Sunday, August 30, 2009

Christ As the Middle Person in the Trinity

Here we continue to look at the Triune nature of God. (Photos by Neil Cullan McKinlay)

Again, yes, we love the simplicity of the Gospel - that Christ died for sinners (of whom Paul the Apostle said he was chief). However, we also love its profundity. (The following is an excerpt from my unpublished book The Nexus): Because the Son is the Middle Person of the Godhead – Father and Son and Holy Spirit – when Jesus says, ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6b) He is declaring in time truth from eternity – a truth embedded in the very being of the Triune God. For, ontologically[1] the Father speaks through, and is spoken to, through the Son, and the Spirit is the power or the means by which the Father speaks through or is spoken to through the Son.

To be sure, because of the transcendence of God, i.e., because God is distinct and so set apart from His creation, the human mind boggles when contemplating the very being of God in Himself. Our knowledge of God is by way of analogy.
We know God by the things He has made and by what He has deigned to reveal about Himself in His written Word. In other words, we know what God is like and, conversely, what He is not like, but to know God exhaustively, and to know God as God knows Himself, one would actually need to be God. For only God has infinite knowledge of Himself.

In order to help us understand what God is revealing about Himself in Jesus Christ one must first seek to understand and then acknowledge a few things about the triune nature of God’s being.

The Son, as the middle Person in the Godhead, is analogous to and is therefore reflected in the relationship between God and His creation. Christ the Son is Mediator or go-between between God and His creation. Creation reflecting God is like the Son reflecting the Father. This is seen best in the way Christ’s human nature perfectly reflects His divine nature. The Son always does His Father’s will. This is echoed in the prophetic words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Earth is to reflect heaven and will progressively do so, being already united to heaven by the Nexus Jesus Christ. For the resurrected and ascended Jesus has taken the dust of this earth – including our humanity – with Him into heaven (and thus it is sanctified and glorified in Him) and He will bring heaven with Him when He returns to earth on the last day.
The Triune God united creation to Himself forever when the Word became flesh. And, it is in Jesus Christ that every last vestige of the effects of sin and the curse will be removed. For, in Jesus (who is the new Adam) redeemed mankind will be in the immutable position of being unable to sin against God (unlike Adam who, in the beginning, was merely on probation). This permanent condition of mankind the triune God had in mind in eternity past, for Scripture refers to Jesus Christ as ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ Revelation 13:8b.

And, even though He was crucified by men who are held morally responsible by God for their own actions, Scripture says that, ‘He, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, having crucified and put death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.’ Acts 2:23-24. Thus God, who is not the author of sin, even works evil to His own glorious end! And the wherewithal for working all things together for good is grounded in the very triune being of God. Says Herman Bavinck,

"The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the Trinitarian being of God. In Deism and pantheism there is no room for an incarnation of God. In the former, God is abstracted and separated from the world and humanity; in the latter, God loses himself in His creatures and has no being and life of His own."[2]

Both the Muslim and today’s Jew deny the Trinitarian being of God. Thereby both deny the Scriptures, which say that God is love. For only in the Triune God has love existed from eternity. The sum of God’s Moral Law (i.e., the Ten Commandments) is to love God and one’s neighbour as oneself. This love for God and for neighbour is revelation of the very character of God. For the Father loves the Son and the Spirit as Himself. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit as Himself. And the Spirit loves the Father and the Son as Himself. Thus each of the three Persons in the Godhead loves God and His neighbour as Himself, and has being doing so from all eternity and does so now, and will continue doing so to all eternity. Christ and His works are the expression to God’s creation of God’s love. Says Jay Adams,

"The cross was not merely an act of compassion and mercy directed toward mankind; it was a cosmic event in which God demonstrated who and what He is before all the universe."[3]

The most exhaustive of the great Confessions that resulted from the Reformation is the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647). Found in the Confession, the following is an accurate and concise statement about the Trinitarian being of God as revealed in Scripture,

"In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son."[4]

The Father has eternally been the Father of the Son just as the eternal Spirit has eternally proceeded from the eternal Father and the eternal Son. Thus the Triune God is without beginning or end and is from and to all eternity. If a straight line representing eternity were drawn on a piece of paper, the Father would be at one end of the line and the Son (who is His express image) would be at the other end, and the Spirit would constantly be proceeding back and forth along the line between the Father and the Son in both directions at once!

To use another analogy, perhaps the strand on the left of the DNA ‘double-helix’ could represent the Father and the strand on the right the Holy Spirit, and the bars or ladder rungs of coded-letters binding the two together could represent the Word or Son. However, if one looks long enough at any one person in the Godhead the other two begin to appear. Therefore the strands on the left and right of the ‘double-helix’ could just as easily represent the Father and the Son respectively, while the spars between could represent the Holy Spirit proceeding from both the Father and from the Son. But we favour the former because the order follows the order of God’s name as revealed in the baptismal formula, i.e., Father and Son and Holy Spirit – one name! (Matthew 28:19).

Francis Nigel Lee reminds us that everything God has in mind for creation will come to pass because of God’s everlasting covenantal relationship with Himself and with His creation of whom Christ in both relationships is the central or middle Person:

"The Lord God Jehovah Elohim has indeed been man’s dwelling-place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or before God ever formed the earth and the world – even from everlasting, and to everlasting, He is – He is God (and triunely so). Psalm 90:1f,10f; Job 14:5f ; First Timothy 1:17 & 6:15f.
Our great Triune God, then, is. He is, triunely. He is, covenantally – from, and in, and unto all eternity. So too is His Eternal Triune Counsel or His Plan and Covenant with the entire Universe. Jeremiah 31:31-35 & 33:20-25.
In terms of that Plan or Counsel, the three Persons of the Triune God have always been in an Eternal Covenant with One Another – an everlasting promissory agreement also concerning everything They would ever bring to pass. Psalm 33:11-15; Isaiah 42:15f; Zechariah 6:13; John 17:4f & 17:24. And this eternal triune Counsel involves Each of the Three Persons of the Trinity in His Own characteristic way – whether paternally, filially, or spiritually."[5]

When the Word became also flesh He said, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’ John 14:9. It is the Spirit who reveals the Son who reveals the Father to us. And it is as the central or middle Person in the Godhead that the Mediator between God and men says, ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ John 14:6. Christ as the Word, the Second or Middle or Central Person in the Trinity, was there at the beginning, and He will be there as the God-man Mediator at the end. For God holds all creation together, and holds creation to Himself, by, in, and through the Nexus who is Jesus Christ. Herman Bavinck summarizes for us,

"[Christ] is the mediator of both creation and re-creation… He is not a third party who, coming from without, intervenes between God and us, but is Himself the Son of God, the reflection of His glory and the exact imprint of His very being, a partaker of God’s essence, in the attributes of His nature, and at the same time the Son of Man, head of all humanity, Lord of the church. He does not stand between two parties: He is those two parties in His own Person."[6]

[1] Ontology = the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Oxford English Reference Dictionary.
[2] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, Vol. 3, 2006, Baker Academic, p. 274.
[3] Jay E Adams, The Biblical View of Self-esteem, Self-love, Self-image, Harvest House, 1986, p. 89.
[4] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2:3.
[5] Francis Nigel Lee, God Triune in the Holy Bible, p. 16
[6] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin & Salvation in Christ, Vol. 3, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 362-3 (underlining mine).

Monday, August 24, 2009

GOD'S LAW OR CHAOS - Scotland Chooses Chaos!

As our troops fight terrorists overseas, even laying down their very lives to protect the freedom and peace we enjoy at home, what is happening at home? Well, er, the Justice Secretary of Scotland is releasing lawfully convicted murderers!

The guilty Lockerbie Bomber who sent 270 innocent civilians to their deaths was given a hero’s welcome when he arrived to backslapping fanfare in Libya. Apparently, all that is needed for an early release from Scottish prisons is proof of a terminal illness.

The slippery slope to this Secular Humanistic (read Atheistic) form of (non-) justice begins with the removal of the maximum penalty for murder, ie, the death penalty. What is the rationale for not putting to death those who are lawfully convicted of murder? Well, it’s certainly not found in the Christian model of justice.

Yet, were one to read the Scottish newspapers one would see many bleeding-heart liberals claiming that the release of Scotland’s worst mass murderer was the Christian thing to do! Even the unrepentant homosexual-lifestyle-promoting Church of Scotland was in on the act, wanting the early release of this supposedly life-serving hater of humanity!

Scotland, it seems, has moved very far from its Christian roots as evidenced in allowing its Justice Secretary to thumb his nose at justice! Hopefully Scotland will wake up, open its collective eyes and see that this act of injustice is the disintegration of all hope of a coherent society.

As the bumper-sticker puts it: God’s Law or Chaos. Scotland, to its shame, has chosen chaos.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More of Tristan - @ 12 Days old


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Jesus God the Son?

(Photo by Neil Cullan McKinlay)

As we continue on considering what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible, let's now think about who Jesus is. He is the Word become flesh (John 1:-3, 14).

We love the simplicity of the Gospel whereby Jesus Christ is the Saviour of sinners - that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

But we also love the profundity of the Gospel - that it's on account of Jesus being a Divine Person that His salvation is of infinite worth and His work on earth goes out into eternity.

Ontologically God is ever pleased, but is never displeased or angry, with Himself. Each of the three Persons of the Godhead, though distinct, is well pleased with the Others and Himself. God does not experience anger.

Economically God is pleased and angry only metaphorically because the nature of God itself never changes. Because God is not a man not a hair of His head was singed nor was the smell of fire on Him when He was revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush. We know God only analogously.

God made man in His own image and likeness. But this image and likeness of God is not exhaustive. Unlike man who is finite, God is infinite. Therefore God is not the image and likeness of man – which would be to confuse or mix our created human nature with His eternally uncreated and unchanging Divine nature. God does not absorb anything in or of nature. Nor does creation absorb anything in or of God. God transcends matter.

The eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the Word, became flesh in time but continued unchanged as God. Christ's incarnation, resurrection, and ascension prove that the divine and human are and will remain two distinct natures forever. Christ's human nature with its passions (pain, anguish of soul, hunger, thirst etc.), are forever distinct from His Divine nature. Yet God knows these passions in the same way He knows good and evil (Gen. 3:22), but experiences none of these because He is without passions in and of Himself.

Speaking of Paul and Barnabas certain men said, “‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ To which Paul, by the Holy Spirit replied, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn away from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them...’” Acts 14:11&15. Paul here is stating that the nature of God is not the same as the nature of man: the two natures are distinct and are not to be confused – as was being done by the men whom Paul was addressing.

God is eternally well pleased with, and is never angry with His Son, whether at the Word’s incarnation, or His baptism, or His transfiguration, or His crucifixion. However, God is never pleased with the wicked, but angry with them every day (Psalm 7:11). Paradox? Not in Christ!
Christ never was, nor ever became, one of the wicked. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He is a Divine Person. Neither His divine nor human nature changed at His crucifixion. Jesus did not become a sinner on the cross. He became a sin-offering, and as such, received God's out poured fiery wrath. But Jesus suffered only in His human nature which remained distinct from His divine nature.

Was God pleased, or angry with Christ on the cross? One might as well ask whether Christ was angry or pleased with Himself on the cross? That is the question! Was there a conflict between His two natures? Was His Divine nature angry at His human nature – as God poured out His anger upon Him? And was His human nature angry at His divine nature for the suffering caused?

All paradoxes between the Divine and human (even God and creation) are resolved by keeping the two natures of Christ distinct. Confuse them and both the nature of God and man begin to change: Man becomes God and God becomes man. But either way both disappear like the metaphorical snake that swallowed its own tail!

In Christ God (the Word) and man are one in unity but not in substance. The properties of both natures may be ascribed to the One Person, i.e., Jesus Christ. But the nature of His Divinity must not be ascribed to the nature of His humanity, nor vice versa. Thus the Man Jesus Christ’s anger (overturning tables etc.) may very well be an expression of what is understood to be God’s anger.

However, because all revelation of God is not exhaustive and is only analogous one sees in the Man Christ Jesus’ anger more a revelation of God's Holy nature than of any supposed human passion of “anger.” Christ’s anger is revelation of God’s holiness, not God’s anger.
To say that God was both pleased and angry at the same time when Christ hung on the cross is to speak metaphorically of the holiness and righteousness of God. For God revealed who and what He is at the cross. But we must not confuse God’s anger or His pleasure with human passions. The nature of God who made heaven, the earth, and all things that are in them was not changed by His creation nor by Christ's cross.

All creation is revelation of who and what God is: even Hell itself! All creation therefore, though solid and real, is a metaphor of God.

Christ is the ultimate revelation of God, for He is the express image of His person. Christ's human nature is what God would be like if He were clothed in flesh. His humanity is not God, but is united to God forever.God’s anger at Christ’s cross therefore is not revelation of an emotion of God akin to man’s anger, but rather it is the expression, the revelation of His pure and holy nature which is infinite in being and perfection, invisible, without body parts, or passions.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baby Tristan

Well done Granddad!

Well done Tristan!

Well done Jennifer and Matthew!

Well done Granddad (again!)

Well done Dot and Neil

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lonesome Train

As a bit of light comic relief I thought I would post this video of myself trying to sing and play guitar at the same time. Not an easy feat - for me!

My daughter Nina did the videoing on my wee Kodak Digital Camera. It kind of looks like something out of a Chinese Kung-Fu movie, what, with my lips out of sinc with the vocals etc.

Anyway, this is just an experiment with a view to more adventurous future Blogging.

The song is an original by me, and is called Lonesome Train.

Nina says we should try and do a proper job of it, with railway stations in the background etc. So, next time I'll brush my teeth and hair, and I'll put on my cleanest Country and Western shirt!

Words for: LONESOME TRAIN (Neil Cullan McKinlay)

I felt at the wicket from the price of the ticket
I was witness to a serious crime.
As I turned and shook my head the stationmaster said,
"Good grief! The train is on time!"
Is it predestination when your train leaves the station
and journeys to some place new?
Or is it just a bore when you've seen it all before
like some permanent deja vu?

Lonesome train... Take me away!

Is it providence or fate when you enter through the gate
to find your train standing on the wrong track?
Does your heart skip a beat when you notice that your seat
has got your name printed on a gold plaque?
With a teardrop in your eye you smile and wave goodbye,
you're trying to escape from your mind,
but on the rack above your head there's a suitcase filled with dread,
you packed the things you should have left behind.

Lonesome train... Take me away!

You've got to travel fast to escape a shady past
but the present always hangs around,
the future's always near but it never gets that clear
when you don't know where your train is bound.
You won't clean out your mind you're afraid you're going to find
some thought that's going to cause you pain,
but the world still passes by out the corner of your eye
when you sit aboard that Lonesome Train.

Lonesome Train... Take me away to a bright new day
It's a bright new day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Abraham's God, and Mine!

(Photos by Neil Cullan McKinlay)
As we continue looking at God...

A bunch of people were arguing with Jesus about their descent from Abraham. Jesus said to them, "If I honour Myself, My honour is nothing. It is My Father who honours Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." John 8:54-56.

Notice that Jesus is calling them liars for alleging that they know God when clearly they don't! Jesus is saying that God honours Him as His only begotten Son. "Then the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? It's in reply to these unbelievers that Jesus says, "Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." John 8:58.

Who is the I AM? When Moses encountered the Angel of the LORD who appeared to him in the bush that burned but was not consumed, the LORD said to Moses, "I am the God of your father - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then He said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." Exodus 3:6; 14. Thus the "I AM" is the One who eternally is, was, and always will be. This name of God is usually rendered in English as Jehovah or LORD (note the upper case).

Put it all together and what have we got? The One who appeared to Moses is the same One who appeared to Abraham. And is the same One who was standing in (human) flesh in the midst of a group of deluded unbelievers who started picking up stones to stone Him for the (in their spiritually-blind eyes) blasphemy of calling Himself God!

But how did Abraham and Moses know that the I AM was God? Well, Moses was the one who wrote about Abraham when he compiled the first five books of the Bible (ie, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Paul the Apostle under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles [ie, the Ethnoi] by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.'" Galatians 3:8. Therefore Moses and Abraham understood the Good News!

But isn't the Good News about what God has done in Christ? Yes, of course it is! However, Abraham knew beforehand what God was going to do in Christ, because, as we've already noted, "Scripture... preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand..." That's what the promised blessings to all the nations is all about. It was about God the Father in Christ the Son by the power of their Holy Spirit subduing the nations after Satan's crushing defeat by Christ as a Man!

You see, Abraham's God and mine is the Triune God of the Bible. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons, one God. As, while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD [ie, the I AM or Jehovah] our God [ie, Elohim or three Persons but one God], the LORD [ie, the I AM or Jehovah] is one." Deuteronomy 6:4.

Thus Abraham's God and mine is not three separate gods, but one God with three distinctions in the Godhead, ie, the Father, the Son or Word, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when Scripture records God as saying, "Let Us make man in Our own image" and "Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language" and "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us" Christians hold that it is the Triune God speaking to Himself and referring to Himself.

Therefore, Abraham's God and mine is the One who refers to Himself as Father, eg, "You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name." Isaiah 63:16b. And God also refers to Himself as Son, eg, "Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if you know?" Prov. 30:4b. The Son is none other than the Angel, as in, eg,"And the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old." Isaiah 63:10. And "'The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple. even the Messenger [ie, Angel] of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts." Malachi 3:1b. The Holy Spirit? Eg, "But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them." Isaiah 63:10.

The God of all the earth, therefore, is the God rejected by Jew's in Jesus' day, today's Jews, Muslims, Secular Humanists, Neo-Darwinists, Atheists, so called Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. etc. etc. For our God is Triune - Jehovah Elohim. Our God is Abraham's God!

The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high;
'Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!'
They ever cry.
Hail, Abraham's God, and mine! -
I join the heavenly lays, -
All might and majesty are Thine,
And endless praise.
(Thomas Olivers, 1725-99)

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen." 2 Corinthians 13:14.