Christ's Deity And Humanity

by Warren Berkley

In writing and speaking, there is something I have to keep in mind. The least I know about a subject, the greater the difficulty in saying something about it!

Yes, I must admit to myself that some things are "beyond me," or at least, beyond my present degree of understanding or capacity. This is not to be confused with what I believe, and what I practice. I may believe something with all my heart, and live according to that belief, but still not be able to understand or explain it in perfectly logical terms, to satisfy all students.

Example: For several years I have used a computer in my work. I have learned to operate a computer, and I have become proficient with several different software packages or programs. I "believe in" computers, appreciate their utility, and have learned to use them. But I don't know very much about how they actually work, and would stumble all over myself trying to give someone an explanation. You see, I have to remember -- the least I know about a subject, the greater the difficulty in saying something about it.

Now, this is sort-of what I face when I deal with the subjects of the Godhead, the incarnation of Christ, the affirmations of Jesus' Deity/humanity with all the inquiries that spin-off these things. I have studied what the Bible says, and I believe the claims of the New Testament wholeheartedly. I can state these claims, cite the passages, and call upon people to believe what is written. I feel comfortable giving expositions of various passages, answering obvious error, and even warning about vague and unclear teachings that may be suspect. Yet, when I am pressed to explain "how" and give in-depth explanations aimed at satisfying the limits of human curiosity, I have to confess I encounter difficulty. And, the deeper I go, the more I seem to stumble in expressing myself.

The younger brother Moyer (T. Doy) has well stated this: "How God could come in the flesh is a puzzle. It is mind-boggling to think that the Infinite One could enter a body of flesh and bones. Nevertheless, the difficulty we may have in understanding how this happened does not mean that we cannot believe it. We simply must accept what God's word says and leave the 'how' up to Him. We get ourselves into deep trouble when we try to understand the infinite on the foundation of the puny finite," ("The Nature And Temptation Of Christ", Gospel Anchor, Dec., 1990).

Is this part of what has happened between brethren, in recent exchanges over the Deity and humanity of Christ? I would not dismiss the entire controversy as semantical. I'm persuaded there are some real differences, and there isn't any doubt in my own mind that error has been taught (accidentally or on purpose I cannot tell). I just think it may help some people to consider that this difficulty of "the puny finite" may be at least a part of the problem.

We are so anxious, it seems to me, to explain everything in terms of the black and the white. And, when writing or speaking under the pressure of controversy we may try so hard to explain something or counteract error, we overexplain, overstate and misstate some valid proposition. After we have opened our mouth and shouted something, when the challenge comes back, a tremendous measure of humility is required to back off. The typical reaction is to defend what we said, and it may take more misstatements to prop up the first!

So, you begin with subject matter that is difficult to explain in human terms. You add to that, the tendency to defend yourself and your friends. I'm asking, is this part of the problem?

For the record [since some will surely wonder], I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ became a man {a human being}. He came in the flesh, but always has been, was {while on earth} and is Deity. I'm convinced that Deity (or Godhood) belongs only to God, is an inherent quality that is never acquired or surrendered, and cannot be transferred. I will not concede that Jesus has ever ceased being Deity, but my understanding is, while He was on the earth, He voluntarily assumed the role of servant, thus limiting Himself in various ways but without changing His essential nature. I'm convinced this is taught in the Scriptures, and I believe this, but cannot explain the "how" so as to perfectly satisfy all auditors. (Basis: John 1:1,18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3; 1 Tim. 1:17; 3:16; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-11).

Recently, at the Florida College Lectures, brother Max Dawson reminded us of this: "To emphasize either the Deity or humanity of Jesus to the neglect, minimizing or denial of the other is to do a grave injustice to the truth. Let us not be so eager to maintain the fact that Jesus was God that we forget He was man; let us not be so zealous to insist that He was man that we forget He was God," (p. 42, Florida College Lecture Book, 1993). Amen.

(The Preceptor, Vol. 42, #4, April 1993)

Deity and Humanity of Christ