Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’

Apostles’ Creed: The Holy Spirit

September 22, 2014

Have we forgotten the Holy Spirit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For the past year or so, my wife and I have been attending a Lutheran church, which is what led to my writing this series on the Apostles’ Creed, since in our church, we regularly quote the creed. I think this is an excellent idea since it gets us in touch with what it is that we really believe. The creeds do happen to be an important part of Christian life both from a doctrinal perspective and a historical one.

We’ve already covered earlier what it means to believe so there’s no need to repeat that again, so let’s just look at what it is that we are supposed to believe this time and as it turns out, Christians are supposed to believe in the Holy Spirit.

One reason I mentioned I attend a Lutheran church at the start is too often, we seem to have this idea that the Holy Spirit is for charismatics, or if we make an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, someone might think we are charismatic. Now I don’t agree with my charismatic brothers and sisters on many issues, though I do think that aside from groups like the Oneness Pentecostal Church that denies the Trinity, that charismatics are indeed Christians.

If there is a great service the charismatic church has done us, it’s to remind us to not forget about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is often seen as the silent person of the Trinity. He’s the one that is talked about the least. He’s a difficult figure to conceptualize. It doesn’t help that many times we have heard the term “Holy Ghost” which makes us think of something that is dead or something that we would expect the Ghostbusters to deal with.

Of course, when we think of a person today, we tend to think of someone with a body, but this is not so in the Biblical world. It really refers to a center of consciousness where a person possesses a mind and a will. Some of you might want to include emotions, but I don’t think God really has emotions. That’s another problem of ours. We think of attitudes as emotions when instead for bodied creatures, they just result in emotions.

If we see a person as someone with a mind and will, then the Holy Spirit qualifies, contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses think. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit is said to think. The Holy Spirit is said to be something that knows in Romans 8. (Btw KJV-onlyists. Consider for a moment that in Romans 8:26-27 we read about the Holy Spirit itself.) The Holy Spirit is said to be a comforter in John 14. I could go on and on.

Simply put, belief in the Holy Spirit is essential to being an orthodox Christian. Now that can come about in many ways. Some readers might be people that get very excited in church services and want to raise their hands. That’s okay. Some people like myself are more mild-mannered. In fact, if anything gets us excited a lot of times, it’s reading a good argument for Christianity or some philosophical or historical insight into theology or the Scriptures. That’s also okay. This body has many parts.

I say this also because the Holy Spirit can too often be used as a trump card. Many Christians pride themselves on being “spiritual.” These are Christians who put an undue emphasis on spiritual gifts (usually tongues) and think they know what the Holy Spirit is saying in every circumstance. This can cause difficulties for maturing Christians who don’t have a firm knowledge of the Holy Spirit yet and think that there’s something wrong with them.

All that is from the Holy Spirit is good, but what is said to be spiritual is not necessarily from the Holy Spirit. Always be cautious of people who claim to tell you what the Holy Spirit is saying. (The exception of course is Scripture itself) When we think something is good because it is spiritual, we leave ourselves open to many false and dangerous beliefs and these are usually based on our emotions and experiences and giving them more authority than Scripture. Too often we interpret Scripture in light of our emotions and experiences instead of interpreting our emotions and experiences in light of Scripture.

The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit is not just an add-on and He doesn’t just belong to the charismatics. Trust in the Holy Spirit and His sanctifying power should be an important part of every Christian’s life. Make sure you’re obedient to the proper leading of the Holy Spirit today, which is not for personal decisions about non-moral issues, but about leading you into righteousness.

In Christ,

Nick Peters


Apostles’ Creed: His Only Son

April 8, 2014

What does it mean when we say Jesus is the only Son of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we say Jesus is the only Son of God, there can be some pushback immediately. Many people and even angels are called sons of God in the Bible aren’t they? Why on Earth would we expect that the case would be different for Jesus?

Meanwhile, those who are Muslims will look at this in a different way. They will tell us that we are guilty of the sin of shirk for assigning partners to God. How dare we say that God has a Son? It would be seen as a sort of illicit sexual union between God and Mary to produce Jesus.

Let’s start with the first. The term son of God is indeed used of many people. Kings are said to be the sons of God. We Christians are said to be sons of God. Paul says about mankind in Acts 17 that we are all his offspring. Angels are called sons of God. Jesus is called the Son of God.

Yet Jesus is said to be the monogenes in John 1:18. He is the only begotten. This is also repeated in John 3:16 and Hebrews 11 has Jesus compared to Isaac. How can this be with Isaac? After all, Abraham had Ishmael and after Sarah died, he had other sons through a second wife. What made Isaac unique?

Isaac was a miracle baby in that Sarah’s womb was essentially dead and yet she was able to give birth. There was nothing miraculous about the other children that Abraham had, but Isaac was the exception. Also, Isaac was the one who was promised. Ishmael and the others were not promised.

Jesus likewise is the child of the promise and He is unique because of how He came into the world. Note I am not saying how He came into existence as He eternally existed. I am talking about how the incarnation took place, and that was through the virgin birth.

So let’s talk about that some for our Muslim friends.

To begin with, in the case of the virgin birth, we’ll often be told that there were virgin births in other cultures and places and surely this is just a copycat of them.

Not so fast.

Most of these are not virgin births. It is the god somehow taking a form where he has actual sex with the person involved. Sometimes. the woman involved is most certainly not a virgin. I recommend listening to Ben Witherington on this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast starting at around the second hour.

Note also the virgin birth would also be likely pointing to an embarrassing detail. This is that Jesus’s conception was not natural, which would lead to a charge of illegitimacy. Someone like Bart Ehrman might say “Well surely this would be worth mentioning in Mark and John!” Well no. That would lead to the charges being there and frankly, why would the writers do anything that would not only be an unusual conception that could lead to charges of illegitimacy, but then have a birth that would indict God in the process?!

Does that mean the account is definitely historical? No. It does mean that this is not really an event that would be made up. At the same time, it explains why Mark would not want to mention it and if John is a supplement to Mark, it explains why John would not mention it.

So what about the charge of shirk? Well to begin with, there is no mother Mary in the Trinity as some Muslims think, but also we are not saying Jesus is conceived of a sexual union but rather, in saying that He is the Son, we are saying He is the unique embodiment of the nature of God.

And that gets us to what makes Jesus unique. Jesus alone shows us who God is, unlike anyone else. For some parents, it could be you might think “Well I have a child, and God’s relationship is kind of like that.” That’s backwards. God is not like anything else. Anything else is like God, the original. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood comes, and parents having children is kind of like that.

Jesus is unique unlike anyone else. He is the only one who is truly the Son of God. No one else can claim the title like Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Putting Jesus In His Place

September 25, 2013

Have we read the deity of Christ into the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Written on a popular level, Ed Komoszewski and Rob Bowman’s “Putting Jesus In His Place” is an excellent look at the biblical testimony to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The writing is clear and accessible with several charts that will help the reader with seeing the comparisons that the writers frequently make.

Also, the writers regularly go with the best in New Testament scholarship. We’re not talking about just reading popular authors. (Although the people they reference should be popular in the church and it’s a sign of our weakness that they’re not.) We’re talking about scholars like Bauckham, Hurtado, Witherington, and Wright. That’s just a small sample.

The writers also do not go too technical which will be a benefit. At times, there is Greek terminology used, but I suspect those who have no grasp at all of the Greek language would still manage to find their way through this work.

At the start, the book explains as well the importance of honor in the ancient worldview, a point that I like to see repeatedly emphasized as so many people today think the biblical culture was just like theirs. This only leads to a further misunderstanding of what we find in the Bible.

The book has the advantage as well of going through the New Testament and not just going to the main texts usually used like John 1:1-18 or Hebrews 1 or John 20:28, etc. Of course, they do go to these texts, but they bring up several points where the Bible implicitly has in the background the full deity of Jesus and that these passages do not make sense unless you see that.

The book focused on comparing Jesus in five areas to make a cumulative case. The acronym used is HANDS. Jesus shares the honors of God, the attributes of God, the name of God, the deeds of God, and the seat of God. This is a powerful case combined together and goes beyond just finding texts where Jesus is explicitly called God.

However, while this case is powerful, I do have some concerns that I would like to see if the writers decide to write a second edition of the book in the future.

First, I would like to see more interaction with the other side. One of my rules for reading a book is to beware of the sound of one hand clapping. A case sounds powerful if you don’t interact with the other side.

Now this book does interact with the other side, but it should be more frequent. For instance, I don’t think it was until I was 100 pages into the book that I came across the first mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the writers addressing a popular audience, this is the group they will come across the most that is arguing against the deity of Christ. Their arguments need to be taken more seriously and need to be referred to more often.

Second, I would like to see more of an index. There is an index of Scriptural passages, but it would be nice to see something like an index of writers or even people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or people like Greg Stafford. (I know who Stafford is, but it would have been nice to also seen who he is explained in the text since many people might not check notes.)

Third, I do think some cases could have been stronger, but I suppose that is the same for every work. For instance, Revelation 5:13-14 was used repeatedly, which is good, but I never saw mentioned how it says that all creation worships Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb, which differentiated the Lamb from creation. I think Matthew 28:17 could be strengthened when you noticed that the people in the text grasped Jesus’s feet and worshiped him. Jehovah’s Witnesses often tell us that the Greek word proskuneo, means to bow down and do obesiance. That would be problematic here since if the feet of Jesus are already being grasped, then it’s quite likely that they were already bowed down.

I also think some examples could have been improved upon as well. For instance, we are told Jesus was omnipresent in that He saw Nathaniel while Philip was talking to him. Yet could not the Jehovah’s Witness say Elisha knew about what Gehazi was doing while Gehazi was out? Mind you, I do not think that is a good objection, but it is an objection and I can easily see a Jehovah’s Witness using it.

Of course, in any work, there are always ways to improve and that would require volumes and volumes. Still, the main improvement I would like to see would be more interaction with the other side. I think every chapter should deal with some counterarguments to the position or reasons to doubt it.

Also, a caveat, this book is written on a popular level for Christians. You will not see arguments generally for the historicity of the text or the textual reliability of the text. Numerous books have been written on those areas already and I do think it would be too much to ask that everyone who is writing a book like this also have to write a book defending historicity and textual reliability. Those who want to argue on other grounds against the deity of Christ must go elsewhere.

Still, despite the caveats and ways of improvement, I do recommend this book. It is the best book I know of on a popular level dealing with the subject, but I hope those who read it will also read the scholarly books that deal with the subject.

In Christ,
Nick Peters