Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
William Lane Craig (born August 23, 1949) is a leading American Christian apologist and analytic philosopher. He works in the philosophy of religion, philosophy of time, and the defense of Christian theism. He revived interest in the Kalām cosmological argument with his 1979 publication of The Kalām Cosmological Argument, an argument for the existence of God with origins in medieval Islamic scholasticism. In theology, he has also defended Molinism and the belief that God is, since Creation, subject to time.
Craig has authored or edited over 30 books, including The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz(1980), Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (with Quentin Smith, 1993), Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (with J.P. Moreland, 2003), Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (2008), and The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (with J.P. Moreland, 2009).
My CV is that I am able to take him on, in any subject of theology, wherein we differ, with ease and comfort. I attribute my strength, if any, to the excellence of the teachings of the Holy Quran.
In reference to recent Christmas celebrations, I came across information that an article by William Lane Craig was trending in Twitter, a day before Christmas. The article is titled, The Birth of God.
Here I am reproducing his article in its entirety and refuting his presentation point by point. His speech, The Birth of God, has been changed into an article and is available on his website, at the time of my writing.
William Lane Craig
Does it make sense to say that Christmas marks the birth of God? This question evokes the primary theological debates of the fourth and fifth centuries – how Jesus Christ can be considered both human and divine. Below, Dr. Craig offers his understanding of how Jesus’ divine and human natures join together in a single person, how His human frailties and experiences were deep and meaningful, and how one can cogently hold to celebrating “the birth of God” at Christmastime.
Yes, it does not make sense to suggest that God is born. For the God of Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam is eternal and cannot be born. Something born is created and God is an Eternal Creator and not created.
A human and God cannot be combined. Can you think of an apple that is also a monkey? Human vulnerabilities cannot coexist when combined with All Knowing wisdom of God. We can celebrate the birth of Jesus, may peace be on him, an honorable and true prophet, but he cannot be God if he is passing through the birth canal, very simple, if attributes of God have any cogent meaning.
William Lane Craig
Tonight I’ve been asked to speak on “The Birth of God.” The title is jarring because it seems unintelligible. How can God, the uncreated Creator of all things, have a birth? How can a being which is self-existent and eternal, the Creator of time and space, be born? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.
Prof. William Lane Craig is perfectly right, “It doesn’t seem to make any sense.” Period. It would have been wonderful if he had stopped here.
In logical terms Jesus cannot be eternal and born, eternal and yet literal son to God the Father, or man and God at the same time. Like a man cannot be a rock or an apple, at the same time; men, rocks and apples are different things!
Humans and God are different things, but the paradoxical Christian affirmation is called a mystery because you cannot logically explain how Jesus can be both things at once. This is why the rational and insightful Christian theologians label the Christian dogma as mysteries for you cannot logically understand them. Either you adamantly stick to them in the name of faith or you trade them for some other better theology!
Ignatius of Antioch is one of the pioneers of these paradoxical views, to argue with Ebionites on the one hand and Marcionites on the other hand as the Christian doctrines were being born, in the first two centuries after Jesus crucifixion. Ignatius writes, “There is one physician who is both fleshly and spiritual, he is born and unborn, he is God come in the flesh, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond suffering, Jesus Christ our Lord!” He does not explain how Jesus could be both things at once, both mortal and immortal, both human and Divine, both born and unborn, but, over the centuries as these dogma have been indoctrinated into billions of minds, the naive now find these ideas common place and take them for granted.
This is how Christianity took birth to be rational and irrational at the same time and this is the mystery or alchemy, all Christian apologists have practiced ever since and William Lane Craig is no exception to the rule.
Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
William Lane Craig
And yet at Christmas this is, in a way, precisely what Christians celebrate. The Christian doctrine of the incarnation states that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Jesus was thus truly God as well as truly man. He was born of the virgin Mary; that is to say, Jesus had a supernatural conception but a perfectly natural birth. Since Jesus was God in the flesh, his mother Mary is therefore called in the early Christian creeds “the Mother of God,” or the “God-bearer.” This isn’t because God somehow came into existence as a result of Mary’s conceiving or that Mary somehow procreated God. Rather Mary could be called the God-bearer because the person she bore in her womb and gave birth to was divine. Thus, Jesus’ birth in this sense was the birth of God.
Despite the fact that in later traditions mother Mary is raised to the station of “the Mother of God,” we find very little mention of her in the Gospels. She is not even included in the list of twelve apostles and whereas thirteen books in the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul, we do not find any book attributed to alleged “the Mother of God.” Incidentally, it is important to remember that one of the chapters in the Holy Quran is named after her. In a recent article, Jesus and Mary: It’s complicated, Jay Parini, in otherwise a devotional article for the indoctrinated, lays out the lack of coverage of mother Mary in the Gospel narratives, “Much that we think about Mary, in fact, is the stuff of legend — things added to her story by later Christian writers and artists. The Gospels offer only a few glimpses of her, beginning in Bethlehem, by the manger.”
If you thought changing of a man into God was difficult, you may want to examine, how difficult is changing of a woman into “the Mother of God” in an article, Maria: Pope Benedict XVI on the Mother of God.
Christian apologists believe in constant mixing of metaphors and obfuscation of issues at hand. Despite the fact that in this article William Lane Craig is describing two natures of Jesus, divine and human, as Mary gives birth to Jesus the man, Craig calls it, “Thus, Jesus’ birth in this sense was the birth of God.” He conveniently ignores that the divine nature of Jesus is eternal and always existed. So, in strange mixing of metaphors and professing of contradictory ideas, mixing of rational with irrational the procession of Christianity marches forward. Sometimes it is a mystery and sometimes a demonstrable reality. Now you see it and now you do not!
William Lane Craig
But that only pushes the problem back a notch. For how can Jesus be both God and man, as Christians believe? If anything appears to be a contradiction, surely this is it! For the properties of being divine and the properties of being human seem to be mutually exclusive, to shut each other out. God is self-existent, necessary, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and so on. But human beings are created, dependent, time-bound, and limited in power, knowledge, and space. So how can one person be both human and divine?
William Lane Craig has said it well, when he asked the question, “How can Jesus be both God and man, as Christians believe? If anything appears to be a contradiction, surely this is it!”
But, he went on to give an absurd answer.
Of course, Jesus cannot be a man and god at the same time, like a rock cannot be an apple and a monkey at the same time. Monkey can sit on a rock and eat an apple, but, cannot be a rock or an apple.
However, a monkey can be fossilized and become a rock, a Christian apologist may say and an apple may be fossilized in his or her stomach at the same time.
This is the kind of argumentation one has to become familiar with if one spends enough time reading literature created by the Christian apologists.
For rational minds, it is self evident that a rock cannot be an apple and a monkey at the same time.
William Lane Craig
Birth of God – The Bible describes Jesus as both human and divine
The Bible does not describe him as such, but the Trinitarian Christians choose to read it in that sense and all the literature created by the Unitarian Christians is my witness.
Here I link two books by Sir Anthony Buzzard, The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound and Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian.
Jesus calls himself repeatedly in the Gospels as son of man and Trinitarians choose to ignore the term or interpret it in strange colors.
I want to thank Pope Benedict XVI for bringing out the fact that in the first gospel, which is the Gospel of Mark and was the first to be written after Jesus’ crucifixion, around 70 AD, the term ‘son of man,’ occurs no less than 14 times on the lips of Jesus. This highlights that the synoptic gospel of Mark is far more accurate in presenting the status of Jesus than the gospel of John written three decades later! The Ex. Pope Benedict XI writes:
Son of man – this mysterious term is the title that Jesus most frequently uses to speak of himself. In the Gospel of Mark alone the term occurs fourteen times on Jesus’ lips. In fact, in the whole of the New Testament, the term ‘son of man’ is found only on Jesus’ lips, with the single exception of the vision of the open heavens that is granted to the dying Stephen: ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56). At the moment of his death, Stephen sees what Jesus had foretold during his trial before the Sanhedrin: ‘You will see the son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Mk 14:62). Stephen is therefore actually ‘citing’ a saying of Jesus, the truth of which he is privileged to behold at the very moment of his martyrdom.
The Pope himself has conceded that the Christology of the New Testament writers, including the Evangelists, built not on the title ‘son of man;’ but on the titles that were mostly developed after his crucifixion. Jesus was son of man, during his lifetime and he was put on the cross with the caption ‘King of the Jews;’ his divinity was a later invention and that is why we find it in Gospel of John rather than Gospel of Mark and the other synoptic gospels.
William Lane Craig
Now in case the Christian hard-pressed by this question is tempted to avoid the problem simply by denying that Jesus was really divine or denying that he was really human, let me say that the Bible doesn’t leave that option open to us. The New Testament affirms both the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ and so forces the problem upon us. Take, for example, the opening chapter of John’s gospel. The gospels of Matthew and Luke open with the story of Jesus’ supernatural conception and virgin birth; but John’s gospel takes a more cosmic perspective, in which he describes the incarnation of the pre-existent Word of God. He writes,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. . . .
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Here John describes Jesus as “God,” the Creator of all things, who became flesh and entered human history about 2,000 years ago in the land of Judea. Thus, the implication is inescapable, as well as the problem it poses: Jesus was both human and divine.
As succeeding generations in the early church struggled to understand the doctrine of the incarnation, some people resolved this apparent contradiction only at the expense of denying one or the other pole of the biblical teaching. Groups such as the Gnostics or the Docetists, for example, denied that Christ was truly human. He merely appeared to take on human form; the flesh of Christ was merely an illusion or a disguise, and his supposed sufferings merely apparent. On the other hand, groups like the Adoptionists or the Eutychians denied instead the true divinity of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was just a mortal man whom God adopted as His Son and assumed into heaven. In opposition to these groups on the left and on the right, the early church repeatedly condemned as heretical any denial of either Christ’s humanity or his deity. However contradictory or mysterious it might seem, theologians staunchly stood by the biblical affirmation that Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man.
It is convenient to read some mythical or legendary Jesus, in the prologue of the Gospel of John, but as soon as we start examining the ramifications of divinity of Jesus and the three persons and one being of Trinity, flood gates of contradictions and irrationality open up, that completely wash away any semblance of reasonability in the Christian theology!
William Lane Craig
Birth of God – The debate over the nature of Christ
In time there eventually emerged in the early church two centers of theological debate about the incarnation, one in the city of Alexandria in Egypt and the other in the city of Antioch in Syria. Both schools of thought were united in affirming that Jesus Christ was both human and divine; but each offered a different way of understanding the incarnation. Let me try to explain them because these views will serve as a springboard for my own proposal later on.
Both the Alexandrian and the Antiochean theologians presupposed that things have natures, that is to say, essential properties which determine what kind of thing something is. For example, a horse has a different nature than a pig, and both of these are different from a human nature. According to the great Greek philosopher Aristotle the nature of a human being is to be a rational animal. This meant that a human being is essentially composed of a rational soul and a physical body. This understanding of human nature was accepted by the theologians of both Alexandria and Antioch alike. Moreover, God, on this view, also has a nature, which includes such properties as being self-existent, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and so forth.
Now the dispute between Alexandria and Antioch basically boiled down to this: did Jesus Christ have one nature or two natures? The theologians of Alexandria argued that the incarnate Christ had one nature which was a blend of divine and human properties. One of the most ingenious proposals to come out of this school was offered by the bishop Apollinarius, who died about A.D. 390. Apollinarius proposed that in the incarnation God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, took on a human body, so that Jesus Christ had a human body but a divine mind or soul. God thus came to experience the world through a human body and to suffer in this body, while remaining sinless and infallible in His person. Christ thus had a divine-human nature and so was both God and man.
The Antiochean theologians attacked Apollinarius’ view on two grounds. First, they argued that on Apollinarius’ view Christ did not have a complete human nature. He only had a human body. But his soul was divine. Being truly human involves having both a human body and soul. What distinguishes man from the animals is his rational soul, not his physical body. The Antiochean theologians therefore charged that on Apollinarius’ view the incarnation amounts to God’s becoming an animal, not a man. Their second objection was related to the first. Since the purpose of the incarnation was the salvation of humanity, if Christ did not truly become a man, then salvation was nullified. The whole rationale behind the incarnation was that by becoming one of us and identifying with his fellow-men Christ could offer his sinless life to God as a sacrificial offering on our behalf. On the cross Jesus Christ was our substitute; he bore the penalty of sin that we deserved. Jesus is thus the Savior of all who place their trust in him. But if Christ was not truly human, then he could not serve as our representative before God, and his suffering was null and void, and there is no salvation. By denying Christ’s full humanity, Apollinarius undermined salvation through Christ. For these reasons in the year 377 Apollinarius’ view was condemned as heretical. The question which remains, I think, is whether Apollinarius’ view is totally bankrupt or whether it did not contain a valuable kernel of truth which is still salvageable.
What alternative, then, did the Antiochean theologians have to offer? In contrast to Alexandria, the theologians of Antioch insisted that in the incarnation Christ had two complete natures, one human and one divine. They held that God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, in some sense indwelt the human being Jesus from the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb. One prominent bishop of the Antiochean school named Nestorius therefore objected to Mary’s being called “the God-bearer” because what she bore was the human nature of Christ, not God. Christ’s human nature included both a human body and soul, which were somehow assumed or possessed by God the Son.
The problem with the Antiochean view in the minds of its Alexandrian opponents was that it seemed to imply that there were two persons in Christ. First, there’s the divine person, the second person of the Trinity, who existed prior to Mary’s miraculous conception. Second, there’s the human person who was conceived and borne by Mary. So you seem to have two persons, one human and one divine! Think of it this way: a human person is constituted by a body and a soul. So if Jesus had a complete human nature, including a human body and a human soul, why wouldn’t there be a human person, who began to exist at the moment of his conception and who was then indwelt by God the Son? But in that case you don’t have a real incarnation, all you have is just a human being indwelt by God. The hapless Nestorius was therefore branded by his critics as destroying the unity of Christ’s person, and so his view was condemned as heretical in 431.
So, here I will examine the debates and history before the Council of Chalcedon, in the year 451 CE.
Apollinarism or Apollinarianism was a view proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390 CE) that Jesus could not have had a human mind; rather, that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind.
The Trinity had been recognized at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, but debate about exactly what it meant continued. A rival to the more common belief that Jesus Christ had two natures was monophysitism (“one nature”), the doctrine that Christ had only one nature. Apollinarism andEutychianism were two forms of monophysitism. Apollinaris’ rejection that Christ had a human mind was considered an over-reaction to Arianism and its teaching that Christ was not divine.
Theodoret charged Apollinaris with confounding the persons of the Godhead, and with giving in to the heretical ways of Sabellius. Basil of Caesarea accused him of abandoning the literal sense of the scripture, and taking up wholly with the allegorical sense. His views were condemned in aSynod at Alexandria, under Athanasius of Alexandria, in 362 CE, and later subdivided into several different heresies, the main ones of which were the Polemians and the Antidicomarianites.
It was declared to be a heresy in 381 CE by the First Council of Constantinople, since Christ was officially depicted as fully human and fully God. Followers of Apollinarianism were accused of attempting to create a tertium quid (“third thing,” neither God nor man).
Nestorius developed his Christological views as an attempt to rationally explain and understand the incarnation of the divine Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as the man Jesus Christ. He had studied at the School of Antioch where his mentor had been Theodore of Mopsuestia; Theodore and other Antioch theologians had long taught a literalist interpretation of the Bible and stressed the distinctiveness of the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius took his Antiochene leanings with him when he was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople by Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II in 428.
Nestorius’ teachings became the root of controversy when he publicly challenged the long-used title Theotokos (Bringer forth of God) for the Virgin Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ’s full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two persons, the divine Logos and the human Jesus. As such he proposed Christotokos (Bringer forth of Christ) as a more suitable title for Mary.
Nestorius’ opponents found his teaching too close to the heresy of adoptionism – the idea that Christ had been born a man who had later been “adopted” as God’s son. Nestorius was especially criticized by Cyril, Pope (Patriarch) of Alexandria, who argued that Nestorius’ teachings undermined the unity of Christ’s divine and human natures at the Incarnation. Some of Nestorius’ opponents argued that he put too much emphasis on the human nature of Christ, and others debated that the difference that Nestorius implied between the human nature and the divine nature created a fracture in the singularity of Christ, thus creating two Christ figures. Nestorius himself always insisted that his views were orthodox, though they were deemed heretical at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 CE, leading to the Nestorian Schism, when churches supportive of Nestorius and the rest of the Christian Church separated. A more elaborate Nestorian theology developed from there.
What William Lane Craig and present day Catholics and Protestants are proposing, is no more rational or logical than Nestorius’ presentation was. If he was a heretic, so are they.
Whether it is two natures in one person or two persons merged together, both are equally absurd, for all of us are one person with one nature.
If any of my readers has multiple personalities, I would suggest psychological evaluation. I have a few psychiatrist friends.
The Transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths is beyond time, space and matter as is understood in the Unitarian Christian tradition, Judaism and Islam or as God the Father in the Trinitarian tradition.
William Lane Craig
Birth of God – Two complete natures in one person
So what was to be done? In order to settle the dispute between Antioch and Alexandria an ecumenical council was convened at Chalcedon in the year 451. The statement issued by the Council is a profound and careful delineation of the channel markers for an orthodox doctrine of the incarnation. It seeks to affirm what is correct in both schools’ views while condemning where they go wrong. Basically, the statement affirms with Antioch the diversity of Christ’s natures but with Alexandria the unity of his person: one person having two natures. Let me read for you the Council’s statement.
We. . . confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhood and also perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhood, and consubstantial with us according to the manhood, like us in all things except sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhood, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood, one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-Begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference of the natures being by no means taken away because of the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not divided or separated into two Persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ. . . .
So according to this statement, Christ is one person with two natures, human and divine. The twin errors to be avoided are dividing the person and confusing the natures. The natures are distinct and complete, and the person is one in number.
Now notice that the Council’s statement does not presume to explain how one person can have two natures, one human and one divine. That’s left to further theological debate. But what the Council insisted on is that if we’re to have a biblical doctrine of the incarnation, we must neither fracture Christ’s person into two persons nor blend his two natures into one nature.
In this section I will examine the Council of Chalcedon or the Fourth Ecumenical Council and a Council preceding this to give readers the context of Council of Chalcedon. I have borrowed these details from Wikipedia article written mostly by the Christian authors, as the Muslims seldom take interest in Church’s history.
On August 8, 449 CE the Second Council of Ephesus began its first session with Dioscorus presiding by command of the Emperor. Dioscorus began the council by banning all members of the November 447 CE synod which had deposed Eutyches. He then introduced Eutyches who publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Of the 130 assembled bishops, 111 voted to rehabilitate Eutyches. Throughout these proceedings, Roman legate Hilary repeatedly called for the reading of Leo’s Tome, but was ignored. Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, Dioscorus called for a pro-monophysite mob to enter the church and assault Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian was mortally wounded. Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. Fearing the mob, they all did. The papal legates refused to attend the second session at which several more orthodox bishops were deposed, including Ibas of Edessa, Irenaeus of Tyre (a close personal friend of Nestorius), Domnus of Antioch, and Theodoret. Dioscorus then pressed his advantage by having Cyril of Alexandria‘s Twelve Anathemas posthumously declared orthodox with the intent of condemning any confession other than one nature in Christ. Roman Legate Hilary, who as pope dedicated an oratory in the Lateran Basilica in thanks for his life, managed to escape from Constantinople and brought news of the Council to Leo who immediately dubbed it a “synod of robbers”—Latrocinium—and refused to accept its pronouncements. The decisions of this council now threatened schism between the East and the West.
The situation continued to deteriorate, with Leo demanding the convocation of a new council and Emperor Theodosius II refusing to budge, all the while appointing bishops in agreement with Dioscorus. All this changed dramatically with the Emperor’s death and the elevation of Marcian, an orthodox Christian, to the imperial throne. To resolve the simmering tensions, Marcian announced his intention to hold a new council. Leo had pressed for it to take place in Italy, but Emperor Marcian instead called for it to convene at Nicaea. Hunnish invasions forced it to move at the last moment to Chalcedon, where the council opened on October 8, 451 CE. Marcian had the bishops deposed by Dioscorus returned to their dioceses and had the body of Flavian brought to the capital to be buried honorably.
The Emperor asked Leo to preside over the council, but Leo again chose to send legates in his place. This time, Bishops Paschasinus of Lilybaeum and Julian of Cos and two priests Boniface and Basil represented the western church at the council. The Council of Chalcedon condemned the work of the Robber Council and professed the doctrine of the Incarnation presented in Leo’s Tome. Attendance at this council was very high, with about 370 bishops (or presbyters representing bishops) attending. Paschasinus refused to give Dioscorus (who had excommunicated Leo leading up to the council) a seat at the council. As a result, he was moved to the nave of the church. Paschasinus further ordered the reinstatement of Theodoret and that he be given a seat, but this move caused such an uproar among the council fathers, that Theodoret also sat in the nave, though he was given a vote in the proceedings, which began with a trial of Dioscorus.
Marcian wished to bring proceedings to a speedy end, and asked the council to make a pronouncement on the doctrine of the Incarnation before continuing the trial. The council fathers, however, felt that no new creed was necessary, and that the doctrine had been laid out clearly in Leo’s Tome. They were also hesitant to write a new creed as the Council of Ephesus had forbidden the composition or use of any new creed. The second session of the council ended with shouts from the bishops, “It is Peter who says this through Leo. This is what we all of us believe. This is the faith of the Apostles. Leo and Cyril teach the same thing.” However, during the reading of Leo’s Tome, three passages were challenged as being potentially Nestorian, and their orthodoxy was defended by using the writings of Cyril. Nonetheless due to such concerns, the Council decided to adjourn and appoint a special committee to investigate the orthodoxy of Leo’s Tome, judging it by the standard of Cyril’s Twelve Chapters, as some of the bishops present raised concerns about their compatibility. This committee was headed by Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and was given five days to carefully study the matter; Cyril’s Twelve Chapters were to be used as the orthodox standard. The committee unanimously decided in favor of the orthodoxy of Leo, determining that what he said was compatible with the teaching of Cyril. A number of other bishops also entered statements to the effect that they believed that Leo’s Tome was not in contradiction with the teaching of Cyril as well.
The council continued with Dioscorus’ trial, but he refused to appear before the assembly. As a result, he was condemned, but by an underwhelming amount (more than half the bishops present for the previous sessions did not attend his condemnation), and all of his decrees were declared null. Marcian responded by exiling Dioscorus. All of the bishops were then asked to sign their assent to the Tome, but a group of thirteen Egyptians refused, saying that they would assent to “the traditional faith”. As a result, the Emperor’s commissioners decided that a credo would indeed be necessary and presented a text to the fathers. No consensus was reached, and indeed the text has not survived to the present. Paschasinus threatened to return to Rome to reassemble the council in Italy. Marcian agreed, saying that if a clause were not added to the credo supporting Leo’s doctrine, the bishops would have to relocate. The bishops relented and added a clause, saying that, according to the decision of Leo, in Christ there are two natures united, inconvertible, inseparable.
The Confession of Chalcedon provides a clear statement on assumed human and divine nature of Christ:
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; (ἐν δύο φύσεσιν ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως – in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter) the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosopon) and one Subsistence (hypostasis), not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεόν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Unfortunately, William Lane Craig is invoking the Council of Chalcedon, as if the Council gave some rational and philosophical explanation of two natures of Jesus. Not at all. The Council was only about political maneuvering to come to some sort of consensus on the issue and those who did not agree were excluded and labeled as Monophysites. Traditionally the Monophysites or the “non-Chalcedonian” are the Oriental Orthodox churches—the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Syriac Orthodox Partriachate of Antioch and All the East, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Encyclopedia Britannica explains the Monophysite position for us and what happened at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451 CE:
The Christological position called monophysitism asserted that in the person of Jesus Christ there was only one, divine nature rather than two natures, divine and human, as asserted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the development of the doctrine of the person of Christ during the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, several divergent traditions had arisen. Chalcedon adopted a decree declaring that Christ was to be “acknowledged in two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated.” This formulation was directed in part against the Nestorian doctrine—that the two natures in Christ had remained separate and that they were in effect two persons—and in part against the theologically unsophisticated position of the monk Eutyches, who had been condemned in 448 for teaching that, after the Incarnation, Christ had only one nature and that, therefore, the humanity of the incarnate Christ was not of the same substance as that of other human beings. Political and ecclesiastical rivalries as well as theology played a role in the decision of Chalcedon to depose and excommunicate the patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus (d. 454). The church that supported Dioscorus and insisted that his teaching was consistent with the orthodox doctrine of St. Cyril of Alexandria was labeled monophysite.
In this day and age of information, with our well developed biology and psychology, Monophysite position would have been easier to defend, calling Jesus divine and taking him out of realm of our sciences, but historically, it was not to be.
The history of debate about the nature of Jesus in the first six centuries and then again at the time of Protestant reformation, has set the Christian theology, for a check mate in our age of information, when biologically speaking, we really understand what humans are and what human flesh means and the obvious conclusion that divine flesh is an oxymoron.
The other trick that William Lane Craig is playing on the naive in this section is that he is also invoking Biblical authority, as if the Bible has been preserved over time and offers a uniform position on issues despite the fact that it has been written by scores of writers, separated in space and time. Here the work of Prof. Bart Ehrman comes to our rescue and his books can be easily bought in Amazon.com and his videos and debates viewed free of cost in Youtube.
William Lane Craig
So the question is: can this be done? Can a logically coherent and biblically faithful account of the incarnation be constructed? Many would deem this an impossible task. The incarnation is a doctrine that you either reject as a contradiction or accept as a mystery. I disagree. I think that a logically coherent and biblically faithful account of the incarnation can be constructed. And that is what I propose to outline briefly for you now. I’ll develop it in three steps.
In his overconfidence, William Lane Craig has gone against two thousand years of Christian tradition. Christian apologists have called incarnation, Trinity, resurrection, Eucharist as mysteries, which cannot be rationally explained and have to be affirmed on blind faith.
William Lane Craig is sticking his neck out to bask in the praise of the faithful for a job well done.
He seems to be going against the advice of a well known apologist, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, who preceded him two centuries ago.
It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.
In my experience, Christian missionaries and apologists use logic and reason, only for bait and switch, because their real emphasis is on ‘faith’ only and their biggest tools are not rational dialogue and debate but propaganda and advertisement.
William Lane Craig
Birth of God – Rationality is shared by both Christ’s natures
I hope under this heading of William Lane Craig, which I have given a red color or is it blue, Craig means what he says? We would assume that this heading means that both natures of Jesus are rational and they can rationally co-exist and that Craig is going to demonstrate it to us in his three steps, how finite can co-exist with Infinite and limited knowledge with Omniscience.
At the end of the three steps, we will see, how aptly Craig has achieved his goal, without invoking Ignatius of Antioch and his ways of mixing the contradictory.
William Lane Craig
Step 1: Affirm with the Council of Chalcedon that Christ is one person who has two natures. The incarnation should not be thought of as God’s turning Himself into a human being. The incarnation is totally unlike stories in ancient mythology of the gods’ turning themselves into men or animals for a time and then reverting to being gods again. Christ was not first God, then a human being, then God again. Rather he was God and man simultaneously. The incarnation was therefore not a matter of subtraction—of God’s giving up certain attributes in order to become a man. Rather the incarnation is a matter of addition—of God’s taking on in addition to the divine nature He already had another, distinct nature as well, a human nature, so that in the incarnation God the Son came to have two natures, one divine, which he had always had from eternity, and one human, which began at the moment of its conception in Mary’s womb. Thus, he had all the properties of divinity and all the properties of humanity.
The question is: how can one person have two natures like this? That leads me to my second step.
Let me conclude by dwelling on the deepest underlying disagreement that undergirds this controversy about the Lord’s Supper. It’s the deepest underlying disagreement because it’s about Christ, and there’s nothing deeper in the Christian faith than what you think about Christ. (No, Controversy is special and deep not because it is about Jesus but because it challenges human rationality on both sides of the debate, both parties need to surrender their rationality in keeping with the advice of Kierkgaard.) Remember how I mentioned this a few minutes ago for Calvin, Christ’s body is up in heaven. It’s not located in the bread; the bodily presence is not in the bread, it’s in heaven at God’s right hand. The spiritual presence might be in the bread, but his bodily presence is at God’s right hand up in heaven. So, the Reformed would argue against Luther, and this is already back in Zwingli; Zwingli makes this argument: ‘How can Christ’s body be literally present in the bread if it’s up in heaven?’Luther’s answer is this: ‘What do you think God’s right hand is? Christ is at God’s right hand in heaven. Where’s that?’ Luther says, “That’s everywhere. You don’t think that Christ’s body is up in the planet Mars? Where did it go, up into outer space? Up in the moon, up in one of the stars? No, he’s at God’s right hand, and God’s hand is omnipresent. It’s everywhere,’ so the name for this distinctively Lutheran doctrine about the omnipresence of Christ’s body is called ubiquity, which is Latin for ‘everywhere,’ but notice how distinctive and constrained this doctrine is. Where is the human body of Christ located, according to Luther? Everywhere, not just Christ’s divinity. Of course, God is everywhere; every Christian believes that, but Christ’s human body is present everywhere, at least potentially and maybe actually. (A human body with omnipresence, go figure!)And why? How in the world can a human body be present everywhere? ‘It’s at Gods right hand, just like the creed says,’ Luther says, and also, ‘Think about the nature of Christ’s body. It is the body of God. Christ’s body is the flesh of God and, therefore, like God, it is everywhere.’ In contrast, the Calvinists will say: ‘No, Christ’s body is a human body, and therefore it’s in one place, like all human bodies. It wouldn’t be a human body if it wasn’t in one place, and that means that Christ as the second person of the trinity, Christ as the divine Son of God, is present everywhere, while his body is present only in one place.’ So, Christ as God is present outside the flesh of the human being Jesus, because Christ as God is present everywhere, and the human Jesus is not. (The hybrid of Jesus is some sort of amalgam of omni-present or infinite being with the finite fleshy human existence; what a mystery and what stubborn insistence of Trinitarians to hold onto these views!)This presence outside Christ’s body is called the extra Calvinisticum; that’s the label that later Lutheran theologians gave it, extra meaning ‘outside,’ Calvinisticum meaning ‘those dirty rotten Calvinists said that you can find the eternal second person of the trinity, the Son of God, apart from the flesh of Christ, as if he existed outside the flesh of Christ, as if there was any God outside the flesh of Christ.’ The Lutherans want to say you’ll never find God apart from the human body of the incarnate God. What they’re doing is they’re insisting very strongly on the unity of Christ’s person. Christ is one person; he has a divine nature and a human nature, two natures but one person, and therefore the characteristics of one nature will kind of spill over to another nature-so, Christ has a divine nature, which is omnipresent, and that omnipresence spills over into his human nature, making it also omnipresent, ubiquitous, so that Christ’s human body, being the body of God, is present everywhere. (Again, the hybrid of Jesus is some sort of amalgam of omni-present or infinite being with the finite fleshy human existence; what a mystery and what stubborn insistence of Trinitarians to hold onto these views!)This spilling over is called communicatio idiomatum, in Latin and Greek. It’s actually a Latinized Greek phrase that literally means ‘the sharing of properties.’ The divine property of omnipresence is shared with the human property of the human nature of Christ. The divine property of omnipresence is shared with the human nature, so that the body of Christ is literally everywhere. The Calvinists say there is a communicatio idiomatum, but it doesn’t go so far. Don’t be so literal about this. The Calvinists will emphasize not so much the oneness of the person as the distinction of the natures. There are two natures of Christ; they say two natures. The divine nature is not the human nature, so the human nature of Christ remains truly human, which means it has to be in one place, just like all human bodies have to be in one place.If you take the human body of Jesus and make it everywhere, then you’re de-naturing the human body of Jesus. It’s no longer a human body; it’s some kind of magical, strange amalgam. It’s not a human body anymore, so the Calvinists want to maintain the distinction between these two natures. The Lutherans insist on the unity of the one person. And, of course, all Orthodox Christians agree there’s one person, two natures, and there’s always this kind of disagreement about which to emphasize more. The Lutherans emphasize the one person, the Calvinists emphasize the (Are the words the ‘distinction between the’ missing here?) two natures, and that’s a deep disagreement about the nature of Christ. You can’t get a deeper disagreement in Christianity than about the nature of Christ.
Muslim case can be made by reviewing debates between Luther and Calvin, without articulating it ourselves.
William Lane Craig
Step 2: Affirm with Apollinarius that the soul of Jesus Christ was God the Son. What Apollinarius rightly saw was that the best way to avoid the Nestorian fallacy of having two persons in Christ is to postulate some common constituent shared by his human nature and his divine nature, so that these two natures overlap, so to speak. On Apollinarius’ proposal that common constituent was the soul of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, Apollinarius apparently didn’t think that Christ possessed a complete human nature, which, as his critics rightly saw, undermined Christ’s humanity and his saving work.
But are these shortcomings of Apollinarius’ view irremediable? I don’t think so. Recall what human nature is: to be human is to be a rational animal. Since God doesn’t have a body, He does not have an animal nature. But God is the ultimate rational mind. Therefore God the Son already possessed prior to his incarnation rationality and personhood. Therefore, in taking on a human body God the Son brought to the physical body of Christ precisely those properties which would elevate it from a mere animal nature to a complete human nature, composed of body and rational soul. The human nature of Christ cannot even exist independently of its union with God the Son; there would just be a corpse or a zombie. The humanity of Christ comes into being precisely through the union of God the Son with his flesh. Thus, Christ does have two complete natures after all: a divine nature, which pre-existed from eternity, and a human nature, which came into being in Mary’s womb in virtue of the union of God the Son with the flesh.
This reformulation nullifies the traditional objections to Apollinarianism. For, first, Christ does have on this view two complete natures, divine and human, including a rational soul and a body. Second, as a result Christ is truly human, and so his death on our behalf is valid. Notice that Christ is not merely human, since he was also divine, but he was nevertheless truly human and so could stand as our proxy before God, bearing our punishment so that we might be freed.
So far so good! Still, the proposal is not yet adequate. For if the soul of Jesus Christ was God the Son, how can we make sense of the biblical portrait of Jesus as someone having an authentic human consciousness, developing from infancy to manhood? Doesn’t my proposal imply that Jesus was like some kind of superman, not susceptible to human limitations? That leads to my third step.
Let me quote Encyclopedia Britannica for the sake of repetition to better understand Apollinaris:
Apollinaris The Younger, Latin Apollinarius (born c. 310—died c. 390), bishop of Laodicea who developed the heretical position concerning the nature of Christ called Apollinarianism. With his father, Apollinaris the Elder. …
Apollinaris denied the existence in Christ of a rational human soul, a position he took to combat Arianism. Excommunicated from the church for his views, Apollinaris was readmitted but in 346 excommunicated a second time. Nevertheless the Nicene congregation at Laodicea chose him as bishop (c. 361).
The Catholic website describes Apollinaris’ teachings as follows:
Apollinaris based his theory on two principles or suppositions, one ontological or objective, and one psychological or subjective.Ontologically, it appeared to him that the union of complete God with complete man could not be more than a juxtaposition or collocation. Two perfect beings with all their attributes, he argued, cannot be one. They are at most an incongruous compound, not unlike the monsters of mythology. Inasmuch as the Nicene faith forbade him to belittle the Logos, as Arius had done, he forthwith proceeded to maim the humanity of Christ, and divest it of its noblest attribute, and this, he claimed, for the sake oftrue Unity and veritable Incarnation. Psychologically, Apollinaris, considering the rational soul or spirit as essentially liable tosin and capable, at its best, of only precarious efforts, saw no way of saving Christ’s impeccability and the infinite value ofRedemption, except by the elimination of the human spirit from Jesus’ humanity, and the substitution of the Divine Logos in its stead. For the constructive part of his theory, Apollinaris appealed to the well-known Platonic division of human nature: body (sarx, soma), soul (psyche halogos), spirit (nous, pneuma, psyche logike). Christ, he said, assumed the human body and thehuman soul or principle of animal life, but not the human spirit.
The elders of early Church, including Apollinaris did not have any superior understanding of these mysteries, they were merely struggling to understand themselves or shall we say confuse themselves into imagining Jesus to be divine and human at the same time and position themselves in manners, which will be more popular than their opponents.
So, quoting any authority does not vindicate William Lane Craig, but the assumption that Jesus did not have a human soul does make him less than a perfect man! So, accepting Apollinaris takes away from the conventional dogma of Christianity that Jesus was perfect man and fully divine. After all this was why he was labeled to be a heretic and excommunicated.
The additional concern would be that as the Christian apologists mix different parts from two natures to get to one person of Jesus, it may not work, like one cannot easily substitute spare parts of a Mercedes in a Ford car or put in a heart or a liver from an elephant or giraffe into a man!
William Lane Craig
Step 3: Affirm that the divine aspects of Jesus’ personality were largely subliminal during his earthly life. I suggest that the superhuman elements of Jesus’ person were mainly subconscious. This suggestion draws upon the insight of depth psychology that there’s much more to a person’s consciousness than what he is aware of. The whole project of psychoanalysis rests on the fact that some of our behavior is rooted in deep springs of which we are only dimly aware, if at all. Think of a person suffering from multiple personality disorder. Here we have a very striking example of the eruption of subliminal facets of an individual’s mind into distinct conscious personalities. In some cases there’s even a dominant personality who is aware of all the others and who knows what each of them knows but who remains by unknown by them. Hypnotism also furnishes a vivid demonstration of the reality of the subliminal. As Charles Harris explains, a person under hypnosis may be told certain facts and then instructed to forget them when he “awakens,” but, writes Harris, “. . . the knowledge is truly in his mind, and shows itself in unmistakable ways, especially by causing him to perform . . . certain actions, which, but for the possession of this knowledge, he would not have performed . . . .” Many of you may have seen very amusing incidents of this phenomenon featured on the TV Guide channel, like a young man’s being hypnotized to think that a tree is a beautiful girl to whom he wants to propose marriage. Harris goes on to say,
What is still more extraordinary, a sensitive hypnotic subject may be made both to see and not to see the same object at the same moment. For example, he may be told not to see a lamp-post, whereupon he becomes (in the ordinary sense) quite unable to see it. Nevertheless, he does see it, because he avoids it and cannot be induced to precipitate himself against it.
Similarly, during his earthly incarnation God the Son allowed only those facets of His person to be part of Jesus’ waking consciousness which were compatible with typical human experience, while the bulk of His knowledge, like an iceberg beneath the water’s surface, lay submerged in his subconscious. On the theory I’m proposing Christ is thus one person, but in that person conscious and subconscious elements are differentiated in a theologically significant way. Unlike Nestorianism my proposal does not imply that there are two persons, anymore than the conscious aspects of your mind and the subconscious aspects of your mind constitute two persons.
In this section, William Lane Craig is proposing his special theory of psychology, without any evidence and basis.
He is merely clothing the contradictory ideas of two natures of Jesus, in modern psychological terminology.
His presentation clearly contradicts, the established understanding of human psychology. The human subconscious or unconscious is not a separate entity that like exchange of parts in a car, in case of Jesus, we can swap his subconscious with a divine subconscious. Like putting a Mercedes part in a Ford car. Human subconscious develops over time as a result of our human experiences.
The conscious mind is now considered to be the tip of the iceberg, which is supported by the large submerged part of the human mind, called subconscious.
A short discussion of human psychology is in order. Encyclopedia Britannica explains our understanding of unconscious or subconscious mind:
Sigmund Freud and his many disciples—beginning early in the 20th century and enduring for many decades—were upsetting the view of human nature as a rational entity. Freudian theory made reason secondary: for Freud, the unconscious and its often socially unacceptable irrational motives and desires, particularly the sexual and aggressive, were the driving force underlying much of human behaviour and mental illness and symptom formation. Making the unconscious conscious became the therapeutic goal of clinicians working within this framework.
Unconscious and subconscious are synonyms and are closely linked to our conscious mind and conscious experiences. Encyclopedia Britannica explains:
Unconscious, also called Subconscious, the complex of mental activities within an individual that proceed without his awareness. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, stated that such unconscious processes may affect a person’s behaviour even though he cannot report on them. Freud and his followers felt that dreams and slips of the tongue were really concealed examples of unconscious content too threatening to be confronted directly.
Some theorists (e.g., the early experimental psychologist Wilhelm Wundt) denied the role of unconscious processes, defining psychology as the study of conscious states. Yet, the existence of unconscious mental activities seems well established and continues to be an important concept in modern psychiatry.
Freud distinguished among different levels of consciousness. Activities within the immediate field of awareness he termed conscious; e.g., reading this article is a conscious activity. The retention of data easily brought to awareness is a preconscious activity; for example, one may not be thinking (conscious) of his address but readily recalls it when asked. Data that cannot be recalled with effort at a specific time but that later may be remembered are retained on an unconscious level. For example, under ordinary conditions a person may be unconscious of ever having been locked in a closet as a child; yet under hypnosis he may recall the experience vividly.
There is increasing evidence now that our subconscious mind plays out in our dreams and many of our waking activities.
If conscious mind of Jesus is welded to divine and infinite subconscious then it is no longer human, as it is overwhelmed by the Omniscience of the Divine. Once we understand this metaphor, the cop out of two natures in one person does not work any more.
Infinite takes over finite in infinite different ways.
Study of human psychology would strongly suggest that William Lane Craig’s position of two natures of Jesus, is simply not tenable. Monophysite position of Jesus having one nature, namely Divine, may have some merit and philosophical appeal, but co-existence of finite with infinite, is simply not sustainable.
William Lane Craig
Birth of God – A satisfying account of Jesus as human and divine
Such a theory provides a satisfying account of Jesus as we see him portrayed in the gospels. In His conscious experience, Jesus grew in knowledge and wisdom, just as a human child does. One doesn’t have the monstrosity of the baby Jesus lying in the manger all the while contemplating the infinitesimal calculus. Possessing a typical human consciousness, Jesus had to struggle against fear, weakness, and temptation in order to align his will with the will of his Heavenly Father. In his conscious experience, Jesus was genuinely tempted, even though he is, in fact, incapable of sin. The enticements of sin were really felt and couldn’t be blown away like smoke; resisting temptation required spiritual discipline and moral resoluteness on Jesus’ part. In his waking consciousness, Jesus was actually ignorant of certain facts, though kept from error and often supernaturally illumined by the divine subliminal. Even though God the Son possesses all knowledge about the world from quantum mechanics to auto mechanics, there’s no reason to think that Jesus of Nazareth would have been able, without recourse to the divine subliminal, to answer questions about such subjects, so low had He stooped in condescending to take on the human condition. Moreover, in His conscious life, Jesus experienced the whole gamut of human anxieties and felt physical hurt and fatigue. My proposal also preserves the integrity and sincerity of Jesus’ prayer life, and it explains why Jesus was capable of being perfected through suffering. He, like us, needed to be dependent upon his Father moment by moment in order to live victoriously in a fallen world and to carry out successfully the mission which the Father had given him. The agonies in the Garden of Gethsemane were not mere play-acting but represented the genuine struggle of the incarnate Son in His waking consciousness. All the traditional objections against the God the Son’s being the mind of Christ melt away before this understanding of the Incarnation, for here we have a Jesus who is not only divine but truly shares the human condition as well.
So is my proposed theory of the incarnation true? I think we can only say: God knows! It would be presumptuous for me to claim otherwise. But what I do claim is that the theory is both logically coherent and biblically faithful and is therefore possibly true. And if it is possibly true, that removes any objection to the incarnation based on the claim that it’s a contradiction to say that Jesus Christ was both truly God and truly man.
But the theory does more than that, I think. It also serves to elicit praise to God for His self-emptying act of condescension in taking on our human condition with all its pains and struggles and limitations for our sake and for our salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, that by his poverty we might become rich” (2 Cor. 8.9). This is what we celebrate at Christmas. In the words of the great hymn writer Charles Wesley:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!”
The concluding paragraph reminds me of a paragraph by Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of USA, from his book, Age of Reason:
From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea, and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was: but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the church, upon the subject of what is called Redemption by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son, when he could not revenge himself any other way; and as I was sure a man would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons. This was not one of those kind of thoughts that had anything in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it. I believe in the same manner to this moment; and I moreover believe, that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.
As response to the hymn, I quote one of the shortest chapters of the Holy Quran:
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
Say, ‘He is Allah, the One;
‘Allah, the Independent and Besought of all.
‘He begets not, nor is He begotten;
‘And there is none like unto Him.’ (Al Quran 112:1-5)
I conclude by linking a summary article on the theme, we have discussed here at some length:
- Prof. Phillip Cray. Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation. Teaching Company Course Transcript, 2004. Pages 34-36.
- Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth. Double 2007. Pages 321-322.