God and Christ
THE SCRIPTURES REVEAL that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt.16:16). Since our Lord is God’s Christ (i.e., Anointed) and Son, it follows that He is not God. All would acknowledge that the fact that Solomon was David’s son, proves that Solomon was not David. Yet due to the blinding power of tradition, few are able to see that, just as surely, the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, likewise proves that He is not God.
Instead of simply affirming that Christ is the Son of God, orthodoxy has instead claimed that while it is true that Christ is God’s Son, it is also true that He is God Himself. Thus it is claimed that Christ is fully Man and fully God.
Yet since such a proposition is self-contradictory, it is not only false but also incoherent. Even so, from the days of the early church councils, the teaching of the “deity of Christ” has been deemed essential truth. Accordingly, the advocates of this teaching have made countless arguments in its defense.
Since the Scriptures expressly declare that Jesus is indeed God’s Christ and Son, the orthodox themselves must acknowledge that this is so. Yet what they have also affirmed, besides His being the Christ and the Son of God, is that Jesus is also God Himself. Ironically, by insisting that Jesus is God, traditionalists have effectually denied the very truths which they formally affirm, our Lord’s divine Christhood and Sonship.
The primary stratagem in defense of the Trinitarian teaching that Jesus is “God, the Son,” has long been the artful claim that Christ has “two natures.” According to one of these natures, He is human; according to the other, He is God. He is God-Man; that is, He is both Man and God.
In the fourth ecumenical council, held in Chalcedon (modern Kadiköy, Turkey) in 451 A.D., not only were the earlier creeds of Nicaea (321) and of Constantinople (381; subsequently known as the Nicene Creed) approved, but Pope Leo I’s Tome confirming two distinct natures in Christ was also approved, over against the teachings of those who denied this papal dogma. “The overall effect [of these and other rulings] was to give the church a more stable institutional character.”
1 Yet however effective this council may have been in the service of organized religion, it was only one of the many formalized departures from scriptural truth which have obtained throughout church history.
“The unique glory of Christ Jesus as the Mediator of God and mankind has often been obscured by explanations made in defense of ‘the deity of Christ.’ In his book entitled, THE LORD FROM HEAVEN, Sir Robert Anderson says, ‘With us, therefore, the issue is a definite and simple one, namely, whether Christ is God or only man.’ This statement neither defines nor clarifies the theme, for the evidence is abundant on both sides. Moreover, this declaration disregards the special place of Christ as the divine Link between God and man. The Scriptures are emphatic concerning His work of mediation. ‘There is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus . . .’ (1 Tim.2:5). Those who make Him either Deity absolute or merely human must do so by avoiding this truth and all the divine explanations of those relationships by which Christ bridges the chasm between us and God.
“All saints believe that, in some sense, Christ is a Mediator between God and man. Some hold Him to be absolute Deity, yet are compelled to acknowledge some limitations. Others make Him a mere man, yet more than all other men. His true place is seldom clearly defined. The solution lies in the great truth that our Lord is unique, quite unlike any other personage in the universe. We do not need to effect a compromise between the conflicting views concerning Him, for both are wrong, though each contains elements of truth. Let us not allow such explanations to rob us of the Mediator, the Christ we need.
“The key to His present constitution is very simple. He is derived from two distinct sources. His spirit is directly from God, unlike any other man. His body, however, is purely human. His soul, which is the consciousness resulting from this combination, is a thing unmatched, capable of direct communion with the Supreme Spirit, and condescending to the corrupt condition of mortal men.
“The point we wish to press is this, that the likeness of Christ to God, instead of incorporating Him into the so-called ‘Godhead,’ is itself the most satisfying evidence that He is not the Supreme. Nothing is similar to itself, except in a rhetorical figure. Likeness disappears in identity. Nor can this be limited to ‘personality,’ for Christ and God are alike apart from ‘personality.’ ”
The claim that Christ has a “dual nature” is central not only to Trinitarianism but to Modalism as well. Hence, according to this theory too, Christ is “both fully God and fully man at the same time.”
3 Indeed, Modalists suppose that nearly all that militates against their position may be shown to be false either by claims such as that the Father is a role not a Being, or by the claim that Christ has two natures.
For example, in explaining the plaintive words, “My God! My God! Why didst Thou forsake Me?” (Matt. 27:46) the Modalist insists that we are to understand that this was only Jesus’ “human nature” crying out.
If it should be suggested that if Jesus is God and since He prayed to God this would entail His praying to Himself, the Modalist’s ready reply is that, rather, what transpired was that the human nature of Jesus prayed to the divine spirit of Jesus that dwelt in Him. Similarly, when Christ died on the cross, it is affirmed not that Christ (Who, it is claimed, is God) died, but only that the human body of Christ died, the divine spirit leaving the human body only at death.
Our response to all such ingenious claims, is that no passage of Scripture either declares or entails any such thing as the “dual nature” of Christ, or the proposition that “Christ is fully God and fully man.” “The dual nature of Christ,” then, is not of faith; it is rather merely an artful contrivance, concocted in the first place in an attempt to support a false theory. The very idea for which it seeks to stand is irrational and absurd.
“Nature” is a singular concept; it speaks of one’s inherent character or basic constitution. Whatever the particulars of one’s nature may be, one who is fully one thing is not fully another. A mule may be the progeny of a donkey and a mare, but it is “fully” neither of these. It is the offspring of its parents; its nature incorporates elements from each; but its nature is not fully the same as either.
“Christ is the Mediator Who links humanity with its Creator, so that He is neither man nor God in an absolute sense, yet He is either in a relative one. The combination is not that of two ‘natures’ which can never be harmonized, but that of body and spirit, the same elements which unite perfectly to form the souls of all other men. His humanity consists in a body derived from Adam through the virgin Mary, His human mother. His deity consists in a vivifying spirit directly from God. These two fuse freely to make a Man unique (1 Tim.2:5) and a God unparalleled–the peerless Man and the only begotten God (John 1:18).”
“THERE IS ONE GOD . . . AND ONE LORD”
It is revealed that “There is one God, the Father, out of Whom all is . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all is” (1 Cor.8:6). The appositive, “the Father,” identifies Who the one God is. The only true God, then, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf John 17:1-3). Hence we are “to be slaving for the living and true God, and to be waiting for His Son out of the heavens, Whom He rouses from among the dead, Jesus, our Rescuer out of the coming indignation” (1 Thess.1:9,10).
Yet the teaching of Modalism affirms that Jesus Himself in an ultimate sense is not the Son of the living and true God but is the living and true God Himself. In support of this teaching, it is claimed that the Greek word kai has two significations, in most cases, simply that of conjointness (i.e., “and”), but in some cases, that of identification (i.e., “even,” in the sense of “that is,” or “which is the same as”). Accordingly, Modalists claim that 1 Corinthians 8:6 should be translated, “There is one God . . . even one Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The claim is that sometimes when kai stands between a noun and a preceeding noun it identifies the latter expression as being essentially the same as the former. Since Modalists already believe that Christ is one and the same Being as God, they suppose that this notion that kai sometimes means “the same as” gives support to their basic claim.
The fact that in certain passages which speak of God and Christ together, the Authorized Version sometimes renders kai as “even,” further confuses the issue while, at least to some, seeming to give credence to Modalism. It should be noted, however, that even in such cases the AV only renders kai as “even” in reference to God as “Father”; it does not translate kai in such a way so as to identify God as actually being Christ Jesus (e.g., 2 Corinthians 1:3, “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; where the CV is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” cp Eph.1:3; 1 Pet.1:3).
It does not follow that because a prima facie-reasonable translation can be made by saying, as in 2 Corinthians 1:3, “God, even [kai] the Father . . .” that the purpose of kai in such a passage is to identify God as being the same Being as the Father. While it is true that God is the same Being as the Father, the fact that these two expressions often appear together, joined by kai (“and”), is no proof that this is so. The point of the kai is that the Deity is both our Placer and our Father. Similarly, He is both our Saviour and our Lord, even as, under God, Christ is both of these to us as well.
Even so, many Modalists imagine that the various greetings in Paul’s epistles should be translated along these lines: “Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ” (e.g., 2 Cor.1:2), the sense being that “God, our Father” is one and the same Being as “the Lord Jesus Christ.” It should be noted that Modalists do not claim that the phrase “grace and peace” should be rendered “grace, even peace,” as if grace and peace were the same, yet they turn about and claim that the phrase “God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” should read “God, our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ,” as if these Two were the same Being.
It simply is not true that the reason why Paul conjoins “God, our Father” with “the Lord Jesus Christ” is for the purpose of identifying the former Being as one and the same as the latter. Indeed, since God is the God and Father of Christ, it is simply impossible for Him to also be Christ Himself. This consideration alone debars any claim that kai may be rendered “even” in the various greetings found in Paul’s epistles from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The simple fact is that kai corresponds to our “and,” and does not mean “even.” Indeed, ordinarily, in cases where one word or phrase is to be identified with another, the Greek particle per–which does correspond to the English identificational “even”–is used, not the connective kai. For example, “Now at the festival he released to them one prisoner, even whom they requested” (Mark 15:6). Similarly, “Thou dost give them blood to drink, even what they are deserving!” (Rev.16:6).
There are countless definitive passages in which kai appears, in which its only meaning, “and,” is obvious and the idea of “even” is absurd. When Peter said, “Silver and [kai] gold I do not possess” (Acts 3:6), are we to understand the thought intended to be that gold, actually, is the same as silver? Similarly, when we read, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the ecclesia of the Thessalonians . . . .” (1 Thess.1:1), should this be, “Paul, even Silvanus, even Timothy . . . .”? Was Silvanus the same as Paul? Was Timothy the same as Paul as well, though once removed, through Silvanus?
“THE GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR”
While in the Concordant Version, “even” is used in a number of passages to translate kai (i.e., AND), almost none of these are the “and” of parallelization, but that of ascendency (e.g., Jude 23) or of argument (2 Cor. 4:16). Further, it is not that a certain word or phrase preceded by another word or phrase and joined by kai could not possibly be set in parallel, but that such a usage is exceedingly rare.
8 In fact, we know of only one such passage, Titus 2:13: “anticipating that happy expectation, even [kai] the advent of the glory of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Modalists sometimes claim that the Concordant translation itself here militates against the Concordant teaching. Such claims, however, are untrue and without merit, however persuasively they may be set forth, and however ready some may be to accept them.
The simple answer to why the Concordant Version translates kai as “even” in Titus 2:13, is that the Version can by no means always maintain strict literality, and must often employ variants in the interests of idiom and good diction. Since, in the Greek, this passage involves an ellipsis, in consideration of the ordinary reader, our translators deemed it expedient to render the passage as it appears in the Version. Thus they avoided the awkwardness which the more literal rendering would have entailed, besides supplying an entire phrase, not in the Greek, yet one which would have been needed in translation: “anticipating that happy expectation, and the advent of the glory of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ [is that happy expectation].”
It is not that kai itself ever signifies the idea of “even.” It is rather, as in Titus 2:13, that when two clauses joined by kai are used as parallels (as sometimes in Hebrew poetry, where one idea is expressed in two different ways), idiomatic translation requires the use of “even.”
Modalists, however, reasoning that if it is proper thus to set “that happy expectation” in parallel to the advent of the glory of Christ, it is proper as well, within this same verse, to identify the phrase “the great God” with the following phrase, “our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Thus Modalists claim that this verse in its entirety should read, “anticipating that happy expectation, even the advent of the glory of the great God, even our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
It is true that “the great God,” here, is indeed “our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” But it is not true that Jesus Christ is herein “identified as God,” in the ordinary sense of this expression, whether by means of the conjunction kai or otherwise. That Christ is the great God referred to here, does not make Him the supreme God, the Deity Himself.
Modalists reason as if it follows, since through the use of the word kai our happy expectation is declared to be the advent of Christ’s glory, that through the use of the word kai as well, the words “the great Placer” mean “the supreme Placer,” and that the supreme Placer or God is said to be Jesus Christ! The fact, however, that the kai of parallelization, however rare, is itself a legitimate usage, is no indication that it is present in any certain construction. Since, for the many reasons we have presented, we may be certain that Christ is not God and God is not Christ, we may be certain as well that it is only an empty claim that any such usage of kai is present either in Titus 2:13 in the phrase “the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ,” or in any of the various phrases within the Pauline greetings in which “God” is conjoined with “Christ.”
GOD AND CHRIST
In Titus 1:4, the Concordant Version, as is ordinarily the case, translates kai as “and” (“Grace and peace from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus, our Saviour”). One would suppose that such a rendering is hardly to be faulted. Nonetheless, some adamantly claim that this translation is “inconsistent” and “wrong.” Such ones insist that this verse should read, “Grace and peace from God, the Father, even Christ Jesus, our Saviour.”
In Titus 1:4, however, there is no reason to suppose Paul wants to explain in different words what he says in the first clause. In this case, he adds a new thought by saying grace and peace also come from Christ Jesus our Saviour. This thought is not explicit but implicit, the intended idea “grace and peace from” in the second clause being so obvious that it need not even be expressed: “Grace and peace from God, the Father, and [grace and peace from] Christ Jesus, our Saviour.”
Figures of speech, including the figure termed ellipsis, ordinarily arise from fervor of expression. Ellipsis is also employed simply to avoid redundancy. Ellipsis is only truly present when the terse language of the text itself in its literal reading is either unclear or incomplete. In passages containing ellipses such as Titus 1:4 or 1 Corinthians 1:3 (“Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”), the ellipsis in the second clause, is obviously supplied from the text of the first clause. The simple and natural sense of such a verse is, “Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and [grace to you and peace from] the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ellipses never transform the sense of a text or add foreign considerations to it. Instead, omitted phrases necessary to the sense (i.e., ellipses), repeat what is said, or clarify or complete what is said. Their content is not open to speculation. To the contrary, it is in the light of what has been explicitly stated, that the substance of the implicit elliptical thought, becomes logically evident.
Therefore, in the case of passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:3, 8:6, and Titus 1:4, it is quite wrong to claim that in such constructions the connective kai which joins the two clauses carries the sense of “even,” used identificationally. Any such claims are simply mistaken; and, if made in the interests of Modalism, are not harmless but injurious claims.
It is true that Paul heralded according to the injunction of God, “our Saviour” (Titus 1:3), and, that in his introduction to this epistle, he includes a word of grace and peace from Christ Jesus “our Saviour” (Titus 1:4). It is true as well that, in an ultimate sense, there is only one Saviour, God (termed Yahweh Elohim in the Hebrew Scriptures), even as that there is a sense in which Christ is the true God, Yahweh Elohim. It hardly follows from these facts, however, that Christ is identificationally God. Nor does it follow that Titus 1:3,4 proves such a proposition to be so, or that verse 4 should be rendered, “Grace and peace from God, the Father, even Christ Jesus, our Saviour.”
It would certainly accord more with the rest of Scripture, as well as with Titus 3:4-6 where our God and Saviour is said to pour out His blessings through Jesus Christ our Saviour, to see God our Saviour as the Source of our salvation and Jesus Christ our Saviour as the Channel. While Christ, then, relatively speaking, is our God (our “Placer”) and Saviour, absolutely speaking, He is not our God and Saviour.
COMMON MODALIST FALLACIES
Modalism, besides claiming that the Father is not God Himself but only a divine role, goes on to claim that, conversely, “Jesus is God.” Indeed, this latter claim is Modalism’s primary contention. Modalists, accordingly, even go so far as to claim that where we read of “the Father,” even “the God and Father of Christ,” this is actually Jesus presenting Himself in such a role. Similar claims are made as well concerning the Son, and, by many, concerning the Holy Spirit as well. The idea is that since it is Jesus Who is actually God Himself, and since by “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit,” we are to understand merely divine roles, inasmuch as these roles are roles of God and Jesus is God, they are therefore roles of Jesus!
This claim, however, is based upon the false premises that the Father is not God Himself but only a divine role, and that Jesus is God Himself. Since the premises are mistaken, the conclusion is wrong.
In order to cover a few remaining points, I wish to present the following dialog between a hypothetical (yet quite typical) Modalist and myself:
Modalist’s Claim: God dwells within Christ, Who is God Himself. Christ is God robed in a body of flesh.
My Reply: It is gloriously true that God “dwells” within Christ, which speaks of His special and abiding presence within His Anointed. But it does not follow from this, nor is it true on other grounds, that Christ is God Himself, or is God Himself in a particular form (“robed in a body of flesh”). Indeed, if “Christ” is a Being within Whom God dwells, then Christ cannot be God, since if He were there would be two Beings Who are God. But if by “Christ” you mean simply a body of flesh, physical substance, then “Christ” is not a being but a Thing. Yet if “Christ” is a Thing (simply a body, not a Person) within Which God dwells, then He (or rather, It), is not a Being. This, however, cannot be so, for since Christ (not merely Christ’s body) has the characteristics of a Being, He therefore is a Being.
Modalist’s Claim: God generated Himself within Christ.
My Reply: If Christ Himself, as I affirm, in opposition to Modalism, is a Being Who is begotten of (or generated by) another Being, God, a Being Who, as a result of generating Christ did not Himself cease to exist, then Christ is not God but is, as the Scriptures plainly declare, God’s Son. Yet if, as is claimed by Modalism, you wish to affirm that in generating Christ, God also “generated Himself” within Christ, where He now dwells, this is simply to claim anew your previous claim, which I have already proved to be false.
Modalist’s Claim: Christ has two natures; He is fully man and fully God.
My Reply: To say that Christ has two “natures” or is a Being comprised of both God and man, is to say that Christ is a Being comprised of two Beings. Such an assertion cannot be true, since the “nature” of one’s “being” is a singular concept. A being’s nature may be comprised of many particulars or entities essential to itself, but together they comprise only one nature. One being cannot consist of two beings, for one being, is one being, not two. It cannot consist of more than it is. It is as mistaken to say that even if other beings cannot have two natures Christ can have two natures, as it would be to say that if God should make a triangle it can have four sides.
Modalist’s Claim: Jesus Christ, He alone is Yahweh Elohim, the God of Israel, the one God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, apart from Whom there is none else.
My Reply: Of course “Jesus Christ, He alone is Yahweh Elohim, the God of Israel, the one God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, apart from Whom there is none else.” But it does not follow from this that Christ is identificationally Yahweh Elohim, that thus He is the one God of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Modalist’s Claim: If Jesus Christ is not the one God of Scripture, then there is Another Who is the one God instead. But this is contradictory to what you already have claimed to believe, that Jesus Christ is the one God. You worship not one God but two, and do not really believe that there is one God but two Gods. You teach that there are two Gods; that is idolatry, and you are an idolater.
My Reply: Your argument involves the fallacy of equivocation, and is therefore invalid. Hence your bold claim as well that we are idolaters, is quite unfounded. That is, since we do not affirm that, in addition to the sense in which the Father is God, Christ as well is God in this same sense, it is pointless for you to appeal to what in itself is true, the fact that there is some sense in which we believe that there are “many gods” (1 Cor.8:5), and, in certain respects, believe that the title “God” applies to Christ.
When we use an expression in one sense in one place and in another sense in another place, and yet you argue as if we used it in the same sense in both places, you are committing a fallacy of equivocation by failing to note what we actually have done, while arguing as if we did what we did not do. Anyone who is convinced by such a claim is guilty of this fallacy, and has been convicted not by truth but merely by a specious argument. The entire notion is simply an illogical inference, not a corollary, and is therefore completely invalid.
The fallacy of equivocation is involved as well in the false conclusion, commonly entertained both by Modalists and Trinitarians, that if there is one Being Who is unoriginated and supreme to Whom the title “God” applies, since this title applies to Christ (e.g., Heb.1:8; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20), He is therefore unoriginated and supreme.
GRACE FOR REALIZATION
Through artful inventions and fallacious argumentation, every false proposition may readily be “proved” and justified, indefinitely. In such cases, it is not so much conclusive proof to the contrary that is needed, but grace to accept conclusive proof to the contrary.
Hence, in the end, our prayer on behalf of all becomes simply a request that God would grant to each one an awareness that “the only true God,” is the One Whom the Lord Jesus Christ Himself addressed as “Holy Father” (John 17:11). In praying to His Father, Christ declared, “Now it is eonian life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).
The only true God is “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph.1:17). Hence, “for us there is one God, the Father, out of Whom all is . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all is” (1 Cor.8:6). Though indeed, “not in all is there this knowledge” (1 Cor.8:7), may this knowledge be in us so that we may rejoice in our Lord and glorify our God in truth.
4. For the Modalist, “either the multiple attributes and roles of God or the dual nature of Jesus Christ,” are the explanation of (i.e., the means which he employs to set aside) all that would otherwise debar his position; ibid., cf p.135.
5. ibid., cf pp.146-234, especially pp.170-198. The author considers a wide range of texts which, to non-Modalists, plainly preclude Modalism. The essence of his justification of Modalism in the face of all such passages of Scripture is simply that “Jesus had two natures–human and divine, flesh and Spirit, Son and Father” (p.198) . . . . The New Testament . . . teach[es] the dual nature of Jesus Christ and this is the key to understanding the Godhead. Once we get the revelation of who Jesus really is–namely, the God of the Old Testament robed in flesh–all the Scriptures fall into place” (p.232).
8. One may not claim the presence of such a literary device whenever one wishes to do so, simply because, considered in the abstract, such a usage, however unlikely, may be possible, or because such a claim may lend support to a certain, discrete teaching. The judgment that any such literary device is actually present should only be made on the weight of compelling, objective evidence, directly related to the passage in question.
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