Answers to Lonnie’s Questions

This dialogue began at Mike Bird’s blog with a post titled “Would you bake a cake for a gay wedding? The Perspective from Aussie Christians!”  Specifically, this is in answer to Lonnie’s request in this comment.

I’ve put Lonnie’s comments (including questions) in italics, and my answers to his questions follow in bold.

My own experience in homosexuality is all I ever needed to agree with the Bible, that homosexuality is a sin. However, having said that, I am absolutely convinced that Jesus can utterly put an end to homosexuality in the lives of broken people. I also believe that God absolutely created marriage for one male and one female, until death do them part.

You ask: “Do you really think that Paul would make a tent for the express purpose of use in a homosexual “wedding” ceremony?”

I can’t speak to whether Paul would or would not make a tent. I can take a look at what Jesus did at a wedding he attended.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

John 2:1-8

Did Jesus attend the wedding to show his approval of marriage between one man and one woman or did he attend the wedding for the reasons Jesus gives in Luke 4:18-19?  The Scripture does not tell us why Jesus attended the wedding.

Did Jesus attend the wedding at Cana because there were the poor there and he’d been anointed to preach good news to the poor, or was he standing in solidarity with hetero marriage?  I see no reason why He couldn’t have attended for both reasons.  And perhaps for others as well.  Since the Scripture doesn’t explicitly say, however, we probably ought to be restrained in our speculations.

Did Jesus attend the wedding at Cana because he was sent to proclaim freedom for prisoners and for recovery of the sight of the blind, and to set the oppressed free? Or was Jesus making a public service announcement about the right way to do relationships?  This is now a third time you have stated the same question in a slightly different form.  As I’ve been saying, though the Scripture does not tell us why Jesus attended, there is no basis on which we can reject either of the two possibilities you raise.  Nevertheless, there’s no record that He did or didn’t preach while there.

Are there poor people in need of the good news at a gay wedding?  Yes.

Are there prisoners in need of freedom at a gay wedding?  Yes.

Are there the blind, who need their sight restored at a gay wedding?  Yes.

Are there oppressed people needing to be set free at a gay wedding?  Yes.

None of this, however, means that this is the best time and place to reach these people with the good news of Christ.  Is the Westboro Baptist Church winning anyone to Christ when they show up at events to tell everyone how wrong they are?

Did Jesus actually try to avoid the appearance of supporting evil? If Jesus was worried about looking guilty for hanging out with sinners, then he absolutely and utterly failed.

Jesus was more interested in being right and doing right than in appearing right.  Thus He died by crucifixion – which made Him look wrong to a lot of people.

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

Jesus knew he could and would overcome the world, so he had no need to worry about being contaminated by anything the world threw at him. The perception of his enemies (Luke 15) was that Jesus, far from avoiding the appearance of sin, actually courted sinners.

In 1 John 5:4, we are taught: “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” So if you believe Jesus overcomes the world then you must also believe that you, a born again Christian, are conformed to the image and likeness of the overcoming savior. If you believe God’s word, and I believe you do then the Holy Spirit indwells you, and you too are called as Christ is called:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

Once again I ask you:

Are there prisoners in need of freedom at a gay wedding?  
Are there the blind and oppressed at a gay wedding?  
Are there poor people at a gay wedding who need to hear the good news preached?  
Are there those at a gay wedding who need to hear the proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor?
I answered all these questions above.  Note also that Nicodemus came to the Lord by night; Jesus did not call him to repentance in the middle of a Sanhedrin meeting.

And I also ask you: Does Jesus overcome the world and does that include homosexuality?  Yes.   If you are born of God then do you not also overcome the world?  Yes.  But neither answer means that we must participate in celebrations of homosexuality.

If you were dragged before a court of law today would there be enough evidence to convict you of, “…receiving sinners and eating with them,” as the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing in Luke 15:2??  You speak as if Jesus went out looking for sinners to court; the reality is that Jesus went out to preach repentance, and the “sinners” who repented were the ones who hung out with Him.

My reason for not attending a homosexual meeting can be best understood by recognizing that when the minister asks “If anyone here knows of just cause why these two should not be joined together let him speak now or else hereafter hold his peace,” I would be conscience-bound to speak up.  I don’t think the hosts would be pleased.  And while I think that such a “wedding” is wrong, I don’t think making a scene at their ceremony is the best way for me to make that point.  Therefore, I think the best way for me to speak the truth in love is to say it with the silence of my absence rather than vocalizing the point with my presence and thereby alienate everyone present.

List of Blogs on Which I No Longer Comment

I like to engage with others about the gospel of Christ.  However, not all bloggers are receptive to challenge.  This includes their followers as well.

No matter how respectful I have been, my presence has caused consternation on a number of blogs.  What follows is a list of blogs on which I no longer comment.  In some cases, it’s because I have literally been banned.  That is, in a few cases the bloggers have set their blogs to reject any comment that comes from me.  In other cases, I have left by mutual agreement with the blogger.  And in most other cases, I have decided to leave on my own before thing got too heated and because no good was being accomplished by my continued participation.  The Lord doesn’t like strife or quarreling.

This is an incomplete list, to which I will add over time.  They are in chronological order (i.e., most recent disengagement last).

Debunking Christianity (John Loftus)  –  John is a former Christian who became an atheist.  He was the first blogger to delete my comments, which was a good lesson for me not to invest too much time in writing on the blogs of others.  I wrote an open letter to John around that time.

Pyromaniacs (Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and Frank Turk)  – I don’t recall the specific issue here.

Zwinglius Redivivus (Jim West)  –  Jim moderates his comments, ones he doesn’t like never see the light of day.

Unsettled Christianity (Joel Watts)  –  The issue here was the authority of the Bible – that is, whether or not it is circular reasoning to say that the Bible is the word of God.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (Nick Norelli)  –  The issue here was Christ versus the Trinity.

Near Emmaus (Brian LePort)  – I don’t recall the issue in dispute here.  (Tim Challies)  –  This is one of blogs that won’t allow me to comment.  No explanation or warning was given.  One day the comment system starting saying I wasn’t approved to comment.  I think the issue here was my belief that everyone is going to heaven.

Slacktivist (Fred Clark)  –  The issue here was homosexuality and marriage.  Fred never participated in the comments but those who did were vehemently supportive of homosexuality and homosexual marriage.  They were quite upset with my point of view.

Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight)  – The comment mechanism will no longer accept comments from me.  The issue here was my questions about evolution.

Formerly Fundie (Benjamin Corey)  –  Like Exploring Our Matrix below and Slacktivist above, this is a progressive Christian blog.  I think issues here were two: evolution and “gay marriage.”

Rethinking Biblical Christianity (Peter Enns)  –  I think Peter still identifies as an Evangelical Christian.  I sought to understand his biblical support for believing in evolution, but he did not want to talk about it.  As with James McGrath’s blog, commenters seemed to be uniformly sold on evolution and suspicious or hostile to anyone who isn’t.

Exploring Our Matrix (James McGrath)  –  [left Jan 2014] James self-identifies as a Progressive Christian.  I tried to engage James and others on the subject of evolution.  It was very hard to get fruitful interaction.  Other commenters generally regarded anyone who did not accept evolution as willfully obtuse.

God of Evolution and (Tyler Francke) – [left Feb 2014] Tyler is a Christian who writes in favor of evolution.  Like James McGrath, he seemed to spend most of his time mocking Ken Ham and YEC’s.  I asked him for biblical and logical arguments to support his position…but didn’t get very far.

Dominic’s Arguments

On his blog, Dominic Bnonn Tennant has posted “Is Jesus Really God?”  I have commented on this post.  In the comment thread, Dominic complains that I have not addressed his arguments offered in rebuttal to me:

Dominic:  I’d like to point out to anyone reading how Mike conspicuously avoids my arguments while weaseling with the text of Scripture.

Therefore, I will give answers to his specific arguments here, where I have a little more elbow room (i.e. ability to do text editing that makes the dialogue easier for a reader to follow).

Dominic:  Mike, obedience to Christ is only possible if you know who Christ is. Dale does not worship the same Christ I worship. I worship the Christ who is God. Dale does not. That’s a categorical difference.

A person who knows Christ is Lord is able to obey His commands, even if he might not yet fully appreciate all that is meant by the word “Lord.”  Jesus did not say, “Why call ye Me ‘Lord, Lord, and do not confess Me as the second person of a trinity.”  Rather He said, “Why call ye Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say.”  He who obeys Christ is treating Him as Lord – and that’s what pleases God.

Dominic:  I assume that the person who knows best what God is like is God himself. And I assume that if anything is going to be beyond my ability to understand properly, it will be ultimate reality—God himself. So when God reveals what he is like and I can’t understand it, I assume the problem is with me; not with God.

Agreed.  Therefore, if you think God is revealing something to you that is unscriptural and illogical then you know that it is you who are wrong.

Dominic:  Dale, by contrast, despite being infinitely inferior to God both ontologically and epistemically, sets up his own understanding as the authority for who God can be. Then, when God reveals something different, he rejects that because it doesn’t meet his little standard. That is the basic definition of faithlessness and idolatry.

I don’t know enough about Dale to know what has and hasn’t been revealed to him.  I do know, however, that the trinity concept is a man-made intellectual idol.  If you are saying that he has rejected that idea, then he has done well.

Dominic:  As to whether Dale is sincere, I’m not sure how that is relevant. A sincere false teacher is still a false teacher. A deluded wolf who thinks it’s a sheep is still a wolf. The Jews who killed early Christians strike me as having done their best to serve God. Jihadist Muslims certainly seem sincere. Or to take tamer examples, open theists certainly claim to serve God, despite denying most of his attributes. Same for Catholics, who worship Mary and the saints along with God, while proclaiming a false works-based gospel—surely many of them are doing their best to serve God? The question isn’t whether they are sincerely trying to serve God, but whether theyknow God. Because if they do not know God through faith, then all they are sincerely serving is their own idols.

Sincerity counts with God, but I agree with you that it cannot make one right when he is wrong.  My point in raising it was that while both of you are wrong (you in thinking that God is trinitarian and Dale in thinking that Jesus is not God) you both strike me as equally sincere.  You and Sam seemed to be speaking to Dale contemptuously, and I thought tha tone was preventing constructive dialogue.  I was hoping you’d address Dale as a Nicodemus or Gamaliel and not as an Annas or Caiaphas, because ostensibly the dialogue was for a worthy purpose – that is, to learn more about Jesus our Lord.

The following interactions are Dominic first quoting something I had written, then providing his response.  After each, I respond to his response.

Mike: I will leave aside the question of behavior for the moment and ask you how faith in Christ as divine differs from faith in Christ as the most exalted agent of God?

Dominic:  Your question answers itself. Imagine a Jew looking at the Old Testament and asking how faith in Yahweh as divine differs from faith in Yahweh as the most exalted angel of El.

Jews in the Old Testament routinely interacted with, trusted, and obeyed angels sent from God as if they were God Himself.  Faithful obedience rather than ontologically precise parsing of the moment was what God valued.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and “He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Mike:  And if you deem faith in the latter [i.e. “Christ as the most exalted agent of God”] to be deficient are you claiming that every believer in the New Testament at the moment of belief saw Him as fully divine?

Dominic:  Probably not. But what would separate true believers from false ones would be their response to discovering Jesus’s divinity. Do they accept it in faith and worship him as God, or do they reject it and set up an idol in his place?

You should have stopped after your first sentence.  You were doing so well!

The New Testament does not catalog the faith journeys of believers such that we can track for each of them the sort of two-phase faith process (1-believe in Christ as Lord, 2-believe in Christ as God) you are trying to impose.

Mike:  I believe that we find the quickest path to understanding His nature by faith and obedience.

Dominic:  You seem to be making my point for me. Dale disbelieves God’s revelation of himself, and refuses to submit himself to it. The very definition of faithless disobedience.

If you mean that Dale denies the trinity, then he is right…for the trinitarian concept is an intellectual idol born of disbelief in the promise of the Second Coming.  You do well to believe that Christ is part of God; you’ll do better when you realize that He’s all of God.

Mike:  Therefore, when someone tells me that he trusts and obeys Christ, I know we are on the same path.

Dominic:  So when a Mormon tells you that, you know you’re on the same path? That’s unfortunate, since the path the Mormon is on leads to a gate labeled “Destruction”.

I don’t determine people’s identities by denominational or theological labels.  I just preach Christ and watch to see whether they rejoice or fight me.

So, there you have it, Dominic: a specific response to every argument you raised to me in that post.

And, by the way, thanks again for the post.  Jesus is God!  To Him be the glory for what He has done!

Answering CynicalSkeptic1

Someone who calls himself “CynicalSkeptic1” made challenges to me on a YouTube site.  Given difficulties with YouTube commenting, I’ve chosen to answer them here.

CynicalSkeptic1 said he had five objections.  I found two 2’s and no 4’s, but the total equaled five so I here they are:

1) Since over 30,000 Christian denominations can’t even agree on a congruent belief concerning an ancient holy book…it would appear that your god has difficulty espousing his “Word”. A book which is “divinely inspired by God” but is so utterly obscure that it is constantly misinterpreted. The ambiguity of the Bible is confirmed through this obvious evidence. This indicates that the biblical god can’t make complete sense to anyone.
Apparently your god is mumbling when talking to people.

Over 30,000 denominations is evidence of humanity’s deficiencies, not God’s.

2) The Judeo-Christian god has obviously failed miserably in distributing his “divinely inspired” word properly or accurately.
Not only does the vast majority of the earth’s populace disbelieve in him…but even the 2.1 billion Christian followers are split into over 30,000+ denominations which have contradictory beliefs.
Only 3 options exist:
1) He is powerless to help his deluded children.
2) He doesn’t care about his deluded children.
3) He doesn’t exist.
Do you have a fourth option?

This appears to be redundant to the first objection.  Therefore, same answer.

2) Julunggul, Wawalag, Tammuz, Ishtar, Quetzalcoatl, Xipe Totec, Baal, Eshmun, Melqart, Jesus, Zalmoxis, Osiris, Amun, Horus, Amun-Min, Atunis (also known as Adonis), Lemminkainen, Cronus, Donysus, Orpheus, Persephone, Chinnamasta, Iravan, Barbarika, Izanangi, Lailah, Heitsi-eibib, Baridegi, Kaknu, Gullveig, Odin, Baldr, Attis, Aeneas, Bacchus, Proserpina, Jarilo, Kostroma, Marzanna, Dumuzi, Inanna, Obatala, Moremi Ajasoro.
Were all these other gods also resurrected?…or just yours? Evidence?

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the testimony found in the New Testament documents and corroborating Greco-Roman literature of that time.

3) There are numerous religions which precede yours and they all have utterly absurd events…just like yours. Herodotus describes the god Zalmoxis who assures us that we can be immortal if our souls are cleansed with blood magic. We then go to live forever in a place no one can see.
This was a cult in 425 B.C. which is hundreds of years before Christianity.
Sound familiar?

Similarities between Jesus Christ and other gods can only be found at the most superficial level.  He was unique.  For one thing, who ever had his biography written long before he was born?

5) So, were all of the resurrections in the Bible true? Are all of the other gods which were resurrected in other religions false?
How did you prove either of these hypotheses?
The truth is that you don’t care if your beliefs are true. You don’t know if Jesus and many others were resurrected in the Bible and you don’t know if the other gods weren’t.
The only LOGICAL conclusion is to disbelieve in utterly absurd events like resurrections…and not rely on ancient books about talking donkeys.

Resurrection is no more absurd than 7 billion of us residing on a sphere spinning 1,000 mph while it revolves around another body at 66,000 mph, together flying with a galaxy at 432,000 mph – all without falling off or even getting chapped lips.

[Note added August 12, 2013:  Apparently, “CynicalSkeptic1” is “Carl Hill” in the comments below.]

Why Is Faith Important?

Sam asks, “Why is faith important to you?”

To answer this, I first have to answer a question he asked earlier in his comment (linked above):  “What precisely do you mean by using the word “faith” (or, “belief”)?”

Let me answer by quoting the most definitive and authoritative statement on the subject that I can think of:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

A few verses later comes another statement which adds light to this one:

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

To put this issue in personal terms, faith is the conviction that God is…and that it’s beneficial to trust Him.

So, that’s what faith is.  Now, why is it important?  Because it’s the only way to relate productively to a person you cannot see (i.e. sense physically).

I don’t find anything irrational or even non-rational about this process.  Quite the contrary, I find it completely and necessarily rationale…or else I wouldn’t engage in it.

The original disciples, who knew Jesus personally, did not have to believe that He was, for they could see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears that He was.  Once He was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, however, they had to rely upon faith in Him for they could no longer contact Him by their physical senses.

When Jesus was in a physical state, he was limited in the number of human interactions he could have at any one time.  By resuming His spiritual state, He is accessible by every single human being simultaneously.  The trade-off is that His invisibility requires our trust.  This trade-off seems well worth it from our point of view.

Moreover, in a physical state, Jesus could walk beside us, but in a spiritual state He can dwell inside us – a far greater form of intimacy.  Again, this exchange of states seems entirely beneficial to us.

Therefore, faith is important because it enables us to enjoy a God who is greater than all of us.  Without faith, we are forced to live in doubt and uncertainty regarding our origin, our fate, and our worth.

My Closing Statement for Debate: Is Jesus Christ God or Not?

My opening statement for this debate is here.

My rebuttal statement is here.

This is my closing statement.

While there is no explicit, emphatic, and indisputable statement in the New Testament that  Jesus is God.  the same cannot be said about Jesus being Lord. In fact, the New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus is Lord: explicit, emphatic, and indisputable.  No one denies that the New Testament declares Jesus to be Lord.  In fact, “Lord” is a much a part of Jesus’ name as is “Christ.”

People may deny that Jesus was actually raised from the dead, but they cannot deny that the New Testament calls Him Lord.  People may deny that Jesus even existed, but they cannot deny that the New Testament calls Him Lord.  People may even deny that the New Testament is itself trustworthy, that any of it can be believed, but they cannot deny that the New Testament documents, as they exist before us today, call Him Lord.

Therefore, regardless of what you think of Jesus’ origin and ontology, there is this issue of His lordship with which we must deal.  That is, given the assertion made by the apostles throughout the New Testament that Jesus is Lord, are you going to accept is as true or not?

Accepting Jesus as Lord means more than mere lip service to the idea.  If you call Jesus Lord but do not obey Him, you have not truly accepted Him as Lord.  Jesus Himself asked in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  Therefore, to accept the claim that Jesus is Lord, we must subordinate ourselves to His will and live according to what He says.

We may serve Jesus as Lord imperfectly.  In fact, all of us who genuinely attempt day after day to serve Jesus as Lord do so imperfectly – and no one knows it better than those of us who are trying.  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” is as true today as it ever was.  This does not excuse us, however, from growing in “the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  That is, we should be showing progress (Philippians 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:15).  If we show no spiritual progress, we prove ourselves to engaging only in lip service to the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 3:9; Matthew 7:21-23).

Progressing in grace means coming to understand our Lord better and better.  “That I may  know Him” was the heart cry of Paul (Philippians 3:10).  Certainly, Paul already knew the Lord – but he wanted to know Him better.  Likewise, we first come to know Jesus at some point in our lives, however young or old we might have been at the time – and growth in grace means coming to know Him better from that time forward.

There is much to know about our Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is in Him that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are to be found (Colossians 2:2-3, emphasis added).  He is “the beginning and the end,” “the Alpha and Omega,” “the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13).  Surely, in our quest to know Him better and better He will reveal to us more about His identity.  How can it be otherwise?

Therefore, let us consider this promise of Jesus:

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  –  Matthew 11:27

To understand the identity of God is not a matter of sufficient formal theological education. Neither is it a matter of random selection by God.  It is a matter of obedience to Christ.  That is, we come to understand the identity of Christ as we progressively actualize His lordship in our lives. The one who trusts and obeys Him comes to understand His identity better and better over time…because that is the sort of person to whom God wants to make Himself better known.

Consider this:  John Doe, being aware of all the Christological controversies, decides to set them aside and merely seek to trust and obey Jesus as Lord.  John Doe prays:

“Lord, I don’t know who is right about Your origin and ontology, but I do know that you want me to trust and obey You.  Therefore, that’s what I’m going to give my whole heart to do, no matter how little I understand about your origin and ontology.”

In following through on this prayer, John Doe is going to find out that for all practical purposes, Jesus is God to him.  That is, Jesus’ commands are the commands of God.  Jesus’ promises are the promises of God.  You cannot truly pursue Jesus as Lord and have any capacity left over to obey any other entity.  At this point, He who is God for all practical purposes reveals Himself to be God in actuality.  No one can teach you that Jesus is God.  He has to reveal it to you.

Even if you disagree with me that Jesus is God, that is okay.  What we ought to be able to agree on is that Jesus is Lord.  If we are both trusting and obeying Jesus as Lord, how can there be any significant difference between us?  Let us say that John Doe is serving Jesus as Lord while believing that Jesus is God, and Richard Roe is serving Jesus as Lord while believing Jesus is not God.  Will they not both be loving Him with all their hearts and souls and minds and strengths?  Will they not both be loving others as Christ loved them?  Will they not both be living lives on the earth that reflect the Christ who rules from heaven?

Let us serve Jesus as Lord that we might come to know Him better.  And even if we do not come to know Him in precisely the same terms, let us serve Him as Lord anyway.

My Rebuttal for Debate: Is Jesus Christ God or Not?

My opening statement for this debate is here.

This rebuttal is in response to this opening statement and this rebuttal of my opening statement.  [Ed. note: Unfortunately, this web site appears to no longer be operational so the links are no longer available.]

I can agree that there is a sense in which the identity of Jesus Christ is ambiguous.  The trinity concept is itself ambiguous. And there are many Christologies – ancient and modern – the very variety of which promote ambiguity.  Just because we are confused and disagreeing, however, does not mean that God is unwilling or unable to make Himself clear.  As Moses wrote, “”The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  The question is, therefore, whether or not God has revealed the identity of Jesus.

I can also agree that perceiving Jesus as an angel is a valid position – just as perceiving Him as a man is a valid position.  For just as God could become a man, He could become an angel.  Speaking more as to sequence, He could become an angel who became a man – which is just what He did.  To say that Jesus of Nazareth was a man is not mutually exclusive with saying He was God, neither is it mutually exclusive with saying He was an angel.

I hold the Scriptures to be the word of God – the prophets producing what we call the Old Testament and the apostles producing what we call the New Testament.  Thus the prophets and apostles spoke in the name of the Lord.  Subsequent “church fathers” claim no such authority.  In fact, even church councils issued their creeds and edicts in the name of the church for they knew they could not honestly say, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Therefore, while I think what Justin Martyr said or what Arius said or what others have said since biblical times has historical value, and in some cases spiritual value, none of their statements carries the weight of Scripture itself – for none of them were prophets or apostles.

What we see in the Scriptures is a progressive revelation of Christ.  This is consistent with the ways of our Creator, which we can view for ourselves in creation.  An acorn becomes an oak tree by a progressive process.  Winter becomes spring by a progressive process.  The night becomes day by a progressive process.  These physical manifestations provide illustrations of spiritual processes, for “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Proverbs 4:18) and “Light is sown like seed for the righteous” (Psalm 97:11).  Thus we should not be surprised if God reveals something to us – especially something so great and wonderful as the identity of Christ – by a progressive process.

We can see the progression of revelation regarding Christ unfolding before us in the Scriptures.  By the time of Christ in the 1st Century C.E., there was built up in the Scriptures of the prophets a large volume of prophecies, foreshadowings, allusions, types, and other references to the Messiah of Israel.  However, it was not clear how all these prophecies fit together.  You could rightly say they were ambiguous.  The scriptural term for such ambiguity is “mystery,” and you can see Paul use it in describing this state of affairs in Romans 16:25-27 (correlate this passage with Deuteronomy 29:29, mentioned above).  Paul’s point there is that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth is the revelation of the mystery, the solution to the ambiguity.

That said, there was more to reveal about Jesus Christ than what is written in the New Testament for the Lord and the apostles themselves spoke of revelation to come (Luke 17:30; 1 Corinthians 14; Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 1:5, 7; Revelation 1:1).  That is, Jesus had been revealed to some as the Messiah prior to His resurrection, but that resurrection event emphatically declared Him to be Messiah to all men (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).  This was not the end of the revelation of His identity but rather the beginning, for it set off a search of the Scriptures to see how all the prophecies fit together in Him (Acts 17:2-3, 11;  Colossians 1:17).  The disciples began learning more and more about the Christ as the ultimate intent of various passages of Scripture were revealed to them one by one (1 Corinthians 14).

There is a consensus among modern Bible scholars that the undisputed letters of Paul (namely: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon) were written 50-60 C.E.  The consensus date for Jesus’ resurrection being 30-33 C.E., this puts 15-20 years between the resurrection and those letters.  That’s how long the Christian movement had been growing when Paul wrote those letters.  What is absolutely stunning in the light of all the Christological controversies since apostolic times is that those seven letters display no evidence whatsoever of any Christological controversy – even while they evidence controversy about a number of other subjects.  The apostles and their disciples knew who Jesus was, but they were expecting to learn more.  In fact, they were constantly learning more.  The big revelation, however, was yet to come when all the New Testament documents were written.

In Matthew through John, Jesus was revealed as a man.  In Acts through Revelation, He is revealed to have been a angel both before and after He was a man.  In what we call the Second Coming of Christ, He was revealed to be God.  The progressive revelation was thus completed in the Second Coming.  The ambiguity need not remain.  God became an angel that He might become a man that He might become an angel again (through the resurrection – see Matthew 22:30), that He might become God again.

For this reason there is no explicit, emphatic, and indisputable statement in the New Testament that Jesus is God.  Those disciples were just beginning to grapple with the idea that He was more than a man.  The dawn has to come first, and the noonday sun later – otherwise we become blinded by too much light too fast.  Blessed be the apostles who put us in a position to receive the truth of Jesus Christ from the prophets.