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Chris' (Rivers of Eden) Posts on Various Subjects - Part 4

Don -

In answer to your questions ...

I don't know what "term" you would use to describe what I believe about Christ! Some people call it "Biblical Unitarian." However, this is kind of an inside term (like "Covenant Eschatology") that has no recognition in church history. I don't think you'd find it in any books. I don't even know of any books against what I believe. Most of the popular Trinitarian defenses are written against "Arianism" (like what JW's believe) and "Oneness" (like what Pentecostals believe). This is one reason that Ed Stevens did such poor research for his publication on the Deity of Christ. He has no knowledge of the materials that I've read over the last several years.

Yes, I would worship Jesus. He is certainly exalted to this place (Phil 2:5-9). Even "angels" and earthly kings (like David) were worshipped in the Bible, so I don't have a problem with it. I think it is a misunderstanding to think that God the Father alone is the only one who can be "worshipped." The meaning of "worship" is to "pay due respect to a superior person." Since God the Father bestowed His power and glory upon Jesus, then Jesus is certainly a "superior" who is worthy of Divine worship.

The key to understanding where I am coming from on this is to recognize that all appearances of God in the OT (including when He was worshipped) were appearances of "angels." They accepted worship and divine titles (like "Lord") because they were part of the "Elohim" that rule with God the Father. Of course, when Jesus was exalted "above the angels," they began to direct worship to him (as in Revelation). People like Abraham and Moses in the OT did not hesitate to treat the "angels" like God the Father because they were His messengers and had divine authority under the Old Covenant. Read Acts 7 along with Heb 1-2. Remember, even as far as John and Paul are concerned in the NT - "no man has seen God at any time, nor can see Him, because He dwells in unapproachable light."

As I said before, Jesus is "human" only. There is no prophecy that requires him to be "God," nor is there does his messianic salvation work of atonement requires that he be God. Divine titles are given to Jesus because of His exaltation, just like Moses and angels and others are given Divine titles (like "God," "gods") in the OT. For that matter, even Satan is called "the God" in 2 Cor 4:4 ...

Did you e-mail the Concordant people to get their Bible? Like I said ... the word "Gentile" is never used in it! It always translates "ethnos" as "nation."! Even Weisman quotes from the Concordant Version in his books! You'll really like it! They are still working on the OT, but they have a lot of the books available separately. Get them all! It will cost less than $50.


Don -

Let me clarify what I was saying about Hebrews.

I think that because Jesus is a "man" like his "brethren," he was "mortal." It seems that "mortality" is the result of Adam's transgression. Remember in Rom 5, that "death reigns" even over those who did not "sin" in the likeness of Adam's transgression. Jesus was "mortal" (i.e. "cursed") because he was "dead" like Adam. He had to live and "obey" the Father until his own "death" in order to "save" himself and obtain "immortality" through resurrection. In this sense, I think the scriptures teach that Jesus "knew no sin" but was "made sin" for us. If Jesus was God, he could not have "died" as God cannot die.

The sense in which Jesus was "made perfect" by obedience means that he did not "obtain" salvation and eternal life until he completed his service to God the Father (which included his own "death" according to the scriptures). What Heb 5:1-4 is doing is comparing Jesus to the High Priest of old who made sacrifice for "himself and the people." Jesus did the same. Hebrews 5 shows that God the Father "saved" Jesus from "mortality" just like he saves us from "death." That is why Jesus made "prayers" and "crying supplications" to God to "save" him. Since Jesus was "obedient to death," God raised him and now saves us for Christ's sake ..

In other words, Jesus did not "sin" (i.e. break the Law or disobey the Father's will), but he was born a "human" and was therefore condemned by Adam's transgression like everyone else.

I hope this helps to clarify where I am coming from ...


Don -

Let me clarify what I'm thinking about John 1. You will find an alternative interpretation in the book I sent you, too.

I think that the phrase "in the beginning" is a reference to the "beginning" of the ministry of John and Jesus. The main reason for this is because this is clearly what "the beginning" means in Mark 1:1 and Luke 1:1-3, as well as 1 John 1:1-5 (which is the closest parallel to John 1). All the gospels "begin" the ministry of Jesus with the appearance of John the baptizer.

The other thing is the "creation" terminology in John 1. This is where I think there is confusion. People see "in the beginning" and they think that it must refer to Gen 1:1 because of the "light" and "darkness" and "all things" language in the subsequent verses. However, I think the whole passage should be understood to be comparing the "new covenant" that Jesus "created" when he appeared and fulfilled the scripture. The "creation" language is just an allusion to Genesis because Jesus is the creator of the "new heavens and new earth."

It's no different than the NT calling Jesus the "lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world." The point is not that Jesus "preexisted" as an animal (a "lamb"), but that his death was analogous to the atoning sacrifice in the OT. Jesus is the "creator" of the "new heavens and new earth" in an analogous sense to the way God the Father originally "created" the Land of Israel (or "universe" - in Gen 1). The "beginning" of Jesus "creating" was when he was baptized and began to announce "the kingdom of God is at hand." This is where all the Gospels begin his ministry.

When the rest of the NT talks about Jesus being the maker of "all things" (like in Col 1 and Heb 1) it is referring to the "all things" of the "new covenant" that was being revealed at that time. Notice that Paul says in 2 Cor 5:16-18 that "old things have passed away, ALL THINGS have become NEW, there is no more Jew, nor Greek ... but there is a NEW CREATION." He says the same thing in Gal 6:9-16.

In Heb 1-2, the writer is comparing the ministry of Jesus "creating" the new covenant, to the old covenant rulership of the angels. The angels were the ones who delivered the "old covenant" (the "old creation" - the Law). Jesus is the superior messenger who brings about the "new covenant" (the "new creation"). He is the "Son," the final revelation of God.

This is also the reason I think Paul tells those Galatians in 1:6-10 that "even if an angel from heaven should preach to you another gospel ..." This is one of the reasons we know his "another gospel" is an allusion to the Law of Moses. The Jews understood that the "angels" (see Acts 7 - Stephen's sermon) were the ones who "ruled" the OT and who brought the "Law" to Moses. Therefore, Paul was saying "Jesus is superior to the angels, I was commissioned as an apostle by Jesus himself, therefore, my gospel is superior."

I hope this clarifies my views for you ... what do you think?


Hi Don -

You asked a question about "dead in sins" in a post a week or so ago ..

Yes, I think this means that an "unbeliever" is inevitably going to die (return to dust) because he does not have "immortality" apart from Christ ... therefore, being "dead in sins" means that one is already condemned in Adam and will inevitably "return to dust" having no hope of resurrection.


Don -

Here is my understanding of "election."

"Predestination" to be references to the promise made to Abraham before the Law comes through Moses. I think that the promise made to Abraham constitutes the "divine decree." I do not find any explanation of "divine decrees" made in "eternity past" as a Calvinist would. Nor do I find any explanation of an "order of divine decrees" (lapsarianism) in scripture.

As you know, I understand the "election" passages to refer to that "choice" God the Father revealed to Abraham that He was going to "save" all "nations" by faith. In other words, Paul is arguing in his epistles that "all men" (i.e. all nations - whether Judean or not) are saved "apart from Law" on the basis of Abraham's faith which came BEFORE circumcision and the Law of Moses. I don't think that "election" refers primarily to individuals, albeit, individuals become heirs of salvation by faith because "all" are "elect."

Now, I do not believe in "universalism" (i.e. that all persons are saved). Those who do not believe in Christ, are already dying physically (i.e. are "dead in trespasses and sins" so to speak) and have no other means of resurrection, so they "perish" in the grave (hades - annihilation).

Remember, too, that I do not believe in "substitutionary atonement" like a Calvinist, so I don't have a problem with the "elect" and the "non-elect" since I believe that God the Father "forgives" our sins FOR THE SAKE of Christ, and not because Jesus was actually "punished" for each of our individual sins on the cross. Remember, Jesus' whole teaching is based upon FORGIVENESS, and not "retribution" (like Calvinism theories). I think that "all" are "elect" and "predestinated" for access to salvation because God promised to bless "all nations" through Abraham. Does this make sense to you?

When someone sins against us, we are NEVER told to demand "retribution" or told to find "an innocent person to bear the responsibility and punishment" for the sin, we are commanded by God to "forgive" without any retribution. This is why I think the whole Calvinist idea of a "holy God who must be satisfied" with retribution is off the mark. Certainly God is Holy, but Jesus demonstrated that "forgiveness" and "love" is greater than the "eye for an eye" applications of the Law. You know what I mean ...

Why would God "demonstrate His love toward us" by punishing an innocent (perfectly righteous!) man (Jesus) for "sins" that Jesus never committed, that are supposed to deserve "eternal torment" (which Jesus did not suffer in only 3 HOURS!) and THEN forgive only the "elect." If this is so, then why does God tell us everywhere else in scripture that WE are to follow the example of Jesus who "forgives" people without any retribution?

Moreover, we are told we should "go the extra mile" (this is "grace" - undeserved favor). Doesn't it seem more likely that God the Father "graciously" forgives sinners even though He has the "right" to condemn them. God the Father does this because he loves the Son, because the Son pleases Him with righteousness. In this sense, those of us who believe are "saved" so that Jesus is rewarded with our fellowship and love.

What do you think?


Don -

Here are some brief answers to a couple of your questions (more to come!) ...

You asked about Eph 1:4. Yes, I think that this "before the foundation of the world" is a reference to the time before Moses. The reason for this is because the "world" in the NT most often seems to refer to the condition of the Jews at the time of Christ. In other words, at that time, there was a distinction between Jews and "the nations" that was based upon the "works of the Law." Paul was the apostle commissioned to the "nations" with the "gospel." Paul's "gospel" is based upon the promise made to Abraham that "all nations" would be blessed through him by faith. If you compare Titus 1:1-4, you see that Paul considers his "gospel" to be an explanation of something that God "promised in ages past." If this happened in "eternity past," then whom did he make the "promise" too? Since Paul always defends his "gospel" on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant (before the Law), I think it is probable that this is the promise that was "before the foundation of the world."

You asked about John 17:5. I think that this passage makes reference to Daniel 7. Notice that throughout the passage Jesus talks about "coming up to the Father" (see 17:11, etc). Jesus also talks about the "glory." Daniel 7:13-14 talk about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God the Father as Messiah and the "saints" possessing the kingdom in glory with the "anointed one." When Jesus says "the glory which I had with You before the world was (or "is"), I think he is using the word "before" in the sense of "preeminence" and not "time" as most assume. In other words, Jesus is saying that when he ascends (comes to be with the Father) he will assume the same position of preeminence that the Father has as YHWH. It's hard to explain, because I think it is a "biblical" figure of speech that we do not use today. In other words, Jesus knows that he is the "son of man" (from Daniel) and that he will be "glorified" and go to be "with the Father." Thus, Jesus understands that when he is ascended, he will assume the same authority as the God (the Father) who was in the beginning "before the world" (Gen 1:1). Does this make sense to you?

I think Jesus uses the same figure of speech in John 8:58 when he says "before Abraham was, I am." The point is not that Jesus "preexisted" Abraham, but that Jesus is more important than Abraham (who the Jews regarded as their "father"). When Jesus tells the Pharisees (in John 8) that "Abraham rejoiced to see my day" he is saying that he is the one that was to be greater than Abraham because he would fulfill the covenant.

Another way to understand this figure of speech is the words of Jeremiah in 1:1-5 where he says that "God knew him before he was formed in the womb." Now, nobody thinks that Jeremiah was in existence "before" he was born, it is just a way of saying that God had a purpose for Jeremiah's life even before it began. Jesus realized that God had a purpose for his glorification "before" he "came into the world." Notice that the "world" in John 17 is always in reference to the present circumstances of the apostles, and not Genesis 1.

You also asked about "eternity past." No, I don't think that the Bible talks about any "eternity past." As I think you know, there is no concept of "eternity" in scripture (rather, it is "ages" and "generations"). The Hebrew OLaM and the Greek "aion" are not used in scripture to describe an "endless period before or after time" in the Greek philosophical sense that it is understood by Reformed theologians. The scripture explicitly identifies "the beginning" in Gen 1:1 as when "God created the heavens and the earth." If I was an Israelite reading this, I would conclude that that was "the beginning," wouldn't you? Where would you get the impression that anything came "before" the "beginning"?

Well, I'm sorry about such a long reply ... I hope this helps you understand where I'm coming from!

Let me know what you think!

Don -

You asked me to clarify a statement I made about "all" being "elect." You asked if this referred to the "free will" vs. "irresistible grace" issue ... What I meant by "all" being "elect" is that the word "all" should be

understood to mean "all nations" and not "all" individuals. I think that this is most consistent with Paul's "gospel" since he is always dealing with "Jews" and "the nations" as covenant groups - especially in Romans. Remember that, I understand that "election" and "predestination" are terms that refers to the "promise" that God the Father made to "bless all nations" in Abraham BEFORE the Law.

I think that the issue of "election" has nothing to do with the Calvinism debate. Remember, Calvinism (Lapsarianism) came hundreds of years after the apostles! Throughout Paul's letters, the "Jews" are trying to compel "the nations" to submit to "works of Law" for salvation. Paul seems to indicate that this is due to the fact that these "Judiazers" regard only the "Jews" to be "elect" because of "circumcision" and the "Law." That is why Paul argues at length in Romans and Galatians that "circumcision" is a matter of "faith" (i.e. Abraham) and thus, it is "apart from works of Law" (later - Moses).

Paul appeals to the "faith" of Abraham (BEFORE the Law) to show that "ALL nations" that descended from Abraham are the "elect" and thus salvation pertains to "all nations." Any who "believe" in Jesus are "sons of Abraham and heirs to the promise" whether they be "Jew or Greek, male or female, bond or free" etc.

Does this help, or did I miss your question?


Don -

At this point (including my current CI studies), I think that it is most probable that the "all nations" refer to the "nations" that God promised in Genesis 12-17 would be descendants of Abraham. I would agree with CI on this, unless a good critique comes along to change my mind again ..

However (as Gayman points out), there are reference to "strangers" in the OT and allusions to people in the NT that were not biological descendants of Abraham who could become "proselytes" to the covenant community. So far, this seems reasonable to me, and that's why I don't think the CI stuff requires the "white supremacy" part. However, I still haven't studied it enough to be completely satisfied with this. That's why I keep reading as many books as I can find on the subject until I exhaust it!

Again, I think it is quite plausible that "nations" in the NT primarily refers to "diaspora," but I don't think (at this point) that the word "nations" CANNOT include non-Adamites. I think the word may include both. In particular, if these "nations" are mixed race "lost tribes" (like Samaritans), I would think that Jesus would "accept" them as he did the "Samaritan woman." Albeit, he made it clear to the woman that she need to accept him on "Jewish" terms. I don't think that these "lost tribes" would be non-mixed pure Israelites, do you?

One thing about "Christadelphian books." I want you to know that the "Christadelphians" are only one source of good "unitarian" studies. I've read MANY more books from other non-Trinitarian writers who have a high view of scripture. If you like the Christadelphian stuff, I can tell you where to find other good books (like the Buzzard book) from other Christian groups. That is why you'll find that I have a different interpretation of some passages (like John 1:1-3) than you'll find in the Christadelphian books.


Don -

Here's is how I would understand I Cor 2:7 ...

Paul is talking about the "rulers of this‚ age" (meaning his own era when the Law was distinguishing between Jew and Greek) not being able to "understand" his "gospel." In 2:7 he talks about the "mystery" which God established in "ages past" that he was preaching.

It seems in Paul's letters that the apostate Jews could not understand the "gospel" because they were "blinded" by their preoccupation with Moses. It wasn't until Paul's revelations and the coming of the "spirit" that God explained salvation to "all nations" based upon the "faith" of Abraham. Remember, the age that was "present" for Paul was the Mosaic age.

Also, according to Moses, the "beginning" is when God "created the heaven and the earth" (Gen 1:1). You have to lay aside the traditional Greek philosophical theory that there is "eternity past" before Gen 1. Now, that may be true, but as far as the biblical writers are concerned the "beginning" is Genesis 1:1. When Paul talks about "ages past," he is probably referring to the generations before the Moses (the Law) because that's all he would have known about any "history" as far as the OT is concerned. Again, Paul always defends his "gospel" on the basis of Abraham's faith, not some "divine decrees" that are not mentioned or explained anywhere in the Bible.

I don't know if you've ever noticed, but even the scripture does not EXPLICITLY say that "God" is "eternal." It only says that he is "eonian" or "ancient." As far as the Bible is concerned, we really only know that God was existing "in the beginning" when He "created the heavens and the earth." I know that this is hard to accept, but it is true ... the biblical authors were not Platonic Greeks philosophers who had a "time vs eternity" concept of God. If you put yourself in the shoes of Moses and his minimal knowledge of the universe, you will understand why passages like Gen 1-3 probably have nothing to do with the "universe" as we understand it. Moses was probably standing on the "flat" land, looking up into the sky, and describing the "creation" from that perspective. That is one of the reasons I'm inclined to think that Gen 1-3 is about the Land of Israel being "created" out of desolation, rather than the "universe" (as we know it from modern science) being "created." The order of the "days" of creation is more likely how you would observe the passing of night to day, and the clearing of a storm clouds and flooding, to produce new vegetation and animal life from the perspective of an earth-bound observer.

Anyway, I'm rambling on again ... have a good night!!

Let me know what you think!


Don -

When you are considering the "nature" of Christ don't be too technical about it ... the scripture doesn't give a lengthy explanation of how it works.

We know that Jesus "was made of a woman" and "in every way like his brethren" so we don't have a problem believing that he is a "man." The scripture also teaches that he was "filled with the holy spirit beyond measure" so we should expect him to be doing many miraculous things just like other men in the Bible. How God enables men (by His spirit) to do these things is really not explained, it is just what happened and we believe it because the apostles and prophets recorded it.

Also, Jesus noted that the apostles would do "greater works than he did" when the "holy spirit" came, so I don't think we need to think that Jesus was somehow a "superman." He had the filling of the holy spirit just like other men in the Bible.

Another thing to consider (which is much more difficult) is that our concept of Jesus living a "sinless" life may not be exactly how the apostles understood it. For example, Paul says in Php 3:9-11 that he "obeyed" the Law flawlessly and more than any other man he knew, even when he was an unbeliever! The significance of this is that if you or me (or Ron or Ward, etc) were to make a claim like this today, people would think we were crazy because this notion of "blamelessness" does not exist in our theology anymore because of the influence of Calvinism (Roman Catholicism) which teaches "original sin" and "total depravity" which are not scriptural terms. But, there are a number of references to "blameless" people in the Bible, and we need to consider this evidence when we formulate a definition of "sin" and "obedience to the Law."

Extra-biblical terms like "total depravity" don't take all the evidence into consideration. That is one of the reasons I try to be very careful to keep my "theology" in biblical terms. We can't understand and think like the biblical writers, unless we think in their terms.

So, Jesus may have been viewed as "without sin" in a different sense than we moderns would require. It has also been suggested by some scholars that a "clear conscience" is ultimately what constituted "blamelessness" to the Jews. Since the Law provided atonement for sin and conscience, it is plausible that Jesus' obedience to the Law (in all its detail) is what constituted his being "without sin" and not that he was "unable to sin" as Calvinists teach. Another thing to consider is accountability under the Law. Nothing is really said in the NT regarding the first 30 or so years of Jesus' life, he may have been not different from other "foolish young children" for all we know. There is the indication in Luke that he did "grow" in wisdom and stature, so it certainly isn't necessary to think of him differently than other men. Once again, it's the Trinitarian assumptions about the absolute "deity" of Christ that cause all of the problems. What the scripture teaches is not that difficult to believe.

In other words, the Law itself not only provided the commandments and instructions against sin, but it also provided the sacrifices and offerings to atone for sins. The only think that the Law could not bring was "eternal life," and of course we know that Jesus had to "die" (physically) despite the fact that he was "without sin." Like I told you before, I don't think he "died" for individual "sins," I think he "died" to deliver us from the "transgression of Adam" by which "all men" die whether "sin" is "imputed" or not. God "forgave" individual sins by establishing a new covenant by His own grace because He loved Jesus.

I hope that this makes some sense to you ... CHRIS

Don -

Here are some comments pertaining to your question about the baptism of Jesus and the holy spirit ...

I inclined to think that the reason the baptism of John is the "beginning" of the gospel is because that is when the "eye witnesses" (the apostles) first encountered the Messiah. Until the baptism of John, it seems that Jesus was unknown, other than to Mary and Joseph (who may have been dead form some time before the baptism of John).

The NT writers seem to put an important emphasis upon the coming of the holy spirit at Jesus' baptism. Like other men in the Bible, Jesus was empowered by means of the "holy spirit abiding upon him." I don't think that there is a great significance to this in terms of his "nature," as much as the sign of his anointing as "prophet, priest, king" so to speak. Again, I think that pondering the "nature" of Jesus is getting beyond revelation because this does not seem to have been an issue for the apostles.

Remember, that a lot of the issues and questions that arise concerning the "nature" of Jesus (whether divine or human or both) come from Catholic and Reformed theology, and are not questions that were raised by the opponents of Jesus and the apostles. It should be apparent to you that you don't find the apostles ever dealing with such questions in their letters.

When John talks about "antichrists" denying that "Christ has come in the flesh" he is simply referring to those who "deny that Jesus IS the Christ" altogether. This is referring to those Jews who were denying that the Jesus preached by the apostles is the promised Messiah - this has nothing to do with Calvinist questions about the "essence" of Jesus. The same thing is true of the "another gospel" that Paul talks about in his letters like Galatians. It amazes me when people on the discussion lists try to use these verses against "unitarians" or "arminians" when these doctrines are nowhere mentioned by the apostles anywhere. This just goes to show you how much these people "read into" the scriptures their own theological problems.


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