Friday Morning Manna June 7, 2019
Nathaniel Fajardo email: firstname.lastname@example.org
IV. Is There Room for Pluralism? (The Incarnation)
Pluralism asserts that Christ adopted both the unfallen (sinless, prelapsarian) and unfallen (sinless, postlapsarian) human natures. First, I found that both sides of the controversy have very compelling Scriptural reasons or interpretations thereof, for adopting their opposing views. Therefore, as a sort of a neutral approach, I initially started out mentally figuring out whether enough of each side’s position on this dichotomy could produce an acceptable “amalgamation” in my mind that would help relieve the tension between the two and maybe even contribute a bit to helping diffuse the controversy. But what this initial attempt turned out to be was a more detailed consideration of both sides, plus some.
I found out that once a more thorough and spiritual application is made of the many references considered in this study (and there are dozens more), that there is actually little room or reason to put up a “third option’’ as it were, of pluralism. The humanity of Christ is simply one-of-a-kind or unique to avoid the word “different.” Pluralism assumes that He had both the unfallen Adamic nature and the fallen nature; but it isn’t as cut-and-dried as that because mystery has and always will be a part of the incarnation and the divine-human nature of Christ.
The late Robert W. Olson, past secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, in the Introduction of his compilation of quotes from E.G. White entitled, “The Humanity of Christ,” says:
“But Christ was human, as well as divine, and we need to see Him as one of us. We need to let His feet touch the ground. The purpose. . . is to present an accurate picture of the Lord in His humanity. . . . We trust that these inspired passages [of E.G. White’s writings] will lead the reader to feel better acquainted with the real Jesus. By reflecting upon our Lord in His humanity and by meditating upon the beauty of His [human-divine] character, may we be drawn ever closer to the One who was made ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh.’ May the time spent with Jesus in this life be continued throughout eternity.”
I want to make it clear that I am in no way attempting to presumptuously pull aside or peek beyond the divinely-woven veil that shrouds this mystery. Rather, I was and still am driven by the all-consuming desire to understand as much as God says will be revealed to those who search with all their heart. I am not a theologian but simply a student of the Word. Therefore this is a layman’s honest attempt to understand what is meant by Christ’s human nature being “a blending of humanity with divinity” and that “His incarnation has ever been and ever will remain a mystery to mortals” and reconcile both of these with the encouragement that “its study is a fruitful field which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth.”
Friends and fellow Bible students who brought up this issue with me have inquired from the very same angles that have rendered this topic a controversy. Their views, all-too-familiar, weren’t of much help. However, recent revivals of this debate have proven a great blessing for me. I was forced to revisit my past and current understanding of it, which was, perhaps, overly simplistic. Not that I had failed to seriously study this topic for I was into it in the early 1990s and had written personal studies and given short discourses on it to study groups. Back then I had reached the conclusion that Jesus took all of the fallen, sinful nature without absolutely any qualifications whatsoever. To my mind, anyone who subscribed to the position that He incarnated into the Adamic sinless nature had fallen for one of the errors of “New Theology.” My attitude had slightly become confrontational, not reconciliatory back then. It is easy to lose objectivity in such a state.
Since then, by God’s grace, though my understanding and stand has not changed regarding the fundamental truth that Christ incarnated into the human nature four thousand years after the fall; the emphasis has. It now includes insights that I did not seriously consider previously or did not appreciate its significance then. This was brought to the fore by such passages as: “He took on,” “He took the formof,” He veiled His divinity,” “He took the garb of humanity,” “He was our Substitute, “He did not know sin by experience but by taking on or bearing our sins,” etc.,
This is a problem hoary with age. Centuries ago historic church synods had to be convened in an attempt to settle this issue—and today they are nowhere nearer the truth “as it is in Jesus” — although apparently united on certain church creeds formulated to define the Christian mainstream’s stand on it. Doctrinal “Babylonian confusion” continues to reign among the Christian churches to this day. Notice:
“Many of the Protestant churches are following Rome’s iniquitous connection with the ‘kings of the earth’—the state churches, by their relation to secular government; and other denominations, by seeking the favor of the world. The term ‘Babylon’—confusion—may be appropriately applies to these bodies, all professing to derive their doctrines from the Bible, yet divided almost into innumerable sects, with widely conflicting creeds and theories.”-E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 383.
The churches or denominations that don’t subscribe to these creeds, are either classed as “heretics” or “cults” if they profess to be Christian but deny the creedal definition of the Trinity, the Virgin birth—emphasizing Mary, not Christ, etc. I firmly believe what Biblically sets apart a church as the remnant is that they are the “keepers” or preservers in these last days of the true knowledge and Biblical teachings of (1) the eternal immutability of the Decalogue(2) the all-encompassing sanctuary message in connection with the 2300-day prophecy, and (3) the faith of Jesus–which doctrines include the true teachings of the nature of Christ.
The other question that needs to be considered by this prelapsarian/ postlapsarian dichotomy of the nature of Christ is this:
- If one of the divine purposes of Christ’s incarnation is that His people on earth may be united as one even as the Godhead are one(John 17; 1 John 5:7) shouldn’t the sacred truth regarding His incarnation and nature, when understood as only the Word is willing to reveal, be a unifying, not divisive doctrine?
It should. If not, it must be of man’s interpretations that is in control, not the Holy Spirit’s. My earlier reconsideration of thepossibility that Christ adopted both the Adamic and the fallen human nature wasnot because of careless surmising because I gave serious thought to the following: Christ, identified in the Old Testament as Jehovah (“Yahweh”), whose human nature had no pre-existence prior to His incarnation had to incarnate into that human nature that is subject to temptation. “God is not a man that He should lie” or “be tempted.” Num. 23:19; James 1:13. By His very nature as God, He is above and beyond temptation. Divinity cannot be tempted; only humanity is subject to it.
“Temptation is no temptation unless there is the possibility of yielding.” Adam, in his sinless and unfallen human nature was tempted and he did fall by yielding to temptation in the pure, uncorrupted environs of the Garden of Eden. Thus, in the plan of redemption the sinless nature of Adam in which he fell, had to be shown to be also eminently able to withstand the fiercest temptation or else the efficacy of the plan of redemption would forever remain suspect.
Christ, the Creator and Savior of mankind—beginning with Adam, the first man and first sinner, and in that same human nature—was the only one capable of, and thus appointed by the Godhead and later anointed by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate this: the plan of redemption had to include Adam’s nature in the incarnation in order to begin where Adam began—the sinless, unfallen nature. To this I found a statement supporting this thought:
- “Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began. Willingly He passed over the ground where Adam fell, and redeemed Adam’s failure.”- Ibid, My Life Today, p. 323 (emphasis supplied).
Here it is stated that Christ began where Adam began and willingly passed over the ground where the latter fell. This can hardly be interpreted two ways. Christ became the second Adam because He began on the same ground where the first Adam began and fell.
First, this “ground” which He willingly passed over could not be the uncorrupted literal grounds of pure Garden of Eden for Christ was born 4,000 years after the fall in an animal stall in Bethlehem and grew up in the town of Nazareth, the latter proverbial for its wickedness. Furthermore, the “ground” where both temptations took place cannot be contrasted even more in terms of time, space and circumstance; there is absolutely nothing common between the pure Garden of Eden and the desolate Wilderness of Temptation—except that they were the literal places, locations or grounds in which the two Adams were tempted, respectively.
Even if Adam (or Eve) was the only one who sinned, Christ would have done the same sacrifice of incarnation, humiliation, and crucifixion. Therefore, this “ground” had to be also the ground of Adam’s human nature where he was tempted and fell as well as thespecific grounds of temptation on which he fell—appetite/desire/lust and self-exaltation. The only way He could redeem Adam’s failure was to stand on the very same human nature of the first Adam, and on these same grounds, completely overcome where Adam failed.
And true enough of the latter, Christ’s first temptation after 40 days of fasting, both of food and water in the wilderness was the temptation to prove and thus exalt Himself as God to Satan–through the test on appetite. Thus, the case was resolved between the two Adams starting on equal grounds. It could not be otherwise or else heaven’s decree would not have been satisfied; its standard of righteousness and perfection would remain in doubt for eternity because it could be accused of double standards. In this regard, Christ earned the right and heritage of the first Adam, and thus became the second “spiritual” Adam—to which all the eternally redeemed will trace their heritage from in their spiritual rebirth, including the first Adam.
“And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living being [i.e., a soul, Gen. 2: 7], the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not the first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust: the second Man is the Lord from the heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” 1 Cor. 15: 45-49, N.K. J.V.
“There were no corrupt principles in the first Adam, no corrupt propensities or tendencies to evil. Adam was as faultless as the angels before the throne of God.” – Letter 191, 1899; E. G. White Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1899.
Adam’s nature was sinless, having been created in the image, likeness and form of God. Therefore, it must also be said that we should have absolutely no doubts as to the sinlessness of his nature before the fall. But this is exactly what Ellen White says of the human nature of Christ, contrary to those who say that Christ’s sinlessness refers to His character, not to His human nature. Notice:
“There should not be the faintest misgivings in regard to the perfect freedom from sinfulness in the human nature of Christ.” – Ibid, Ms. 143, 1901.
Christ Made a Little Lower than the Angels
“For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren.” Heb. 2: 16, 17.
“He had not taken on Him even the nature of angels, but humanity, perfectly identical with our own nature, except without the taint of sin.” – MS 57, 1890; MR No. 1211. See 3 SM, p. 129.
Where temptation, yielding and its consequences are concerned (including the purpose of their creation), there is a difference between angelic nature and human nature. When Lucifer and the third of the angels fell through rebellion against Christ’s authority, no plan of salvation was prepared to restore them to their former estate. Thus, their cases were irreversibly hopeless immediately after their fall. They instantly became the devils and evil spirits. (see on Jude 6). They were not created in the image and likeness of God as Adam and Eve were but were made as spirits, “a flame of fire,” not of flesh and blood, to serve the lone purpose of being “ministering spirits” “sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” (Heb. 1:7, 14).
Q. But why did Jesus have to incarnate into a nature “a little lower than angels” (Heb. 2:9, 6, 7; cf. Ps. 8:5, 6)?
“Had Christ come in His divine form, humanity could not have endured the sight. The contrast would have been too painful, the glory too overwhelming, humanity could not have endured the presence of the one of the pure, bright angels from glory; therefore Christ took not on Him the nature of angels; He came in the likeness of men.”- Ibid, That I May Know Him, p. 25.
(Continued next week)