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Thread: Trinity question: The eternal Son before the incarnation

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    tWebber
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    Trinity question: The eternal Son before the incarnation

    I think there are some very poor explanations of the Trinity coming from Christians.

    Like an article I just read:

    "Christ is and always has been the Son of God."

    "most Christians believe that Jesus existed as God's eternal Son before creation."

    I think not.

    If this were true, then it would suggest that Jesus as a man existed prior to His birth.

    So, in my view, there is within the Trinity an eternal sonship prior to the Word becoming flesh.

    So the second person of the Trinity was always the son in relationship to the Father and it was this son who incarnated Jesus of Nazareth at a particular time in history.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

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    tWebber Obsidian's Avatar
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    I think it's questionable whether he was actually referred to as a "son" prior to the incarnation. (The only arguable example that I can think of would be Nebucanezzar's comment about seeing a fourth man in the furnace who looks like the "Son of God.") But he was often referred to as the Word of God, a "voice" of God, and an angel of God, and he held a subordinate relationship similar to how a son would. Obviously he wasn't referred to as Jesus before he was born. I doubt that the article you read meant to imply otherwise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian3 View Post
    I think there are some very poor explanations of the Trinity coming from Christians.

    Like an article I just read:

    "Christ is and always has been the Son of God."

    "most Christians believe that Jesus existed as God's eternal Son before creation."

    I think not.

    If this were true, then it would suggest that Jesus as a man existed prior to His birth.

    So, in my view, there is within the Trinity an eternal sonship prior to the Word becoming flesh.

    So the second person of the Trinity was always the son in relationship to the Father and it was this son who incarnated Jesus of Nazareth at a particular time in history.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you.
    I am not sure I understand what your objection is.

    Ephesians 3:9,
    . . . God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: . . .
    . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by 37818 View Post
    I am not sure I understand what your objection is.

    Ephesians 3:9,
    . . . God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: . . .
    My point is that there is within the Trinity an eternal sonship prior to the Word becoming flesh.

    I would say it is a matter of relationship.

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    tWebber 37818's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian3 View Post
    My point is that there is within the Trinity an eternal sonship prior to the Word becoming flesh.

    I would say it is a matter of relationship.
    OK. The Word was always the Son before the incarnation. God being both infinite and Personal (Triune in Persons). Creation was solely through His Son being the Word (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). So I am not grasping your difficulty.
    Last edited by 37818; 06-27-2017 at 02:07 AM.
    . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 37818 View Post
    OK. The Word was always the Son before the incarnation. God being both infinite and Personal (Triune in Persons). Creation was solely through His Son being the Word (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). So I am not grasping your difficulty.
    Could we say the following without damage to the meaning of the text?

    In the beginning was the Son
    and the Son was with God,
    and the Son was God.
    2 He was with God in the beginning.
    3 All things were created through Him,
    and apart from Him not one thing was created
    that has been created.

    The Son became flesh
    and took up residence among us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian3 View Post
    I think there are some very poor explanations of the Trinity coming from Christians.

    Like an article I just read:

    "Christ is and always has been the Son of God."

    "most Christians believe that Jesus existed as God's eternal Son before creation."

    I think not.

    If this were true, then it would suggest that Jesus as a man existed prior to His birth.

    So, in my view, there is within the Trinity an eternal sonship prior to the Word becoming flesh.

    So the second person of the Trinity was always the son in relationship to the Father and it was this son who incarnated Jesus of Nazareth at a particular time in history.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you.
    I think the language you quote is normal. If it's confused, it reflects the limits of classical Christological language.

    One of the basic pieces of data on which theology such as the Trinity is based is various NT passages talking about preexistence of the Son. The only issue I see with the quoted passages is using "Jesus" rather than "Christ." As you say, the second statement could be read as a man existing before his birth. The first can't, though.

    You seem to be suggesting that we should use "Jesus" to refer specifically to a human being. I actually agree with you. But this usage doesn't seem to be common. In fact one major Christian web site considers the assertion that "Jesus is God" to be a central assertion defining one as a Christian. That has exactly the same issue.

    Indeed classical Christology makes the use you imply problematical. Classical Christology says that there is no human person. Rather, in Christ there's a single person, the person of the Logos, who has taken on a human nature but not a human person. (This is technically called "anhypostasia.") If there's really only one person, then presumably names such as Jesus have to refer to that person, and it then makes sense to say that Jesus is God and Jesus is preexistent.

    Anhypostasia ended up creating problems, most visibly with the denial of a separate human will. Since persons have wills, people naturally said that if there's only one person there's only one will. The Church backed away from this, saying that there is a separate human will and separate human activity. How this can be without the existence of a human person is an interesting question. Presumably one has to interpret "person" in a special philosophical sense in this context, and not as equivalent to the usual English word.

    At any rate, while no one would say that Jesus' humanity existed before his birth, statements like the ones you quote are pretty standard. In my view they result from anhypostasia, which leaves us without the ability to speak of Jesus as referring to a human being (since technically speaking Christ is human but not a human being). But if you want to reject this traditional use of "Jesus," be aware that you're rejecting or at least saying that there are limits to standard Christological language. That may not bother you. N T Wright, who is viewed as a conservative theologian everywhere except the US, has said that Chalcedon has always looked like a "confidence trick" to him. I think most modern theologians would agree. But many Christians say that if you refuse to say "Jesus is God" you aren't a Christian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hedrick View Post
    I think the language you quote is normal. If it's confused, it reflects the limits of classical Christological language.

    One of the basic pieces of data on which theology such as the Trinity is based is various NT passages talking about preexistence of the Son. The only issue I see with the quoted passages is using "Jesus" rather than "Christ." As you say, the second statement could be read as a man existing before his birth. The first can't, though.

    You seem to be suggesting that we should use "Jesus" to refer specifically to a human being. I actually agree with you. But this usage doesn't seem to be common. In fact one major Christian web site considers the assertion that "Jesus is God" to be a central assertion defining one as a Christian. That has exactly the same issue.

    Indeed classical Christology makes the use you imply problematical. Classical Christology says that there is no human person. Rather, in Christ there's a single person, the person of the Logos, who has taken on a human nature but not a human person. (This is technically called "anhypostasia.") If there's really only one person, then presumably names such as Jesus have to refer to that person, and it then makes sense to say that Jesus is God and Jesus is preexistent.

    Anhypostasia ended up creating problems, most visibly with the denial of a separate human will. Since persons have wills, people naturally said that if there's only one person there's only one will. The Church backed away from this, saying that there is a separate human will and separate human activity. How this can be without the existence of a human person is an interesting question. Presumably one has to interpret "person" in a special philosophical sense in this context, and not as equivalent to the usual English word.

    At any rate, while no one would say that Jesus' humanity existed before his birth, statements like the ones you quote are pretty standard. In my view they result from anhypostasia, which leaves us without the ability to speak of Jesus as referring to a human being (since technically speaking Christ is human but not a human being). But if you want to reject this traditional use of "Jesus," be aware that you're rejecting or at least saying that there are limits to standard Christological language. That may not bother you. N T Wright, who is viewed as a conservative theologian everywhere except the US, has said that Chalcedon has always looked like a "confidence trick" to him. I think most modern theologians would agree. But many Christians say that if you refuse to say "Jesus is God" you aren't a Christian.
    When I read comments in a Christian article or comments from a Christian, I understand what they are saying even if they are saying it in a confused manner.

    I call it "sloppy terminology."

    I look at these comments from the point of view of someone who has never heard of the concept of the Trinity and know why they are confused.

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    tWebber Obsidian's Avatar
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    The spirit that later became a man known as "Jesus" was pre-existent. It's not that sloppy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian3 View Post
    Could we say the following without damage to the meaning of the text?

    In the beginning was the Son
    and the Son was with God,
    and the Son was God.
    2 He was with God in the beginning.
    3 All things were created through Him,
    and apart from Him not one thing was created
    that has been created.

    The Son became flesh
    and took up residence among us.
    As a paraphrase OK.
    . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

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