Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 ~ The Lesser god Thesis

Merry Christmas To All As We Celebrate The Miraculous Birth Of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ
We Look Forward To A Blessed And Prosperous New Year!

As we examine the birth if Jesus it is more important for the believer to remember who Jesus was as it pertains to his inception and entrance into the world in a physical form. 

As in mid to late Second Century there was a controversy swirling over exactly how Jesus was divine. At the  Council Of Nicea in 325 AD Arianism was condemned as a heresy. Arius (250-336 AD) taught that Jesus was a "lesser god" and was a created being, a personification of wisdom (Prov. 8:22) whom God the father used as an agent to create the world. In other words all creation was through Jesus but he was not necessarily the architect of creation and no matter how far back his existence was pushed, the existence of the Father preceded his. This whole theology has not only led to a whole host of confusions, but also to one that is called the lesser god thesis by some in theological circles.


Who Teaches The Lesser god? 

Some of the groups that yet hold to forms and variations of this heresy are denominations such as the Jehovah's Witness and the Mormons, to name two of the more popular. Because of the belief that Jesus is a  created being ie: "lesser than God", these organizations and others are rightfully considered to be non-Christian cults. Christians believe that Jesus was equal with the Father. There are no Christians who deny this essential tenet of the faith. Unfortunately, due to media, political and social pressures, this fact and line of reasoning seems to be lost on many individuals. 

Now, notice that the thesis doesn't deny that Jesus is essential, or that he is the most important vessel of creation. It also doesn't deny that Jesus is "a god" (with a small G). However the thesis, in all forms, denies that the preexistent Christ is God and is a being co-equal with the father which is ultimately a denial of the clear claims within scripture and also a denial of the faith once established for all times.

Jesus Is Described As God Within Scripture

John 1:1-31-In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2-The same was in the beginning with God. 3-All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

There are many places and arguments that can be made from scripture that will affirm Jesus as God. I'll only deal with a few of them in this article. Feel free to add much more support in the comments section.  

Some of the most controversial scriptures regarding this subject are contained within the Gospel of John. They are controversial because they seem to be so to the point and so clear on the issue that those who dissent must change the translation to suit their beliefs. For example, in the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the identity of Jesus as the Word is revised from the King James Version at the end of the 1st verse to "the Word was a god" instead of "the Word was God". Is there any warrant for this change? I say ABSOLUTELY NOT!  

First, the translation, without warrant assumes that the scripture is speaking of a being less than the Father, calling him "god". This would be an unheard of concept in the first century Jewish society in which Christianity was birthed. First Century Jews were staunchly monotheistic. Remember, the Jews had fought a war over the desecration of their worship system and the worship of multiple gods (The Maccabean Revolt 167-160 BCE)  just a relatively short time earlier. The cultural setting and other evidence within scripture makes the teaching that John was talking about a plurality of Gods highly unlikely. 

The second part to that argument mentioned above regards the absence of the article "the" in front of "God" in the second clause of verse one, but not before "God" in the third clause of verse one. Some critics use the absence of article to denote that Jesus was a "lesser being" and certainly no co-equal with the creator. What is true is that the article "the" (Greek: ho) does not exist in the third clause of the first verse. Let me explain: Borrowing from the book, "Putting Jesus In His Place" ~ Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski [2007 Kregel Publications] pgs. 140-141 we can outline the 3 clauses of John 1:1 as follows:

1st Clause:
en arche en ho logos
in the beginning was the word

2nd Clause
kai ho logos en pros ton theon
and the word was with "the" God

3rd Clause
kai theos en ho logos
and God was the word 

As Bownam Jr. and Komoszewski point out, the critic asserts that John does not say both that the Word was with "the" God and was "the" God and call it a day assuming that their argument that the Word (which they attribute to being Jesus) was a lesser divine being stands. This is what the scholars state in response to this type of argument: 
"The translation "a god" is especially erroneous, for this very reason. variations in the biblical writings, including those of John, between theos (God) and ho theos (The God) have no effect whatsoever on the meaning of the word theos. If John had meant to signal that ho theos meant "God" and theos meant "a god" the wording in the rest of the prologue(John 1:1-18) is very strange. After verse 2, which summarizes the first two clauses of verse 1. theos appears five times in the prologue, each time without the article, and in the first four occurances everyone agrees it means "God"(vv.6,12,13,18a,18b)" ~ pg. 141 ibid.
In essence the only way that the argument can be supported is if the whole discourse is de-constructed and de-contextualized and all other verses, even those in the same general text, are stripped of their meaning. Following this line of argumentation is not only unsupportable, it is highly unwise if the object is to get to the truth.

Creator Of All Things NOT A Jr. Partner:

Isaiah 37:16 ~ "O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth."

This is just one rendering of verses within the Old Testament that affirm that God is the creator of all things. The New Testament continues in this theme but the attribution is to Jesus himself. Here is one verse among many that could be used to support our argument:

1 Corinthians 8:6 ~"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."

At this point the critic asserts that all things are "of" the Father and "by" Jesus Christ, that, at best, it only indicates a working relationship between Jesus and the Father. However, what does that do to the text and the understanding? It creates 2 Gods! Even if one is a lesser god the problem still exists that there is a complete violation of what we understand from the Old Testament that there is only ONE creator of all things!

In the text itself, Paul affirms his dedication to the these that there is by one God, the Hebrew Shema (Deut. 6:4)  in 1 Corinthians 8:4:

 "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one."

He also acknowledges that pagans believe differently in v.5

"For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)"

and then reverts to a strong statement in verse 6 to delineate the difference as referenced above. So this affirms the contextual flow of the verses. 

So what of the "from" (Greek: ek or ex) and the "through" (Greek: dia)? Certainly they must have different objects.

Not necessarily so. We find this in the following scripture:

Romans 11:36 ~ "For of [ex] him, and through [dia] him, and to [eis]  him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." 


Noone can dispute that this scripture is referring to God and his ability to subdue and bring all things and events unto himself. Therefore we understand that God IS the one at work through and in all things. So the question is how does a "lesser being" or "Jr. Partner" achieve these accolades? To render such is an unsupportable argument. 

In addition, please note that EACH of the prepositions used in 1 Cor. 8:6 are present in Romans 11:36 not only that  but they are written by the same person. What is the message?

Jesus is the FOR, the THROUGH and the BY whom all things that exist, exist. This is a strong affirmation of the deity, supremacy and work of Christ, not as a lesser god, or a jr. partner but as God himself, without question and without reservation. 

How does this refer to Jesus and yet Jesus as theantropist or God/Man that never ceases from being one to be the other, maintain and ontological distinction between he and the Father? That is a mystery and also another article, but it is biblical fact as well.

Who Is It That Dwells Among Us?

Isaiah 7:14 ~ "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." 

One thing is for sure, out of all that we don't know, there are some things that we do know. That Jesus, as God, put on the likeness of sinful flesh , was born of a young virgin and came to live among us. It was him that displayed his power over creation, the elements, sin, sickness, disease and death and rose again the third day. He didn't have to become the Son of God over time, neither did he need a committee or council to approve him. He WAS God, he IS God and he lives today.

That's the true and real meaning of Christmas and I hope that everyone comes to know that in this life. 

Merry Christmas and a blessed and Happy New Year!

5 comments:

  1. What does their bible say about this verse?

    1Ti 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

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  2. Vaughn,

    Merry Christmas my friend. It seems that "God" is replaced with "He" in the NWT.

    This is what I was able to find out about why:

    "The official teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses is that 1 Timothy 3:16 is more accurately translated as "he" or "who" rather than "god". You rightly point out that various translations render the verse differently. Jehovah's Witnesses render the verse as they do because of the belief that Jesus on earth was not god almighty, although he is believed to be god-like.

    For this reason, JWs prefer the rendering from The Emphatic Diaglott (1865) by Benjamin Wilson:
    1Ti 3:16 A pillar and basis of the truth and confessedly great is the of the piety secret. Who was manifested in flesh, was justified in spirit, was seen by messengers, was proclaimed among nations, was believed among a world, was taken up in glory."

    The problem is that translation and alternate insertion is without warrant. TO be clear, other translation do this too, they replace "God" with "He". Here's a listing of some and some commentary on the issue: 1 Tim 3:16

    The question stems over this from a literary standpoint: Whether the verse states Θεὸς Theos, "God," or whether it was ὅς hos, "who," or ὁ ho, "which."

    Now, let's just say that that remains undetermined. How else can the verse be figured out? By the context of course. What is this talking about?

    Proof 1- v. 13 says that there is great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. I would contend that the latter verses do not deviate from that premise of talking about him.

    Proof 2- If Jesus was just a man, in what other manner could he have been "manifest" other than in the flesh? To point out that a mere man was manifest in the flesh is a ridiculous waste of energy, there is no other way that flesh can be manifest.

    Proof 3- As it pertains to 2, the same goes with the other parts of the same verse especially the "believed on in the world". The construction of that phrase indicates more than a mere person's preaching being believed. Let's just assume it says "HE" for a minute. HE was believed on with no regard to his message. Why is that significant? This part exalts the "HE" (if it is "HE") to a unique status.

    So what it seems that we have by the NWT and JW's is a bias based on a preconceived notion that Jesus is not God. Whether it is "GOD" or "he" There is no scriptural warrant
    to conclude that it does not refer to God or at the very least deity which according to Christian belief could only refer to God.

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  3. JohnOneone,

    Do you think ANY of us want a reversion to the heresy of sabellianism?

    PLEASE...deal with one heresy at a time! We're dealing with Arianism in this thread, I've already dealt with Sabellianism and some of the other false interpretations that come as a result of it. Keep your advertisements to yourself please.

    How is it that anyone thinks that 20 years of study on an issue trumps 2000 years of practice and study on it? I have no clue!

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  4. Hello all!

    And thank you for this wonderful post. It could be an incorrect exegesis that I'm attempting, but I tend to relate 1 Ti 3:16 to Lev. 26:12 and other scriptures like John 1:1, 1:14, Col 1:15; 1:19; 2:9, and 2 Cor 5:19. That the Word who is God was literally in the flesh of Christ. That no man has seen God at anytime but when you have seen Christ, the Son of God you have seen the Father - the physical manifestation of God.
    And to me that also means, when the holy men of old saw God, God was manifest in Christ to those very men of the old testament. That what appears scripture points to to me. Take care

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  5. Hello Chris M,

    Thanks for commenting. Let me look at the basis of what you propose.

    You said:"That the Word who is God was literally in the flesh of Christ.

    The bible says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself:
    2 Cor. 5:19 ~ "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."

    Now, most people that believe in oneness, hear that and conclude something similar to what you present. That God being in Christ means that Christ had the Father in himself and therefore was the Father.

    But this scripture says that Christ is also in us:

    Colossians 1:27 ~ "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:"

    Now I'm sure we would both agree that Christ being IN us does not make us Christ...We are yet and still who we are and there is a distinction between God and us in every way.

    So we are challenged to understand that God being made manifest IN us in no way signifies that we are God by his person.

    This difference is called a difference of ontology or person. God was in Christ ie: Jesus for certain, but that DID NOT and DOES NOT make Jesus the Father ontologically or by his person no more than we are made the "person" of Christ by him being IN us.

    Christ is made "manifest" in us as believers. In Oneness circles, this word is often associated with a physical appearance. that is simply the wrong category for the word. "manifest" simply means revealing or revealed. The bible consistently uses the word to indicate that something is made known.

    To use this word as it pertains to Christ and God the Father is also consistent with this understanding. God is revealed to the world through and in Christ. once again this does not necessitate that God the Father is physically present in his person as Christ "reveals' the Father.

    Now this is where it gets sticky, we know that God is omnipresent, yet Jesus in the flesh was limited by location, but yet at the same time saw and knew people and things about people that he hadn't met before. (Read John 1:43-51)

    First of all, to assume that GOd could leave Jesus is not a biblical understanding of who Jesus was. God could no more leave Jesus than our spirits could leave our body and we remain living.

    All data and information considered, the best possible understanding is that Jesus, although God, is not possibly and ontologically the Father.

    So far as the post is concerned, if Jesus were anything less than God, he would only be a man and scripture is clear in that he is not just a man. So that's the primary problem with the lesser god thesis. If Jesus isn't God he is not God at all and only just a man.

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