlessness and Destruction

The Chicken or the Egg

Man’s Fourfold State

Creation: Evolution, Recapitulation, Perfection

More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulation

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Perfection

The Human Path to Perfection

The Journey of Jesus

The Ascent of Man

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

Understanding God

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Explanatory Note

What is all too briefly written above reflects my long-held dissatisfaction with the traditional ecclesiastical worldview inherited from Augustine of Hippo who died in 430 A.D. His belief that God originally brought into being a perfect world including a perfect (adult, mature) holy and righteous Adam and Eve followed by a fall and a universal curse on creation is really unbiblical nonsense. For those that hold such views the modern scientific teaching about evolution, even shorn of its naturalism, constitutes an insoluble problem. Creation, like procreation, is a beginning and without evolution it is a miscarriage, at best a stillbirth; evolution without creation is just an enigma beyond rational comprehension. See further my Worldview; The Biblical Worldview; Augustine: Asset or Liability?, etc.

Points to Ponder

1. If the second Adam, Jesus, was sown as seed in his mother’s womb, the first Adam mutatis mutandis (making the necessary changes), who was his type (Rom. 5:14), must have been too. The womb of his mother, the earth, was the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 2:8,15).

2. Just as David was formed like Adam as seed in the depths of the earth (Ps. 139:15; Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23) before being sown in his mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13, cf. Job. 10:11; Jer. 1:5), so Jesus pre-existed on high before he was sown as seed in Mary’s womb to begin his gradual evolutionary ascension into heaven as man (John 3:13; Eph. 4:9f.).

3. Just as God initiates the creation of a man in his image, so a man initiates the procreation of his own offspring (Gen. 5:1-32; Heb. 7:10).

4. If Adam was created perfect or full-grown without development or evolution as traditional fundamentalism would have it, far from being the prototype of all humanity, he wasn’t a man at all, least of all the father of all others (contrast Gen. 5:1-3). He would have been as much a myth as Athene who is said to have sprung full-grown from the head of Zeus in classical mythology. In the Bible the egg precedes the chicken! If, as some claim, Adam looked as if he was thirty when he was created, he was not obsolescent (subject to the aging process) like all other men including Jesus (cf. Luke 2:42, etc.). Furthermore, he was not the product of an aging earth (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 34:4, cf. Heb. 1:10-12). Again the conclusion must be that he was not a man at all! Clearly, the traditional Augustinian worldview which posited initial perfection (maturity) was wrong. All human beings as the product of the earth have a beginning followed by growth and development. Thus we recapitulate the experience of the race beginning with Adam himself. We must listen to the Bible, not to the traditional church.

Having said this, however, we must bear in mind that when Adam completed his gestation in the Garden he was physically full-grown and doubtless resembled a man of thirty. If this was not the case, it is difficult to see how he could have survived in the harsh environment into which he was plunged (Gen. 3:22-24). In other words, he looked as if he was thirty not when he was created but when he was ‘born’. (* See on this Eveson, pp.66,71)

5. Jesus had a father, that is, God: he also had a mother, the Virgin Mary. Adam also had a father, that is, God (Luke 3:38): he too had a mother, the earth (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15). Thus all who are born of woman who derived from dusty Adam are flesh including Jesus himself (Ps. 103:14, cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-50; Gal. 4:4).

6. All the children of Adam are created in the image of their Father God (Gen. 5:1-3). They are also born of woman and are hence flesh (dust, clay).

7. If Adam did not begin as seed, he was not a man at all. Furthermore, he was not our first father but an alien being, a figment of the imagination.

8. God is the creator of the spirits of the natural man (Num. 16:22, cf. Isa. 42:5; Zech. 12:1). He is also the Father of the spirits of the regenerate man (Heb. 12:9, cf. John 1:13; 3:6-8).

9. God creates animals from the earth (Gen. 1:24; 2:19) but they are not made in his image (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). They do not obey their Father’s voice but their master’s!

10. God has only one “wife”, the earth which is inhabited (Gen. 1; Isa. 45:18). All the other planets are ‘unmarried’ and unloved (cf. Isa. 62:4f.), desolate and fruitless!

Reference

P.H.Eveson in The Forgotten Christ, ed. Stephen Clark, Nottingham, 2007.

For Further Reflection

1. I am not the first to note the similarity between Genesis 1:2 and Luke 1:35.

2. For the sexual overtones characterizing creation and procreation, see Isaiah 45:9f.

3. See also Isaiah 62:4f. Just as God delights in and marries both his people and their land, so a young man marries and rejoices over his bride (cf. Gen. 6:2, etc.).

4. The law of creation is development, evolution in man’s case for he undergoes significant change. Animals once created simply develop, mature, that is, reach (physical) perfection, decline and die either naturally or are killed (2 Pet. 2:12). Man on the physical level does the same (cf. Num. 16:29) but on the spiritual level, as made in the image of God, he evolves and so changes. First, he acquires rational consciousness by which he apprehends natural law, then, if he is a Jew, the law of Moses. Next, if he succeeds in keeping that law which is the precondition of eternal life (Lev. 18:5) as Jesus did, he is born again or from above. This is in preparation for his resurrection ascension and transformation when he is given a spiritual body like that of Jesus. (Women of course are never circumcised nor strictly speaking under the law. They like all others who are sinners attain to glory through faith in Jesus, their pioneer.) While (animal) flesh remains statically uniform apart from physical growth and is finally destroyed (1 Cor. 15:50; 2 Cor. 5:1), spirit is subject to dynamic development and change till it achieves the perfection of God (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:17,21). Thus Jesus as man was perfected in the image of God till he was able to sit at God’s right hand (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 1:3, etc.). Once he had achieved this position of perfection or complete maturity, he ruled and continues to rule the universe (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:28; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:6; 1 Pet. 3:22). He is Lord!

Additional Note

Since writing the above I have come across the ruminations of Russell Aldwinckle who in his More Than Man (p.164) maintains that “God is neither father nor mother in the literal sense, but both …. God transcends the sexual differentiation completely, and this has to be frankly said.” I disagree! Aldwinckle is misled by his false belief in God as Eternal Father and Jesus as Eternal Son (p.167).

God is first presented to us as Creator, a point strongly stressed especially in the OT (see e.g. Gen. 1; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 90:2; Isa. 42:5, etc.). While he is somewhat obliquely presented as the Father of Adam (Luke 3:38, cf. Acts 17:28), it is primarily in the NT that he is termed a father, indeed the Father of the Lord Jesus himself who taught his disciples to address God likewise.

But to be a Father he had to have a wife. Who was that wife? Surely (mother) earth. Thus at his incarnation Jesus became his Son (cf. Heb. 1:5) born of woman who typified the earth (Gen. 3:20). In other words, God in the words of Isaiah delighted in and “married” the land (Isa. 62:4, cf. Ezek. 24:16,25) to produce the inhabitants he desired (Isa. 45:18). And just as he initially created them from (mother) earth, so subsequently after creation (Gen. 2:1-3) the rest were procreated by man the image of God and woman his glory or Delight (1 Cor. 11:7).

So our inference is that our God who is love is a passionate lover who is the inventor of sex which is fundamental to man and his proliferation. Failure to recognize the importance of woman who along with man is the image of God (Gen. 1:27) is failure to recognize that sex and reproduction is the way of all the earth (Gen. 19:31). One, perhaps the main one, of the goals of creation is the marriage feast of the Lamb (Eph. 5:31f.; Rev. 19:7-9).

In sum, without a wife who is a mother God would not be a father and Jesus would not be a son. This suggests that the idea of the eternal Sonship is an ecclesiastical invention. Both John (ch.1) and Paul (Phil. 2:6f.) fail to refer to the eternal Son which term seems inherently contradictory. See further my Eternal Son?, Understanding God.

Reference:

R.F.Aldwinckle, More Than Man, Grand Rapids, 1976.

The Relationship Between Genesis 3:15-19 and Romans 8:18-25

It has long been held that the background of Romans 8:18-25 is formed primarily by Genesis 3:15-19. Augustine of Hippo, whose influence on the church has been and still is, even in the 21st century, enormous, taught that in the beginning God created a perfect world over which a perfect, holy and righteous Adam and Eve exercised dominion. However, when they fell under the spell of the devil, sinned and were cursed, the world also ‘fell’ and was cursed with them and like them was in dire necessity of redemption. So even today in the 21st century theologians and commentators adhere to the view that we live on a cursed earth full of sinful people requiring urgent salvation. For instance, C.E.B.Cranfield in comment on Romans 8:18-25 (ICC Vol. 1, p.413) tells us that there is “little doubt that Paul had in mind the judgment related in Gen. 3.17-19”. J.D.G.Dunn along with various others endorses his view (e.g. Vol. 1, p.471). (1* F.F.Bruce may be mentioned as one among the various others. In 1964 he wrote a major commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews. There he recognized creation’s natural transience and final doom to destruction. However, the revision of his commentary on Romans in 1985, especially so far as Romans 8:18-25 is concerned, is strangely at odds with views he, in my opinion, correctly expressed in Hebrews. For instance, he refers in comment on Hebrews 11:25 to the transient pleasures of sin and then, in note 180, p.319, to 2 Corinthians 4:18, which is of course by Paul, as indicating the transience of the visible world by contrast with the eternity of the invisible. Bruce’s theological inconsistency is patent, unless of course he thought the biblical authors contradict one another.) But in the light of other teaching, even that of the apostle Paul himself, the question I am prompted to ask is: Is it correct?

In the nature of the case it would seem appropriate to take a look initially at Genesis 3 which I accept is rather difficult to understand, especially against the traditional Augustinian background.

The Context of Genesis 3:15-19

First, it is vital to bear in mind the context of Genesis 3 early in the Bible. Far from implying that man at the beginning of his career on earth was physically and morally mature, it points, perhaps somewhat opaquely, to his extreme immaturity. Otherwise expressed, Adam was not like Athene springing full-grown from the head of Zeus in classical mythology, but “intricately wrought in the depths of the earth” (Ps. 139:15, RSV, ‘woven’, NRSV, cf. Gen. 2:7), like the rest of the animals (Gen. 2:19). So, extrapolating from modern experience of procreation which recapitulates creation (Isa. 45:9f.) when we are all sired by (the seed of) man (cf. Heb. 7:10) and born of woman, this surely suggests that the Garden of Eden is the womb of the race. If this is so, the inference we reasonably make is that Adam himself was created, not full-grown as tradition has it, but as seed before being conceived in the Garden womb (Gen. 2:8,15, cf. Ps. 139:13). When we consider that in procreation the man Adam who is made in the image of God recapitulates the creative activity of God (cf. Isa. 45:9f.; Heb. 7:10) and that the woman, who is his glory (1 Cor. 11:7) or delight (Isa. 62:4f., cf. Ezek. 24:16,25), plays the role of the earth as mother (Gen. 3:20), this view is confirmed. (Against this background we may well infer that just as Jesus pre-existed in heaven and became imperishable seed (cf. “contracted to a span”, C.Wesley) sown in Mary’s perishable womb, so Adam pre-existed in the earth as perishable seed before being sown in the Garden of Eden, cf. 1 Pet. 1:23.)

Seed-bearing as such, especially in Genesis 1, implies recapitulation. This is still further borne out by the recognition that during his period of gestation in the Garden womb, Adam had done neither good nor evil (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), not least since he did not know the law or commandment apart from which he was morally neutral, or rather amoral, like an animal. But what is immediately relevant is the fact that his experience provided the pattern or blueprint for Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb, which for them typified the Garden of Eden (Rom. 9:11).

With this in mind, the inference we draw must be that in contrast with modern babies Adam attained to physical manhood while still in the womb, that is, in the Garden of Eden. But, despite this, he remained without rational understanding until towards the end of his gestation. And it was only when he acquired it, like a modern baby on the verge of childhood, that he became capable of receiving the commandment, of disobeying it and of being expelled from the Garden womb or, in other words, of being ‘born’. (2* Cf. Israel in Isaiah 48:8 who against a heathen background broke the law and was (metaphorically) ‘born’, but not created, sinful.) As Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 15:46, he was (animal) flesh before he was spirit or recognizably made in the image of God. On the assumption that this is indeed the case, his ejection from the idyllic Garden as a rational human as opposed to an animal ruled by (blind) instinct meant that he was now consciously faced with the kind of world that we all recognize confronts us even today, one that is intractable, inhospitable, difficult to manage and has to be subjected to our dominion (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). If it is not so subjected, it becomes like the field of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, a desolation characterized by thorns and nettles, a veritable curse in fact. (3* The picture of land uninhabited, or ‘unmarried’ like a woman, Isa. 62:4f., uncultivated and consequently desolate is a frequent one in the OT, e.g. Isa. 6:11; 27:10. See further my The Fatherhood of God, Understanding God.) With this in mind, the inference we draw must be that in contrast with modern babies Adam attained to physical manhood while still in the womb, that is, in the Garden of Eden. But, despite this, he remained without rational understanding until towards the end of his gestation. And it was only when he acquired it, like a modern baby on the verge of childhood, that he became capable of receiving the commandment, of disobeying it and of being expelled from the Garden womb or, in other words, of being ‘born’. (2* Cf. Israel in Isaiah 48:8 who against a heathen background broke the law and was (metaphorically) ‘born’, but not created, sinful.) As Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 15:46, he was (animal) flesh before he was spirit or recognizably made in the image of God. On the assumption that this is indeed the case, his ejection from the idyllic Garden as a rational human as opposed to an animal ruled by (blind) instinct meant that he was now consciously faced with the kind of world that we all recognize confronts us even today, one that is intractable, inhospitable, difficult to manage and has to be subjected to our dominion (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). If it is not so subjected, it becomes like the field of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, a desolation characterized by thorns and nettles, a veritable curse in fact. (3* The picture of land uninhabited, or ‘unmarried’ like a woman, Isa. 62:4f., uncultivated and consequently desolate is a frequent one in the OT, e.g. Isa. 6:11; 27:10. See further my The Fatherhood of God, Understanding God.)

To say this, however, immediately suggests that the cause of the curse in Genesis was not that the earth was subjected to miraculous constitutional change on account of man’s sin and ‘fall’ from original righteousness as tradition teaches, but rather that it was not properly tilled and cultivated by man who, though physically mature, was both mentally infantile and sinful (cf. Gen. 3:17; 4:12-16; 5:29). Put otherwise, during his racial (antediluvian) infancy, which was the time of his transition from (animal) flesh to human, man as both individual and community was incompetent and unable to adequately fulfil his original vocation of exercising dominion. A modern baby, of course, does not experience the so-called ‘cosmic’ curse because it is lacking conscious intelligence and, in any case, it has parents who are both adult and rational to care for it.

To clarify, as mere flesh man could live off the land as the animal he initially was (cf. Gen. 2:16), but as a conscious rational human being he could not. Tilling the land became a basic necessity inherent in the situation, as Genesis 1:26-28 indicates.
If all this is true, it casts a different light on the interpretation of the early chapters of the Bible we have inherited from the sin-obsessed Augustine and even some of his rabbinical predecessors.

The Interpretation of Genesis 3:15-19

First, the mere fact that creation had a beginning (Gen. 1:1) like all created things implied an end (Gen. 8:22, cf. Dt. 11:21; Mt. 24:35). This indicated that it was not eternal and was therefore not perfect, that is, like heaven and the throne of God, as tradition has it.

Next, the need for the earth to be subjected to man’s dominion (1:26) even subdued (Gen. 1:28), and for its ‘good’ fruit to be eaten (e.g. Gen. 2:9, cf. 1:29), belied any suggestion that it was an autonomous source of supply like the Garden of Eden or a womb. Rather the need for tilling or cultivation became paramount as Genesis 1:26-28 implied even before sin had appeared on the horizon as a possible cause. In other words, it was natural and divinely intended from the start irrespective of sin. Even the sinless Jesus, who was a carpenter in his youth, had to work (Mark 10:45; John 17:4). What is more, as Paul was to point out later, failure to work meant that a man should not, even could not in extreme conditions, eat (2 Thes. 3:10, cf. Gen. 3:19; Prov. 6:6-15; 12:11; 13:4; 19:15; 20:4; 24:34; Isa. 5:6, etc.).

The conclusion I draw from this is that since sin depends for its very existence on knowledge of (the) law/commandment (Rom. 4:15, etc.), it was knowledge, not sin, that opened Adam’s eyes (Gen. 3:5-7; 3:22) and enabled him to become aware not of a catastrophic change in nature and of a so-called cursed and fallen world, but of a world of which he had formerly been ignorant like a baby (or an animal) and had never consciously experienced during the purely animal stage of his existence. Clearly in light of Genesis 3:16, for example, pain, animal copulation, physical birth, death, weeds and the like existed, but Adam and Eve in their baby- or animal-like immaturity were almost completely unaware of them. (4* See, for e.g., my Death Before Genesis 3; A Double Helping.) As Paul was to say later, because law (and hence understanding) is lacking and therefore sin, death has no sting (1 Cor. 15:56). Expressed otherwise, animal death is natural and as such is without moral significance. Only rational humans earn the wages of sin and they do this by breaking the law which the animals do not have (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Thus Paul claimed that before he himself received the commandment (note the word!), he was like Adam (biologically) alive (Rom. 7:9f.) What sin did in Adam’s case was prove the existence of knowledge, which opened his eyes (Gen. 3:5,22) to the world as it now appears to us in its natural (not specially induced by sin) state of divinely-ordained corruption or decay (cf. Heb. 1:10-12). By contrast, animals, which lack knowledge like Adam before he received God’s commandment, are still blissfully in paradise lacking the attributes that make us human and painfully aware of nature’s intractability and hostility. Not for them philosophical problems regarding the existence of both natural and moral evil! (5* See further my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.).

Of course, expressed in this way my contention immediately raises the question of the sinless Jesus’ knowledge of the world he inhabited. This is important since like Adam before him he was born along with animals in a stable and knew as little as they did (cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4). But whereas he was ‘created’, or rather incarnated, in the image of God and was subject to spiritual development or evolution, they were not. So like all normal babies born of woman (Gal. 4:4), under the covenant with Noah he eventually came to recognize rainbows and to name the animals among which he was born. If this is so, then he acquired knowledge by normal human development as we all do but in his unique case apart from sin. As Paul indicates later, understanding of the law can lead to either disobedience as in Adam’s case or obedience as in Jesus’ case (Rom. 6:16). Plainly sin is not a necessary way of attaining knowledge. What it does is prove that knowledge exists (Rom. 4:15, etc.). If it did not, there would be neither guilt as in the animal world (John 9:41; 15:22,24) nor righteousness. Ignorance is always a mitigating factor in Scripture and total ignorance implies total mitigation.

Assuming the truth of this, we can readily draw the conclusion that creation was naturally, that is, by divine design, destructible, corruptible, provisional and futile from the start. (6* See my The Corruptibility Of Creation; Creation Corruptible By Nature; The Destruction of the Material Creation; The Transience of Creation; Concerning Futility.) It was made that way, and the ideas arising from Augustinian theology of original perfection, sin, fall, curse and future physical redemption are not only false but ludicrous. The plain fact is that the findings of modern science, despite its generally naturalistic bias, are much closer to biblical truth than those of the churches which are suffused with the absurdities of the Augustinian worldview. (7* Edgar Andrews’ quarrel with what he calls emergence or theistic evolution is difficult to understand. His problem would appear to be that he is a committed Augustinian. His false theology gets in the way of the biblical and the experiential facts of human life as we know it. Perhaps C.S.Lewis and Francis Collins were not so wrong as he thinks, pp.259ff. In fact, his quotation from Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, the time scale apart, could be the description of the formation of a baby! If this is correct, it confirms my view that the individual recapitulates the history of the race, on which see especially my If the individual recapitulates ….. )

The Curse

At this point the critical reader might well be prompted to observe sarcastically that despite my alternative explanation, the Bible, in line with the traditional Augustinian worldview, explicitly refers to a curse stemming from Adam’s sin. It does indeed, but, as I have already suggested, that curse is not a divinely orchestrated, miraculous change in the very constitution of the ground but the natural consequence of its being left unattended, neglected and untilled like the sluggard’s field in Proverbs 24 (cf. Job 31:38-40). After all, though the covenant with obedient Noah (who is presumably the first racial ‘child’), ensures that a ‘cosmic’ curse will never again be repeated (8:21f., cf. Isa. 54:9f.; Luke 17:26-29.) because man will in general be a worker (cf. the later Protestant work ethic and its fruits), there is plenty of evidence of desolation on a lesser scale both in the Bible (Lev. 26; Dt. 28), in history and modern experience. As Hebrews 2:2 asserts, sin always results in curse of a kind. But alongside curse there is blessing (Dt. 30:15, etc.), which would be impossible if the curse was universal, cosmic and permanent. The land flowing with milk and honey, which was nurtured successfully by the wicked but nature-worshipping Canaanites before it became a wonderful legacy, blessing and haven to the children of Israel (Dt. 6:10f.; 8:6-10), would be a chimera if the traditional view is true, not to mention other evidence that the earth reacts to the way it is treated (Prov. 12:11; 13:4; 28:19). For example, we have only to think of the exile, its 70-year Sabbath rest, and its aftermath of recovery. (8* See also e.g. Ps. 107:33-38, Isa. 5:1-7; 51:3; Ezek. 36: 33-38 and my Cosmic Curse?)

Romans 8:18-25

In light of the above, what can be said of Romans 8:18-25 which has usually been interpreted following lines arrived at on the traditional Augustinian view of Genesis 3:15-19?

The very first point to make is that whereas sin played its part in Genesis, Paul makes no more mention of it in this passage from Romans than he does in 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 and Jesus does in John 3:1-8. Sin is read into it (eisegesis) not out of it (exegesis). So attempting to read it without Augustinian presuppositions, it soon becomes apparent that Paul first makes a distinction between this age and the age to come (8:18; Eph. 1:21, cf. Luke 20:34-36). As 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 especially makes more obvious, the difference has nothing to do with sin but is intrinsic in the work of God. The pejorative or depreciatory ‘hand-made’ (cheiropoietos) world is by nature inferior to the ‘not hand-made’ (acheiropoietos) or permanent world by divine design (cf. Heb. 9:11,24). (9* Cf. the natural difference in bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:42-50 and my Manufactured Or Not So. The (human) body of flesh is creation in miniature and clearly destructible.) Just as the OT Promised Land, though ‘exceedingly good’ (Num. 14:7, ESV), was not a final stopping point or journey’s end (cf. Heb. 3,4), so neither is this present visible material world we inhabit. Still good (1 Tim. 4:4), it will serve its purpose and be productive to the end of the age (Gen. 8:22; Luke 17:26-30). Since this is so, it was always the divine intention that man, the image of God, as opposed to animal should escape from this ‘evil’ age (Gal. 1:4, cf. 1 John 2:15-17) and aspire to heaven and the throne of God as his spiritual son. Thus Paul implies in Romans 8:19 that this present temporary creation (which had a beginning and will therefore have an end) far from being perfect is geared to the eventual revealing of the sons of God. Since this is so, while it was intentionally subjected to futility by God himself, it was so in hope of something better (8:20). As a creature like the rest of the animals, fleshly man is part and parcel of that creation and so is subject to the same futility (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). But he is also made in the image of God and consequently, as God’s creature, he needs to be liberated from his physical futility in order to reach his goal of glory (cf. Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet.1:6f.) as the son of God (Rom. 8:21, cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). (10* On Romans 8:21, see my Romans 8:18-25 In Brief.) So while the entire creation is groaning in the pains of childbirth as the mother of all flesh (cf. Gen. 2:7; 3:20; Ps. 139:15f.; Mark 13:8), we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit experience the same pains as we groan inwardly awaiting our adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies (8:23, cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-5). (11* But not our flesh! Soma certainly, but not sarx, Dunn, p.391)!

Paul then refers again to the hope he mentioned in verse 20 and stresses its invisible and spiritual as opposed to its visible and material nature (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18). This being so, the notion of the redemption of the physical creation is ruled out of court. If the perishable flesh cannot go to heaven, neither can the perishable creation (Heb. 1:10-12) from which it derives (1 Cor. 15:50).

Conclusions

First, on the assumption that my reasoning and understanding above are correct, the Augustinian worldview involving initial or original perfection followed by sin, curse, fall and final redemption is not only wrong, it is absurd and turns what the Bible teaches upside down. (12* The very word perfection implies end, completion maturity, cf. James 1:4, not beginning. Cf. my Topsy-Turvy Theology.) If God’s power and glory are displayed in the things he has made ‘by hand’ (Rom. 1:20), they are also manifested in their transience and final destruction (Heb. 1:10-12; 12:27). (13* Cf. 2 Pet. 3:5-7 which implies that what God can make, he can unmake!) And this Paul himself clearly accepts not only in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6f.), but also here in Romans 8:18 and 8:24f. Like the spirit in John 3 and the body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 redemption is confined to the spiritual to the exclusion of the material. If flesh cannot go to heaven and be eternalized (1 Cor. 15:50), neither can the creation which spawns it (cf. Rev. 21:1). (14* See further the other ‘no more’s’ of Rev. 21:4, 22:3,5, and note especially the ‘hand-made’ temple in Rev. 21:22, cf. Mark 14:58). The very idea is opposed to the essence of biblical teaching and the whole tenor of revelation. It fails to understand that the goal of man was his spiritual sonship of God from the start (Eph. 1:4-6) and that the attainment of that goal meant his evolutionary ascent, not his ignominious descent or ‘fall’ from an initial high point of maturity. More to the point, that ascent from ground to glory was most clearly etched in the life of Jesus (John 3:13, cf. Eph. 4:9f.) who alone achieved the perfection of God (Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Heb. 1:3; 5:9; 7:28, etc.) in the flesh and so served as the pioneer of the rest of us (Heb. 6:20; 12:2; Rev. 3:21). Furthermore, it imports a colossal contradiction into Scripture which clearly teaches the fiery final destruction (e.g. Zeph.1:3,18; 3:8; 2 Pet. 7,10-12) of the visible, temporary, material creation (e.g. Mt. 6:19f.; Luke 13:4; Col. 2:22) leaving only the eternal things (cf. Luke 16:9) that cannot be shaken permanently in place (Heb. 12:27-29).

Evolution

It is arguable that the most serious damage a false Augustinian interpretation of the early chapters of Scripture has done is to deny not simply aspects of Darwinism but the very concept of evolution which is almost never defined in popular Christian literature. The inevitable result of this has been to set Christianity at loggerheads with genuine science, to bring its truth into question and into public disrepute. Biblically speaking, however, it is impossible to pit creation against evolution. For in the Bible the corollary of creation is precisely evolution just as the corollary of procreation, which recapitulates creation (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), is maturation or perfection. (15* At this point, of course, it must not be forgotten that physical evolution, even that of ‘the selfish gene’, always ends in death, but spiritual evolution, which achieves its culmination in the presence of God, delivers eternal life. Since Jesus will never die again but live for ever, so shall we!) The goal of every baby beginning with Adam has been to be perfected and to attain to the glory of God (Rom. 2:7,10; 3:23; 5:2; 8:30). And this was made possible by Jesus who having achieved perfection as man himself ensured that all who have faith will do so too (cf. Heb. 11:39f.). On the great Day, faithful men and women of every tribe and nation will stand before the throne of God and the Lamb and give praise for their salvation (Rev 7:9f.).

Validation

I have in essence set forth my case, but can it be further validated? Is the worldview implied by Genesis 3 the same as that sketched by Paul in Romans 8:18-25?

First, the attentive reader of the Bible can hardly be unaware that there is a difference between sin and nature. (16* See further e.g. my Sin And Nature; Death and Corruption; Two ‘Natural’ Necessities; Transgression And Transformation.) In Matthew 6:19f., for example, Jesus refers to natural moths and rust on the one hand and to sinful thieves on the other. He does the same in Luke 13:1-5 where he distinguishes between the lethal effect of the sinful acts of Pilate and the equally lethal effect of the natural corruption of the tower of Siloam. (On this Bastille Day on which I write in July 2019, Australians have been killed by falling trees!) Again in Luke 21 the same distinction appears (e.g. vv.10f., etc.). Since this is so, ultimately on the Day of the Lord mankind will be caught in a trap (Luke 21:34f.; 1 Thes. 5:3; 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Here what must happen ‘naturally’ will be used to bring salvation to the faithful and destruction to the wicked.

It is difficult to read the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys and not to become aware that the apostle has to deal with tribulation (cf. Acts 9:16) in the form of both (sinful) persecution and the afflictions stemming from nature. On the one hand, he suffers at the hands of human enemies, on the other he has to overcome the trials imposed on him by nature (Gen. 1:26,28, e.g. Acts 27; 2 Cor. 6:4f., etc., cf. Jonah).

It should also be noted that both Job and Jeremiah, who suffered much from both natural disaster and human hostility, wished they had remained in their mother’s womb which recapitulated for them the idyllic Garden of Eden. But there was no going back (Gen. 3:24, cf. John 3:4). Birth into the present world meant seeing toil and trouble (Job 5:6f.; 7:1; 14:1ff., etc.) as Jesus did, even though they had never like Adam sinned (cf. Dt. 1:39). Yet it was nonetheless like a curse (Job 3:1ff.,20; Jer. 20:14-18). To generalize, Job suffered mainly from the natural world and Jeremiah from persecution. (17* See further my Job And Romans 8:18-25.) We do well when studying Scripture to realize that corruption can be both moral and physical. Perhaps we can learn more from Ecclesiastes than we normally do. After all, we usually view it through ‘Augustinian’ eyes.

But the difference between sin and nature is also brought out on the linguistic level by the word ‘ananke’, denoting necessity (18* Vine, p.176.) It refers to things that must be like distress and affliction quite unrelated to sin. They are nonetheless integral to the will and purpose of God who tests us not merely by law (Dt. 8:2,16) but by natural events (Job; Ecclesiastes; Acts 14:22; James 1:12, etc.). Thus it is stressed that Jesus alone overcame the world, the flesh and the devil in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.; John 16:33; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:15-17).

Then there is the difference between (im)mortality and (in)corruption often ignored in the EVV (e.g. Rom. 1:23; 2:7). While Jesus as incarnate was in contrast to his Father both mortal (he died) and perishable (like creation he grew older), by keeping the law he brought to light both the immortality and incorruption or imperishability that were his Father’s attributes (2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:53).

In addition to other evidence, the fact that the sinless Jesus grew older proves beyond question that the creation of which he became a part at his incarnation was intrinsically corruptible (cf. Heb. 1:10-12). So, the idea that obsolescence is simply the fruit of sin is unsustainable, even though it (sin) is usually an exacerbating factor (cf. Heb. 12:1). Two examples will suffice: smoking can result in cancer and early death by corruption; global warming which is the consequence of excessive burning of fossil fuels can arguably contribute to the destruction of creation. But both death and destruction will occur, no matter what (cf. Num. 16:28f.). They are divinely intended (Isa. 51:6; Mt. 5:18, etc.) and can only be avoided by man if he either keeps the law or is saved by faith in Jesus. Hence Peter’s warning (2 Pet. 3:11).

Final Comment

On the assumption that I have argued correctly, it has become apparent that Augustine’s original perfect world was not creation in general but the Garden of Eden or womb of the race. Needless to say, it constituted paradise (cf. Ezek. 28:11-16). And the fact that it re-appears in enhanced form in Revelation 22 confirms this and should not surprize us. It was regained by Jesus who alone achieved perfection. As he himself intimated, he descended in order to ascend (John 3:13; 6:62) with his sheep behind him (John 10:4; Rom. 8:28-30).

The creation or harsh outside world that confronted Adam in Genesis 3 when he emerged from the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, is essentially the same as the one sketched by Paul in Romans 8:18-25 and is part of our present experience. Its corruption and eventual destruction were part of the divine purpose from the start and like the law designed to test mankind (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Rom. 2:7,10). Death and decay are natural, that is, divinely intended, and are characteristic of this ‘evil’ age (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18) from which we must escape either by law-keeping, which is impossible, or by faith in Jesus (Gal. 1:4). In light of this, sin and curse must be seen as exacerbating factors, signs of human failure (cf. Heb. 12:1). While change has occurred and continues to occur, not least in our own bodies, it is the result of the passage of time, evolution, natural corruption and deterioration including wear and tear (cf. Mt. 6:19f.; Col. 2:22; Heb. 1:10-12). But alongside this there has been blessing and the positive contribution of faithful man in his maturity, that is, his commitment to civilisation, the well-being of human society and final salvation in Christ, who alone conquered the world (John 16:33; Heb. 2:9), achieved perfection (Heb. 5:9) and proved worthy (Rev. 5:9,12-14).

See further my:

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

Cosmic Curse?

Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’

Understanding the Curse

Observations on The Curse

Romans 8:18-25 In Brief

Further Reflection on Romans 8:18-25 – An Alternative Approach

Evangelicals and Creationists

The Correspondence Between Romans 8:12-25 and 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10

The Ascent of Man

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

Perfection

Solidarity and Separation

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References

Edgar Andrews, Who Made God?, Darlington/Carlisle, 2009.

F.F.Bruce, Romans, Leicester, 1985.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, London/Edinburgh, 1965.

C.E.B.Cranfield, ICC Romans, Vol. 1, Edinburgh, 1975.

J.D.G.Dunn, WBC Romans 1-8, Dallas, 1988.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Nashville, 1985.

Christianity – An Alternative Approach


(This article is intended to serve as a supplement to and further explanation of my earlier articles What is Christianity?, Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained and If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …. Anglican W.H.Griffith Thomas once wrote a book entitled “Christianity Is Christ” first published in 1909. I take my cue from him.)

Christianity is summed up in Christ. As sinlessly incarnate he is often rightly described as the perfect man. (1* The word ‘perfect’ appears to have been much understood in the course of church history where undue emphasis has been placed on Jesus’ sinlessness to the serious neglect of his maturation as a man, cf. Luke 2:40-52. James 1:4, like Mt. 5:48, Phil. 3:12, Heb. 6:1, etc., points to its real meaning of mature or complete.) Regrettably, this designation, though true, is misleading for, as the letter to the Hebrews in particular makes clear, he was and is the perfectED man (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. 4:14; 7:26). To say this prompts the question as to how he was made perfect as implied by Hebrews 1:3 rather than being regarded as uniformly and statically perfect, righteous and holy like Adam who in the minds of those who accept traditional orthodoxy was at his creation.


Conception

First, it must be recognized that, according to the Bible, the eternal Word when he was made flesh, began at the beginning like the first Adam. (2* As I have already implied, the church has historically presented our first parents and even the creation itself as initially perfect (mature or complete). However, on the assumption of Adam’s initial ‘high estate’ (Milton) and subsequent sin both creature and creation have been regarded as ‘fallen’ and thus in need of redemption. This is manifestly not the biblical picture.) Not to have done so would have disqualified him as man created in the image of God as presented in Genesis 1:26-28. While it is true that Paul arguably portrays Jesus as having descended like Adam into the lower parts of the earth at his incarnation (Eph. 4:9), to be precise Jesus as man was created in the womb of the Virgin Mary who herself stemmed from the earth through Adam (Gen. 2:21-23). This surely implies on the assumption of recapitulation, that is, that procreation recapitulates creation, that Mary’s womb (cf. Gen. 3:20; Dt. 7:13) typified the Garden of Eden which was the original womb of the race (cf. Gen. 1:11f.,24; 2:7). (3* On this see in more detail my Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained, Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny, Man’s Fourfold State, etc.)


Infancy

Once he was conceived as the seed of God his Father (cf. Heb. 7:10) Jesus gestated for nine months in the womb of his mother Mary in complete ignorance (cf. Rom. 9:11). Then like all human beings he was ‘born of woman’ (Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4; Gal 4:4, etc.) and proceeded to develop as a baby. It is important to note at this point that Jesus, the second Adam, differed from the first Adam. The latter did not attain to intelligent self-consciousness until shortly before he was ejected from the Garden of Eden where, though physically adult, like a baby he learned one negative commandment which, though it promised life, he proceeded to break (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:6, cf. Rom. 7:9f.). By contrast Jesus confirmed his divine sonship by keeping the commandment and eventually the whole law (of Moses). Since the precondition of eternal life or the new birth is keeping the law (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), as the future Saviour of mankind Jesus’ goal was to please his Father (John 6:38) and to seek glory and honour in his sight (cf. Rom. 2:7,10). This he eventually achieved (Heb. 2:9). Thus, once he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). But we are moving ahead of ourselves.


Childhood

Infancy as we know it nowadays both as individuals and as a race is characterised by both physical and mental (spiritual) immaturity. Indeed, it is lived in ignorance (Dt. 1:39; Heb. 5:12-14) and like Adam (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22) and even Jesus himself (Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4) we know neither the law nor good and evil until we are on the verge of childhood. It is at this point that we begin to blossom as human beings recognisably made in the image of God. It is not without significance that the first racial covenant was made with Noah and not with Adam, and it is correspondingly made with all human individuals transgenerationally. In other words, even the heathen are its conscious beneficiaries (cf. Dt. 4:15-19; Acts 14:17 and the Areopagus address in Acts 17). Thus it is that Jesus, the individual, after infancy began his earthly pilgrimage by recapitulating his forefathers’ stay in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15, cf. Ex. 13:8).


Adolescence

On his return to his native land, Jesus as a Jew who had originally been circumcised on the eighth day began his stint under the law (cf. Luke 2:40-52). A Jewish boy, recapitulating and thereby reflecting the experience of his forefathers under Moses, took personal responsibility for law-keeping as a son of the commandment following his bar mitzvah at about the age of thirteen. The reason why it was a paramount necessity for Jesus to live under the law was so that he might serve as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) specifically as man and successfully keep it on mankind’s behalf. In this way he met the divine precondition (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11,13,21, etc.) and brought in the (eternal) life and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10 Gk., cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) originally promised to Adam and to all his progeny but thwarted by universal sinfulness (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:9-20, etc.).


Adulthood / Maturity / Perfection

Thus it was that Jesus as man achieved what had eluded all his predecessors (cf. Heb. 11): he kept the law and gained the eternal life signified by his baptism and his Father’s words of approbation (Mt. 3:13-17). Whereas in the OT prophets and other sinners were occasionally and temporarily blessed by the gift of the Spirit (e.g. Saul, 1 Sam. 10:10), Jesus received him permanently (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27) and, led by the Spirit, he was able to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15), that is, live the regenerate life here on earth to perfection. As born again (or from above), in the words of Paul, he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). Or, as the matter is expressed by the author of Hebrews, through his fleshly death (undergone as a spotless lamb, 1 Pet. 1:19, cf. Heb. 9:14) he was able to destroy the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver his sheep from bondage (Heb. 2:14f.).

So Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, fulfilled his quest to live to perfection man’s original vocation to obey God (cf. Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5; John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29), gain glory and honour and ascend to heaven from where he had descended in the first place (John 3:13; 6:62f.; 13:3, etc.) with this express intention (cf. Heb. 10:7). In this way as man’s representative he served as the pioneer of all believers’ into the presence of the Father (cf. Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:2). And thus as man he regained the glory he had temporarily laid aside at his incarnation (John 17:5,24; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:7,9). Now as believers we can live in full assurance that as man glorified at God’s right hand he rules over all (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; John 17:2). In a word, Jesus, the man, the second Adam, is Lord (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), the OT designation of God himself. As such he is also our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-18).

If then Jesus is man’s pioneer or trailblazer to glory (cf. Heb. 2:9-13; 12:2), we who believe in him must follow in is steps (John 12:26; 14:3; 17:24; Rev. 14:4). If he, as Irenaeus suggested, became what we are, we are intended to become what he is. In light of this it is less than surprising that Paul whose own aim was perfection (Phil.3:12-14) should write that we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God as those who are predestined (cf. Eph. 1:4-6), called, justified and finally glorified (Rom. 8:29f.).

If all this is true, then the story of man in Christ is one of ascent and of perfection (maturation) from initial imperfection and immaturity. Man’s pilgrimage involves transformation from ground to glory, from dust to destiny, from conception to coronation (cf. Heb. 11). Only for those who disavow Christ is the story one of permanent descent or degeneration (2 Pet. 2:12-22; Jude 10-13; Rev. 13, cf. Ezek. 13). Thus those who make a pact with the devil and imitate evil (3 John 11) will retain their solidarity with him for ever (Rev. 20:10-15; 21:8).


Traditional Error

On the assumption that the above outline is essentially correct, it is the tragedy of history that the church has been deceived in general by its commitment to the worldview propounded by Augustine of Hippo. The notion that God originally created a perfect world inhabited by a perfect, holy, righteous and even immortal Adam and Eve is a mistake of the first order of magnitude. Rather than lose their original righteousness, Adam and Eve like all babies who recapitulate their experience simply lost their innocence. The idea that they ‘fell’ and brought a curse on all creation represents a thorough misunderstanding of the evidence that Scripture provides. As the apostle indicates, sin is not the only fly in creation’s ointment. Our problems in this world stem primarily from the nature of creation which being visible is not only temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) but also corruptible and futile by divine design (Rom. 8:20, cf. 1 Cor. 15:17-19). (4* On this see e.g. my Manufactured Or Not So.) While the new birth and bodily transformation are meant to be our means of escape (5* See further my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities, Escape.), they fail because we succumb to sin and need to be rescued. God by his grace in Christ effects our deliverance (Isa. 45:22-25; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:9-11).

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See further my

The Journey of Jesus

The Ascent of Man

Perfection

Man’s Fourfold State

The Human Path to Perfection

Salvation

Topsy-Turvy Theology

The Corruptibility Of Creation

Creation Corruptible By Nature

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation? , etc.

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

(I have maintained for many a long year that the ‘Christianity’ propounded by the churches is seriously distorted. The ecclesiastical view is the product of dogma arrived at principally by the questionable fifth century vagaries and fanciful ruminations of Augustine of Hippo, his contemporaries and successors. Strictly speaking, Christianity is a new covenant phenomenon but its roots are firmly embedded in the OT. Thus, to avoid the charge of Marcionism, it is necessary to begin at the beginning with the book of Genesis in order to discover what true Christianity is.)


Creation

The unexplained invisible God is the Creator of the visible material creation (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3,6; Rev. 4:11, cf. Rom. 1:20).

He created the earth to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Ps. 115:16; Is. 42:5; 45:12,18).

Mankind (epitomised by Adam the individual) was formed by God, who is universal Father (Eph. 3:14f.), in the depths of (mother) earth as seed (Gen. 2:7, cf. 2:19; 3:19; Job 10:8-11; Ps. 139:15). (1* Adam was a type (Rom. 5:14) of the second Adam, Jesus, who was also created as seed and like David (Ps. 139:13) gestated in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:31,35).)

On the assumption of recapitulation it is obviously as seed that Adam is first placed (or sown) in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, to be conceived, to gestate and develop with a view to tilling or cultivating it (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:8,15; Ps. 104:14).

Eve was created out of Adam (cf. Heb. 7:10) as Adam himself had been created out of the earth (Gen. 2:21-23, cf. 1 Tim. 2:13a; 1 Cor. 11:8,11f.).


Procreation / Conception

Once the creation of seed-bearing plants (Gen. 1:11f., cf. Jer. 2:21; Ps. 80:8; Mark 4:26-29) and living creatures (Gen. 1:20-25) including mankind (Gen. 1:28) has been achieved, under the providence of God procreation takes over (Gen. 5:1-4; Luke 3:38, cf. Isa. 45:9f.). As the image of his Creator Adam fertilizes (inseminates) Eve who is his glory (1 Cor. 11:7, cf. Ezek. 24:16,25) as the earth was the glory of God (Rom. 1:20; Rev. 4:11, cf. Dt. 11:11f.). Thus Eve, whose womb symbolizes the Garden of Eden (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18), typifies (mother) earth and, as the earth in microcosm, becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). (We are not told why a woman’s hair, which emphasises gender distinction, is her glory, 1 Cor. 11:15, but if women typify the earth this natural covering perhaps implies her fruitfulness or fertility, cf. Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9, etc.). (2* As God rejoices over the land and its people (Isa. 62:4, cf. Dt 11:11f.), so a young man rejoices over his bride (Is. (62:5).)

Adam and Eve clearly mature (evolve) to physical adulthood but since initially like babies and animals they know neither the commandment nor good and evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), they are like the rest of the animal creation lacking conscious intelligence.

Like babies both Adam and Eve gradually attain to knowledge and understanding. Again like babies the first word they understand is the word ‘no’ (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4; Heb. 5:12-14).


Birth

Once they come to know the commandment Eve, deceived by the devil and unable to resist the temptations of the flesh (Gen. 3:1-6), breaks it (1 Tim. 2:14) with Adam’s connivance. As a consequence they are separated from the tree of life (Gen. 3:24, cf. Isa. 59:2) and cast out of the Garden (Gen. 3:23, cf. Isa. 59:2; Job 3; 5:7; 7:1; 14:1; Eccl. 2:23; Jer. 2:21; 5:25; Jer. 20:14-18). In other words, they are ‘born’ and cursed like the Israelites after escaping from Egypt and receiving the ten commandments (Isa. 48:8).


Infancy

Once outside the Garden, they find themselves confronted by a hostile, intractable and naturally corruptible world (Gen. 3:15-19) over which they are meant to exercise dominion or rule (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:5,15; 3:23). As both the infants of the race and sinners to boot they are completely incompetent to achieve this. So unsurprisingly, the untilled ground is cursed. (3* Modern babies of course gain knowledge much earlier than their original parents did. Since they have mature working parents to care for them, they do not experience the ‘cosmic’ curse that afflicted Adam’s immediate descendants.) In fact it is to all intents and purposes like an uninhabited or deserted land a desolation (cf. e.g. Lev. 26:27-39; 2 Chron. 30:7; Isa. 6:11; 24 passim) resembling the field or vineyard (cf. Isa. 5:1-7) of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, at best only suitable for animals (cf. e.g. Ex. 23:29; Isa. 7:23-25; 27:10; 32:13f.).

Given the gradual transition of man from (animal) flesh to spirit (cf. Isa. 31:3; 1 Cor. 15:46), it is less than surprising that the earth is given over to violence (Gen. 6:5,11f.). And since the creation including man lacks any guarantee, it is cursed and unproductive. In this situation man and indeed all flesh is inevitably slated for cataclysmic destruction, that is, by flood (Gen. 6:7,13,17; 7:4). However, in his mercy and with his plan of salvation in mind God establishes a covenant with Noah who is significantly obedient (Gen. 6:22; 7:5, etc.). This covenant which counteracts general curse (cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:25f.) is to endure to the end of the earth (Gen. 6:18-22; 8:20-9-17; Isa. 54:9f., cf. Luke 17:26-30) like the law (Mt. 5:18). (4* According to the author of Hebrews Abel and Enoch as adults are justified by faith and therefore saved even before the covenant is made. The covenant guarantees the perpetuation of all animal life and hence the earth only until the plan of salvation is accomplished (cf. Job 12:10; Jer. 31:35-37 and 33:17-26). Once the harvest of the earth is reaped and garnered, the visible physical creation, having served its purpose, is obliterated (Heb. 1:10-12; 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:5-12, cf. Mt. 13; Rev. 7:2f.))


Childhood

The mere fact that God makes an ‘agreement’ with Noah instead of unilaterally imposing a mere commandment on him as he did on ‘baby’ Adam at the beginning suggests that Noah has achieved greater mental development and is more mature than his antecedents. Weaned and cleansed of his infantile filth by the flood (1 Pet. 3:21), he can recognize a rainbow, the sign of the covenant, and respond positively to it (Gen. 9:14-17). This of course is beyond the capacity of the animals which are named by Adam (Gen. 2:19) even though they are also the covenant’s beneficiaries (cf. Ps. 104:14-27; Acts 14:17; 17:25-28, etc.). From this point on the human race spreads abroad and begins what we now know as civilisation even if it is still in the process of being won. It reminds us of the dispersal of disciples after the establishment of the Christian covenant in the NT (Acts 8:1) to begin the still continuing evangelisation of the world (cf. Mt. 28:18-20).

The call of Abraham, originally a resident of heathen Ur of the Chaldeans, and the solemn covenant promises made to him (Gen. 12,15,17) underline the fact that the scattering of mankind throughout the world will eventually lead to their ultimate blessing and ingathering in Christ (cf. Mt. 24:31; Rom. 15:8-12; Gal. 3).


Adolescence

But long before this could take place, a considerable period of education was necessary. (5* John Stott with rare insight sees the importance of this in his book Our Guilty Silence, cited in Authentic Christianity (p.334). By contrast Marcionism ignores this and leads almost inevitably to infant baptism.) Thus after 400 years of slavery in heathen Egypt, the immediate posterity of Abraham were eventually released from bondage, passed through the wilderness and received their national charter as a royal priesthood and a holy nation when Moses gave them the law (Ex. 19f.). Thus they walked tall as the servants of God (Lev. 25:42,55) in the Promised Land. Yet even as servants they were still under guardians or, as the KJV pointedly but somewhat inaccurately puts it, under a schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24f.). Again, it is significant that the individual male, though circumcised on the eighth day, did not become a Son of the Commandment till his bar mitzvah at about the age of thirteen when he took personal responsibility for keeping the law. However, as inveterate sinners the Israelites were constantly under the domination of their enemies (cf. e.g. Judges). Indeed, at one stage they were even sent into Assyrian and Babylonian exile and deprived of the land, the birthright they cherished and regarded as God’s permanent gift (cf. Ps. 137, etc.). Happily, in accordance with God’s promise to Jeremiah, after 70 years they returned home from Babylon (2 Chr. 36:22f.; Ezra 1:1-3, etc.). Yet even there they continued to suffer (cf. Ezra 9:9; Neh. 9:36).

It was during the dispensation of the law that God supplemented the Abrahamic covenant promises with those made to David as 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89 plainly indicate. It was from this time on in particular that the Messianic hope took shape and fortified God’s people through exile and general distress (cf. 2 K. 13:23; 2 Chr. 21:7). Furthermore, confirming hints made by Moses (e.g. Dt. 29:4; 30:6) the prophets Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel (11:19; 36:26f.) promised a new covenant which would eventually supersede the law which had brought them into bondage. (6* Paul sketches the maturation or perfection of the individual from birth through slavery, servanthood to eventual freedom and sonship in Christ in Galatians 4:1-7. This clearly corresponds with, even recapitulates the experience of the race.)

Adulthood / Maturity

Since no one in the elect nation in general proved capable of keeping the law (Eccl. 7:20, etc.) which was the essential precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), the new covenant failed to materialize and the voice of prophecy fell silent for many a long year. However, in the end, John the Baptist arrived on the scene heralding the coming of the Messiah.


Atonement

In the event the Messiah was somewhat different from the one who had been expected. Though certainly a son of David, instead of proving a mighty warrior capable of driving the Romans out of the Promised Land (cf. John 6:15; 18:36), his main concern as the Son of God was to deal with sin which was universal (cf. John 18:37). So after personally keeping the law flawlessly himself (Mt. 3:17; John 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22) and thereby meeting the precondition of the naturally necessary (John 3:3-7) new birth (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), he was baptised and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17). (7* It is vitally important to recognize that both new birth from above and bodily transformation are natural necessities and not the consequence of sin. See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.) Sealed in this way (John 3:34; 6:27), he went about preaching, healing and doing good (Acts 10:38). Finally, in order to cleanse the sins of his people he laid down his life in sacrificial atonement. In this way he achieved the perfection to which he was called (Mt. 5:48; John 19:30; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) and qualified as man’s representative and perfected image of God to sit at his Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3, etc.).


Ascension / Transformation / Glorification

Of course, after death, since he had not sinned himself (Acts 2:23f.), he rose again and resumed his life in the flesh as he had promised (John 10:17f.; Luke 24:39). However, since flesh and blood by nature cannot enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50), this necessarily led to his eventual ascension, transformation and glorification. In this way he blazed a trail into heaven (Heb. 2:10; 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:2) for all, both the living and the dead (1 Cor. 15:51-55; Heb. 9:15; 1 John 2:2), who had put their trust in him.


Jesus Saviour / Priest / Lord

Thus it is that Jesus became the one and only necessary Saviour of mankind (Acts 4:12). For it is in heaven that he remains man, permanently the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) and firstborn of all creation. It is as Lord (the OT word for God) and our heavenly high priest that he ever lives to intercede for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:24f.).


Perfection

The plain fact is that Jesus attained to the perfection of God (Mt. 5:48; 19:21, etc.) in the flesh (Rom 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and in so doing first recapitulated then pioneered the covenantal and experiential history of the race which Paul pointedly refers to as one man (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13) or the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27, cf. Rev. 21:9; Mt. 22:1-14). Needless to say, it is to his image of man perfected in the image of God that we ourselves are called to be conformed (Rom. 8:29) and by recapitulation to be perfected in our turn (Heb. 10:14; 11:39f.; Rev. 3:21). Like him we all begin at the beginning by being born of woman who typified the earth and like him attain to a perfected end (Heb. 11:39f.). Thus we are prepared, even qualified, to enter the kingdom of God, the culmination of the plan formed before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). In other words, this was our goal when we were created (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17; John 3:3,5; 1 Cor. 15:50).


Conclusion

It is vital to our understanding that the (believing, Heb. 11:39f.) race is seen as one man or the bride of Christ and that individuals are members of the one body, family or branches of the same tree. Otherwise expressed, the individual and the race correspond. (8* If this is so, the traditional Augustinian worldview which assumes original perfection and is followed by original sin, fall, curse and the eventual restoration of the physical universe, etc., is false.)

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Additional Notes

(1) In First Peter we are, first, like Adam perishable seed (1:23); second, new-born infants (2:2); third, weaned on milk (2:2); fourth, grown up (2:2); fifth, saved if committed to the Lord (2:2f.). (Cf. 1 John 3:9 where, as born again, we are God’s seed who obviously grow up, cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-11; 3:18, etc.)

(2) Whereas the churches following Augustine teach DESCENT from Adam’s original righteousness and perfection (cf. Milton’s “high estate”), the Bible teaches ASCENT from an initial low estate limited by sin. Only Jesus’ ascent from ground to glory was unsullied and uninterrupted (Eph. 4:9f.). He alone was fully perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28, etc.).

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See further, for example, my

Covenant Theology in Brief

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation

The Corruptibility Of Creation

Concerning Futility

Recapitulation in Outline

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

Preunderstandings of the Millennium?

Perfection

The Human Path to Perfection

Man’s Fourfold State

More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulatio

Worldview

Why Infant Baptism is Unchristian

The Theology Behind Baptism

Christianity – An Alternative Approach

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …


Following Irenaeus, the father of theology, I have argued for many years that recapitulation is essential for understanding the Bible, man in particular. (1* See my I Believe in Recapitulation; Recapitulation in Outline) I contend that Jesus could not have served as our Saviour if he had not been a man himself. Otherwise expressed, the Word’s incarnation was a necessity if the teaching of Genesis 2:16f. was to be fulfilled. Having begun at the beginning in the dust, to gain eternal life man had to fulfil the law (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17, etc.) and only Jesus, the man, succeeded in doing this in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). And he serves as our covenant representative (cf. 1 John 2:2).


If it is true that the individual recapitulates the experience of the human race in miniature or, expressed alternatively, if the mature or perfected individual is the race in microcosm, the race must appear as follows:


Creation/Procreation

Since we begin in the loins of our father (Heb. 7:10) who is the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7, cf. Eccl. 11:5) Adam must have been created by his Father God (Luke 3:38) in (mother) earth as seed (Gen. 2:7; Job 10:8f.; Ps. 139:15; Gen. 1:28, cf. 9:1,7; Jer. 2:21). Correspondingly, Jesus as the second Adam and God incarnate was sown by God his Father in the Virgin Mary’s womb which typified the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:20 and note also Gen. 1:2 and Luke 1:35; Mt. 1:18,20).


Conception

If the individual is transferred as seed to his/her mother’s womb to gestate (Ps. 139:13-16, cf. Luke 1:31), the same must be true of Adam who was transferred by God to be conceived in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (Gen. 2:8,15).


Gestation

After conception, Adam (mankind) gestated unconsciously for an unknown length of time in the Garden of Eden, indeed until he was physically mature in contrast to the foetus of the modern individual which gestates microcosmically, so to speak, in its mother’s womb for a mere nine months. On the other hand, in his animal state Adam remained mentally undeveloped until eventually like a baby he learnt only one commandment (Gen. 2:16f.) which he broke and became a sinner (Eccl. 7:29; Ezek. 28:13-15; Rom. 7:9). In other words, mutatis mutandis the experience of the individual mirrors the history of the development of the race. In light of this it can be said that Jesus who did not sin but epitomized the race was eventually qualified to atone for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2, cf. John 3:16; Heb. 11).


Birth

While a modern baby is born both physically and mentally undeveloped (cf. Rom. 9:11), Adam was ‘born’, that is, ejected from the Garden of Eden, physically fully mature but a sinner like the Jewish nation at a later stage of its development or evolution before it was separated from the rest of the nations under the law of Moses (Isa. 48:8).


Infancy

Infants such as we were enter this world ignorant of law (Rom. 4:15, etc.) and therefore innocent (Dt. 1:39, cf. 1 K. 3:7,9; Heb. 5:13, cf. Rom. 9:11, etc.) and completely dependent on our human parents, but Adam being first had none. This can only mean that he failed to exercise the dominion over the earth which was basic to his calling (Gen. 1:26-28). As a consequence of this the land was unproductive (Gen. 3:17-19, cf. 2:5; 4:12; 5:29) or cursed like that of the sluggard in Proverbs (24:30-34, cf. 6:9-11;10:4;19:15; 20:4,13; 23:21; Is. 1:19). From this we are forced to infer that the immediate posterity of Adam, the antediluvians, though physically mature were like all infants ruled by the flesh (cf. Gen. 6:12,17). Unsurprisingly, so long as man remained in a state of transition from animal to human, the earth was filled with animal-like violence (Gen. 4:8; 6:5-7,11-13) which concluded with the curse of the flood.


Covenant Child

The prospect of the flood indicated that all that breathed would be destroyed (Gen. 6:7). If this had occurred, the plan of salvation would have been aborted. But, intent on fulfilling his purpose of grace to man, God showed favour to Noah and undertook his preservation and that of his family. Thus whereas no covenant was made with Adam and his descendants in their infant immaturity (Gen. 1:28-31), God made one with Noah (Gen. 6:18; 8:20-9:1-17) who, since he was able to recognize and appreciate the significance of rainbows and name the animals (Gen. 2:19), was clearly the first racial child. This guaranteed the fruitful future of the world to its end (Gen. 8:22; Dt. 11:21; Luke 17:26f.). Needless to say, we are all its beneficiaries in the twenty-first century. Even unbelievers reap its benefits (cf. Dt. 4:19; Acts 14:17; 17:25) and the sun shines and the rain falls on good and evil alike (Mt. 5:45, cf. Dt. 4:19).


Promises

It is not surprising that we individuals are as children the recipients of our fathers’ promises which take on various guises not least in education (see next paragraph). When God made promises to his child Abraham who as heathen noticeably served false gods in Ur (Josh. 24:2), he was obviously treating him as the future father of many nations to whom he was to be a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3,7). Later on of course the promises made to David undergird the Messianic hope that is finally fulfilled in Jesus himself who was the son of both Abraham and David (Mt. 1:1; Luke 1:32, etc.).


The Law

Just as a modern father is concerned about the education of his child, so it was with the human race God brought into being. First, Abraham’s kindergarten experience eventually led to his own children’s spending long years in heathen, specifically Egyptian, slavery. (2* The later exile was of course punishment, Hos. 8:13; 9:3; 11:5, though even it was not without its educational benefits.) This in effect served as a primary school not only for Moses (Acts 7:22) but even for Jesus himself who as a child followed in his ancestors’ footsteps (Mt. 2:15). Once this primary education was completed, the next step was the instruction of boys at age 13 under the law of Moses. Again it should be noted that Jesus in his turn recapitulated his ancestors’ experience (cf. Ex. 13:8; Luke 2:39f.,52). Thus he was prepared under the law for laying the foundation of the kingdom of God and the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).


Regeneration

As we have already noted above, Scripture tells us that the precondition of eternal life (regeneration) which is the goal of man is keeping the law (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17, etc.), and since the aim of the race and individual alike is perfection (Lev. 19:2; Mt. 5:48; 19: 21; Heb. 6:1; James 1:2-4, etc.), that precondition had to be met by man. However, the OT makes it clear beyond dispute that no one from the time of Adam himself had succeeded in meeting it (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20, cf. Rom. 3:9-18, etc.). Just as all sinned, so all died (Rom. 5:12, cf. 3:23). As a consequence new birth remained an unfulfilled promise throughout old covenant times (Dt. 30:6; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26f.). Jesus, however, kept the law thereby earning the approbation of his Father and his permanent gift of the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17; John 1:32f.; 3:34; 6:27). In other words, having completed his stint under the law at his baptism, he now proceeded to forge the regenerate life under the leading of the Spirit before inaugurating a new covenant by his death (Heb. 9:15; 13:20, etc.). Now if this was true of Jesus, the individual, it is also intended to be true of us, his disciples, who constitute the race, for we follow in his footsteps or recapitulate his experience (cf. Rom. 6:3-11). As Paul implies in Galatians 4:1-7, we are born of woman, nurtured under the covenant with Noah, educated according to law, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and regenerated by the Spirit. Thus we are first (human) animals, slaves as children under Noah, (if we are Jews) servants under the law and finally sons of God who have the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9).

At this point, however, the reader may well have recognized a significant difference, for whereas earlier I have suggested that the individual descendant of Adam recapitulated the experience not only of Adam himself but of his descendants, modern Christians as a third race (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32; Gal. 3:28) recapitulate the career of the individual, that is, Jesus himself, our pioneer (Heb. 2:10; 12:2 NRSV). This is true not only morally (1 Cor. 11:1, etc.) but also generically (1 Cor. 15:45-49; 2 Cor. 3:18), for we are gradually conformed to his complete image (Rom. 8:29f.). Thus we finally reign with Christ, who is our brother (Heb. 2:11-13), in eternity (2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 3:21).
So, like the incarnate Jesus himself we are successively (animal) flesh (note Jesus was born in a stable), heathen slaves as children (Mt. 2:15), servants (adolescents under law, cf. Luke 2:40-52) and finally sons as we are led by the Spirit (Mt. 3:17; Rom. 8:9-17).

Conclusion

If what has been sketched above is true, man the mature individual epitomizes the race in its eventual maturity (cf. Eph. 4:13-16; Col. 2:19). Jesus himself is of course the supreme example. The experience of both is covenantal, for all who reach maturity pass through slavery, servanthood and sonship before attaining to perfection and receiving the inheritance (cf. Gal. 4:1-7) or reward (Heb. 11:26) along with Christ himself (Rom. 8:14-17). In view of this we should be less than surprised that Scripture sees the race as constituting one man (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13) or alternatively as the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2,9, cf. Eph. 5:22-33). Of course, as Hebrews 11 in particular implies, diminished responsibility is part of the essence of the church, for it is made up of ‘saints’ gathered from all history (cf. Heb. 11:39f.) and from the four corners of the earth (Mt. 24:31; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 7:9). The fact is that though the vine was originally planted as pure seed (Jer. 2:21, cf. Ps. 80:8) but went wild, it will nonetheless in essence be saved though many branches may be pruned and cast into the fire (John 15:1-6).

________________________________________________


See further my

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

Notes on the Eternal Son

 

1. Both John (1:1) and Paul (Phil. 2:6) clearly teach that before his incarnation Jesus was God. There is not the slightest suggestion that he was the eternal Son of God, a point that could easily have been made if it was true.

2. If Jesus was the Son in eternity, he must have derived from his Father and, as eternally generated, he was subordinate. Both John and Paul clearly deny this. On the assumption of his subordination, how can we infer that the Son was involved on an equal footing in the plan of salvation (covenant of redemption) formed before the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4)?

3. The mere fact that the triune God made fleshly man in his image with a view to its eventual unique fulfilment in the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29)  suggests that a change in nature was indispensable. Thus the Word in order to conquer as man in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) changed his nature and changed it again when he was transformed at his ascension (cf. John 3:13; 13:3; 6:62; 1 Cor. 15:50; Eph. 4:9f.).

4. Theologians agree that the economic Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not taught in the OT. It was Jesus who as the incarnate Son taught his disciples to call God Father on the basis of his own incarnate sonship by which he became their elder brother (Heb. 2:10-13, cf. Rom. 8:29).

5. If Jesus was the Son of the Father in eternity, who was his mother? Since Melchizedek who was Jesus’ type is presented to us as lacking both father and mother (Heb. 7:3), we are compelled to draw the conclusion that when the Son of God is referred to, projectionist language* is being used as it is elsewhere (e.g. John 3:16f.; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:2; 1 John 4:9f.).

6. All the evidence suggests that the Word who was God humbled himself and became a real man of flesh and blood (Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14) and as such was created in the image of God like the rest of us (Gen. 1:26f., cf. Heb. 2:17).** Denial of this constitutes heresy (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). But the NT stresses the fact that now in heaven, he is no longer incarnate (1 Cor. 15:50 Heb. 2:7,9; 5:7), for it is impossible for a ‘hand-made’ body of flesh any more than a temple (cf. Mark 14:58; 2 Cor. 5:1) to contain the nature of the omnipotent, omnipresent Creator God (1 K. 8:27; Isa. 66:1f.; Acts 7:49). Following his ascension, transformation, glorification and heavenly session, however, Jesus, who was and ever remains God in person, is still man the second Adam and the image of God in nature (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 and note 1 Cor. 15:24-28), and it is to his image that we human beings are conformed (Rom. 8:29, cf. 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18). It is as such that he is accorded the attributes and generic nature of God (Mt. 28:18; Eph. 1:10,20-22; Col. 1:15-20; 2:10) and pronounced Lord (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9-11).

7.  Again we see that change is inherent in the situation. This is further supported by the recognition that when the Word laid aside his glory in order to become incarnate (cf. John 17:5,24), he thereby divested himself of his divine nature (kenosis, Phil. 2:7). So while forever  God in person, ontology and identity, Jesus  as man made in the image of God recovered his former glory and received by delegation (Acts 2:36; Rom. 1:4) rule and authority over all things  (Mt. 11: 27;  28:18) as was implicitly promised to Adam on condition of obedience (Ps. 8:4-8, cf. Ps. 21:5; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:5-9). In other words, what he relinquished at his incarnation, he recovered as man when, having overcome the world notably in the flesh (John 16:33; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), he was transformed and sat down at his Father’s right hand.

8. If this is true, Chalcedon’s two-nature or hypostatic union theory (dyophysitism) is fallacious, for how could he who was the divine agent of creation inherit what he already owned  (Dt. 10:14; 2 K. 19:15; Ps. 24:1; 50:10f., Col. 1:16, etc.) unless he was first impoverished (2 Cor. 8:9) and emptied of his divine nature (Phil. 2:7)? John also implies this when, having told us in 1:4 that in him was life, he informs us in 5:26 that God has granted the Son also to have life in himself. The truth is that the widely asserted notion that God the Word could not change his nature without ceasing to be God in person, a notion that is not taught in Scripture but apparently inferred from Greek philosophy, is as mistaken as the idea that man cannot shed his flesh and blood and remain man (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). Paul especially maintains that he could and did and this to the praise and glory of God (Phil. 2:5-11). In brief, our Saviour is both God in person and man in nature and as such he rules the universe.

9. But there is more to say. If the Word laid aside his divine glory to become flesh, he ipso facto laid aside his divine nature. If he did not, then he must have had two natures at one and the same time in which case he was not human but clearly different from all his brothers (cf. Heb. 2:10-13). This is explicitly denied by the author of Hebrews (2:17). But if we say that he retained his divine nature, then his divine nature was crucified along with his human nature of flesh which is absurd. But to say this is also to imply that his divine nature died which is impossible since God who has neither beginning nor end is both immortal and imperishable.

10.  According to Jesus and Paul there are two natural necessities for man: spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8) and bodily transformation (1 Cor. 15:50). The incarnate Jesus achieved both as his baptism (Mt. 3:13-17) and his ascension (Eph. 1:21f.; 4:9f.; Phil. 3:21) show. Thus not without reason did Paul insist that it was Jesus the man who brought to light both life and ‘incorruption’ (Gk.  2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) and now serves as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5).

11. If Jesus was genuinely human and had only one nature as such, how do we know that he retained his own identity as the Word of God? There are at least five basic answers to this. First, he was virgin-born; second, his Father owned him as his Son especially at his baptism and transfiguration; third, he enabled him to perform miracles or signs testifying to his identity (cf. John 3:2,21, etc.); fourth, he justified him by raising him from the dead because he was personally sinless (Acts 2:23f.), and only God by divine intention can be sinless (Rom. 3:19-26; 4:15f.; 11:32; Gal. 3:22; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5), and, fifth, he transformed him at his ascension and enabled him to sit at his right hand.

12.  But there are two other important points to make: Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 both inform us that God will by no means give his glory to another (cf. 1 Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:9). Thus, while the Word became flesh for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9), he was transformed at his ascension (cf. John 20:17) and regained his former glory (John 17:5,24, cf. Mt. 28:18). This was notably to the glory of God (Phil. 2:11, cf. Rom. 14:9) not to fleshly man. We are also told that there is one God and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5) implying that Jesus was both God and man. Only he as such could bridge the gap between the two.

 

* An excellent example of projectionist language is provided by Wayne Grudem in his commentary on 1 Peter, p.159 (Leicester, 1988). He points out that we refer quite naturally to the birth of the Queen in 1926. The truth is, however, that at that time she was not the Queen and could not reasonably have expected to become so. The picture changed, however, when King Edward V111 abdicated. On the assumption that he works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11), God ordained that she should become Queen in 1953.

** Donald Guthrie rightly says in his New Testament Theology, p.404 (Leicester, 1981) that the NT carefully safeguards both the real pre-existence and the real human nature of Jesus Regrettably, presumably on the hypothesis that Jesus retained his divine nature when he became flesh and took on human nature as well (Heb. 2:14,17), he asserts on page 406 that the NT theologian has no alternative but to state the dual nature and leave it there. If this is so, these statements are clearly contradictory. The plain fact is that if Jesus was truly human, his divine nature which was eternal and ‘not made by hand’ (acheiropoietos) and human nature which was temporary (Heb. 2:7,9) and ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos) could not possibly co-exist in his ‘hand-made’ physical body at one and the same time. Replacement is central to the issue (1 Cor. 15:53f., cf. Mark 14:58; 2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 9:11,24; 10:9, etc.). If it is maintained that they could, Docetism with which the church has been plagued for centuries is the inevitable outcome. In order to ‘house’ the generic nature of God, Jesus, the man of flesh and blood, had to be transformed (1 Cor. 15:50) to take on the fullness of the divine image (Col. 1:15, etc.) in accordance with his Father’s intention at his ascension (Mt. 28:18; Col. 1:19; 2:9, cf. 1 K. 8:27; Acts 7:49f.).  Not for nothing does Paul say that Jesus brought to light both life and ‘incorruption’ (Gk 2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 1:53). It should be noted that in the book of Revelation both God (Rev. 4:10) and the Lamb (Rev. 5:13) live forever and ever. 

See further my:

Eternal Son?

Still Docetic

More on Docetism

The Ecclesiastical Christ,

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

,Manufactured Or Not So

and other articles listed on the home page

On Seeing, Hearing And Touching

 

Our five senses are vital to us for living in this created world. Arguably they are not equally important, but tasting and smelling play an important role in enhancing and adding variety to life. The sense of smell of course is absolutely fundamental to the animal world and without it many animals couldn’t function. Not only would wolves and the like be seriously incapacitated in hunting, they would not be able to reproduce (cf. Jer. 2:23f.).

The ability to see, hear and touch indicates that humans are physically alive. This is made apparent by what occurs at Sinai when the Israelites received the law of Moses. In pointing up the contrast between Mount Sinai, which symbolizes the old covenant, and Mount Zion, which symbolizes the new, with reference to the former the author of Hebrews highlights touching, seeing and hearing (12:18-21). From this we are meant to infer that the old covenant relates to this created material world in which we presently live and to the flesh or our unregenerate nature in particular. Of course, as is implied by the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and the spirits of the righteous made perfect, heaven is differently constituted. It is a spiritual kingdom not a physical one. Elsewhere it is made evident that this city is physically invisible. Otherwise expressed, the true temple (Heb. 8:2) exists on the other side of the curtain of our flesh (Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.) in the heavenly places (Heb. 9:11f.,24). Indeed, from 11:3 we draw the conclusion that the real, heavenly or eternal world is spiritual, the throne (Mt. 5:34) or house of God (John 14:2) who himself is spirit (John 4:24).

It is worth adding at this point that the law that was inscribed on stone as opposed to the heart, and its sign, fleshly circumcision, were noteworthy for their visibility and inherent transience (Heb. 8:13; 2 Cor. 3:11f.) in a fading world which was slowly but surely giving way to an invisible and imperishable one (1 Pet. 1:3f., cf. Rom. 8:24f.). Indeed, Scripture underlines the fact that the law ceases to operate at death for both the race (Mt. 5:18) and the individual (cf. Rom. 4:15; 7:2,8). Paul differentiates strongly between the two covenants in 2 Corinthians 3 and the author of Hebrews in chapter 8. While the old covenant operated in this present world with particular reference to the flesh, the new or eternal covenant relates to the world to come, to heaven itself and the spiritual or glorified body that will become ours when we are finally and fully conformed to the image of Christ morally, corporeally and generically (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). The new covenant involves an invisible hope, eternal life and the presence of God (cf. Rom. 8:24f.; Heb. 7:19).

 

1 John 1:1-3

Elsewhere, seeing, hearing and touching are delineated explicitly as a group most obviously in 1 John 1:1-3. The implication of this is that as John Stott indicates in his commentary that it is the risen Lord who reveals himself to his disciples. His fleshly body is real, that is, physical (cf. Luke 24:39) precisely because he was heard, seen and touched (p.69). Stott adds appropriately that this historical Jesus is the same person as the eternal Word. In light of this it is to be regretted that elsewhere Stott arrives at the strange conclusion that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection (see especially his The Contemporary Christian, ch. 4). Just how Jesus could be at once real flesh and blood, visible, audible and tangible and at the same time transformed, that is, corporeally fitted for heaven with a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44), is more than a little difficult to understand. (1* If as according to the Chalcedonian Creed Jesus had two natures at one and the same time, apart from the fact that he was never truly incarnate his transformation would appear to be superfluous. Or at least his human nature was apparently swallowed up, absorbed by or merged into his divine nature. Shades of Nirvana! By contrast, what Scripture surely teaches is that as the eternal Word he became man, John 1:14. As such he met the condition of life, which was righteousness obtained by keeping the law, and was perfected in the image of God, Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3. So it is as the Lamb that he sits at the right hand of God, Rev. 22:1, etc.)

Paul makes the situation crystal clear when he says that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. He goes further and asserts that the inherently perishable cannot inherit the imperishable and that transformation is a necessity of nature or, otherwise expressed, divinely ordained (1 Cor. 15:50-53), an integral part of God’s plan of salvation.

That this is so Paul makes inescapably apparent when he avers that even those at the end of history who do not die  and undergo resurrection in the same manner as Jesus nonetheless have to be changed (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Even for them as for Jesus a body of glory or what Paul calls a spiritual body is a necessity as well as a blessing. The argument that Jesus was glorified in the flesh is plainly denied by Scripture. (2* The nearest to this was surely his transfiguration when his Father bore testimony to him, 2 Pet. 1:17.) Why then is it held so tenaciously by many Christians? The answer lies in the clearly false idea inherited from Augustine of Hippo that sin is the problem. Even in the 21st century evangelical Christians who purportedly believe in the authority of Scripture are still touting the notions of original sin, fall, cosmic curse, redemption and restoration. The evidence for these is hard to find for God of set purpose subjected the material creation to futility from the start as Genesis 1:1 implies. If the visible creation had a beginning, it will surely have an end (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:27). And we who are physically creation in miniature are subject by nature quite apart from sin to corruption (Rom. 8:20; Heb. 1:11). Jesus’ own subjection to the aging process puts this beyond doubt.

So what does the NT teach? Like the OT before it, it insists that creation which has a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and therefore an end (Gen. 8:22) is naturally corruptible and subject to an inexorable aging process (Ps. 102:25-27). Of course, Romans 8:18-25 like Hebrews 1:10-12 teaches this, but traditional dogma as opposed to biblical doctrine disallows it. The fact is that sin is neither referred to nor implied here and Paul clearly assumes that he himself is going to heaven when he dies (2 Tim. 4:18), not to a renewed material creation which tradition tells us has been ruined by sin. (3* On this see e.g. my A Brief Review of ‘The Mission of God’ by C.J.H.Wright.)

It may be claimed at this point that Isaiah in particular saw things differently and anticipated either a transformed creation or a totally new one (Isa. 65:17ff.; 66:22f.). In reply to this it is necessary to point out that Isaiah was an OT prophet and was not a recipient of the revelation that Jesus brought. In other words, while he understood earthly things he had little understanding of heavenly things (John 3:31; 8:23). When Jesus came, he re-interpreted or clarified what the prophets had tried so hard to appreciate (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Certainly it is true that 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1 refer to the new heavens and new earth, but again careful scrutiny makes it clear that they are not referring to a renewal of the present creation as many assume. After all, righteousness dwells in heaven which is the throne of God (2 Pet. 3:13, cf. Mt. 6:10,33). In any case even the OT entertained the idea of two ages in that it anticipated the coming of God or the eternal Messiah. The NT is more explicit as Matthew 12:32; Luke 20:34-36, Ephesians 1:21 and various other references make clear. Thus we have the present age and the one to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17, etc.). The difference is that between the eternal heaven and the temporal earth.

What is clear from all this is that seeing, hearing and touching all relate to this present material world. A visible, audible and tangible incarnate Jesus belonged very much to this world. In a word, he was still flesh as he himself explicitly stated (Luke 24:39). But at his ascension he was changed in order to inherit the eternal blessings of David and to sit at God’s right hand (1 Cor. 15:50-53). No longer was he as man a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9) but as the first-born they now worshipped him as Lord (Heb. 1:6).

Elsewhere Paul emphasizes the difference between the visible physical and the invisible spiritual by pointing up the character of the law and circumcision. In Romans 2:29f. he differentiates between the outward and inward (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16), in 2 Corinthians 3:6 between the letter and the spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6), in Ephesians 2:11 and Colossians 2:11 between the physical (what is made by hand) and the spiritual (what is not made by hand) and in Philippians between the  physical (flesh) and the real (spiritual).

 

John 20:26-29

Seeing, hearing and touching Jesus constitutes the essence of Doubting Thomas’ meticulous examination of Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. Doubter though he was, Thomas was nonetheless convinced by the undeniable evidence that his own careful scrutiny elicited. His conclusion that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and that he was God though still in the flesh was the positive reaction that Jesus clearly approved of and intended. As a consequence, while Jesus underlined the importance of Thomas’ conclusion that he was God in person despite his obvious human nature (flesh and blood) by asserting that those who believed on the basis of Thomas’ own testimony, that is, without seeing for themselves were blessed. This of course highlights the basis of our faith which along with the word itself (Rom. 10:17) is built on credible eyewitness testimony (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). We are justified by faith, not by the works of the visible law.

 

Luke 24:39

There is more to be said, however. Again in Luke 24 Jesus himself takes the initiative when he appears to a group of his disciples along with the eleven. Here he is at pains to dispel any idea that he is a mere spirit by inviting them to see, touch and obviously to hear. He draws their attention to his visible flesh and bones, shows them his hands and feet (presumably with their scars) and then significantly, as if to add confirming proof, he asks them for something to eat (cf. Acts 10:41). When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he himself had verified the fact that she was physically alive by telling her parents to feed her (Luke 8:55).

It is unfortunate to say the least that the plain teaching of Luke 24:39 does not always serve its intended purpose of providing convincing proof of the physical resurrection of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:3). Why? Because under the influence of false presuppositions, it is inadequately interpreted, virtually denied. Even so able a scholar as Marshall is guilty of making some strangely convoluted comments at this point.  For example, on the basis of inadequate evidence he says (pp.898f.) that it is as a supernatural visitor that the risen Jesus is portrayed. If this is the case, then Jesus has not been physically raised but spiritually transformed. Yet while on the one hand Marshall can stress the physical reality of the risen Jesus (p.900), on the other he acknowledges that this leads to an apparent contradiction with Paul’s dictum that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). (4* Cf. e.g. Harris, p.392 who refers to those who think in terms of ‘glorified flesh’, p.393, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, and opts for that view himself on page 415. Just as devotees of Chalcedon argue for a two-natured Jesus on earth, so they argue for a two-natured Jesus in heaven! If they are correct, then Jesus has both a body of dust and a spiritual body at one and the same time. Neither Jesus, John 3:6, nor Paul will tolerate such an idea. Paul indicates indisputably that the bodies are successive not contemporaneous, 1 Cor. 15:45-49. In Always Reforming Reymond uses the term ‘two-natured’ to refer to Christ, e.g. p.123. In discussion of the idea of Jesus having two minds one human and the other divine, he recognizes that it “comes perilously close to overturning the one person character of Jesus”, p.111. It is a pity that he does not see that Chalcedon as such does this when it posits two natures. See further my Still Docetic and The Ecclesiastical Christ.) Like so many others Marshall has imbibed the clearly erroneous view that Jesus was transformed when he rose from the dead. (5* On this, see my John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus and Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?.)   The so-called evidence for this is most unconvincing and inevitably conflicts with what is taught elsewhere. One has only to compare Luke 24:39 with Matthew 14:26 when Jesus walked on the sea to realize that physical miracles fall well short of proving a change in Jesus’ human nature. After all, even Peter walked briefly on water and went through locked doors on occasion (Acts 5:19; 12:10). He was certainly not transformed. In fact, at a later date near his death he referred explicitly to the putting off of this earthly tent or body (2 Pet. 1:14).

The plain fact is that Jesus was not changed or transformed until his ascension. Paul makes the situation crystal clear, first, by stating that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven and, secondly, that like the new birth (Gk dei, John 3:7), transformation is a natural necessity (Gk dei, 1 Cor. 15:53) for entry into the kingdom of God. Apart from it we would all inevitably grow older and eventually die (cf. Heb. 8:13). And if we have any doubts about Jesus, I would draw the reader’s attention to references such as Luke 2:42, 3:23 and John 8:57. In other words, transformation is a necessity of nature for all who are flesh, and the incarnate Jesus was no exception. If he was, he was docetic, that is, he only appeared to be a man. Marshall’s apparent contradiction disappears once the notion of our Lord’s resurrection transformation from the dead is denied. Paul and Luke are in harmony, not at loggerheads.

 

Mary Magdalene

This point is underscored by yet another apparent contradiction found by some writers in John 20. In contrast with his invitation to Doubting Thomas to touch him, Jesus seems to do the exact opposite when he encounters Mary Magdalene. He tells her firmly not to hang on to him which in itself implies his genuine physicality. The only reasonable inference from his reaction is that he was about to ascend and undergo transformation (John 20:17). In light of this we conclude that he is gently telling Mary that she cannot keep him physically with her. Having accomplished the work his Father gave him to do he has of necessity to complete his journey to heaven (John 8:14; 13:3; 16:28, cf. Luke 9:31,51). It may well be asked at this point why he has to ascend at all if he has already been glorified and proved capable of living supernaturally here on earth. Clearly the idea that he was glorified after his resurrection renders the ascension redundant, and reduces it to little more than drama (cf. Harris, G. to G. p.423). Like Geisler, I smell deception here. But more to the point it seems to eviscerate Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 of its intended significance. Indeed, it suggests a docetic Jesus who unlike the rest of mankind is an exception to the universal rule of ascension transformation just as he was according to Augustinian orthodoxy to the new birth. No longer can Jesus serve as the paradigm of those who ascend to heaven without dying.

 

Glory

It is important to stress another matter. If Jesus was transformed when he appeared to his disciples, he was already glorified, invisible and in his eternal state which is ipso facto permanent (cf. 2 Cor. 4:18). The truth of this can easily be demonstrated.

First, Paul claimed to have seen Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1), that is on his way to Damascus when he received his heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). Whatever he means by this he does not mean that he had physically seen him in his fleshly state but as glorified. When Moses in the OT wished to see the glory of God he had to be put into the cleft of a rock and covered by the hand of God for protection (Ex. 33:17-23). Why? Because to see God was to invite inevitable death (cf. Gen. 16:13; 32:30) since God is a consuming fire (Dt. 9:24, cf. 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 12:29). In Paul’s case blindness intervened and presumably gave him the necessary temporary protection from the blinding light to which he was exposed. His blindness both physical and spiritual was not relieved until he was baptized by Ananias after which we know that he was very much alive.

Next, Jesus prayed that his disciples should see his glory, that is, his majesty and splendour in heaven not on earth (John 17:24, cf. Isa. 33:17; 66:18).

Apart from Paul’s vision, we must also take into account John’s vision in the book of Revelation where Jesus appears as a consuming fire in the generic image of God (Rev. 1:12-17; 2:18; 19:11-21). His very return to rescue his people (John 14:3; Heb. 9:28) will involve a fiery judgement on those who rejected him (2 Thes. 1:8; 2:8). The premillennialist idea that Jesus will return in the flesh to reign on the earth for a thousand years is so absurd as to be hardly worth refuting.

 

Conclusion

I conclude that factoring in the biblical teaching on visibility, audibility and tangibility puts permanent paid to the traditional idea that Jesus was glorified in the flesh and ascended to heaven in that state. It is based on a serious misunderstanding of the evidence and results in complete distortion of the nature of the material creation. For, if Jesus was indeed physically transformed and glorified at his resurrection from the dead, the argument propounded by writers such as Stott (ch. 4), Harris (pp.245-252) and Chris Wright that the obviously temporal physical universe can be likewise transformed would appear to hold. (6* See e.g. my The Transience of Creation, The Destruction of the Material Creation, etc.)  But Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, not to mention passages like Hebrews 12:27 and 2 Peter 3:7,10-12,  to go no further, renders this view impossible. (7* See my Will Creation Be Redeemed?, The Essence of the Case Against the Redemption of Creation.)

Once more I must point out that these damning ideas arise from the Augustinian worldview which is falsely dominated by sin and cosmic curse. The truth is that all material things are transient (subjected to futility, Rom. 8:20) by nature, by divine decree, quite apart from sin (cf. Heb. 12:27).  The physically visible is intrinsically impermanent as God intended (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Sin only exacerbates the situation. Yet even the sinless but incarnate Jesus had to be transformed at his ascension for the simple reason that as flesh he was growing older and heading for inevitable death by decay like the rest of the animal world (Heb. 1:10-12, cf. Mt. 6:19f.; Col. 2:22). If not, he was different from all other men and women and hence docetic, thereby bringing his very incarnation into question. Indeed, it was doubtless Jesus’ ascension that enabled Paul to pen 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. There he presents us with two sorts of resurrection ascension, the one of the dead (v.52b) and the other of the living (v.51). Jesus, rather like Abraham who was a father in two senses, experienced and served after a fashion as the paradigm of both: he rose from the dead and was transformed alive at his ascension.

_________________________________________________________

References

J.R.W.Stott, The Contemporary Christian, Leicester, 1992.

M.Harris, From Grave to Glory, Grand Rapids, 1990.

I.Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, Exeter, 1978.

R.Reymond in Always Reforming ed. A.T.B.McGowan, Leicester, 2006.

C.J.H.Wright, The Mission of God, Nottingham, 2006.

Man’s Fourfold State

 

In his Scottish Theology John Macleod described Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1* Repr. London, 1964.) as ‘representative of the best of our Scottish religious classics’.  First published in 1720 it has even been republished in the twenty-first century. Not surprisingly given its title, it describes man in what is conceived to be his four main states: first, the state of innocence prior to the fall; second, the state of nature; third, the state of grace and finally, the eternal state.

While it reads remarkably well for the modern reader considering its age, its theology is dated despite the author’s attempt to be biblical.  For example, it soon becomes clear that the so-called age of innocence is really an original state of perfection (p.38), glory (p.45), immortality (p.52) and (mutable!) righteousness (pp.37,43) in which Adam was putatively created. When, however, he sinned, the original sin (cf. pp.143f.), we, his descendants who were said to be created ‘in him’ (Rom. 5:12), were thoroughly corrupted in body and soul (pp.130f.), and as a consequence of his Fall (pp.38ff.) we even today are born cursed (e.g. pp.473,475). In other words, Boston’s theology is thoroughly Augustinian (see e.g. pp.131f.) which means that it imposes on Scripture a worldview dominated almost exclusively by sin. This of course leads to its distortion which regrettably and to our detriment we still live with today in the twenty-first century. So what is wrong?

First, it needs to be recognised that Augustine of Hippo (d. 430 A.D.), who exercised and continues to exercise enormous influence on the church’s understanding of Scripture, failed adequately to grasp the meaning of the early chapters of Genesis which relate to the beginning of creation and human history. His assumption was that since God himself was perfect all that he created was perfect  (p.38) and not simply ‘good’ (= useful or serving a purpose like Eve’s “apple” in Genesis 3:6, cf. 2:9, etc.) as Scripture itself has it. With this view in mind he assumed that Adam though created from the naturally corruptible earth was fully mature or complete (cf. James 1:4) both physically and morally from the very start (p.45, etc.). Thus even today fundamentalist Christians assume that at creation Adam looked as though he was thirty years old (cf. p.209). After all, in their view there must be a chicken before there is an egg!  In light of this, the notion of Adam’s development or evolution was eliminated and was replaced by devolution or degeneration. However, when Darwin came dramatically on the scene in 1859 with the publication of his The Origin of Species, the churches were at a loss as to how to handle the situation, for science seemed to contradict the long-established and non-negotiable belief in a literal six-day creation. So, who was right? What can be said for certain is that the church with its Augustinian ideas of original perfection, even immortality, original righteousness, holiness, sin, fall, curse and final redemption had got it wrong. Since we know indisputably that we ourselves like Jesus develop from seed to maturity and, since we are also made in Adam’s image (Gen. 5:1-3), it follows remorselessly that Adam must have done likewise. We follow the pattern of his creation just a Jesus, the second Adam did (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46-49; Heb. 2:14). The truth is that development or evolution is basic to or foundational of our human nature. Creation (and hence procreation) is necessarily followed by development from the very moment of conception as Jesus’ own case illustrates (e.g. Luke 1-2). After all, perfection or maturity, the complete image of God, is our ultimate goal (Mt. 19:21; Phil. 3:12-14; Heb. 6:1, etc.).

Expressed alternatively, our call from an innocent or morally neutral beginning is to obey the commandment/law (Gen. 2:17) and seek honour and glory (Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:6f., cf. Ps. 8:5-8; Heb. 2:6-9). Thus the Bible, properly understood, is thoroughly teleological in its outlook and mankind kept by the power of God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:5) moves purposefully from (pro)creation to new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, cf. John 3:1-8, etc.) or from ground to glory. Since man in general proves incapable of keeping the commandment/law to gain righteousness which is the precondition of life (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5), he inevitably comes short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and is in the event compelled to turn to Christ who alone attained to glory in the process of atoning for the sins of the rest of his brethren (1 Pet. 2:9). If man had been completely destroyed by the flood, he would have been to all intents and purposes still-born and God’s plan of salvation would have proved abortive. On this assumption, the covenant with Noah was integral to the plan of salvation (cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:25f., cf. Heb. 11:7).

 

From Immaturity to Perfection

What the Bible implies therefore is that creation in general but especially mankind as both community and individual begins in immaturity or imperfection with a view to attaining to maturity or ultimate perfection. This is made plain by an examination of the life of Jesus, who after an initial experience in immaturity or imperfection as a baby and subsequent development (cf. Luke 2:40-52, etc.), finally achieved perfection (Heb. 7:28) and so took his seat at his Father’s side as his exact image (Heb. 1:3). From this we are forced to infer on the assumption of his genuine incarnation that as the second Adam he perfectly recapitulated the career the first Adam failed to achieve. Thus to ascribe to man, that is, first Adamic man the attributes of maturity (cf. pp. 38,209) is to commit a major mistake and make nonsense of much of the Bible. The plain truth is that there was never any original righteousness, original sin, fall, cosmic curse and the like. These have all been read into Scripture not out of it. The biblical view is that God created man knowing neither good nor evil (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), that is, innocent (cf. Dt. 1:39, etc.) and tested him like a baby verging on childhood by means of one commandment and later, as he developed, by means of the entire law of Moses. Of course, there is an important difference between early and modern man: Adam did not receive the commandment until, having gestated, evolved or developed in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, he was physically mature. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:46 flesh precedes spirit. Put another way, mankind’s fleshly or animal development occurred before his moral and spiritual development. And since the commandment was given with a view to his achieving righteousness which was the precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.), the idea that he was originally righteous before he was even capable of receiving the commandment is simply absurd.

 

The State of Innocence

It is at this point that we begin to become aware of the massive misunderstanding that Boston laboured under. His miscalled age of innocence which he regarded as a state of righteousness based dubiously on Ecclesiastes 7:29 and the like was a delusion. The truth is that after creation as seed in the bowels of the earth (cf. Ps. 139:15f.) and transfer to the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (cf. David’s transfer to his mother’s womb in Ps. 139:13), man was like the rest of the animal creation, a human animal, that is, flesh. The difference between Adam (mankind) and the rest was that he was made in the  image of God (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Ps. 8:5-8; Heb. 2:6-9) with a view to his ultimately gaining his exact likeness as Jesus the second Adam eventually succeeded in doing (Heb. 1:3).

 

The State of Nature

Inevitably, given his Augustinian presuppositions, Boston regarded man’s natural state as sinful from the very start and hence miserable. His false assumption that he inherited Adam’s sinful nature by birth (cf. Gen. 5:1-3) involved complete failure to recognise the fact that we all, like Adam himself, begin at the very beginning in total ignorance and genuine innocence (Dt. 1:39, etc.). Ezekiel 18 in particular makes it plain beyond reasonable dispute that it is impossible to inherit, as opposed to being influenced and affected by (Ex. 20:5f.; 34:6f.), our parents’ moral nature, whether righteous or unrighteous, for this is the result of life lived in reaction to commandment or law (Rom. 6:16). As Paul makes so transparently plain in his letter to the Romans, where there is no law, there can be no transgression, which means that the entire animal world is innocent. The reason why man becomes sinful after initial innocence is, as was implied above, that he breaks the commandment once he is able to receive it (cf. John 8:34). Paul, who has a wholly undeserved reputation for teaching original sin (2* The Augustinian dogma of original sin involves the transmission (Catholics) or imputation (Protestants) of sin even to embryos. Verses like Psalm 51:5 and Ephesians 2:1-3 are quite wrongly used to support this view. See further my The Redundancy Of Original Sin, Does Romans Teach Original Sin?.) clearly rejects the idea that he was born sinful when in Romans 7:9f. he tells his readers that he was (like Adam and Eve) born ‘alive’ and sinned only when he learned the commandment. If this is not true, we immediately have difficulties with Jesus who is regarded throughout the churches as sinless. As a consequence of belief in original sin, the Roman Church and many Protestants are now saddled with the unbiblical notion of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception and the sinfulness of sex. (3* See my Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.)

Of course, Boston strikes gold when he insists along with the Bible that once man is constituted a sinner, he is completely unable to recover himself and is in urgent need of redemption by other means.

 

The State of Grace

For Boston, as for all who adopt the Augustinian worldview, recovery from the sinful state of nature which stems from original sin is by regeneration. But this, though true in a sense, raises the question of the order of salvation. (4* See my Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology, etc.)   It is assumed by all who cleave to Augustine and original sin that regeneration or new birth comes first. In other words, regeneration functions like election which is outside the range of man’s choice (cf. Rom. 9:11; 11:6). But is this really the case? While it must be conceded that regeneration is a monergistic act of God to which man can no more contribute than he can to his physical birth, according to the Bible it follows on from repentance and faith (conversion, e.g. Acts 2:38). This is proved by the fact that Abraham who is regarded as the father of the faithful was classified by Paul as ‘ungodly’ (Rom. 4:5) and hence not born again. Indeed, it can be asserted without fear of contradiction that while many in the OT were genuine believers (see e.g. Heb. 11) not one was born again. How do we know? The answer is that all to the very last man and woman were sinners (1 K. 8:46; Ps. 143:2; Eccl. 7:20, etc.) and as such in light of Leviticus 18:5 incapable of regeneration until Christ came to atone for their sin.

 

The New Birth and Nature

But there is another problem that Boston failed to deal with adequately on account of his allegiance to Augustine, that is, that the prime function of the new birth is not to counteract sin, original sin in particular, but our natural condition apart from sin. In John 3 Jesus fails to mention sin but concentrates all his attention on our human nature as flesh. In other words, he stresses the necessity (John 3:7, Gk dei), not the imperative, of spiritual regeneration, while in 1 Corinthians 15:53 Paul underlines the necessity of corporeal transformation since it is impossible for mortal, corruptible flesh to inherit the eternal kingdom of God. (5* Cf. my Death and Corruption.) In light of this we are compelled to conclude that we are physically corrupt by creation and naturally in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:18-25). Even the sinless Jesus in contrast with his heavenly Father (Heb. 1:11) was subject to obsolescence (Luke 2:42; 3:23, etc.) like the earth from which he stemmed through his mother.

 

The Eternal State

Boston’s final state is of course the eternal state, and, though he says things in explanation of it which are positively excruciating like the precious nature of our bodily dust as it lies in the ground (p. 355) in drastic defiance of 1 Corinthians 15:50 (cf. Mt. 10:28), we can accept it in general as involving, after death, resurrection, judgement, heaven or hell.

 

The True View

So, if the Augustinian worldview that Boston uncritically imbibed is false, what is the true view? If we are to assume that human nature is subject to a fourfold state at all, what is it?  Let us begin at the beginning.

First, we need to recognise that Adam regarded as an individual is archetypically and hence representatively mankind according to the flesh. (6* It is imperative at this point to reject the widespread idea that Adam was the covenant head and representative of all his descendants. Apart from the fact that it is not taught in Scripture it would inevitably catch the sinless Jesus in its trap!)  He is both individual and community, at once a single, individual man and the race in miniature. As created in the ground (dust, clay) he is portrayed as knowing neither good nor evil, ignorant of law and therefore genuinely innocent. Since God created the earth to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Ps. 8; Isa. 45:18, etc.), we can deduce in light of our own experience as his descendants, that Adam’s initial state was that of (perishable) seed (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). In other words, God, the Creator himself, was his Father (Luke 3:38) and the corruptible earth was his mother. As such he was transferred to the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (Gen. 2:8,15), to gestate and there as a seed-bearer he produced Eve as he himself had been produced from the ground. Thus, as Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 11:7,12, when procreation replaces and recapitulates creation, Adam typifies God himself, while Eve the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20) who, like Adam himself though the image of God is also flesh, typifies the earth. Just as we ourselves are procreated by means of a seed-bearing mother and father (cf. Isa. 45:10), so like Adam we are the children of God and the earth (1 Cor. 15:47a) with a view to our becoming like the man of heaven, Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 15:46-49).  It perhaps needs to be firmly stated at this point that Jesus, who was genuinely flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14), also followed the same pattern. As created (incarnated) by God (cf. Heb. 10:5), he also as the second Adam was fashioned in the Garden, that is, Mary’s womb (cf. Jer. 1:5) in order to be finally perfected and ascend into heaven at the end of his fleshly or Adamic life (cf. Eph. 4:9f.).

If all this is true, then Boston’s Augustinian outlook must be deemed radically wrong, based as it is on massive misunderstanding of the biblical worldview. But there is much more to say. When he first left Eden, the Garden womb, the first Adam was already physically mature and already a sinner who had already broken the commandment and a true forerunner of the Jews (Isa. 48:8).  In this sense he was ‘born’ physically full-grown but manifestly infantile in spirit. As such he was radically different from us, his modern children.  Today we might well consider him to be retarded or a late developer. In any case, as Paul intimates, he was flesh before he was spirit (1 Cor. 15:46) but his long period of gestation has now been diminished with the result that we his children recapitulate his experience in a much shorter time. (7* I fancy that the great ages of the antediluvians arise out of the fact that the distinction between the individual and the race in man’s early history is sometimes less than clear. This becomes apparent when we consider that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the Bible.)

If, however, Adam’s exile from Eden constituted his birth, in contrast with ours today it occurred consciously with the result that he had to face an inhospitable, intractable even hostile world as the epitome of infant mankind, the race. Needless to say, in his immaturity, not to mention his moral disorientation, he was hardly fitted to exercise dominion as man’s basic vocation required (Gen. 1:26-28). Unsurprisingly, since this was the case, the land was cursed and unproductive like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34. After all, infants are hardly noted for their commitment to hard work (cf. Gen. 3:19; 5:29). In modern times, however, when they are born babies as we know them in ignorance and weakness, they are almost completely dependent on mature parents. It is not until they are on the cusp of childhood that they begin to take steps to fend for themselves and experience some of what the antediluvians experienced in their ‘infancy’. If this is true, then the so-called ‘cosmic’ curse of traditional theology is defunct. It was terminated by the covenant with obedient Noah which guaranteed that there would never again be worldwide as opposed to local floods preventing his exercise of dominion (cf. Isa. 54:9). The mere fact that Noah’s covenant (Gen. 9:1-17) is couched in somewhat similar terms to the commandment Adam received at the beginning in Genesis 1-3 is testament both to the grace and salvific purpose of God. For this covenant will endure to the end of the world when God’s harvest will be finally reaped (Gen. 8:22, cf. Isa. 54:9f.; Luke 17:26-30; Acts 14:17; 17:25-28.). (8* See my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?)

 

The Natural Man

The truth is that compared with Adam and his immediate descendants who were the infants of the race, Noah was clearly a child, cleansed or metaphorically baptised by the flood from his infantile filth (1 Pet. 3:21). Of course, Noah was a sinner deceived by the lusts of the flesh (Gen. 9:21, cf. 8:21) and a true son of Eve who was deceived (Gen. 3:6, cf. 1 Tim. 2:14) and who typified the heathen referred to by Paul in Romans 1 (cf. 7:11) and Ephesians 4:17-19. He was thus to all intents and purposes the first heathen to live consciously under the covenant with nature.  In fact he epitomized the natural man who though without excuse (Rom. 1:20, cf. Eph. 2:3) lacked adequate knowledge of God (cf. Eph. 2:12). But at least in light of the covenant he had more in prospect (cf. Ps. 8:5-8) and was ranked with the faithful  by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 11:7).

 

Man Under Promise and Law

Unlike Boston who assigned the natural or heathen man to hell as Augustine did unbaptised and hence unregenerate babies, God established a covenant with the heathen Abraham through whom he promised to bless the entire heathen world (Gen. 12:1-3,7). Out of this matrix and in fulfilment of his promise God later made a covenant of law through Moses  with a view to separating the children of Abraham (cf. Ex. 33:16; Lev. 20:24,26) so that they could serve the world as a royal priesthood and a holy nation  (Ex. 19:5f.). In other words, the election of Israel had in view the promised blessing (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). In contrast with the ‘child’ Noah, Moses was the first ‘adolescent’, for the Israelites did not become sons of the commandment who took personal responsibility for keeping the law until their bar mitzvah at age 13 (cf. Luke 2:40-52). Prior to that time they were tied to their mothers’ apron strings and ranked with them virtually as heathen.

 

Recapitulation

On this assumption, it becomes clear that the individual recapitulates the race and their development occurs concurrently. Just as mankind begins as seed in the earth, gestates in the Garden of Eden, enters the natural world and attempts forlornly to work his passage before suffering the curse of the flood, so the individual is procreated in his mother’s (garden) womb, undergoes infancy in blissful ignorance, and then, after attaining to childhood and “Egyptian” bondage, achieves adolescence under the law of Moses. Here the problem is that he is incapable of keeping the law, and as Jeremiah in particular became aware he needs a new covenant to give him life (Jer. 31:31-34). And since God is still intent on bringing salvation to the world (cf. John 3:16), he himself comes in the person of Jesus the Christ, first to fulfil the Mosaic covenant that promised life if it was kept (Mt. 5:17f.) and  to establish a new covenant by which his beneficent worldwide purpose can be achieved (cf. 1 John 2:2). (9* On this, see especially Galatians 4:1-7 where Paul’s sketch of the transition from (animal) birth through slavery and servanthood to sonship is plain.) So what is the biblical fourfold state of man?

The Biblical View of Man’s Fourfold State

 

The First State: Animal (Flesh)

On the assumption that man (Adam) is created by God as seed in the ground (Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23; 18:27; Job 10:8-10;  Ps. 139:15f.; Eccl. 12:7), he is transferred like the rest of the animals (Gen. 2:19) to gestate in the Garden of Eden (the  womb of the race) until he achieves physical maturity or adulthood. Since at the start he is ignorant of the commandment (law), and knows neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22, cf. Dt. 1:39, etc.), he is morally innocent. When, however, in contrast with the other animals, he develops like a baby to the point of understanding and receives the commandment, like Paul at a much later date (Rom. 7:9f.), he fails to keep it and becomes a sinner incapable of recovering himself (cf. John 8:34; Rom. 7:23f.). His way back to Eden and innocence is as surely barred (Gen. 3:24) as Nicodemus’, like that of Job (ch.3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18), was to his mother’s womb (John 3:4). Needless to say, this pattern is followed by all his offspring who recapitulate his experience. But as Genesis 3-6 indicate, having once begun in sin Adam’s or mankind’s degeneration in sin continues resulting in a curse on the largely untilled ground which culminates in the flood. In the event, the flood does not destroy the earth but wipes out all of mankind (2 Pet. 3:6) with the exception of Noah (Heb. 11:7) with whom God makes a covenant promising productivity to the end of history when the plan of human salvation will be complete (cf. Luke 17:26-37).

The first state of racial man (Adam) then is purely fleshly or animal (cf. Gen. 2:16,19; 1 Cor. 15:46) but it involves gradual transition on the spiritual level to human babyhood. Thus when he becomes conscious of the commandment, like a modern infant having broken it he also becomes conscious of much else like death, companionship and the need to work for his food (Gen. 3:19, cf. 2 Thes. 3:10). Eve on the other hand who has obviously had children before now becomes conscious of pain in childbirth (Gen. 3:16). In other words, pain is not so much the result of sin as tradition would have us believe but of the conscious intelligence which inevitably accompanies sin. After all, sin cannot occur apart from knowledge (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.). Provided we recognize the difference in physical maturity between the birth and development of racial man and our own we can readily accept the idea of recapitulation, for the pattern is the same. Just as Adam was sown in the womb of the race, the Garden of Eden, so we are sown in our mother’s womb (Isa. 45:9f.), a place of idyllic total supply  to which both Job (ch.3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who suffered much wished they could return, but like Adam himself (Gen. 3:22-24) and Nicodemus could not (John 3:4). There was no going back for development or evolution is the law of life (creation). (10* See my No Going Back.). It is worth adding here that to attribute pain to sin rather than to knowledge is to fail to understand that the sinless Jesus experienced pain (hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc.) apart from sin. (11* See my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.)

So man’s degeneration in sin following Adam’s birth or ejection from the Garden of Eden culminated in the flood which destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family. (12* Elsewhere I have argued that babies who know neither good nor evil and therefore cannot exercise faith are not saved yet both Genesis and Hebrews 11:4-6 make it crystal clear that  Abel and Enoch who were obviously among the ‘infants’ of the race were saved by grace through faith before the covenant made with Noah. We need to remind ourselves, first, that they were physically adult ‘late developers’ and, secondly, that where there is knowledge there is room for both sin and/or faith, Rom. 6:16.) As indicated above, Noah was more developed and mature than Adam and his immediate descendants and was, if we accept the idea of recapitulation, the first child (as opposed to infant) of the race.

 

The Second State: Heathen

As the first racial child Noah was also the first heathen, for the Bible makes it plain that all the heathen are the conscious beneficiaries of the covenant with Noah (13* The rest of the animal creation is of course the unconscious beneficiary of the covenant.) Both Moses (Dt. 4:19) and Paul (Acts 14:17), for example, remind us that this is the case. Even Abraham was heathen and like his children in Egypt was an idolater (Jos. 24:2,14; Ezek. 20:7f.). So it is with children in general. According to Paul they too are slaves (Gal. 4:1-3), and need to grow up (Eph. 4:11-16) and be perfected (cf. 1 Cor. 13:11).

 

The Third State: Under Law

To fulfil his promise to Abraham to be a blessing to the world God next separated the Israelites, the children of Abraham, by rescuing them from bondage in heathen Egypt and giving them the law through Moses at Sinai.  While it is strictly speaking true that only the Jews had the law as such (Dt. 4:7,32-34; Ps. 147:19f.), its impact on the rest of the world is indisputable. Our education system involving primary, secondary and tertiary grades reflects it. In view of this, the KJV translation of Galatians 3:24f. which refers to a schoolmaster, though somewhat inaccurate, is both meaningful and hence felicitous. (Boston of course was a federalist (pp.131f.) who assumed a covenant with Adam of which Scripture knows nothing. Thus he barely mentions Noah and Moses whose covenants are integral to the Bible and our understanding of man.)

 

The Fourth State: The State of Grace

While Paul lays heavy stress on man’s inability to keep the law (Gal. 3:10-13, cf. 3:21) and hence gain life (cf. Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), the author of Hebrews points out that the law as such is weak, ineffective (7:11,18f.; 8:7), obsolescent (8:13)  and requires replacement by another covenant which can give life as Jeremiah had realized long before (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-12). This covenant is in the event inaugurated by Christ who kept the law to perfection and died to cover sins committed under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15).  Thus those who believe in him are baptised by the Spirit as he was and so receive eternal life. In the state of grace believers are no longer under the law of Moses but live the regenerate life led by the Spirit until at physical death, like Jesus their pioneer, they undergo bodily transformation and glorification (1 Cor. 15:50-55). The state of grace or regeneration, then, culminates in what Boston rightly refers to as the eternal state, but it is really a fifth not a fourth state at least for the Jews.

 

Jesus: The Perfected Man

If Jesus was our trail blazer as the author of Hebrews especially claims (6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:1f.), then on the assumption of recapitulation we should expect to see that his earthly pilgrimage mirrors that of the race.  And that indeed is the case. First, as truly incarnate he was born of fleshly woman (Gal. 4:4) who typified the earth (cf. Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11:12; Eph. 4:9), and was linked with the animals in a stable. Next, after weaning in infancy, as a child like his forebears he was nurtured as a heathen slave in Egypt (Mt. 2:15; Gal. 4:1-3). Thirdly, as an adolescent he was put like all Jewish circumcised boys under the tutelage of the law in the Promised Land (Luke 2:40-52). Fourthly, having kept the law to perfection and pleased his heavenly Father, he was baptized by the Spirit and born again (Mt. 3:13-17). (14* See my Was Jesus Born Again?) Finally, after atoning in an act of supererogation for the sins of his fellows (cf. 1 John 2:2), he ascended into heaven, was transformed, glorified and seated at his Father’s right hand as a man who had gained the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). .

This recapitulation of the human odyssey is not quite exact, however; it needs clarification. For the truth is that while he clearly recapitulated first Adamic life, Jesus pioneered or ‘precapitulated’ second Adamic life (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Thus, contrary to widespread traditional teaching, he did not identify with us in baptism, rather it is we who identify with him. (15* See my Baptism And Identification.) For, first, at his incarnation he had to recapitulate to perfection the journey the first Adam failed to complete, but then, once he was born again, he had to pioneer the regenerate life (fulfil all righteousness) which Adam and all his natural progeny never experienced at all. (16* It should be carefully noted that not one of the OT saints listed in Hebrews 11 was born again. All were sinners and hence excluded, Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5. It was only when God provided “something better” that they were perfected, Heb. 11:39f.) For them the new birth was just a promise (Dt. 30:6, etc.) unfulfilled until Jesus who kept the law brought in life and incorruption (Gk. 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:53, cf. Rom. 8:1).

The fivefold state of the incarnate life of Jesus tabulated:

1.  Born flesh of woman in an animal stable (Luke 2:7, cf. Eph. 4:9).

2. Childhood in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15).

3. Tutelage under law in the Jewish Promised Land (Luke 2:40-52).

4. Baptism and regeneration (Mt. 3:13-17) to pioneer the Christian life in the Spirit.

5. Ascension, bodily transformation, heavenly session in glory (Eph. 4:10, cf. 1:10,20-22; Mt. 28:18).

The perfected Jesus (Heb. 7:28, etc.) was thus the epitome of incarnation, recapitulation, human development (evolution) and perfection. In order to mediate between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), he became the very image of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4).  As such he is able to redeem the race (1 John 2:2), for, as Gregory Nazianzus said, to redeem all he had to assume all (cf. Heb. 2).
If this is true then, despite his subjection of creation to futility (Rom. 8:20, cf. Heb. 1:10-12) the watchmaker was not so blind after all. As for the selfish gene, deluded it is going nowhere but to ultimate destruction.

 

See further my:

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

Covenant Theology

Covenant Theology in Brief

Perfection

Concerning Original Righteousness

Correcting Traditional Distortions Of Scripture

Adam – Part 1 – Adam’s Pedigree And Goal

Adam – Part 2 – Individual and Community

Adam – Part 3 – The Two Adams

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Are Babies Saved?

Recapitulation in Outline

No Going Back

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

Death and Corruption

Was Jesus Born Again?

Worldview

Concerning Futility

Romans 8:18-25 In Brief

etc.

The Human Path to Perfection

 

According to traditional church dogma, man, like creation in general, was created perfect, fully mature or complete.  To all intents and purposes he was a god-like creature. Some ‘sound’ Bible teacher would have us believe that when he was created Adam looked as if he was thirty years old! Unfortunately, the Bible fails to support this scenario. Rather it indicates, first, that creation was originally a chaos and had to be reduced to order, and, second, that mankind, that is, Adam, who emanated from it (Gen. 2:7), far from being holy, righteous and perfect, was created knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) and like a baby in the womb had to begin at the beginning with a view to attaining both physical and spiritual maturity. Thus the author of Hebrews clearly conceives of Jesus himself, the second Adam, as beginning in innocent imperfection in the womb of Mary his mother but ending fully perfected (2:9-10; 5:9; 7:28) and so eventually being seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3,13, etc.).  In view of this it is hardly surprising that the apostle Paul pictures himself in Philippians 3:12-14 as a heaven-bound pilgrim in the process of being perfected.  And according to the author of Hebrews, the same holds true with regard to the rest of us (Heb. 3:1; 11:39f., cf. Eph. 4:1; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:11). In light of this, the traditional idea that when Adam sinned, he ‘fell’ from putative perfection and brought a curse on himself and the rest of creation over which he was meant to exercise dominion is an imposition on the plain teaching of Scripture. So what is the real story of man’s odyssey from earth to heaven implied in the very first chapter of Genesis but only properly accomplished by Jesus himself (John 3:13; 6:38,62; 13:3; Eph. 4:9f.; Heb. 4:14; 7:23-28; 9:24)?

 

Seed

Man like all animal flesh (cf. 1 Cor. 5:46) is created by God presumably as seed in the earth which is our mother. (1* In other words, the egg precedes the chicken on which see my The Chicken or the Egg.)  This is implied in Genesis 2:7 and 19. It is confirmed by Psalm 139:15 and Ephesians 4:9 (cf. John 3:13, etc.) which clearly indicate that all the posterity of Adam stem from him whose own origin was the earth. Thus all are regarded in the rest of the Bible as dust (Job 34:15; Ps. 103:14, cf. 78:39; Eccl. 12:7; 1 Cor. 15:47-49) or clay (Gen. 3:19; Job 4:19; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:7).

 

Eden

Once he has been created as seed, Adam the individual who epitomises the race as Jesus, the second Adam, does his people, is then sown by God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15), clearly the womb of the race, to gestate and develop. Like Esau and Jacob in their mother’s womb at a much later date (Rom. 9:11), at this stage he knows neither good nor evil and so survives in blissful animal-like ignorance. In other words, he resembles the rest of the animals over which he is later given the dominion that was planned from the start (cf. Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Gen. 2:19). However, like seed sown in a garden he sprouts up (cf. Isa. 45:8; 55:10; 61:11), and eventually attains to physical maturity (cf. Mark 4:26-28).

 

Adam’s Posterity

However, it is plain that Adam himself differs from his posterity in that they do not like him literally begin life in the earth. Once initial creation has occurred, since Adam and the rest of the animals and plants are by divine design created as seed-bearers (Gen. 1:11f.), procreation which recapitulates creation takes over (cf. Isa. 45:10). So far as man himself is concerned, in the providence of God Eve derives from Adam (Gen. 2:18,20-22) as he himself derived as seed from the earth and we ourselves in our turn emanate as seed from our fathers’ loins (cf. Isa. 48:1 NASV, NRSV; Heb. 7:10) to be placed in our mother’s womb (cf. 1 Cor. 11). Together like the rest of the animal creation Adam and Eve reproduce as we see later in Genesis 5:1-4. In other words, Adam as the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7) sows Eve who is typically mother earth (cf. Gen. 3:20, or mother earth recapitulated in miniature, cf. 1 Cor. 11:12) in order to reproduce. Thus it should cause us no surprise that the second Adam recapitulates the birth of the first Adam by being born of woman rather than specifically in the earth. In light of Genesis 3:16, where strong emphasis is placed on Eve’s increased pain in childbirth, we are forced to conclude that animal, including human, reproduction occurred naturally, though unconsciously, in Eden. In short, since procreation mirrors creation, it ensures that eventually the earth is fully inhabited as God intended (cf. Gen. 10f.; Isa. 45:18).

 

The Curse

This brings us to the issue of the so-called cosmic curse. Historically, given the church’s frame of reference derived from Augustine of Hippo who died in 430 AD, the curse somewhat mysteriously followed on Adam’s alleged perfection when he sinned and produced what is still called the ‘fallen world’ which we inhabit even today in 2016. However, since in light of the fact that the earth had a beginning implying an end (Gen. 8:22) and was ‘made by hand’ (e.g. Isa. 45:11f. (2* Usually, Gk cheiropoietos. See my Manufactured Or Not So.), we are bound to infer that it was never perfect, only ‘good’ like a tool serving God’s (temporal) purpose (Gen. 1). Alternatively expressed, it was, like the law that related to the flesh, provisional and was subjected to futility from the start (cf. Rom. 8:20; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12, etc.) with a view to a better invisible (Rom. 8:24f.) world once it had served its purpose as man’s nurturing and testing ground (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5; Gal. 1:4). It follows from this that man as flesh which stemmed from the earth was naturally incapable of inheriting the spiritual kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). For all that, the curse was clearly a reality in the early history of the race and it began when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:14-19). The question is: Of what did it consist or what was involved? The answer would appear to lie in the nature of the relationship between creation and man as outlined in Genesis 1. There we learn that man’s vocation is to exercise dominion over or to rule the obviously imperfect created world (Gen. 1:26-28). But this he failed to do, first, because he sinned by disobeying God’s one commandment given to test him (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Ex. 15:25; 16:4, etc.) and, second, because, though physically mature, he was racially speaking but an infant (cf. Eph. 4:11-16, etc.). If we extrapolate from what we know of man the individual who recapitulates the community, we can infer that Adam despite his physical maturity was spiritually infantile and like modern infants dominated by his flesh.  This scenario is epitomized especially by Eve who apart from succumbing to the devil’s deception caved in to her physical desires (Gen. 3:6, cf. Rom. 7:11; Heb. 3:13). Adam, however, though acquiescing in Eve’s weakness was typically held to be more responsible because it was he who had received the commandment directly from God just as the Jews, as the elect people of God, summed up in or epitomized by Paul in Romans 7:13-24, were to do later. (3* See my Interpreting Romans 7.) So it was Eve who in this way came to symbolize the heathen who were without the law (Rom. 2:14f., cf. 1 Tim. 2:14), while Adam who received the commandment typified the Jews who were given the law of Moses in all its fullness (Rom. 2:17-29; 9:4, cf. Amos 3:2; Mic. 3:11; John 5:45).

If it is true that Adam and Eve exemplified the gestation of mankind to physical maturity in the Garden of Eden or the womb of the race, their sin occurred just prior to their ejection from that womb with the result that like Israel at a later date before entry into the Promised Land (Isa. 48:8) they entered the inhospitable, intractable outside world as we know it as sinners.  It is of vital importance to note that the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the idyllic Garden of Eden into the harsh world outside constituted their birth (cf. Job 3:3,10f.; 10:18f.;  Jer. 20:14-18). That the external world was not cursed but simply natural, futile and recalcitrant is proved by such references as Genesis 13:10, Exodus 16:3; Numbers 16:13, Isaiah 36:17 and the ‘exceedingly good’ Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 13:27; 14:7). It is clear from Acts 14:17, 17:27, 1 Corinthians 10:26-30 and 1 Timothy 4:3f. that Paul knew nothing of the putative cosmic curse  our ecclesiastical tradition has palmed off on us, though minor curses stemming from lack of habitation, carelessness and neglect feature regularly throughout Scripture as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, for instance, indicate. (4* See further my Cosmic Curse?, Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’, Understanding the Curse, Observations on The Curse, etc.) As indicated above, it is as both the slaves of sin (John 8:34) and as ‘infants’ that Adam and Eve failed to fulfil their vocation to rule the earth. Little wonder that the world we read of in Genesis 4-8 is cursed. It culminated in the cataclysm of the flood which destroyed the bulk of mankind who failed to bear fruit before their dispersion throughout the earth. Since the Creator had a plan of salvation in mind, however, he did not make a ‘full end’ (cf. Jer. 4:27, etc.) of the created world as Noah knew it. Instead he made a covenant with him which guaranteed not only the survival of creation but also the creature until his salvific purpose was fulfilled (Gen. 8:22, cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:19-26).

 

The Curse and Modern Man

At this point it is necessary to note the difference between early man and modern man. Early man developed physically to full maturity before he left Eden or the racial womb; modern man does not attain to physical maturity until long after he has left his mother’s womb. In other words, while the former as a physical adult, though with minimal understanding, was under an obligation, even compulsion to work in order to subdue a recalcitrant and intractable earth and thereby earn a living by the sweat of his brow (Gen.  3:19, cf. 2 Thes. 3:10), the latter is born a baby as we know it. This means that its infancy occurs in total dependence and blissful ignorance. It is only as it is weaned that it gains understanding of and hence accountability through knowledge of the transgenerational commandment which is basically the word ‘no’, as it was in Adam’s case. This can only mean that during its infancy the modern baby does not endure the curse on creation that Adam experienced. For, first, in its ignorance of the law or commandment like an animal it knows neither good nor evil (Dt. 1:39) and is clearly not accountable; second, it is incapable of working in any case; and, third, it has mature parents to do that for it. It thus inherits a world fashioned by the history and culture of its forebears (5* Ex. 20:5f.; 34:6f.; Ps. 51:5 on which see my Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.), and this can mean suffering specifically as in the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness (Num. 14:33) and/or blessing when entry into the Promised Land is achieved, though even this in the event is not without its problems as Hebrews 3 and 4 indicate.

 

The Covenant with Noah

So God dealt with the problem confronting early man by making a covenant with Noah who in contrast with Adam was conspicuously obedient (Gen. 6:22, etc.) and faithful (Heb. 11:7). Clearly, compared with Adam and his immediate successors he had undergone some development and maturation, that is, he had progressed from infancy to childhood, as mankind’s original vocation etched in Genesis 1:26-28 and repeated in Genesis 9:1-10 implies. The covenant, significantly lacking in Adam’s case (pace various modern commentators), and hence the flood, guaranteed, first, the continuous fruitfulness of the earth to the end of the age (Gen. 8:22, cf. Luke 17:26-30), and, second, that there would be no more ‘cosmic’ curse until the divine purpose was fulfilled (Gen. 9:11, cf. Isa. 54:9) when the earth would be finally destroyed by fire (Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12, etc.).

It is important to point out, however, in light of the writer’s assertion in Genesis 8:21 that sin which has loomed so large in traditional Augustinian theology is at a relative discount. The difficulties facing early man certainly stemmed from sin which was an exacerbating factor but they arose primarily from nature which meant that only the fit could survive. For contrary to tradition,   creation, far from being a perfect and autonomous benefactor like Eden is, first, naturally futile and intractable and has to be inhabited, worked, cultivated and subjected to man’s dominion to make it fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:1,7,20). But, second, man as part of nature himself is subject to the moral law (the commandment) on the one hand but immature on the other. In fact, it was the gradual development from animal (flesh) to man that constituted the essence of human difficulty. Whereas animals can readily live off the land, so to speak (cf. Gen. 2:16), without consciously working, self-conscious intelligent man cannot, especially if he is to exercise dominion by developing the earth’s resources and human society as was obviously intended. It is not without reason therefore that the OT in particular depicts a regression from land previously rendered fertile by human industry to desolation when it is uninhabited and/or neglected as at the exile (cf. Isa. 5:6; 6:11,  etc.). When it is not cultivated and worked, it is fit only for occupation by animals (cf. Ex. 23:29; Dt. 7:22; Prov. 24:30-34; Isa. 5:6; 7:23-25, etc.). The period depicted in Genesis 4-8 is then largely a period of barren transition, not of permanent universal curse. Man’s animal beginning is under the providence God gradually giving way to his conscious intelligent humanity. And it is in light of this that further covenants are made by the Creator preparing the way for continued development to maturity or perfection. Regretfully, historical covenant theology has failed to understand this.

 

The Covenant with Abraham

Apart from the fact that there was technological development under the covenant with Noah (Gen. 10f.), man’s spiritual progress was apparently slow and sin continued to disfigure his divine image.  (6*It is worth pointing out here that man’s own physical nature was part of the creation over which he was required to rule. So while genuine progress was made in ‘taming’ nature under Noah, less success was achieved controlling the flesh as is evident even today, cf. James 3:1-9.) However, in his grace and mercy with ultimate salvation in view God’s next significant move was to call Abraham and make a covenant of promise with him. Even at this early stage it is made clear that Abraham was not only to become a great nation but to be a blessing to the nations of the entire earth (Gen. 12:2f.). The promises that God made to him regarding both land and people were of such importance that they were covenanted (chs. 15,17). Much later the author of Hebrews stresses their emphatic nature when he says that the promises were confirmed by an oath (Heb. 6:14,18). Thus the hope of all believers as the true children of Abraham is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul guaranteeing  ultimate entry into heaven itself, for  we  follow in the steps of Jesus who has already pioneered our way to perfection and the presence of God (Heb. 2:10-13; 6:19f.; 12:2).

 

Life in Egyptian Bondage

Along with the promises made to Abraham is the warning of difficulties lying ahead (cf. Acts 14:22), for the land of Canaan in which he lived as a sojourner in anticipation of heaven (Heb. 11:13-16) was not to become that of his posterity until after they had spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt (Gen. 15:13). After that long and gruelling period in the house of affliction, the children of Abraham were finally rescued by Moses. As with Jesus himself who recapitulated his forebears’ experience (Mt. 2:15), their childhood slavery (cf. Gal. 4:1-3) eventually came to an end and, having passed through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, they finally reached the Promised Land.

Before going further it is important to notice that all this took place under the covenant with Noah by which even Egypt, like Assyria later (Isa. 36:17), was blessed (cf. Num. 11:5; 16:13), perhaps not least because it was worked by Hebrew slaves. If it was finally ‘cursed’ or ruined (Ex. 10:7), this was because Pharaoh persecuted Abraham’s posterity (cf. Gen. 12:3), and not because the land as such was under the so-called cosmic curse. However, the time had come for the promises to be fulfilled, at least in part (cf. Heb. 6:15; 11:39), and a new dispensational covenant was called for, though even it contained a promise of life (cf. Rom. 7:10). It is necessary to stress here, however, that the covenant with Moses did not involve the obliteration of either the covenant with Noah or that that with Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:17). If it had, the plan of salvation as such would have foundered.

 

The Covenant with Moses

Now that the children of Israel who had proved so prolific during their Egyptian bondage were numerous enough to form a nation, it was necessary for them to be given a constitution. This occurred at Sinai when God emphasising that he had rescued his people from Egypt (Ex. 20:2) now imposed his law on them. Why? First, it was a step away from what had been their lawless heathen state when they worshipped foreign gods in Egypt (Josh. 24:2; Ezek. 20:7f.,16,24). The law thus became a wall of separation between God’s elect people and the nations in general (Lev. 20:22-26). But second as Paul says it was intended to point up transgressions (Gal. 3:19). While not salvific itself though it promised good if kept (Dt. 5:33), it demonstrated man’s inability to keep it (John 7:19; Heb. 2:2; 10:28), and hence the need for salvation by other means, that is, by faith like that of Abraham and so by Christ (Gal. 3:14,29).

As Paul says, the law served as a school master (KJV), as a guardian of God’s people who were still in relative spiritual minority and would remain so until Christ arrived. In other words, it was temporal and provisional and would eventually pass away (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:6-13). It did in Jesus’ own case when having kept it he was baptised by the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17) and as the regenerate Son was no longer under the law. In view of the teaching of some a caveat must be entered at this point, for apart from faith in Christ, the law still stands. It has come to an end only for those who put their faith in the Saviour who has fulfilled the law (Mt. 5:17). For them as regenerate believers he is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4, cf. Gal. 3:24).

 

The Promissory Covenant with David

Moses himself though the mediator of the law, which significantly was regarded as delivered by angels (cf. Gal. 3:19), proved a failure and possession of the land was achieved initially under the leadership of Joshua. However, the land flowing with milk and honey soon proved to be less than an idyllic and permanent rest, a point stressed later in Hebrews 3 and 4. But throughout the OT, life continued to be lived under natural law on the one hand and the moral law on the other. In the event the law proved impossible to keep as the OT people themselves were well aware (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20), and they suffered as a consequence from frequent setbacks at the hands of their enemies, even God himself (Isa. 63:10). Nonetheless, hope was inspired by the wonderful covenant promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7 (cf. Ps. 89) despite his own failure under the jurisdiction of the law. For all his faults David epitomised Messianic hopes which sustained a troubled, even exiled and subjugated people through turbulent centuries. As perhaps all people in their relative, especially spiritual, minority become  aware, the fulfilment of the promise of the future seems long delayed, but after many trials and temptations it eventually arrives. The path to perfection is more involved than we think and it involves yet a further phase.

 

The Messianic Covenant

Inability to keep the law, which is the precondition of life (Lev. 18:5), requires another means of salvation, that is, rescue by Christ who according to the gospel is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Though justification by faith featured early in the piece especially in the career of Abraham (Gen. 15:6, cf. Heb. 11), the need for regeneration or eternal life is only met by Christ who alone kept the law (cf. Mt. 19:16-21). But even though we accept him as Saviour and Messianic king, the Son of David, life remains a struggle, a time of continual testing (Job. 7:17f.; Ps. 11:4f.). Even when born again after being justified by faith in him, we still have to face the fight between flesh and spirit as he did (Heb. 4:15), and to overcome a thousand and one difficulties thrown up by unpredictable events in a futile and decaying world. There are enemies both within and without and they all have to be overcome if we are to attain to perfection. Having accepted Christ as our Saviour and having a heavenly goal in our sights, we are however guaranteed another helper in the form of the Spirit. And thus we follow by faith in the steps of him who served as our pioneer into heaven itself (Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:1f.).

 

Recapitulation

At this point it is essential to recognise the parallel or correspondence between the path to perfection of the race in general and the pilgrimage of the individual. What historical theology has lost sight of under the pervasive and baneful influence of Augustine of Hippo is the notion of recapitulation. For while Augustine spoke of an originally perfect world including man ruined or cursed by Adam’s sin, Irenaeus who preceded him rightly stressed development from intrinsic immaturity to final perfection despite sin. Clearly the latter’s case was illustrated by Jesus himself who having begun in infancy finally achieved perfect manhood and so took his seat at this Father’s side. Though we are all dust as the children of Adam, by God’s grace we follow in his steps (Eph. 4:9, cf. John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). So as human beings created in the image of God, we are first animal flesh (even Jesus was born in a manger), then (Egyptian) slaves (cf. Mt. 2:15), servants under the law and finally sons by the Spirit through faith in Jesus (John 1:13; 3:16). In other words, we follow the covenant pattern and are baptised first into Noah, then, if we are Jews into Moses (cf. Gal. 3:19-24), and finally into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Again it might be said that we who accept the priesthood of all believers conform to the symbolism of the temple and pass through the court of the Gentiles, the court of the Israelites, the holy place of the priests and finally enter the holy of holies which our high priest alone has entered (Heb. 9:24, cf. 6:19f.; 10:19f., etc.).

 

Perfection Achieved

On the assumption that this is the scriptural view, it is imperative for us to jettison with rigour and despatch the worldview that we have inherited from Augustine. The notion that Adam as mankind’s representative was originally created perfect, that is, fully mature, holy and righteous from the start but sinned occasioning original sin and a fall which brought a curse on the entire created world is not only false but ludicrous. It has turned theology on its head! Little wonder that as Christians we are at war with science. The truth is that science and modern technology in general properly understood are the consequence of mankind’s dominion over creation and reflect the fulfilment of his vocation as taught in Genesis 1.  But whereas the natural man made in the image of God has reached the moon, only Jesus, the Son of God, has conquered in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and attained to heaven to take his seat at his Father’s side. And this the rest of us who believe in him will also do in due course (Rev. 3:21), for our goal from the start was heavenly perfection (Rom. 8:31-39; Heb. 11:39f.).

 

See further my:

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

The Ascent of Man

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

The Journey of Jesus

Recapitulation in Outline

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Perfection, Challenging The Church

Death and Corruption

Creation Corruptible By Nature

The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution

etc.

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

 

Baillie

In an article entitled Still Docetic (see also my The Ecclesiastical Christ) I have argued that when Paul says that Jesus as the Word originally had the nature of God and was equal with God but emptied himself, he meant precisely what he said, that is, that he divested himself of his divine nature but obviously not his personal identity (1* Cf. 1 John 5:18b which would appear to differentiate Jesus’ natural birth of God his Father, cf. Heb. 10:5, from our new birth referred to in 1 John 5:18a.) in order to become a real flesh-and-blood man (Heb. 2:14) born of woman (Gal. 4:4) with a view to gaining the complete image and likeness of God which the rest of mankind found to be beyond their natural capabilities. Needless to say, this is widely, almost universally denied in the church. The orthodox traditional view is that Jesus was simultaneously both God and man in two natures or what is sometimes known as Chalcedonian Dyophysitism. As we might expect, after rejecting ‘kenosis’ Baillie in his God Was In Christ takes this position.

Having rejected anhypostasis, the idea that Jesus adopted human nature but not human personality (p.85), Baillie is at pains to maintain that the Jesus of the New Testament was a real man by producing ample evidence to support his case (e.g. pp.125-132). On page 151 he insists that Jesus is ‘wholly human’ but then avers that what was incarnate in him was of the essence or nature of God. If this is true, then Jesus was not wholly human after all. Apart from the fact that a man in his natural state as flesh and blood ‘made by hand’ could not possibly ‘house’ the essence or nature of God (cf. 1 K. 8:27; Acts 7:48-50; 17:24) (2* For the same reason it is impossible to accept Mary as the mother of God (theotokos) on the hypothesis that God the Son had the nature of God when he was conceived!), he was docetic, not truly man, but a freak, a hybrid or a third alternative. To put the issue otherwise, if Jesus was truly man, there could be no complete communicatio idiomatum or transfer of attributes till he had been transformed and glorified at his ascension. As man Jesus like all other men needed to begin at the beginning, be perfected (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Phil. 3:12-14, etc.) and gain God’s complete image (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53) in order to exercise the delegated powers of God and rule at his right hand (Rev. 3:21). This we might well infer from Matthew 11:27; 28:18, John 13:3, Romans 1:4, and so forth.

The truth is that like so many others Baillie,  conditioned and inhibited by tradition, fails to listen to what the Scripture says, that is, that the Word who was God and so had the nature of God in eternity (Col. 1:16) became man (John 1:1-14). He was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26f.) so that he might gain his complete likeness. To do so he who was equal with God (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6) and definitely not subordinate to him (which he would have been if he had been his eternal Son) was born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:8, cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). For a while, that is, until he had been perfected (Heb. 7:28) and glorified (Heb. 1:4,6; 1 Pet. 3:22), like all other men he was made lower than the angels (Ps. 8:4-6; Heb. 2:7,9). Bluntly, he did what we are constantly told he could not do, that is, change his nature. If John 1, Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1 and 2 mean anything at all, they deny the immutability of the nature of the Word which is to place an unacceptable restriction on the God who we are told can do all things (Luke 1:37) except lie and deny himself. In plain words, Chalcedon’s two-nature theory denies the incarnation and is therefore heretical.

This of course raises other questions. First, Baillie along with others seems to think that if Jesus became exclusively man in nature, he could not possibly be God. But the idea that God cannot become man is expressly rejected by Scripture which in light of later teaching plainly implies as early as Genesis 1:26 that he can. It not only imposes limits on the Almighty but also in effect denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Such denial, however, seems to be an inference from the Greek philosophical notion of the utter transcendence, immutability and impassibility of a strictly monadic or ‘monochrome’ God. It ignores his complex tri-personality.

Second, however, it resembles the thesis of some (e.g. Geisler, p.122, etc.) that man who is flesh and blood cannot change his nature without ceasing to be man.  Put simply, the argument is that if man loses his flesh and blood, he is no longer human. In the event, Baillie implicitly rejects this idea since he clearly recognizes that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven man must of necessity shed his flesh and blood which is by nature incapable of being eternalized (1 Cor. 15:50). Paul leaves us in no doubt about this, and his ‘dei’ (Gk) in 1 Corinthians 15:53 is every bit as emphatic as that of Jesus in John 3:7 regarding the new birth. The apostle’s claim that Jesus himself brought to light both immortality and ‘incorruption’ (imperishability, Gk. 2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) implies basic change and transformation in accordance with God’s eternal plan for man who was purposely made in the potential image of God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-5).

Next, Baillie’s assumption, like that of Archbishop Temple, that if the Word changed his nature, he would cease to be God leads him to believe that the creation which was his own handiwork would collapse. The obvious answer to this problem is the old adage which he himself concedes is a sound principle (p.96) that the works of the Trinity with respect to outsiders are undivided (opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa). Here Baillie seems to have a somewhat different understanding of the expression from others who take the view that since the three persons of the (immanent) Trinity are consubstantial and equally God, they can each perform the functions of the whole Godhead. If this is true, then Archbishop Temple’s question about what was happening to the rest of the universe during the days of the incarnation is superfluous. God as Creator, now Father, and Spirit performed the divine functions of or on behalf of the Word with whose person as Son they obviously retained their relationship (cf. John 10:30,38; 14:10, etc.) in executing the plan of salvation. During his incarnation, Jesus, the man made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9), who as the Son of God born of woman was clearly dependent on his Father (see especially Heb. 5:7) could not possibly have received the incommunicable attributes of God. As noted above, it was not until he had been perfected, transformed and received the generic nature of God as a man who was the image of God (Col. 1:15, etc.) that he received the power to rule the universe (Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3).  In other words, God did not abdicate during the incarnation; rather, he undergirded and maintained it and thereby ensured that the Word, his now human Son, received all the support that he needed as a genuine human being. This is made clear especially in the letter to the Hebrews. Not for nothing does Professor Bruce Ware lay strong stress on Hebrews 5:7 (ch. 4). Indeed, if Jesus did not receive the indispensable support that all we human beings need, he could not have been fully incarnate. He could not have been as weak as the rest of us (Mt. 26:41; 2 Cor. 13:4) and our elder brother to boot (Heb. 2:10-13, cf. Rom. 8:29).

The fact is that Baillie appears to contradict himself for he implicitly denies any separation in the Trinity. Given the evidence, the reductio ad absurdum he claims is involved is itself absurd. To solve his conundrum he needs to admit the separation in the sense that the persons of the Trinity are distinct, that they perform different functions and divide their labour. Yet salvation or redemption remains a work in which the entire Godhead is involved.  At this point there is divine solidarity (3* Packer in George, p.102, Writings 1, pp.147f.). Thus it is that the incarnate Jesus Christ who died and was raised by God is proclaimed Lord to the glory of God (Phil. 2:11). Romans 10:9 and 14:9, like Acts 2:33,36, can hardly mean anything else. And this is the consistent message of the NT brought out by the familiar if somewhat misnamed covenant of redemption dear to the hearts of the Reformed. The death of the Son as flesh, that is, as human not divine in nature (Acts 3:15; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:22), is what is involved, and the idea that the divine nature could die is scouted. Alan Richardson, an Anglican, also maintains in his Introduction to New Testament Theology, that all the persons of the Trinity act in every divine work but perform different functions (p.123). For all that, his exposition at this point appears to confuse the immanent with the economic Trinity. The result is that having asserted that ‘Son’ implies derivation, subordination and dependence, he goes on to insist on both the equality and the subordination of Jesus as eternal Son. The truth is, however, that the Son cannot be both equal and subordinate, both divine and human in nature, at one and the same time. To borrow Warfield’s words, Christ’s equality as God is essential, a necessity of nature; his subordination is economic, a matter of arrangement (p.154).  While Paul (Phil. 2:6), John (1:1) and the author of Hebrews (ch. 1f.) all by implication insist on original or immanent equality, they teach sonship and subordination only at the incarnation. The whole point of Hebrews 1, contrary to the assertion of Lane who says especially with regard to verses 7-12 that they substantiate the conclusion that the Son is superior on account of his eternal unchangeable nature and role in creation (p.24), is that in fact they testify to the superiority attained by the victorious incarnate Son. (4* Hughes, with reference to the aorist participle genomenos, having become, in verse 4, concurs with Spicq who says it points to a dated event in history and “designates a superiority which was achieved and clearly indicates that the theme here is not the Son in his eternal existence but Christ with his glorified human nature”, p.50 n.3, cf. p.48). Verses 1-4 can hardly mean anything else. After all, in his divine pre-existence as Creator he was by nature superior to angels – a point that hardly requires substantiation. Unsurprisingly therefore, all three apostolic writers also insist on Jesus’ accomplishment of victory (John 16:33, etc.) in the flesh (John 19:30, cf. 17:1-4; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). In view of this, Richardson’s affirmations are mutually contradictory. Like all Chalcedonians he is trying to make a distinction without a difference. What the Word performed as God in his pre-existence, that is, creation (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10-12), and what he achieves as flesh (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 5:18f.; Heb. 2:14f.) are fundamentally different. At bottom, for Chalcedonians the incarnation did not really occur but only appeared to. They are cryptic docetists.

Baillie’s problem is that he adheres uncritically to the widespread but innately contradictory idea that Christ has two natures at one and the same time. He writes that the kenotic theory appears to him to be a story of a temporary theophany in which the one who was formerly God has been changed temporarily (sic) into a man and in effect to have relinquished his divinity or divine nature. From this he draws the conclusion that having divested himself of his distinctively divine attributes in becoming human, he has ceased to be divine. What he, Baillie, fails to add is that in nature but definitely not in personal identity this is precisely the case, a point that no one to my knowledge despite all the evidence to that effect seems prepared to admit.

 

Change in Nature

Change in nature, however, is basic to the plan of salvation. If man as created in the image of God is intended to attain to glory but in the event proves incapable of doing so because he cannot fulfil the precondition (Lev. 18:5), then change in the nature of the Word himself as Rescuer is inevitably the divine intention. This is implied by Jesus himself when he is reported as saying that he descended in order to ascend (John 3:13; 6:38,62; 13:3, cf. Eph. 4:9f.). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that like the new birth corporeal transformation is naturally necessary, that is, divinely ordained and inherent in the plan of salvation. (5* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities .) Flesh and blood cannot by nature go to heaven (15:50) but must undergo transformation both as such and as being inherently temporary and corruptible. So if the Word was capable of change in order to become flesh and blood, he, Jesus, was also capable of change to enter the kingdom of heaven and become the first born of all creation (Col. 1:15, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45b). Indeed, he himself on occasion (e.g. John 3:13; 13:3) insisted that as the one who had descended and implicitly changed his nature (or, as Paul put it, emptied, humbled (Phil.2:7) and impoverished himself, 2 Cor. 8:9, cf. Heb. 2:7,9), he would ascend and change his nature once more and take on as man the generic nature of God which was his purpose from the start. How could he fill all things if he remained flesh (Eph. 4:9f., cf. Col. 1:19; 2:9)? The point of all this is that change in nature is, as already intimated, basic to the plan of salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5). Our own resurrection transformation means that as God’s sons by adoption we must of necessity take on the generic nature of God himself or, to be more precise, we must be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21) who has become the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) and hence our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

Thus it is that when  Jesus still in the flesh is raised, transformed and exalted in power (Rom. 1:4, cf. Mt. 28:18),  like Joseph in Egypt he is appointed Lord (Acts 2:33,36). As the exact or perfected image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4, Col. 1:15) he takes his place at his Father’s side (Heb. 1:3,13; 4:14; 7:26; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; Rev. 3:21). And just as Joseph remained subordinate to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40, cf. Acts 7:10), so the human Jesus, though still God, the eternal Word, by identity, remains subordinate in nature to his heavenly Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28). As for us, the redeemed, we acknowledge Christ as Lord too, all to the praise of God our Creator and Redeemer in Christ (cf. Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 4 & 5).

 

Packer

J.I.Packer (Writings, p.38) suggests that some Chalcedonians sensing the smell of Docetism speculate (‘guess’, sic!) that in order to experience genuine human limitations Jesus had to abandon some of his divine powers when he became man. One would have thought that this was obvious. If not, the incarnation was a sham and Jesus as God was able to rely on his own divine powers (cf. Jud. 6:31). (6* See above on Baillie and my Still Docetic.)

On page 72 Packer astonishingly says that there is no hint of any such forfeiture and that the very suggestion seems to undermine Jesus’ authority as a teacher and thus dishonour him. Just how is not made apparent. Apart from noting that explicit evidence can be mustered to counter this (e.g. John 8:28f., 10:38), it would appear at this point that the very incarnation is at stake. The NT writers are adamant that Jesus was truly human and depict him as such. Denial is heresy (1 John 4:2f.; 2 John 7). The author of Hebrews goes so far as to say that he differed from the rest of us only in that he did not sin (Heb. 2:17, cf. 2:14f.; 4:15).

Packer goes on to posit a rather strange and muddled dilemma relating to Jesus’ temporary abandonment of his heavenly omnipotence and omniscience (cf. Heb. 2:7,9). He suggests that on the assumption of kenosis it would seem to follow on the one hand that Jesus’ present heavenly experience is not now fully human or if it is, he has not regained the powers he abandoned at his incarnation and never will. But surely this is precisely what Scripture denies. What could be clearer than texts like Matthew 11:27,28:18, John 3:13,13:3, Romans 1:4 and Ephesians 4:9-10? The whole purpose of the incarnation was for Jesus as man to achieve for man the complete image of God that eluded the rest of us because we could not keep the law which was the precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5). According to Scripture, in his humanity Jesus was perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) and became the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). As such he took his place at his Father’s side and proceeded to exercise as man all the powers characteristic of God. That is why he is described as Lord (Acts 2:33,36; Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 2:11,  and compare Rev. 5:11-13 with  4:8-11).

Next, Packer, conceding Jesus’ acknowledgement of ignorance of the time of his return, weakly suggests in effect that he suppressed or held in abeyance his knowledge at his Father’s behest. The evidence for this seems to be entirely lacking in view of his own assertion that his words were always words he derived from his Father (John 12:49; 17:8, cf. Rev. 1:1). As a genuine man he was as dependent here as he was for the works or signs he performed (John 5:19,30; 8:28f.). Even contemporaries like Nicodemus were so impressed by him that they concluded God must be at work in him (John 3:2; 9:16,33; 10:38; Acts 2:22; 10:36-43, etc.). (7* See also my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?)

Packer further claims that Jesus’ human limitations should be explained not in terms of the incarnation but of the eternal life of the Trinity. But surely they should be explained in terms of both, for the Trinity and the incarnation are indissolubly linked! In view of the NT’s strong stress on the reality of the incarnation, Jesus’ consequent humiliation (Phil. 2:7), his human weakness (2 Cor. 13:4), his impoverishment (2 Cor. 8:9) and the plan of salvation in general, Packer’s comment constitutes a false dichotomy. Apart from the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation, which was planned in eternity by the immanent or essential Trinity which means that by definition all the persons were equal, was impossible. The so-called covenant of redemption demands complete equality. Without it Jesus was to all intents and purposes a subordinate creature which is simply intolerable.

Yet another point must be made. If Jesus as flesh and therefore physically part of creation was not self-sustaining but had to be sustained by his Father like the rest of mankind, by the same token creation itself must have been sustained by his Father during his incarnation. In other words, Archbishop Temple’s original question was for a Christian believer really superfluous and misconceived. As Jesus himself said, God continued to work (John 5:17a). And this enabled Jesus himself to work (John 5:17b) for he did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19,30, etc.). As Baillie might have expressed it, God was at work in Christ! So when the Jews claimed that Jesus was illegally healing on the Sabbath, they were implicitly accusing the God they claimed to worship of breaking his own law, thus rendering him unrighteous.

Elsewhere (p.227) Packer rightly says that, in view of Jesus’ ascension to glory and his sending of the Holy Spirit, the Acts of the Apostles might well have been called ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit’. Even more obviously relevant to my thesis, however, is Alan J.Thompson’s contention evident in the title of his book ‘The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus’. This draws attention to God’s unfolding plan of salvation which necessitated, first, the Word’s incarnation to trial and temptation in human weakness (8* This, like his crucifixion, Acts 3:15; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:22, was impossible in his divine nature, James 1:13.) and, given his victory over the world (John 16:33) in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), his subsequent transformation to power and lordship and consequent enthronement as man at his Father’s side. Here we can hardly fail to see that the once dependent Jesus has been exalted and become King of the universe in fulfilment of the Davidic promises and lives and reigns for evermore as the Lamb of God (Rev. 4:10; 5:12f.). As appointed Lord he now applies the salvation he achieved on earth. The Jesus the original apostles saw and the one Paul ‘saw’ on his way to Damascus has undergone a dramatic change. The difference is surely the difference in nature but certainly not in person (Acts 9:5). And even if we acknowledge with Paul his permanent subordination to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28), it is as man which he ever remains in nature but not as deity. While in person he is both God and man, as man in nature he can never become God, only his image (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) as Joseph to all intents and purposes became the image of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40-44; 44:18). We must never forget the ‘ad extra’ and the difference between the immanent and the economic Trinity.  After all, just as Joseph was a foreigner to Pharaoh, so was Jesus the man distinct from God. Of course, the relationship between Jesus and God was closer than that of Joseph and Pharaoh, for Jesus at his incarnation became the very Son of God, human but not divine.*  In the final analysis all the glory is God’s (Rev. 4:11). Soli Deo Gloria.

* Perhaps a better analogy than Joseph’s experience is that provided by Nebuchadnezzar. He, in contrast with Jesus who freely experienced personal humiliation, was sentenced against his will to undergo a change of nature (Dan. 4:28-37). Again like Jesus after a fashion, he eventually enjoyed restoration. The difference is, however, that though remaining, like Nebuchadnezzar, the same person throughout his experience, Jesus’ change in nature was permanent. He remains forever man the complete image of God (Heb. 1:3, etc.) and it is to his image that we are conformed (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21). In his love, he has for our salvation assumed human nature. Just as Nebuchadnezzar remained the same person, so Jesus remained and remains God in person. In this sense alone he is both God and man at one and the same time. It is for this reason that God and the Lamb occupy the same throne (Rev. 3:21; 5:13). Pace Chalcedon!

See further my Eternal Son? Still Docetic, The Ecclesiastical Christ.

 

_____________________________________________________

References

D.M.Baillie, God Was in Christ, London, 1956.

N.Geisler, The Battle for the Resurrection, Nashville, 1992.

T.George, ed., God the Holy Trinity, Grand Rapids, 2006.

P.E.Hughes, Commentary of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids, 1977, repr. 1987.

William L.Lane, WBC Hebrews 1-8, Dallas, 1991.

J.I.Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, Carlisle, 1998.

A.Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, London, 1958.

Alan J.Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Nottingham/Downers Grove, 2011.

Bruce A.Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, Wheaton, 2013.

B.B.Warfield, The Saviour of the World, Cherry Hill, repr. 1972.

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

 

If Adam, the individual, was the first human being created by God, the prototype of all his posterity, he must have had both a father and a mother or he was different from the rest of us. If not, according to the author of Hebrews he must have resembled Melchizedek who had neither (Heb. 7). But this would erode the distinction which is made between the first and the second Adams for the latter in his pre-existence as the eternal Word was God (John 1:1) of whom Melchizedek who had no genealogy was the type.
Any apparent confusion at this point can be unravelled first by recognizing that the incarnate Jesus had both parents, for the eternal God was his Father, as he constantly maintained, and the Virgin Mary his mother, as we are plainly taught in both Matthew and Luke and which we infer from Paul (Gal. 4:4). As a true human being and the second Adam, Jesus also had Adam as his father through his mother who derived from him (Gen. 2:21f.; Luke 3:38). But if Adam was a son and his Father was God, who was his mother? Clearly the answer must be mother earth in whose womb he was created as seed (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9). And it was as such that he was transferred to the Garden of Eden to be conceived and to gestate as a human being (Gen. 2:8,15) as David did in his own mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). However, there has been a historical tendency to think of God as the divine potter making or fashioning Adam out of clay in a single day. Though this is arguably suggested by texts like Genesis 2:7, Job 10:8f., Psalm 119:73, Jeremiah 18:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 4:7, it clearly involves denial of man’s development or evolution, and the fundamentalist idea that when Adam was created he looked as if he was thirty years old must be dismissed out of hand. Thus the imagery prominent in Job 10:11 and Psalm 139:13 of being knitted or woven (ESV) in the depths of the earth is obviously more appropriate (cf. Eph. 4:9).
 
 
Woman and Mother Earth
 
From this, and bearing in mind that procreation is creation recapitulated, it seems fairly obvious that a woman’s womb is mother earth in miniature, a fruitful garden in fact , later to become the Garden of Eden where both Job (ch.3;10:18f.) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who suffered much wished they had stayed. However, as Nicodemus realized once they were born, there was no going back (John 3:4, cf. Gen. 3:24). This point is underlined by Genesis 3:20 where we are told that Eve became the mother of all living implying that the earth from which she herself as dust derived through Adam was the ultimate mother. Otherwise expressed, Eve epitomized or typified the earth (1 Cor. 11:12) as Adam, the image of God, epitomized or typified God (1 Cor. 11:7). This being so, it was both inevitable and paramount that Jesus, the incarnate Son and second Adam, should be born of woman (Gal. 4:4) who was dust (Ps. 103:14) like Adam himself (Gen. 3:19: 1 Cor. 15:47). (1* Charles Wesley sang: “Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man”. He would have been nearer the truth if he had said that he was ‘condensed to a seed’ in line with the rest of us who begin as seed, 1 Pet. 1:23, cf. Mark 4:26-29, in our father’s loins, Heb. 7:10, cf. John 1:13!)

It is an interesting fact that the link or correspondence between woman and earth becomes apparent elsewhere in Scripture. For just as the earth was created to be inhabited and fruitful (Gen. 1; Is. 45:18), so woman likewise was created to be fruitful (Gen. 1:27f.; 9:1,7). Thus, unsurprisingly, we are told in Deuteronomy, for example, that just as the ground was meant to be fruitful so was woman (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9). And so at his incarnation Jesus was the fruit of Mary’s womb (Luke 1:42). On the other hand, it is also made apparent that just as uncultivated, uninhabited, even unmarried (Isa. 62:4) land is desolate, so is an unmarried woman as exemplified by the daughter of Jephthah (Jud. 11:34-40) and by the daughter of David, Tamar (1 Sam. 13:20, cf. the temple, Mt. 23:38, and the body, James 2:26). In light of the general teaching of Scripture we might well expect that deliberate failure to be fruitful is condemned by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3f. (cf. Heb. 13:4).
 
 
Populating the Earth
 
If it is true that God finished his specifically creative work on the sixth day, it is clear that assuming the earth was to continue to be inhabited, seed-bearing plants and animals under the providence of God had to be maintained by procreation and even lead to an increased population necessary to cover the earth. In light of this we might expect that so far as man was concerned, Adam, as the image and glory of God, fertilised or impregnated his wife, who was his glory (1 Cor. 11:7), just as God acting as the Father of Adam (cf. Eph. 3:15; Acts 17:26-28) had initially fertilised mother earth. (2* This in no way implies that woman is inferior to man since both are made in the image of God and called to the same goal of perfection in that image. It is simply a matter of recognizing their different but complementary sexual roles while on earth, cf. 1 Cor. 11:12. In heaven, where God sows and populates mother Jerusalem, Gal. 4:26, John 1:13, Heb. 12:22-24, the difference is obliterated, Luke 20:34-36.) In this way, the creation of mankind was recapitulated by procreation which in accordance with the purpose of God proved prolific and ensured the dispersion of man throughout the earth (Gen. 10f.).
 
 
The Curse

Biblical teaching raises a problem in that it refers to the curse on the ground relating to Adam’s sin as Genesis 3:17-19 indicate. This prompts the question of the nature of that curse. (3* If Adam is regarded simply as one individual man who occupied a limited space, how is it that the entire earth has been deemed to be under a curse as a consequence of his sin? The very idea is undermined by verses like Genesis 13:10, Exodus 16:3; Numbers 16:13 and Isaiah 36:17, not to mention the land flowing with milk and honey itself even though it had been occupied by the sinful Canaanites.) Does it mean that the good earth that God had created was subjected to constitutional change and deemed to be ‘fallen’ on account of Adam’s sin? Though this has apparently been the view handed on to us by our Augustinian tradition which has tended to regard the original creation as ‘perfect’ instead of as merely ‘good’ or useful or functional (4* Walton, pp.187f.), it is far from convincing not least since Scripture later considers the physical creation pejoratively irrespective of sin, for whatever is ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos) even by God himself is deemed to be ‘second class’ (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 51:6; Mt. 6:19f., etc.). (5* See further my Manufactured Or Not So.) Even at the very start of the Bible we are informed that creation has a beginning and implicitly an end. This end is confirmed later in Genesis 8:22, for example, (cf. Dt. 11:21; Heb. 1:11, etc.). And since all animal flesh and plant life derive from it, it too is subject to corruption or decay, not least the incarnate Jesus who like the rest of us gradually grew older (Luke 2:42, etc.). And the inevitable consequence of this was eventual disappearance (Heb. 8:13, cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

 

Genesis 3

So what is being got at in Genesis 3? The answer is surely to be found in Genesis 1 where we are told that man’s basic call was to subdue and exercise dominion over an obviously transitory, futile (Rom. 8:20) and ‘defectible’ earth. Unfortunately, this is what Adam and his immediate posterity failed to do. They were prevented, first, by their sinful attitude or reluctance (Gen. 5:29) like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, and, second, by their limited capacity as the ‘infants’ of the race. We can appreciate their situation better if we accept the notion of recapitulation and recognize that just as an infant individual in our own day does not work, so neither did the race work effectively at its ‘infant’ beginning. There is a basic difference, however. Adam emerged from Eden, the secondary womb of the race, where he had gestated to physical maturity but with only minimal understanding. Like a modern infant on the verge of childhood he could understand only one commandment, to all intents and purposes the word ‘no’. This is surely why there was no covenant made with Adam in contrast with Israel who after its heathen experience had developed sufficiently to accede to the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 24:3,7). Though a covenant, especially the covenant with Noah, is divinely initiated and disposed, it nonetheless implies at least minimal mutuality. (6* See e.g. Packer, p.11, contra Murray who somewhat overstates his case by unduly accentuating the sovereignty of God, p.13, at this point with respect to Noah. He fails to realise that a covenant is ineffective unless it is made with a person who has recognizable rational intelligence enabling him to respond however minimally. See, for example, his own comment on revelation in Romans 1:19, p.38. So while Noah’s faith and obedience are conspicuous, Gen. 6:22; Heb. 11:7, etc., infants, who know neither good nor evil, cf. Heb. 5:13f., are incapable by nature of positive reaction and so are out of the reckoning. Like animals they are totally subject to the one who forms them, cf. Isa. 45:9f.) The difference between Adam who was given a bare commandment which he broke and Noah whose call to commitment (Gen. 9:1-17) despite his sinfulness, was effective is plain. While a covenant may be sovereignly and unilaterally disposed, its acceptance and fulfilment must be at least in principle bilateral. If it were not so, it is difficult to see why flood was permanently erased and the curse not perpetuated. (7* See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) Whereas at the start he had lived an idyllic animal-like life in Eden (cf. Gen. 2:16), once he had been ejected like a baby emerging from its mother’s womb, he was faced with the harsh world outside Eden which proved anything but a spontaneous benefactor (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Gal. 1:4). After all, God himself of set purpose had subjected it to futility with something better in mind (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). In other words, Adam now had to consciously work for a living and this was not merely difficult but obviously went against the grain as later Cain (Gen. 4:11-14) and Lamech in particular indicated (Gen. 5:29). Nonetheless, the ultimate goal of man was honour and glory (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9).
 
 
Death

Of course, once Adam could understand the commandment, he could also appreciate the need to obey (cf. Paul in Romans 7:9f.). During his earlier animal life when like a baby he had lacked conscious intelligence (cf. Rom. 9:11), he was unaware of the existence of death and various other things such as animal copulation (cf. Gen. 2:21-23). However, Genesis 3:16, which emphatically underlines the increase in Eve’s pain on giving birth, points unerringly to the fact that Eve had had children before she became a consciously intelligent and comprehending human being. The difference in perception of pain between a mother and her baby at this point ought to be evident to us all. (8* See further my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, Correspondences.) It is important to mention here that Adam’s immediate posterity was greater than a superficial reading of the evidence might suggest. This doubtless explains Cain’s fear of others who might kill him (Gen. 4:14f.). (9* Again it must be pointed out on the assumption of recapitulation that Adam and Eve though clearly individuals were also corporate figures who, like the second Adam, epitomised the race. Little wonder that commentators find it difficult to distinguish references to them, Adam in particular, in the early chapters of Genesis. See, e.g. Wenham, pp.32,91,115,126.)
 
 
Noah’s ‘Baptism’

It is doubtless helpful to draw attention here to Noah’s ‘baptism’ referred to in 1 Peter 3:21 at the time of the flood (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). The apostle apparently sees Noah as being cleansed of his infantile filth just as Jewish flesh was later cleansed by washings (Heb. 9:10) and we ourselves are cleansed by the water of baptismal regeneration when we believe in Christ and become Christians (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5). This is clearly a significant advance on the experience of Adam who questionably believed the promise (protevangelium) of Genesis 3:15. As far as we know, in his manifest immaturity he, like a baby, fell short of the faith of Abel and Enoch. Certainly the author of Hebrews 11 does not refer to him in his cloud of witnesses. This being so and assuming that a covenant is bilateral at least in principle, the likelihood of his being the conscious beneficiary of a divine covenant is remote indeed. (10* See again my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) The contrast between the merely disobedient ‘infant’ Adam and the enterprising and obedient ‘child’ Noah is significant. With a covenant to guarantee success, Noah, the first heathen before Abraham, was capable of achieving well beyond any aspirations Adam might have had. In fact, by contrast, he was well and truly launched on the path to perfection along with those who followed in his train under the law of Moses (Heb. 11:23-40). The fact that many even today live almost entirely under the dominion of the flesh (cf. 2 Pet. 2:19; Rom.6:16, contrast 13:14) emphasises the difference between man and animal as both Peter (2:2) and Jude especially intimate.

 

Biblical Comprehensiveness

The wonder of the biblical revelation is its comprehensiveness. Rightly understood, it teaches us not only about the existence of God and about creation, the creation of man in particular, but about the entire development, evolution or perfection (maturation) of man both physical and spiritual. Man is progressively baptised into Noah (1 Pet. 3:21), Moses (1 Cor. 10:2) and finally into Christ (Rom. 6:3, cf. Mt. 28:19). Sadly because of traditional ideas about original perfection, sin, fall and curse, the latter has largely been obscured. But the truth is that man (Adam) was created imperfect (immature) with a view to his final perfection or complete likeness in the image of God (Gen. 2:17; 5:1-3; 6:9; 17:1; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Mt. 5:48; Heb. 6:1, etc.). While physically he resembled the rest of the animal, even vegetable (Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:23), creation and was subject to natural death (1 Cor.15:50) and what Walton calls biodegradability (p.188), that is, corruption or decay even apart from sin, spiritually he could aspire to eternal life and corporeal transformation in the presence of God himself. In the event, like all his posterity but One, Adam failed on account of sin. The second Adam, however, who though flesh did not sin (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and thereby met the precondition of life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), achieved that elusive perfection and took his place at his Father’s side as the very embodiment of the complete image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). And it is in union with him, our elder brother (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10-13) and firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), that we too take our place (Rev. 3:21). All believers together throughout history will be perfected (Heb. 11:39f.) and all together (Rev. 7:9) will with Christ inherit all things (Rom. 8:17,32).
 
See further my Cosmic Curse?, Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’, Understanding the Curse, Observations on the Curse, Romans 8:18-25; The Chicken or the Egg, Perfection, The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution.

 

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References

John Murray, The Covenant of Grace, London, 1954.

The Epistle to the Romans, London, 1967.

J.I.Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, Vol.1, Carlisle, 1998.

John H. Walton, NIVAC, Genesis, Grand Rapids, 2001.

G.J.Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.

Interpreting John 3:5

 

The interpretation of John 3:5 is controversial. Even those who take a strong stand on its meaning admit that various other views are or have been current. For instance, J.I.Packer, in a helpful sermon on the Trinity (p.5), claims that alternative views are much fought over but goes on to declare categorically that explanations that posit a contrast between the water of John’s baptism, Christian baptism or the waters of physical birth are on the wrong track. He goes on to assert that ‘water’ and ‘the Spirit’ are two aspects of the one reality, that is, the fallen and unresponsive human heart. In order to justify this assertion he appeals to Ezekiel 36:25-27 which promises the renewal of Israelite hearts.

Don Carson, in a far more detailed analysis of this verse befitting a major commentary, also opts for essentially the same view and like Packer appeals to Ezekiel 36:25-27 which he regards as being of basic importance. His point is that in this passage water and spirit come together so forcefully as to signify first cleansing from impurity and secondly transformation of heart enabling people to follow God wholly (p.195).

 

John 3 and Original Sin
 
However, Carson’s reference to impurity like that of Packer to the fallen human heart raises questions. While throughout chapter 36 Ezekiel is certainly concerned with sin, where is the evidence in the discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus that it is even vaguely on the horizon? Traditionally, of course, following Augustine and his belief that Adam lost his original righteousness when he sinned, it has been assumed that the new birth occurs to counteract sin, original sin in particular. But as I have argued extensively in various articles (1* See my Some Arguments Against Original Sin, Does Romans Teach Original Sin?, Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’, The Redundancy Of Original Sin.), original sin is contrary to what the Bible teaches and this can be demonstrated in part by a correct exegesis of John 3:1-8 to go no further.

 

Flesh and Spirit
 
After all, the focus in this passage is on flesh and spirit, and sin is gratuitously read into it not out of it. This point is underlined especially by verse 6 which differentiates between physical and spiritual birth and more particularly by verse 7 where Jesus says it is necessary (Gk dei), not imperative, for all who are flesh to be born again. If the imperative had been used as it is, for example, in Mark 1:15 (cf. Luke 13:3) with regard to repentance, the picture would change. The truth is, however, that man as flesh and blood is excluded by birth nature from entering the spiritual kingdom of God. This being so, he needs, first, to be born from above, that is, receive God’s own nature (cf. Carson referring to John 4:24) as Jesus strongly insists and John implies in 1:13, and, second, to undergo corporeal transformation as Paul avers in 1 Corinthians 15:50. In other words, these things are necessary irrespective of sin. (2* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.)
 
 
John 3:3
 
This point is underlined by John 3:3 where Jesus says that unless ‘one’ or ‘anyone’ (Gk tis) is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Commenting on this Berkhof, categorically and surely correctly, says that this statement leaves no room for exceptions (p.472). But if this is so, then Jesus himself as the Word incarnate, that is, flesh, must be included. To appreciate the truth of this we have only to look at passages like Matthew 3:13-17 which, if we are prepared to let the text speak for itself without allowing traditional ideas regarding original sin to intrude, we can safely assume that incarnate Jesus himself, who has kept to perfection the law which promises life (Lev. 18:5) and thereby pleased his Father, is as a man of flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14,17) given eternal life.
 
 
John 3:7
 
Commenting on John 3:7 Carson (p.197) agrees that the challenge of the ‘you must be born again’ here is of universal application. Unfortunately, however, noting that the ‘you’ is plural, he immediately contradicts his own assertion and argues that this sets Jesus himself not merely over against Nicodemus but the entire human race. In a way he is right, but what he apparently fails to realise is that, as I have suggested above, Jesus is already uniquely born again and will remain so until Pentecost when he sends the Spirit to regenerate those who believe in him. If this is not so, then Jesus cannot possibly be classified as the second Adam, the leader (Heb. 6:20) of the new regenerate or third race (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32). Again, if it were not true, Paul could hardly have written as he did in 1 Corinthians 15:45-55. For on the assumption that Jesus was a genuine man, the unavoidable inference we must draw is that Jesus was by necessity born from above at his baptism and transformed at his ascension. In no other way could he have become the Saviour of man.
 
 
Synonymous parallelism
 
So then, what conclusions do we draw from this? Surely John 3:5-6 are to be understood as yet another instance of synonymous parallelism which is quite common in the Bible. At this point, Gordon Fee’s comment on 1 Corinthians 15:50 is a propos. He says there that the second line makes the same point as the first and adds that together the two terms declare most decisively that the body as it is at present cannot inherit the heavenly existence (p.798). My contention is then that Jesus is saying essentially the same thing in John 3:5-6. To attain to our heavenly goal it is indispensably necessary that we are born again and that, since our mortal and corruptible flesh (2 Cor. 4:11) cannot possibly be our eternal dwelling (2 Cor. 5:1), we are corporeally transformed. In light of this, it is hardly surprising that we learn first from Jesus that we must be born from above (John 3:7) and from Paul that our perishable and mortal body must put on both imperishability and immortality (1 Cor. 15:53). (See note.) Needless to say, as if to clinch the issue, Paul teaches us in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Jesus brought both to light.
I conclude then that in referring to water and spirit in John 3:5 Jesus is pinpointing the two births made explicit in John 3:6 that are experienced irrespective of sin by all believers who are finally saved.
See further my Was Jesus Born Again?
 
 
Note
 
There has been an unfortunate historical failure to differentiate between immortality and corruption with the result that in some translations (e.g. NIV, NRSV) 2 Timothy 1:10 refers to “life and immortality”, which is tautologous, instead of to life and “imperishability” or “incorruption”. See also Romans 1:23, 2:7 and 1 Tim. 1:17 as referred to by Vine, pp.131,320. This has serious repercussions when this naturally aging earth (Heb. 1:11, etc.) is assumed to have fallen prey to Adam’s sin and is subject to redemption. On this see, for example, my Romans 8:18-25 In Brief, John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus.

 

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References
 
L.Berkhof, Systematic Theology, London 1959.
 
D.A.Carson, The Gospel According to John, Leicester, 1991.
 
G.D.Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids, 1987.
 
J.I.Packer, Celebrating the Saving Work of God, Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, Carlisle, 1998.
 
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Nashville 1985.

Eternal Son?

 

Writers on theological themes frequently refer to Jesus as the eternal Son. Kevin Giles has even written a book entitled The Eternal Generation of the Son. It is a scholarly and powerfully argued example of the theologians’ craft, but is it convincing? Even its author admits that the eternal sonship, though ecclesiastically orthodox, is not clearly taught in Scripture (see e.g. pp.66,88), but it figures in the Nicene Creed which is almost universally accepted in the church. It is regularly recited in the communion service of Anglicans following their (Australian) Prayer Book (p.117) which  refers to Jesus as “the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father … begotten not made.” As a great admirer of Athanasius who strongly defended the Nicene Creed’s emphasis on the true deity of the Son of God in his opposition to Arianism, Giles is clearly biased in his favour. But the question that confronts one whose final authority is Scripture is: Is it scriptural? I have no hesitation in replying in the negative. There are serious problems with it as I shall now seek to demonstrate.

 

The Word of God

First, as I have already noted the idea of the eternal Son does not come from Scripture which refers by contrast to Jesus as the (eternal) Word of God through whom all things were made. John’s gospel begins in this way and goes so far as to equate the Word with God.  It then proceeds to say in terms that can hardly be mistaken that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). What is striking about this is that it does not say that the eternal Son became flesh which, on its hypothesis, it ought to. Then in Philippians 2 the apostle Paul clearly adopts the same stance though he uses different terminology. He maintains that Jesus was in the form (NRSV, ESV, etc.) or had the nature of God (NIV) and was thus equal with him. Like John he goes on to refer to his humiliation, first, in taking the nature of a servant, that is, a man of flesh and blood (cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and, second, as such, being obedient even to the point of death. Now it is obvious that it is only as a man that the Word could die and make atonement for the sins of the people. If he had retained the nature of God he would have been incapable of this, for by definition God lives for ever. This is the point made by the author of Hebrews who stresses the necessity of the incarnation for the purposes of atonement (e.g. Heb. 2:10-18).

Despite this, theologians and commentators in general refer frequently to the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Few Christians would wish to dissent from this depending on what is meant. Since the Chalcedonian Creed, which stresses the hypostatic union or the idea that in becoming man the Word retained his divine nature, is almost universally accepted by the orthodox, questions are raised.  The famous words used to support dyophysitism or the dual nature of the Son are that they are united “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably”. Apart from noting that many theologians are not unnaturally unhappy with this terminology not least because it appears contradictory, they seem to be willing to accept it as orthodox because they cannot think of anything better and there is much at stake. (1* It might be helpfully added at this point that ecclesiastical orthodoxy, though rightfully exercising powerful influence,  may nonetheless be biblical heresy.).

 

Two Natures

However, the very idea that the two natures, the divine which is spirit (John 4:24) and the human which is flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14) can be united is open to question for the simple reason that it erodes their natural and fundamental difference highlighted throughout the Bible (e.g. Is. 31:3; Jer. 17:5; John 3:6; 6:63) and destroys their distinctive attributes. It is far worse than trying to mix oil and water or, to use a more biblical analogy, to mix clay and iron (Dan. 2:33). But we can go further and note that it applies to man himself whose constituent parts are flesh and spirit (John 3:6). These can be united in one person but they remain permanently distinct as natures. And this distinction is vital for our understanding of salvation, for Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot by nature (emphatically not because of sin which is frequently read into it) inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). If this were not so, all the animals which are flesh would be candidates for salvation. After his spiritual regeneration (John 1:13; 3:1-8), a change or transformation in the body of man, presently flesh, is therefore indispensable. And while whatever Paul means when he refers to our spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15:44 may be somewhat opaque, it certainly does not refer to a body of flesh wholly directed by the spirit as some would have us believe. If it did, then Jesus himself does not have a glorified body in heaven but is still flesh and blood. (2* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.) But there is more to say.

 

Retaining the Divine Nature

If the Word did not lay aside his divine nature and glory at his incarnation contrary to what the apostolic authors appear to claim, he never truly became man. At best he was a freak or a third alternative and certainly not the second Adam, a genuine son of the first (Luke 3:38). At this point we can begin to appreciate the devastating consequences of traditional thinking. First, it results in Docetism: Jesus appeared to be man but was not really so. This heresy has plagued the church for centuries and continues to manifest itself in Jehovah’s Witnesses and in Islam. Second, it implies that he was not our kinsman redeemer (Heb. 2:14,17) and as such never made atonement for the sins of his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:10-13). This being so, they are consequently still in their sins. Of course, it may be urged that God being the omnipotent God can forgive whomever he pleases, but to say this is to deny his moral nature as we understand it. For the Bible makes it indisputably plain that the only way in which man can be saved is by keeping the law. This we are taught somewhat cryptically, it must be conceded, as early as Genesis 2:17, but clearly in Leviticus 18:5 which text is cited frequently throughout the rest of the Bible (e.g. Ezek. 18:9; 20:11,13,21; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12, etc.).

Next, if the Word retained his divine nature during his incarnation, why did he rely so heavily on his heavenly Father? Why did not he flex his own divine muscles (cf. Jud. 6:31)? And the popular idea that was, first (I think), propounded by Archbishop Temple and widely disseminated by Donald Baillie in his book God Was In Christ, is hardly relevant given the doctrine of the Trinity? The assumption that while he was in the cradle, even the womb, Jesus, or his alter ego, was upholding the universe is not only nonsense but an implicit denial of his true humanity. According to Scripture, Jesus himself as human flesh and blood had to be sustained, guarded and protected by his heavenly Father as, for example, his flight to Egypt as a child to evade the clutches of the murderous Herod plainly implies. So how could he possibly sustain the universe so long as he was himself lower than the angels in mortal, corruptible flesh (cf. Heb. 2:7,9)  which itself derives from the  corruptible earth and which by definition as creation is non-self-sustaining? (3* Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3 both refer to Christ sustaining the universe, but this is after his triumph, transformation and session at the right hand of power, cf. Mt.26:64; 28:18; Rom. 1:4. We ignore the reality of the incarnation and the subsequent delegation of powers at our peril.) If the principle enshrined in the old theological dictum that the works of the Trinity in the world are not divided is true, and this is accepted by the likes of Baillie and Richardson, the equality of the persons of the Trinity is upheld and the Word was, to use Calvin’s word, autotheos, himself God. (4* J.I.Packer refers rightly if somewhat inconsistently, it would seem to me, to the “Triune aseity” as being central to the disclosure of who and what God is, Vol. 2, p.217.) This being the case, we are bound to infer that neither God the Father nor God the Spirit ceased to operate but continued to maintain the universe as hitherto. Does this mean that the Trinity was divided after all? Not at all. The three persons despite their evident distinctiveness retained their solidarity in accordance with the plan of salvation (traditionally the so-called covenant of redemption), though there was so far as the economic Trinity is concerned a division of specific labour. As Jesus himself pointed out, during his incarnation his Father continued to work thereby enabling him to work too (John 5:17).

 

Miracles

This prompts yet another question. Did Jesus as man perform miracles? (5* See my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?.) Was he in other words a magician, a human wonder worker? The answer to this, it would seem to me, must be a categorical no. First, he himself stressed the fact that he did nothing apart from his Father (John 5:19, 30, etc.) to whom, as a weak man of flesh (2 Cor. 13:4; Heb. 2:17), tempted at all points as we are (Heb. 4:15), he constantly prayed for help (e.g. Heb. 5:7).  Since, however, his relationship with his Father was not broken by sin (Isa. 59:2), his prayers as he said were always answered (John 9:31; 11:22,42, cf. Mark 11:24). Second, he taught that his works or signs pointed to the fact that God was at work in him and that on that basis he should be believed (John 10:37f.). Third, his contemporaries saw him as a real man among men like themselves in whom the power of God was manifest and accordingly they praised God (Luke 18:43; 19:37; John 3:2; 9:16,33, etc.). Fourth, apart from Jesus’ own assertion in John 14:9, Doubting Thomas, after subjecting him to meticulous physical examination concluded that he was God (John 20:28) but obviously not God in nature, for how can mere men physically examine the nature of the invisible God who after all is  a consuming fire (Isa. 33:14; Heb. 12:29)? At this point even modern science with all its undeniable capability is impotent.

 

Miscellaneous Difficulties

But there are other problems with the notion of eternal Sonship. First, Alan Richardson among others points out that “the very word ‘Son’ implies derivation, subordination and dependence” (p.123) in effect denying the Triune aseity referred to by Packer in note 2 above. If it does, then it clearly applies to the incarnate Son but certainly not to the eternal Word who was God (John 1:1) and therefore equal with God (Phil. 2:6). If it did, the Son was eternally subordinate and hardly a party on an equal footing to the so-called covenant or Trinitarian plan of redemption. He was arguably dragooned into incarnation by an imperious Father who was prepared to have his way come what may. (6* This apparently was the widely rejected thesis of one Steve Chalke in a book I haven’t read.) This is far from the picture painted in the NT where Jesus claims to be always one with his Father both ontologically and morally (John 10:30, cf. 5:19,30; 8:28f.; 14:9; 17:11,22).

On the assumption that the reasoning of the preceding paragraph is valid, eternal Sonship destroys the nature and aseity of the Trinity as I understand it. In effect, the eternal generation of the Son represents the evisceration of both the incarnation and the humiliation. Just how the second person of the immanent or essential Trinity can be regarded as subordinate is difficult to fathom.  It surely derogates from both his glory and his humiliation. But even more to the point, how could God be a father and the Son a son in eternity?  The OT is unaware of any such animals, as we shall see. (This is not to deny that the Creator God is sometimes regarded as the Father of man and especially of Israel in a physical or metaphorical sense, Isa. 63:16; Acts 17:28f., etc.)

 

Exegesis

Many commentators cite Scriptures like John 3:16f., Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 1:2 and 1 John 4:9f. as clear indications that Jesus was the Son of God by nature, that is, in his eternal pre-existence. Regarding Galatians 4:4, it can be plausibly argued that what Paul is saying is that God the Father sent his born-of-woman or incarnate and therefore subordinate Son to secure the redemption of those who were under the law. Indeed, in light of the comment made above regarding the author of Hebrews’ insistence on the necessity of the incarnation for this very purpose (cf. 1 John 4:9f.), it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion. So far as Hebrews 1:2 is concerned, F.F.Bruce , for example, refers to the eternal Son (p.5) then comments that the plain implication is that as (eternal)  Son he inherits the title “Son” as he inherits all things (p.8). This is demonstrably confusion of thought. (7* Cf. Lane who claims that the eternal Son entered into a new experience of sonship during his incarnation, p.121. On the other hand, Lane is apparently less than certain about the issue and suggests that the reference to the Son in 1:2a is proleptic, p.25.) Surely, the whole of Hebrews 1 is designed to show its Hebrew readers that even the OT foreshadowed that it was the human, not the eternal Son who would inherit all things. And we, as his sanctified brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11-15), would with him enjoy the spoils (Rom. 8:16f.,32). After all, in eternity the Word who was God and Creator by definition already owned all (cf. Ps. 50:10-12, etc.). But he graciously impoverished himself (2 Cor. 8:9) and gave them up so that he might inherit all as man, though not from the devil (Mt. 4:7-10). The same must be said regarding his being granted life in himself (John 5:26, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45) when according to John 1:4 as the Word he already had it! At this point the distinction between the divine and human natures is stark. It is vital for us to understand that we ourselves do not become God as Jesus was but his perfect image in Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). Though ever God in person, Jesus is now as man permanently the image of God in his perfected human nature (Heb. 1:3) and as such exercises the divine powers delegated to him by his Father as was obviously the intention from the start (Mt. 26:64; 28:18; Rom. 1:4).  Alternatively expressed, the truth is that the Word who was God in nature and ever remained God in personal identity freely and lovingly assumed human nature with a view to bringing his brothers and sisters to glory (Heb. 2:10). The problem with much evangelical thinking, which is arguably Apollinarian according to Brown (p.170), is that it lacks an adequate appreciation of the humanity of Jesus and spends its energies on proving his divinity. But the humanity of the Son would have seemed obvious to Jesus’ contemporaries who were only too aware that he was a man along with them but  clearly indwelt by God himself (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27, cf. 1 John 1:1-3).

 

Projectionist Language

If this is so, we must conclude that the language used by the biblical writers is what is known as projectionist. An excellent example of this is provided by Wayne Grudem in his commentary on 1 Peter 3:20 (p.159). There, he says, in reference to the queen of England as born in 1926, that we all realize that at that time she was not only not queen but not even prospectively to be regarded as such. It is only in retrospect that she can be referred to as queen at birth, and all who know the history of the period are well aware of this. It is therefore vital for us when reading the NT to get our chronological perspective right. But more to the point, it can be proved conclusively that the author of Hebrews was thinking in this way. For, if we ask who Jesus the eternal Son’s father and mother were in eternity, he replies that he had neither, since his priesthood was of the order of Melchisedek whose parentage or genealogy was significantly lacking. In other words, Jesus was God the eternal Word who became Son by nature at his incarnation at which time he had both Father and mother. (8* In his summing up, it is sad to find Giles submitting to the very fallacy he frequently warns against, that is, confusing the immanent and economic Trinity. On page 258, he tells us that what is revealed in the economy reflects what is antecedently true in eternity. All I can say is that someone forgot to tell the evangelists. They are filled with awe at the eternal Word’s condescension in incarnation, John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8; 1 John 1:1-3.) Clearly, in order to fulfil the plan of salvation or covenant of redemption the immanent Trinity voluntarily and purposely undertook a change in relationship (cf. e.g. Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5).  The OT Creator God became Father and the Word became his incarnate Son born of Mary. No wonder Paul stresses the Son’s humiliation. But we can also add that the Father who gave up his Son underwent far greater ‘trauma’ than Abraham ever did, for his relationship with the Word was intrinsic (cf. John 10:30) and the change that was freely experienced was driven by love (John 3:16f.). This proves once more that salvation was a fully Trinitarian affair. The three persons may have adopted different roles but far from being separate, they functioned in solidarity and mutual commitment. Ultimately, all was undertaken for the glory of God. What a God!

 

Conclusion

It is hardly necessary to add in conclusion that Jesus in laying aside his glory (John 17:5) also laid aside his divine nature in order to become man made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9). Since in the power of God his earthly campaign (cf. John 3:13; 6:62;13:3; Eph.1:19-23; 4:9f.) proved successful (John 19:30; Acts 2:22; 17:31), he was able to regain his glory as man even if we concede that in doing so (cf. Mt. 28:18) he remained forever the exact image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3, cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) and in his permanent and perfected manhood subordinate to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28).  The mere fact that Paul teaches the subordination of the Son at this point would seem to prove that his humanity was subordinate to his divinity in contrast with the equality he taught in Philippians 2:6. However, the incarnation never for one moment involved the obliteration of his personal divine identity. In his love and humility the Word who was ever God in person had freely surrendered his divine nature in order to assume fully and finally perfected human nature. And it is as the perfected image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3) that the once incarnate God the Word will reveal his glory (John 17:24, cf. Phil. 3:21) to those who wait for him (Tit.2:13f.). Not without reason do we salute the Lamb of God seated alongside our Creator God (Rev. 3:21; 4 & 5; 7:14f.; 22:3) and give him glory.

 

See also my:

Still Docetic

The Ecclesiastical Christ

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

 

 

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References:

F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London/Edinburgh, 1065.

Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son, Downers Grove, 2012.

W.L.Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Dallas, 1991.

Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, Leicester/Grand Rapids, 1988.

J.I.Packer, Collected Writings 2, Serving the People of God, Carlisle, 1998.