The Illogic of Arguments Against Christ’s Deity

TrinityI. Christ’s Enemies Denied His Deity        

The doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ is one which has been attacked since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Ironically, it was those who claimed to be the most faithful to the Scriptures who three times sought to kill Christ because he made “himself equal with God,”[1] called himself “I AM,”[2] “ma[de himself] God,”[3] and forgave sins which “God alone” has the power and prerogative to perform.[4] And while they were willing, on occasion, to admit that Jesus was a miraculously gifted “teacher”[5] and healer “come from God,”[6] a “prophet,”[7] and an innocent (i.e. sinless) man,[8]they nevertheless refused to acknowledge him as Yahweh, I AM, the sin forgiving God of Israel. Although they knew that, on the one hand, Yahweh would “redeem Israel from all his iniquities,”[9] and that Jesus Christ would “save his people from their sins,”[10] yet they, on the other hand, wanted to stone him to death for explicitly claiming essential equality to God the Father.[11]

This is not, of course, to deny that there were other reasons why Christ’s enemies wanted him dead. It is to say, however, that those who presently persist in denying that Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate are deriving their doctrine not from Christ but his enemies. Furthermore, it is to say that the their doctrine is equally illogical. The arguments put forward by unitarians to attack the doctrine of Christ’s deity, as I will demonstrate, hold devastating logical consequences for the unitarian’s own beliefs concerning the sinlessness of Christ, the goodness of God, the nature of man in his original state. What follows, therefore, will be a point by point response to some popular unitarian arguments attack the deity of Christ Jesus.

II. The Arguments

1. “Jesus clearly says that he is not God when he declares: ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’”

Despite what the unitarian presenting this argument may think, it is impossible for Jesus’ words to be a denial of his own goodness, for non-goodness in a man is called sin. and Christ never sinned.[12] If the unitarian does not think that Christ is God, therefore, then he must identify Christ as non-good. And if Christ is non-good, then the unitarian has no choice but to further identify Christ as a sinner. And if Christ is a sinner, then the unitarian is forced by necessary inference to accept the following about God, Christ, and the Scriptures:

a. God is not omniscient but fallible, for he would be mistaken about the sinlessness of Jesus, the Messiah-ship/Sonship of Jesus, and the fulfillment of the prophetic word concerning the Messiah.

b. The Scriptures are fallible, proclaiming that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the sinless Son of God who died for sinners as a sinless sacrifice, when in reality Jesus was neither the Messiah, sinless, nor the sacrifice for sinners.

c. Jesus was fallible, for he considered himself to be the sinless Messiah/Son of God,[13] sinful, unable to establish the kingdom of God on earth and conquer sin, death, and the devil.

The unitarian cannot, therefore, affirm that Jesus is the promised, sinless, self-sacrificing Messiah, without simultaneously affirming that he is good. And to affirm that he is good is to affirm that he is God Almighty in the flesh.

This first argument shows the futility of the reasoning of unitarians. By saying that God alone is good, the unitarians face a damaging dilemma. For they can either (a.)affirm that Jesus is non-good (i.e. sinful) and thereby deny that God is omniscient, that his Word is infallible and true, and that Jesus was sinless and the sacrifice for the sins of his people, or (b.)affirm that Jesus is good and thereby affirm that he is God Almighty, the Messiah and Son of God, sacrificed for the sins of his people.

It is important to keep this in mind, for the unitarian wants to simultaneously deny that Christ is God and affirm that Christ is the Son of God. However, if Christ is non-good, then Christ cannot be the Son of God, for the Son of God is the Savior of men, and the Savior of men must be perfectly good (i.e. sinless).[14]

2. “James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted with evil, yet Jesus was tempted by the devil. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God!”

When James talks about temptation, he says that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”[15] It is important to remember that this process of temptation is a post-fall reality. Man, since the fall, has inordinate desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet despite the fact that the Scriptures call fallen man “the natural man”(i.e. the carnal or unspiritual man), the truly natural man (i.e. man as God has created him) is not fallen but good. God created man and woman and declared that they were “very good,”[16] but “the woman was deceived and became a transgressor,”[17] and “by [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners.”[18] “ God,” in other words, “made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.”[19] Consequently, Christ’s true humanity and the reality of his truly having been tempted by Satan are not implied by James’ teaching on the nature of temptation in fallen man.[20]

James 1:13 can only apply to fallen man, and not to man in his original state of moral purity. James 1:13, therefore, cannot be descriptive of the temptation which Christ underwent in the wilderness, for the Scriptures state rather bluntly that Christ “knew no sin.”[21] The unitarian who argues that Christ cannot be God because God cannot be tempted, therefore, is conflating two different kinds of temptation, viz. (a.)the temptation of prelapsarian man, and (b.)the temptation of postlapsarian man. Prelapsarian man’s experience of temptation is not fully explained to us in the Scriptures; postlapsarian man’s experience of temptation, however, is very clearly laid out by James. As Christ is fully without sin, the experience of temptation he faced was not that which James describes in the first chapter of his epistle, but was like that which  prelapsarian Eve faced. Because Christ was and is “holy, innocent, unstained, [and] separated from sinners,”[22] it is not possible that he had a sinful human nature; and because it is impossible that Christ had a sinful human nature,[23] it is also impossible for James 1:13 to apply to his experience of temptation.

3. “Numbers 23:19 says that ‘God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of  man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?’ Yet the New Testament says that Jesus is a man! And it specifically refers to Jesus as ‘The Son of Man!’ How then can he be God?”

Whereas the foregoing unitarian objections to the deity of Christ indirectly attack the character of God, the attack in this argument is much clearer. For, as we’ve noted already, “God made man upright.” Therefore, the nature of man in his original state is not sinful/fallen but good/morally pure. This is to say, if Num 23:19 is teaching that man is by his created nature a liar, then it is teaching us that God’s assessment of man as being morally pure and very good in Gen 1:26-27, as well as upright in Ecc 7:29, is actually wrong. Yet Scripture records God’s Words in Genesis 1:26-27 and Ecc 7:29 and declares that these words are true,[24] so the unitarian faces a devastating dilemma. For if, on the one hand, the unitarian declares that man is, by his created nature, a liar, then he cannot affirm that Gen 1:26-27 & Ecc 7:29 are true (for they contradict his assertion that man is, by his created nature, a liar). And if he cannot affirm that Gen 1:26-27 & Ecc 7:29 are true, then he cannot affirm that the Scriptures are infallible and inerrant. And if he cannot affirm that the Scriptures are infallible and inerrant, then how can he confidently assert that he knows anything about God or his creation at all?

On the other hand, if the unitarian declares that Gen 1:26-27 and Ecc 7:29 are true, then he cannot claim that man is, by his created nature, a liar (for these Scriptures explicitly teach that man is not, by his created nature, a liar). And if he cannot interpret Num 23:19 as teaching that man is, by his created nature, a liar, then he cannot claim that Num 23:19 contradicts the propositions “Jesus is God” and “God is the Son of Man.” More plainly, Num 23:19 does not render the incarnation impossible. Therefore, if Jesus is a Man, and the Son of Man, this does not mean that he cannot also be God.

4.  If Jesus is God, why did he say to his disciples: ‘Trust in God; trust also in me’?”

The irony of this objection is that it fails to recognize the significance of Jesus’ command to his disciples. It is true that Jesus does not explicitly say “the Father” in the above quoted verse (viz., John 14:1), he immediately identifies “God” as “My Father” in the next verse (viz., John 14:2). Consequently, Jesus’ command for the disciples to believe in him, even as they believe in God the Father, constitutes a claim to equality with God the Father. For the psalmist says that “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man,”[25] and elsewhere in the Psalms we are commanded quite clearly to “not [put our] trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”[26] If Christ is merely a man, then how can he command his disciples, and all mankind, to believe in him? How can, moreover, claim that there actually is salvation available to all who believe in him? Likewise, how can Jesus be merely a man when the prophet Jeremiah explicitly says “Cursed is the man who trusts in man  and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord[27]? Note that the Holy Spirit says that those who trust in man are turning away from the Lord. How, then, can Christ be merely a man?

This is not to deny the humanity of Christ, but to note that Christ is not just a man. Christ is, rather, the God-Man in whom we believe and through whom we obtain salvation. The unitarian “Christ” cannot command men to believe in him, for the unitarian “Christ” is merely a man, and the Scriptures forbid us to put our trust in mere men. Similarly, the unitarian “Christ” cannot command men to believe in him, for the unitarian “Christ” is merely a man, and the Scriptures equate trusting in mere men with turning away from the Lord. What is more, the promise Jesus Christ gives to those who believe in him, as they believe in the Father, is peace;[28] and throughout the Old Testament, we are told that belief in the Lord alone brings peace. For example, consider the following verses:

i. Judges 6:22-24: “…Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace…”[29]

ii. 2nd Kings 22:18b-20a: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord … I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace…”[30]

iii. Psalm 4:8: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

iv. Psalm 29:11b: “ May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

v. Psalm 119:165: “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”

vi. Psalm 147:14a: “He makes peace in your borders”

vii. Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

viii. Isaiah 26:3: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

ix. Isaiah 48:18: “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea…”

x. Isaiah 48:22: “‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’”[31]

xi. Haggai 2:9: “‘The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

xii. Malachi 2:5-6: “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.”

Note how the giving of peace is tied to the exercise of faith not in man but in the Lord, the God of Israel. Note further that in John 14, from which the unitarian attempts to draw the mere humanity of Christ, teaches that God and Christ give peace to those that believe in them. Trusting in man does not bring peace, but trusting in the God-Man does.

III. Concluding Remarks

As has been demonstrated above, popular argumentation put forward by unitarians destroys the Scriptural doctrines of the omniscience of God, the infallibility of the Scriptures, the infallibility of Jesus Christ, and the Messiah-ship and Sonship of Jesus.[32] Likewise, the popular argumentation put forward by unitarians also destroys the doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness and impeccability,[33] God’s impeccability, man’s original righteousness, and God’s omniscience.[34] Lastly, the arguments dealt with above destroy any possibility of man having peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.[35] If Christ is merely a man, and not the God-Man, then the Scriptures are untrustworthy, the God they present is fallible and ignorant concerning the facts of his own creation, Christ is not the Messiah, nor is Christ the Son of God, nor is he the sinless sacrifice for sinners, and there is no hope for man to obtain peace through faith in Christ Jesus. In short, if Christ is merely a man, and not the God-Man, then there is no Gospel.

-h.


[1] John 5:18b

[2] John 8:59

[3] John 10:33b

[4] See Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21 & 7:48-50; cf. Ps 103:2-3

[5] See Matt 9:11, 17:24, 22:15-40; John 8:4

[6] John 3:2; cf. Matt 12:38

[7] Matt 21:11

[8] See Luke 23:4

[9] Ps 130:8

[10] Matt 1:21

[11] See also, Mark 14:60-65

[12] See John 8:46; 2nd Cor 5:21; 1st Pet3:18

[13] John 8:46

[14] It is important to note that while some Christadelphians argue that Christ had a fallen, sinful human nature, this contradicts the clear teaching of 2nd Cor. 5:21, where Paul says Christ knew “no” sin. This universal “no” excludes the possibility of Christ having a sinful nature. Moreover, fallenness is not essential to being human; rather, goodness, holiness, and righteousness are essential to humanity as God created man (e.g. Gen 1:26-27; Ecc 7:29; Col 3:5-10; Eph 4:17-24). For a fuller discussion and refutation of the Christadelphian doctrine, see: Clementson, Julian, “The Christadelphians and the Doctrine of the Trinity,” in The Evangelical Quarterly, 75:2 (2003), 157-176.

[15] James 1:14

[16] Gen 1:31

[17] 1st Tim 2:14

[18] Rom 5:19a

[19] Ecc 7:29b

[20] For a more thorough assessment of Eve’s temptation in the garden, see Mahony, John W., “Why an Historical Adam Matters for a Biblical Doctrine of Sin” in Southern Baptist Theological Journal 15.1 (2011), 60-78.

[21] See footnote 14.

[22] Heb 7:26

[23] See also John 14:30-31

[24] See Psalm 119:160 & John 17:17

[25] Ps 118:8

[26] Ps 146:3

[27] Jer 17:5

[28] See John 14:27 & 16:33

[29] Interestingly, this passage of Scripture the Angel of the Lord is identified as the Lord, serving as a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ who is both the Messenger of Yahweh and Yahweh himself.

[30] Likewise, consider Asa whose faith was met with God’s gift of peace during his kingly reign (2nd Chron 14:1-6).

[31] cf. Isa 57:21 & 59:8.

[32] See Argument 1, above.

[33] See Argument 2, above.

[34] See Argument 3, above.

[35] See Argument 4, above.

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2 thoughts on “The Illogic of Arguments Against Christ’s Deity

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