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LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

THE CHRISTOLOGY DEBATE

A RESEARCH PAPER SUBMITTED TO PROFESSOR MARSHALL WICKS IN COMPLETION OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THEOLOGY 350

BY JOHNNY CARTER

LYNCHBURG, VA JUNE 18,2012

Introduction The Christology debate has been around for ages, and Satan has done a great job of clouding the minds of those who still doubt the humanity of Christ. The Incarnation shows how our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the preexistent Son of God, willingly emptied himself of his heavenly attributes and took on the body and nature of a human. Christ was able to become human by surrendering to the will of his Father. When Christ stepped out of glory and into his human body he limited himself to his divine power and knowledge. As a human Christ at no time stopped being God, and he never gave up his deity. As humans we have limitations and once Christ became human he to became subject to human limitations. In humanity, Christ was totally human; in deity, Jesus was unalterably God. Yet in Jesus Christ was a single, undivided personality in whom these two natures are vitally and undividedly united, so that Jesus Christ is not God and man, but the God-man.1

The Debate Throughout Christianity the one question that seems to be asked over and over again is, how could Christ be fully human and God at the same time. All Christians believe that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.2 The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central fact of

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Towns, Elmer, Theology for Today, (Belmont, Wadsworth Group, 2002) (Towns, 2002), 155 Boyd,Gregory A;Eddy,Paul R, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology,2nd ed. (GrandRapids:Baker Academic,2009),112

Christianity. Upon it the whole superstructure of Christian theology depends.3 Christians use the word Incarnation to express their belief that the birth of Jesus Christ marked the entrance of the eternal and divine Son of God into the human race. 4 Without the incarnation everything we as Christians believe in would have no merit. Throughout early church history there was much debate for and against the person of Jesus Christ. Much of the debates centered on Christs deity and his humanity. Its sad to say that even in todays society we are still having this debate. As applied to the deity of Christ, it includes all that belongs to his deity. Hence theologians speak of two natures, the human and the divine, each with its own respective attributes. 5 To get an understanding of the incarnation of Christ all one would have to do is read Philippians 2:5-7, the scripture gives the reader a clear picture of Jesus and his humanity. For the early church fathers this was a question that they couldnt give a definite answer to without much debate. So they assembled together at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD to formally discuss this question. Many things were discussed at the Council but I believe the one thing that mattered the most was the discussion of the person and nature of Christ. It was at the Council of Chalcedon where it was decreed and expressed that Jesus Christ is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God and that Christs two natures are united in one Person. This belief has remained the central position of the church ever since, a true confession of a Christology whose roots are in the soil of Holy Scripture.6 Although the earliest fathers (100-150 A.D.) did not compose detailed doctrinal treatises concerning the nature of Christ, but the writings of Clement of Rome (d. 101) and Ignatius (ca. 35-107 A.D.) in particular provide insight into what the earliest post-apostolic Christians taught. Ignatius affirmed both the deity and humanity of Christ. He went so far as to
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Walvoord, John F, Jesus Christ Our Lord, (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 1969), 96 Nash Ronald H, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Grand Rapids, Harper Collins Publishers, 1994), 85 5 Walvoord, John F, Jesus Christ Our Lord, (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 1969), 114
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Akin, Daniel, L, Martin, Ralph P, Draper, Charles W, Christology in The Holman Illustrated Dictionary (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003)

refer to Jesus as the Christ God.7. In one of Ignatiuss writings he said, Jesus, being the true Word of the Father, was the full revealer of the Father. He speaks from the Fathers silence and the Word as the Fathers mouthpiece. As such Jesus is truly God 8 The Different Views Like most debates there are always those who see things in a different way. There is nothing wrong with having different views because it makes for good conversation, and I like to think of it as a way to keep me grounded in the word. The danger of having a different view comes when we let the other view cloud our vision of what we believe. As the early church fathers were debating the Christology question there were a few scholars who would challenge the views of the early church fathers. Saying that Christ was fully God and fully human was something that many of these other groups could not grasp. The beliefs of these groups where considered heresy because their doctrine was not lining up with the doctrine of the church There are two many to name but I will mention a few. One particular challenger to the Christology belief was a young fellow by the name of Nestorius who was a student of Theodore of Mopsuestia and who later became Patriarch of Constantinople. From Nestorius came the Nestorianism movement. Nestorianism taught that the human and divine aspects of Christ were distinct natures, not unified. Nestorius also argued that God could not suffer on the cross, as he is omnipotent. Therefore, the human part of Christ died on the Cross, but not the divine. 9 To make matters

worse in the eyes of Nestorius Christ was two distinct persons. This didnt sit well with his opposing colleagues and they started saying that he was trying to separate Christ into two persons. One of those opposing colleagues was named Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril of Alexandria along with the Pope Celestine I condemned Nestorius for his teachings and they gave him ten
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Hill, Jonathan, Zondervan Handbook To The History of Christianity, (Grand Rapids, Lion Publishing, 2006), 51 New World Encyclopedia contributors, Nestorianism New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Nestorianism&oldid=687113 (accessed June 17, 2012).

days to recant his teaching or be excommunicated. It was at the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. that Nestorius was deposed. Five years later he was exiled to Upper Egypt where he died. Another person that spoke out against the Christology doctrine was Arius a North African Priest. From Arius came the Arianism movement. The movement came about in the early 4th century it became one of Christianitys most troublesome schisms10 The Arianism movement believed that Christ was not truly divine but a created being. Arius basic premise was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent, cannot be God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated, so the Son cannot be God.11 In spite of their belief the bible clears says in John 10:30 (NLT) The father and I are one. This is the clearest statement of Jesus divinity he ever made. Jesus and the Father are not the same person, but they are one in essence and nature 12 Another belief was Docetism which was probably a late first century heresy claiming that Jesus only seemed to be human. Docetism is the assertion thats Christs human body was a phantasm, and that his suffering and death were mere appearance. If he suffered he was not God; if he was God he did not suffer 13 The bible tells in 1 Peter 4:1 (NLT)- So then, since Christ suffered physical pain. Again the scripture gives us a clear picture of the humanity of Christ. Conclusion As I come to the conclusion of my paper I think back to a sermon I heard my pastor preach some years ago on an Easter Sunday. It wasnt one of his normal Easter sermons where he went to the book of Luke Chapter 24. Instead he said that he wanted to talk to everyone as if Christ and God
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Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2001), 95 Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s. v. "Arianism", accessed June 18, 2012, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/34124/Arianism.
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Life Application Study Bible, Study Notes- John10: 30 (Carol Stream, Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), 1774 Breidenbaugh Joel R. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics Docetism (Eugene, Harvest House Publishers (Hindson, 2008), 2008), 179

were stand there having a conversation about mankind. To make a long story short, God was telling Jesus how mankind had turned their back on Him and because of their sins he was going to destroy the world once again. While looking down from heaven and seeing the destruction of mankind and after thinking for a while Christ said to his Father send me. As my pastor continued to talk the next few words is what stood out to me. This began the humanity of Christ. Once Christ said that he would be the sacrificial lamb everything started to fall into place for him to come in human form. Christ started the kenosis process of emptying himself of his glory. Actually the process began when God gave his ok. Romans 8:3 (NLT) The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sins control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. After reading Romans 8 this verse gives a new meaning to John 3:16, because it really shows the genuine love of our Heavenly Father. Gods Love was so strong for mankind that he allowed his son to become covered in the sins of the world so that we might have the right to ever lasting glory. The act of kenosis as stated in Philippians 2 may therefore be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations. 14 Christ emptied himself by: 1. Veiling his glory -Jesus hid his glory when he became man in order to show his Father glory 2. Accepting the limitations of being a human- As a result of the incarnation, Jesus became the God-ma. He was at all times both God and man as he lived on earth 3. Voluntarily giving up the independent use of his relative attributes. -Self emptying took
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Walvoord, John F, Jesus Christ Our Lord, (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 1969), 144

place also by the voluntarily choice not to use certain of his attributes.15 I know that this is a hard concept to understand. Why would someone with some much empty himself of his glory for little old me. John 15:13 says- there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. Jesus had some much compassion for us that he was willing to give his life for us. You couldnt ask for a better friend. I think this bible tract called The Incomparable Christ sums up everything with regards to the deity and humanity of Christ and I would like to share it with you. The Incomparable Christ He came from the throne of the Father to the womb of a woman. He put on humanity that we might put on divinity. He became Son of Man that we might become sons of God. He was born in a supernatural way, lived in poverty, and was reared in obscurity. He had neither wealth nor influence, yet the wisdom of men has never matched His wisdom. Never has a man spoken like this man. His family was inconspicuous and uninfluential. In infancy He startled a king. As a boy He stunned theologians with his knowledge and wisdom, for He was taught of God. In manhood He ruled the elements and quieted the raging sea. He healed the multitudes without medicine, and fed thousands from a boy's lunch. Even demons obeyed Him and He gave back life to those who died. He never wrote a book, yet none of the libraries of the world could contain the books that have been written about Him. He never wrote a song, yet He has furnished the theme of more songs than all songwriters combined. He never founded a college, yet all the colleges together cannot boast of as many students as He has. He never marshaled an army yet no leader ever had more volunteers. Great men have come and gone; yet He lives on. Herod could not kill Him. Satan could not tempt Him to sin. Death could not destroy Him. The grave could not hold Him. He laid aside His purple robe
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Towns, Elmer, chap.14, under The Preexistence of Christ

for a peasant's gown. He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. He slept in another's manger; He rode on another's donkey; He was buried in another's grave. He conquered death and rose on the third day as He said He would. He ascended into heaven and is now at the right hand of the throne of God. One day He will return with power and great glory to judge the world when every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall confess Him as LordHis friends gladly, but His enemies seeking for a place to hide from His face. He is the Perfect One, the only One who can satisfy the soul. He gives everlasting life to those who love Him and obey His commandments. He is altogether lovely, and He is my Savior.16

Bibliography
Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009. Brand, Chad,Draper,Charles , England,Archie, ed. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baler Academic, 2001. Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook To The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Lion Publishing, 2006. Hindson, Ed,Caner,Ergun. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008. Mahajan, Deepti,Singh,Shiveta. "Arianism." Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/Ebchecked/topic/34124/Arianism (accessed June 18, 2012). Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. New World Encyclopedia Contributors. Nestorianism. April 3, 2008. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Nestorianism&oldid=687113 (accessed June 17, 2012). "The Incomparable Christ." The Tract League. http:// tractleague.com/tracts/the-incomparable-christ/ (accessed June 18, 2012).
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The Tract League The Incomparable Christ (#205) http://tractleague.com/tracts/the-incomparable-christ/ (accessed June 18,2012) (The Incomparable Christ)

8 Towns, Elmer. Concise Bible Doctrines. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2006. . Theology for Today. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group, 2002. Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago, Il: Moody Publsihers.