by Dr. John H. Gerstner
I: You're saying that people can preach Christ without loving Christ?
C: That seems to be the case, does it not? These people are witnesses of Christ and are even successful. Yet He disowns them. He never “knew” them. Now what can that mean except that they didn't have communion with Him. They didn't love Him and He was not in love with them. For some reason or other, they went about His business, maybe for gain or fame or a half-dozen other reasons.
I: But how could they be successful when they didn't love what they were doing?
C: Well, you see, it's the Word of God that the Spirit uses as His sword—not necessarily the one who voices the Word of God. Christ says His Word will not return to Him void. So when the Word goes out, even from an insincere heart and from lying lips, it's nonetheless the Word. God may see fit to honor His Word regardless of the source through which it comes.
I: I see. And that must be what happened. It's a very sobering thought, of course, even frightening. A person's success would be no proof that God is pleased with him.
C: Yes. It means we must very carefully search our motives. If we do what's right for the wrong reason, we're up against what we call “bad good works.” The works are good, and God honors those works by benefiting others. The worker, however, is bad. And God gives him the punishment he deserves.
I: I see what I was missing before. And I thank you, though I must admit that I'm still reeling a bit from that observation.
C: Imagine the effect the Sermon on the Mount had on the hearers.
I: If they were anything like me, they must have been overwhelmed.
C: They were. Their response was most significant. The text says that the people marveled because He spoke “as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Considering the themes on which He was speaking and the manner in which He spoke about them, they realized that His was an inherent authority. In other words, Christ was God. The very comparison they made between Christ's teaching and that of the scribes and Pharisees confirms this.
I: How so?
C: The Jews of that day had a very great veneration for their scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were the main teachers and champions of the law. The Jewish people venerated the law of God as the divine thing it actually is. They didn't always understand it, and they seldom obeyed it, but they always recognized it for what it is. They were like a good many Christian people who keep the Holy Bible in their houses and revere it as inspired, only to dust it off occasionally for lack of use. That is how the Jews reverenced their Scriptures and those who were the official interpreters of them.
I: I see. And they recognized that Jesus spoke with an authority that was different from the scribes' authority. The scribes had authority as the expounders of the authoritative Word. Jesus had authority in and of Himself. The people knew that a scribe's authority was outside himself. But Christ's authority resided in Himself. He did not need to appeal to another authority.
C: Well said. And so we have seen that in a sermon on morals, Jesus has a great deal to say about His own person, even when He is not talking directly about that subject. He assumes His deity here, as in other places He asserts it. Having noticed this tacit assumption of deity in the sermon, let us turn to a direct assertion of it in Matthew 11.
I: Granted I'm no expert on Matthew, but I don't remember Jesus' saying anything like “I and the Father” in that Gospel. As I recall, Matthew is more preoccupied with Christ as the Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and so on. Is it not?
C: You're quite right. That makes any direct statement by Christ about His deity in that Gospel all the more outstanding. In chapter 11, He makes a very significant declaration:
“No one knows the Father save the Son, and He to whomsoever He reveals Him. No one knows the Son except the Father, and He to whom He reveals Him.” Do you get the point?
I: I get two points, as a matter of fact. The first one is that Christ claims a unique knowledge of God. That is striking, because, really, all men know there is a God. So it's puzzling that Jesus says no one knows the Father except the Son.
C: Yes. His statement implies that He has a unique knowledge of God.
I: The implication of that is unmistakable. Jesus Christ is saying that He is God, once again. This time it is obliquely stated. There is no unique way of knowing God except as God knows God. But is it possible that Christ would be an incarnate angel and have a knowledge of God different from what human beings have?
C: That's theoretically possible. On the other hand, He refers to Himself in the singular. No one knows the Father save the Son. That would not be true if He was referring to an angel because there are many other angels. On the supposition, they would all know God. So that uniqueness of His knowledge seems to preclude the possibility of its being some angelic knowledge of God. Though such angelic knowledge would be different from men's knowledge, it would not be unique: it would belong to another order of beings.
I: Furthermore, there is the additional statement that no one knows the Son save the Father. Here angels are clearly ruled out. If He were referring to Himself as an angel, He could never say that only God knew Him, because certainly the other angels would know Him, as would human beings who came in contact with Him. Though angels are superior, they are not entirely different from men. After all, men and angels alike are creatures. Presumably they could know fellow rational creatures, however different they may be in some respects.
C: So, any way you look at it, this unique knowledge, which the Son has of the Father and the Father has of the Son, spells the deity of the Son.
I: Yes. I'm especially impressed by the latter statement, “No one knows the Son save the Father.” As you have said, creatures can know other creatures, especially of their own kind. Presumably other creatures, because they are finite, have limited knowledge. So when this creature, the man Jesus of Nazareth, says no one knows the Son save the Father. He must be referring not to human nature, but to divine nature. Only divine nature is known exclusively by God. It takes a God to know God (uniquely).
C: This is a relatively clear and direct assertion of Christ's deity and His oneness with the Father. They are joined in this case by unique knowledge of each other. Therefore they must each be persons in the Godhead. Again, we have an allusion to at least two persons in the Holy Trinity.
Let us take one other reference in the Gospel according to Matthew that clearly indicates the deity of Jesus Christ. That is the Great Commission, which occurs at the very end of Matthew. Here we have the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, saying to His apostles, “Go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and teaching people to observe whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo am with you to the end of the age.”
I: This is a supernatural context to begin with, is it not? Christ has risen from the dead, has ascended into heaven, and is claiming that all authority in heaven and earth is given to Him. All these supernatural things certainly indicate Jesus to be a supernatural being. At the same time, they of themselves would not prove Him to be a divine being.
C: True He could still be another exalted creature who has been given all authority in heaven and earth. He, in turn, gives His apostles a commission to go into the world and make disciples for Him. But there is more here than that, which makes the exalted-creature interpretation an impossibility.
I: What is that?
C: The Trinitarian formula. You'll notice that Christ commands His apostles to baptize disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They would have known from Jesus' teaching that He was the Son of God, as we have seen. They would know that the baptismal formula referred to not only God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, but also the Son of God standing before them in His resurrected and ascended human form.
I: So Jesus is bracketing Himself with the divine Father and with the divine Holy Spirit.
C: Yes. Here you have the doctrine of the Trinity. It is inconceivable that Christ as a mere creature would be mentioned in the same breath with two divine beings and associated with them as if they were one. We know indeed they are one according to the overall teaching of the Bible. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God.” So this formula would indicate that Jesus Christ is on a level with these other persons and constitutes with them one God. He must, therefore, be a person in the Godhead, judging from the baptismal formula. That is another proof of the deity of Jesus Christ; indirect but unmistakable. Christ does not say, “I am God”; He just brackets Himself with divine beings. That amounts to saying, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” or God.
I: I can't help but note in passing that the deity of Christ would be implied in other aspects of the Great Commission as well.
C: What are they?
I: For one thing, He commands the apostles to teach people to observe whatever He has commanded them. Certainly, it's that same “arrogance” we noticed elsewhere if He were merely a creature, however exalted. Only God really has the right to demand that people follow His teaching. A mere servant such as you can only claim that his teaching should be followed insofar as it expresses the divine teaching. I think you will admit as a minister of Christ that you cannot properly say to me, “You must follow my teaching.”
C: You are right. Was there something else as well?
I: Yes. It's the way the commission ends: “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
C: You seem to be going ahead of me at this point. Wouldn't it be possible for Christ just to be a divine agent who is with the church until the end of the age?
I: I guess, theoretically. But in His saying on His own authority that He will be with them to the end of the age, that would imply His omnipresence. To be with the whole church, or even those eleven apostles only, would require more than being a creature. Otherwise He couldn't be with all of them all the time. We assume, as the church always has, that Christ's promise applies to the whole church, which seeks to carry out His mission to this day. If Christ was to be with the apostles through all their days, and with the entire church until the end of the age, He'd have to be divine, eternal, and infinite.
C: You've shown me something, which in turn has brought to mind another argument for Christ's deity I had not noticed before. Don't ask me why I didn't. It's plain enough when you point it out to me.
I: In other words, you're admitting that a non-Christian may understand some points of Christianity better than a Christian?
C: I readily admit that. I know non-Christians who know aspects of Christian truth better than I do. I suspect you know many more things than the few we've so far discovered better than I do, while you have not yet professed the Christian faith. Your point is gladly, though humbly, granted.
I: Thank you.
C: Now let me turn to what is the thinnest of the Gospels, Christologically speaking. I refer to Mark, which most people think has very little developed theology, especially Christology, or theology about Christ.
I: You mean that there is less reference to the deity of Christ in Mark than in the other Gospels, just as there is much more in John than in any of the other Gospels?
C: Yes. That's the general view. As you may know, there was a time when many scholars thought that the deity of Christ was lacking in all the Synoptics and developed only by John.
I: Yes. When I was in school, they felt that John was much later than the others. Did they not?
C: They did indeed. In fact, many of them thought the apostle John was not the author. It was once thought to be a late second-century writing, so exalted was its Christology.
I: But as we have seen, John is clearly in the generation of Jesus. Didn't you mention that some scholars today think it's the earliest of the four Gospels and certainly before the fall of Jerusalem?
C: Yes. What an amazing shift in critical opinion that's occurred in this century! Getting back to Mark, it's interesting to note that at the turn of the century, some radical critics recognized that Mark taught the deity of Christ as truly as John did.
I: How was that?
C: Well, one of the early form critics, a man named Wrede, made the remark that “Mark is as bad as John.”
I: Whatever did that mean?
C: It meant that Mark was as good as John. Mark taught the deity of Christ as truly as John did.
I: So some unbelieving critics were reversing themselves? They were, at least this man Wrede, saying that the earliest Gospel and the earliest records represented Christ as God.
Is that the point?
C: Correct. You can see it in the very opening verse of Mark's Gospel. There we read: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . .”
I: That was the statement of Mark and not of Jesus, was it not?
C: Yes. Consequently, we cannot say that it was a self-disclosure of Jesus Himself. Nevertheless, the very fact that Mark, a follower of Jesus, attributed deity to Him must, we suppose, have come from Christ Himself. You remember that the reason the statements in John affirming His deity were supposed to be later was the supposed late date of John. The notion was that there were no claims for deity early in His career and in the following years; only after a century and a half did the church attribute to Jesus a deity He never claimed for Himself. But here in what the critics consider the earliest Gospel, and at the very first verse, we have a statement by Mark that Jesus is the Son of God. It's hard to believe he could have gotten such a notion from anyone but Jesus. There certainly was no time for an elaborate evolutionary development of this doctrine from something not found in the sources at all.
I: I see your point. You say this man, Wrede, was a critic. Does that mean that the critics had changed their minds by the beginning of this century and recognized that Jesus was thought to be and taught to be divine at the very beginning of His ministry?
C: Not all of them. But at least some critics believed it; form criticism and Wrede and Schweitzer definitely acknowledged that it was in the record and not a later importation.
I: Then, there was a sudden influx of higher critics into the church at the turn of the century?
C: No. Sorry to say, there was not.
I: I don't understand. You said they did recognize that Jesus was indeed divine, did you not?
C: They recognized that some of the sources said Christ was divine. Some of them even recognized that Christ Himself said He was divine. But most critics themselves did not believe He was divine. You see, some of the more liberal scholars, who did not believe Jesus was divine, claimed that He didn't either. Yet radical scholars were beginning to acknowledge the clear evidence that both Jesus and the early church believed Him to be God. Those who denied that had to admit that they were no longer loyal to Christ and the early church, though they once claimed to be.
I: This interests me very much, as you can well suppose. These critics were like me, were they not?
C: You mean that they knew that Christ is God, but had not yet been converted?
I: Yes. Are they not in exactly the same situation?
C: No. Not quite as hopeful a situation as yours. You see, they simply acknowledged that Christ and the early church believed He was divine. They didn't believe it themselves. You do believe it. You are persuaded not only that Christ taught His deity and the early church believed it, but that it is true. Unlike these critics, you think that He is God, though you are not certain you have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Recognizing the same facts as you, they made no pretense of personal belief in them. You do, though you have not come to trust in Christ as your Savior.
I: Yes. That's my situation. I am persuaded He is divine and that if I believe in Him, He would be my Savior. Yet, I'm not convinced that I have that kind of saving belief. I see the difference. Why don't these critics believe what Christ Himself claimed? The early church, which comprised witnesses of Him, believed it. I think I know the answer to my own question.
C: I think you do too.
I: Was it the old naturalistic bias?
C: I think so. Why would people note that Christ said He was God, and that the people closest to Him believed it, and that there was evidence of miraculous power, which showed He was sent from God, and not believe it themselves? Why would they disbelieve unless they simply rejected sound theistic thinking and evidence of a revelation from God? That wasn't always clear in their writings. Though they didn't always say why, I suspect that common to their unbelief was their naturalistic bias against the supernatural.
I: Maybe you and I should talk with people like that today.
C: Indeed we must. Let us now turn to the Gospel of Luke for a verse or two there on the deity of Christ. It might be well to start with a statement of Jesus that suggests to many people a denial of His deity.
I: A denial?
C: Yes. That is what the famous British scholar H. G. Wells thought it to be. He wrote an article years ago entitled “Man among Men,” intending to show that Christ was merely a human being. Others too have claimed that when Jesus says to the rich young ruler, “Why do you call Me good? Only God is good,” He denies that He is God.
I: That does seem to be what He's saying.
C: The question is whether that is what He is intending by those words.
I: What's this distinction between what He's saying and what He's intending?
C: Well, we earlier mentioned that He said He was the vine and we are the branches. When He said that literally, His intention was that He is the life-principle of Christians, who bear fruit by His indwelling presence. The form of words may convey a deeper meaning than the words themselves. In the present instance, there is no parable or figure of speech. Christ is using plain speech. But is it not possible that He means something other than those words normally convey?
I: I would have to admit that it's possible. Just as I suppose you will admit the burden of proof is on the person who seeks some meaning other than the obvious one H. G. Wells took from it.
C: Yes, I must shoulder this burden because I am arguing for an interpretation other than the obvious one. Are we agreed it is not out of the question that Christ may mean
something other than what the words normally mean?
C: The first thing that alerts us is that this remark is a question rather than a statement. Christ does not say that He is not God. He simply asks the young man why he calls Him good inasmuch as only God is good. That is certainly not the same thing as denying that He is God.
I: Still, He does go on to assert that only God is good, does He not?
C: Yes, He does say, “Why do you call Me good? None is good save God.” The way we usually read that, and even enunciate it, is that Christ is denying that He is God because He's denying that He is properly called good. Nevertheless, strictly speaking, that is not what it says. Christ is simply addressed as good master, and He quizzes the addresser on why he calls Him good. By pointing out that only God is good, He could be saying that the reason He is good is that He is God. Could that not be the meaning of the words?
I: Yes. I guess that is a possible construction. Nevertheless, you yourself admit that's not the first thing that comes to mind.
C: Granted, but we have also seen, time and again, that the first thing that comes into one's mind is not always the last thing to stay there.
I: Yes, I know, and I admit that could be the case here. At first glance, Christ is denying His deity. At subsequent glances, He may not be doing that. In fact, one has to grant that Christ is not denying His deity. He may actually be asserting it in the form of a question. He may be saying to the rich young ruler, “Since you call me good, do you realize I am God, inasmuch as only God is good?” That interpretation is possible. It remains to you to show its feasibility and probability.
C: Of course we already have clear evidence from other places that Jesus is God. He knows that He's God, and He tells people that He is God: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” When we remember that this is the same person who says, “Why do you call Me good? None is good save God,” that does put a different light on that question, does it not?
I: Yes, it does. Admitting that Jesus Christ is God, we would have to say that this question actually probes the ruler's mind to see if he recognizes that fact, rather than implying a denial of it. That is a cogent argument, given the other data we have about Jesus Christ. The more I reflect on it, the more I like that interpretation. I realize now that it can be the only legitimate one, given the identity of the questioner.
C: On the other hand, if we didn't know that Jesus Christ is God, we would not think He was intending a subtle assertion of His deity by that question. It would be more naturally taken as an implicit denial. Knowing that Jesus elsewhere plainly says He is God, we realize His question must be a subtle way of bringing the rich young ruler to a recognition of implied deity.
I: At least it would be a gentle rebuke advising the young man not to be careless in his use of language. That is, the only proper use of the word “good” belongs to God. Did you say there's something else in the passage that seems to suggest the deity of Christ?
C: Yes, in the very conversation Christ had with this rich young ruler.
I: Reading it again. I see no other indication that Christ says He is God incarnate.
C: Christ tells the young ruler that if he wants to be perfect (reach his goal of eternal life), he must sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Him.
I: That shows that Christ is the determiner of eternal life.
C: And only God is the determiner of eternal life.
I: But can't you, as a minister, tell me or anyone what is necessary for eternal life without being divine? Can you not advise us what God requires without being God?
I: Are you claiming deity for yourself?
I: What am I missing here?
C: As a minister, I can tell the general, not individual, terms of eternal life.
I: Please explain.
C: I can tell you, or anyone, that it is difficult to be rich and a Christian. I can advise you that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom than for a camel to go through a needle's eye. What I cannot do is tell you that you are worshipping mammon, and you must give up all of it if you would be saved. Only God can do that.
I: In other words, only God can see into the hidden heart of men?
C: That is the difference between Christ and the servants of Christ.
I: I am convinced about the deity of Christ. I know there is much more in the Bible that you could cite in proof, but you have given me enough. Except—
I: I can't help wondering whether other religious leaders don't claim deity, too.
C: Claiming and proving are two different things. But they don't even claim it. Occasionally some of their followers have attributed deity to them. But, you name a great religious leader, and you will find that he did not present himself as divine.
I: You mean that only Jesus of Nazareth ever said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” or anything like it?
C: Compare Confucius, who, as you know, was really a skeptic. He took one world at a time. He was very sagacious about laws of conduct for this world, but dubious about the future world. He was satisfied to be a moral legislator for this sphere in which we live.
I: What about the “Enlightened One,” Buddha?
C: Gautama, the Buddha, was an atheist.
I: Yes, I suspected that.
C: It is easy to demonstrate that Buddha was further from theism than was Confucius. While Confucius was insecure about the future, Buddha didn't even entertain a belief in a personal deity. He was a pantheist in the pure sense of the word. He certainly was not laying claim to being God when he didn't believe there is one. The same is true of other Eastern religious leaders such as Mahavira, Zoroaster, and so on. None of them ever laid claim to being deity.
I: The greatest religious influence in the world today, next to Christ, is Mohammed. His followers seem utterly devoted to him
C: He categorically repudiated deity. As you know, the great creed of Islam is there is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. The Muslims are rigid monotheists. While Mohammed is, for them, the greatest prophet, he is merely a prophet and in no way deity.
I: As a matter of fact, I understand that the Muslims have a high view of Jesus. They believe He was virgin born, was sinless, did miracles, and is coming again. But they certainly do not believe that Christ is God. Nor do they believe Mohammed is God.
C: In fact, they consider belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, whom they admire as a prophet, to be the greatest blasphemy of the Christian church. I'm even told that, because Christians worship Christ, Muslims do not like to be called Mohammedans for fear people will think they worship Mohammed. They admit that Christians worship Christ, which they consider our worst sin. They do not want people to suppose they worship Mohammed. Neither Mohammed nor his followers have claimed deity for him.
I: Likewise the Jews don't think that their Moses was God, or that Moses Maimonides of the Middle Ages, their second great Moses, was God either. They, too, would regard the Christian notion that Jesus Christ is God as a form of blasphemy.
C: Yes. In John's Gospel they accused Jesus of blasphemy because, being a man, He made Himself to be God.
I: I get the point. And I'm going to be ready the next time I hear students confidently remark that all religious leaders lay claim to being deity. To be told that Jesus made a unique claim should have quite an impact on them. I can only hope it makes them think more seriously about Christ.
C: It's real irony, isn't it, that this unique event, the incarnation of God in human flesh, should be made out to be a commonplace, as if all religious leaders taught such doctrine.
I: What do you do when sophisticated people such as George Bernard Shaw, for example, say things like, “Yes, Jesus did think of Himself as God. We have to admit that He suffered from megalomania.” In some ways, that's the most devastating criticism of Christ one can hear. It patronizingly grants that Christ made this claim. Then on the basis of that assertion, Shaw, Bunby, and others go on to question Christ's sanity. I hope you'll forgive me, my good Christian friend, for raising a question like this. I know how much it must hurt you to hear anybody questioning the sanity of the Lord and Savior of mankind. You must consider that blasphemy and suffer from merely hearing such speech. At the same time, as you know, probably better than I, that sort of thing is said and comes from some very influential sources. What do you say to such a thing?
C: Don't apologize for mentioning it to me. You're perfectly right. It's hard speech, and I detest it. I do consider it blasphemy. At the same time, it comes from responsible sources and must be faced responsibly. From where George Bernard Shaw stood, it was an almost inevitable rational conclusion. And I often cite Shaw precisely because he admits Christ's claim to deity. There are plenty of people who try to ignore that or turn it aside or denature it. Shaw is to be commended, as others, for “telling it like it is.” I'm sure Shaw himself would have been much more comfortable with a Christ who didn't make such claims. He must have been tempted, as were other liberals, like H. G. Wells, to say that Christ was merely a man among men, never entertaining any grandiose illusions about Himself. Shaw knew better than that. Don't ever apologize for raising any kind of blasphemy that takes the form of an argument against the Christian religion. Such things cannot be turned off. Though horrible, they have to be dealt with squarely, in honor and integrity.
I: Thank you. How do you do that?
C: Well, what I say is simple enough. I agree with the Shaws of the world. If this man Jesus were merely a man, and laid claim to deity, He would be sick, and probably worse than sick. He would not be worthy of a following. He would be out of his mind. I suppose I would ridicule Him more than Shaw does if I were standing where Shaw stood. But Shaw's mistake is that he just gratuitously assumes that Jesus Christ is not God.
I: That's true. He takes it for granted that Christ is merely a man, just as most people take it for granted that any man is just a man. Hardly anybody can imagine God's actually becoming man. The almost inevitable assumption is that any man claiming to be God has to be out of his mind. What other conclusion could you draw? I think you're on target with respect to Shaw's mentality. It is virtually the mentality of the human race. I plead guilty to it myself. Until I started to talk seriously about these matters, I would have assumed as self-evident that Jesus Christ was merely a man. If you had proved to me then that He claimed to be God, I would have turned Him over to a psychiatrist.
C: I agree. We, on the other hand, know that of course there isn't any rational objection to the proposition that God could take upon Himself a human nature. Where we agree with Shaw is that we will assume a man is merely a man until there is evidence to the contrary. Short of that evidence, we will agree with Shaw that any person claiming to be deity is a “liar or a lunatic.” Shaw will have to listen to us at this point, will he not? He will have to give some proof that it's impossible for God to take upon Himself human nature and remain God. Yet Shaw doesn't do that, He doesn't even attempt to. And I'm confident he never could if he did try.
I: But he must try. You're perfectly right. He has no right simply to say something that is not demonstrative. It is not self-evident that God cannot take human nature upon Himself. It is self-evident that a man is merely a man unless there's conclusive evidence to the contrary.
C: Until a person examines the evidence of Christ's claim and shows that evidence to be false, he has no right to say that Jesus is not actually God.
I: We have found the very opposite. The evidence is in and it shows that, first, Jesus Christ claimed to be God, and, second, Jesus Christ proved Himself to be God. But yet—
C: What's that?
I: I hate to bring this up at this late date.
C: If it is relevant, it's never too late.
I: That's the problem—I don't know whether it's relevant.
C: Maybe we had better hear what is on your mind and judge together whether it's relevant.
I: Well, just the other day a Jehovah's Witness came to my door . . .
C: And argued against the deity of Christ?
I: Yes Most of what he said was characteristically puerile. But one thing disturbed me.
C: What was that?
I: He reminded me that Christ is called “Son” in the Bible and even in Christian churches.
C: I can guess what else he said that disturbed you.
I: Go ahead.
C: My guess is that this Witness went on to say that Christ's being called “Son” means He was born and therefore could not be eternal, and therefore could not be divine.
I: Exactly. I didn't—and frankly, don't—know how to answer that.
C: That is not surprising. At first glance, it is very puzzling. As we use the word son it always means someone born in time and not eternal.
I: You say, “As we use the word son.” Is there some special meaning when the word is used of Christ?
C: Right on the surface, there is. For example, when Jesus (or John referring to Jesus) says: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . .” (3:16), this is not a typical reference to a human son, but to the Son of God.
I: Granted, but still He is a Son.
C: Yes, but a Son of God.
I: I don't get what you are driving at. Son of God or son of man, does the word son not mean “born” and therefore temporal?
C: It means “born,” but does it need to mean “temporal”?
I: I'm beginning to see the light. If Christ or the Word is the Son of God, He is born of God (Son), but eternally born (of God)?
C: If that were not so, the Word would not be His only (unique) Son. God is the Creator of all men, who in that sense are “sons” born in time.
I: But “His only Son” must be as eternal as He is?
C: That is the reason the church all throughout her history has adoringly referred to the Word as “the eternally begotten Son of God.”
I: The Witnesses will never believe that.
C: They should—
C: Because, first they agree that Christ is called the Son of the Father. Second, they agree that the Father refers to the eternal God. Third, they agree that the word Father has no meaning without an offspring (Son). For example, I, like some Witnesses, existed forty years before my first child was born. Only then did I become a father. There cannot be a father, or a Father, without offspring. Therefore—
I: Let me interrupt and see if I cannot state the inevitable conclusion (just as a Jehovah's Witness should). Therefore, since the Father is admittedly eternal, His Son must also be eternal because the very term Father is meaningless or false apart from Son.
I: How could I have failed to see that? How could that Witness fail to see that?
C: The question is, How does anyone ever fail to “see” the deity of Christ?
I: Yes, how?
C: It is not because the deity of Christ is not plain enough.
I: How is it, then?
C: Suppose we let Christ tell us how one does come to see the obvious deity of Christ.
I: Does He?
C: He does precisely in the dialogue with Peter (Matthew 16: 13ff).
I: What does He say there?
C: First, He asks the apostles, “Who do you say that the son of man is?”
I: I do remember And Peter answers, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
C: Correct, and it is Christ's comment on that confession that gives us our answer to how one comes to “see” the deity of Christ.
I: Which is . . .?
C: “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
I: In other words, it is the Father who reveals the Son.
C: Just as we had noticed earlier when Christ said that no one knows Him “save the Father and he to whom He reveals Him.”
I: Where does that leave me? Or you? Are you telling me that we have spent an hour talking about the deity of Christ and I will never understand what you are saying unless God “reveals” it to me?
I: Then what is the point of our talking?
C: If God ever does reveal it to you, it will come out of dialogue such as this, just as it was revealed to Peter only after Jesus had explained it to him. You see, the true witness paints the picture. God gives the eyes to perceive it. God does not paint the picture, and we painters cannot provide eyes to see.
I: What am I to do?
C: Ask God to give you the eyes to see and the heart to confess: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”