Was Jesus Able to Sin?

This is a thorny question that has received more than one answer in history. Some Reformed authors like Sproul and Hodge have argued that Christ was not truly human if He was not subject to the possibility of falling into sin. Others have said that the unity of the God-man implies that the divine nature would have prevented the human nature from falling into sin. Both sides would agree that Jesus did not, in fact, sin. The question is whether it was possible or not.

I would argue that it was not possible for Christ to sin. However, this must be argued carefully. I would argue from the analogy of Christ’s sin-bearing that it was not possible for Christ to sin. How could Christ, as the God-man, bear the infinite weight of the punishment for sins? A mere human could not do so. Ursinus, in his commentary on the Heidelberg, argues that it is the divine nature which sustains the human nature in the sin-bearing. I would argue that Christ’s divine nature does the same with regard to withstanding temptation. Some versions of the position I hold wind up endangering the distinctiveness of Christ’s human nature. If we use the concept of sustaining, then we do not run the risk of attributing divine attributes to the human nature. This would be a more Lutheran communication of attributes that we should avoid. We can attribute characteristics of either nature to the person, but not human attributes to the divine, or vice versa.

Another way to get at the problem is to ask what kind of impossibility of sin are we positing? The impossibility I argue for is an impossibility of character. Not only was Christ’s human nature in the state of innocence, but also the divine nature sustained him in the temptations so that He would not fall into sin. This in no way minimizes the ferocity of the temptations directed Jesus’ way. Satan threw everything he had at Jesus. It is because Jesus resisted to the very last, to the very utmost heights of temptation, that he can be our Savior.

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63 Comments

  1. Ron said,

    November 14, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Lane,

    I agree. Didn’t know that Sproul followed Hodge on this. Shame.

    I think an easy way of tackling the question is by arguing: If Jesus could have sinned, then God could have stop being God. God could not have stopped being God. Therefore, it’s false that Jesus could have sinned. I suppose one might say to that, Jesus could have sinned but he never does in any possible world. To which we might reply, again, could God stop being God?

    Regarding the rest of your post, reminded me of a note I jotted someone a few weeks ago. If you don’t have it, and there’s room on the book shelf 😉, you might want to pick up Divinity and Humanity by Oliver Crisp.

    That note…

    “Much appreciated your point on communicatio idiomatum – staying clear of Luther and his modifiers e.g. genus maiestaticum.

    O. Crisp speaks of God’s omnipresence; he “interpenetrates” all things yet without transferring the divine properties. He speaks of diving *acts* that are NOT generated by the human nature yet are nonetheless performed *through* the human nature. He cuts a fine line positing a one way transfer from the divine nature to the human nature, while upholding the Reformed view of no commingling or confusion of attributes. That transfer being one of predicates not properties. Calls it nature-perichoresis. Might be something for discussion…”

  2. November 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Not sure I buy this. Could it not be that as a fully human man, Jesus was totally capable of sinning. But at the same time, since he didn’t have an Adamic ‘sin nature’ his human will would be perfect, not like ours. So when tempted, He was tempted as we are, yet didn’t sin because His will caused Him to overcome the temptations. Our wills can only do that in our born-again, spiritual nature — but because we have an Adamic sin nature until death, we sometimes overcome and sometimes don’t. jesus overcame every time in the same manner — through the power of the Spirit and the will — ours redeemed and regenerated, and His perfect from the get go.

  3. November 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Why would the weight of punishment be “infinite?” What makes human transgression in a cumulative sense infinite? Are you perhaps influenced by other theological commitments to see human transgressions having an infinite dimension? I don’t see God in creation as attributing this quality to humans.

    I agree with the idea though that Christ could not have sinned. One line of argument I take: the Word became flesh. God cannot sin. Christ was human through Mary but without a sin nature. He kept the Law perfectly but there never was any possibility of failure since He knew what was ahead and even orchestrated the events in some sense without taking away other’s responsibility for their actions.

  4. Ron said,

    November 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    “But at the same time, since he didn’t have an Adamic ‘sin nature’ his human will would be perfect, not like ours.”

    David,

    Adam didn’t always have a sin nature. Look how far that got him. :)

  5. Ron said,

    November 14, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    “Why would the weight of punishment be “infinite?” What makes human transgression in a cumulative sense infinite?”

    Alex,

    Carl Trueman in a fascinating essay that appears in a book on definite atonement warns of thinking of the atonement in quantitative terms. He puts forth Owen as a solution(?), positing that atonement is better thought of in *qualitative* terms. By thinking in terms of death, the Savior can pay the *exact* same penalty that is required of each of us, which is “death.” It’s no longer a matter of how much debt, i.e. quantity, but rather what all people owe for the wages of sin but death. (The context pertains to exact or identical vs an equivalent justice. If the former, then justice would eclipse mercy; it would be at the point of penalty paid. Justice must be accepted. Yet if the latter, the equivalent justice must be graciously accepted by the Father; hence mercy and justice working together. It also served to avoid a doctrine of justification based upon sins imputed to the Savior…)

    I’m not comfortable with this construct, yet very possibly I’m not grasping the dilemma that supposedly is being solved. As I understood CT on Owen, since Christ didn’t suffer an eternity in hell, the penalty as it related to the *person* suffering was relaxed; yet the *penalty* itself was not relaxed. The penalty being death.

    I’m not sure I even understand what that means. If the penalty wasn’t relaxed, then death entails the equivalency of eternal torment, in which case the penalty as it related to the person was *not* relaxed.

    As I see it, such a construct would open the door for annihilation if death doesn’t have a quantitative aspect. It would also seem to run contrary to the passive obedience and strict justice that WLC 38 contemplates, which speaks of God’s infinite wrath, a quantitative consideration. Again though, I could very well be missing something here. Be that so, I’m not sure how we can avoid a quantitative aspect if propitiation and satisfaction are to mean anything.

  6. roberty bob said,

    November 14, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    I am not aware of any biblical claim that Jesus could not sin; only that he did not sin. Even if Jesus himself knew that he could not sin, he prayed earnestly to his Father for the strength of faith to do his Father’s will. From all accounts it looks as though Jesus resisted temptation in order not to sin. He persevered to the end, where he, God’s Spotless Lamb, laid down his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world.

  7. Ron said,

    November 14, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    RB,

    Sometimes doctrines must be construed negatively. We rule out eternal matter and pantheism to come up with creation out of nothing. The doctine is no less sure, however.

    “From all accounts it looks as though Jesus resisted temptation in order not to sin.”

    That does not imply that Jesus, a divine person no less, could sin. H

    In my grey years I’m less concerned with persuading people and slightly more concerned with our recognizing the implications of presuppositions. Could God have sinned?

  8. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 14, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    This is the same question as that of whether it is impossible for a nonelect sinner to believe in Christ. The same questions of impossibility and inability are involved. It ultimately comes down to whether God works through certainty (as distinct from necessity) or through necessity (as synonymous with certainty). I agree with Millard Erickson that it was possible for Jesus to sin, but certain that He would not.

    It’s important not to conflate being unable to do something because one does not have it within his heart to want to, and being unable to want to do it. The latter is absurd, begging the question, does he really want to want to do it, or is he unable no matter how much he might want to do it?

  9. Ron said,

    November 15, 2017 at 7:26 am

    So Jesus was merely sinless and not impeccable? Jesus sins in a possible world?

  10. Ron said,

    November 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

    “This is the same question as that of whether it is impossible for a nonelect sinner to believe in Christ.”

    Ken,

    It’s not even close to the same question. Total Depravity means that it’s impossible for non elect sinners to believe because they’re blind and deaf. Jesus was not blind and deaf to anything.

    Jesus was unable to sin because he was a divine person. As such, he was impeccable. If Jesus could have sinned, then God could have sinned. Persons sin and not merely natures. Your position entails a radical kenosis in that it abstracts the human nature from Christ the Son of God.

    I detect an inadequate understanding of temptation driving this position. Temptation doesn’t imply ability to succumb.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    November 15, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I think that the parable of the unforgiving servant invites us, at least at some metaphorical level, to think of sin in quantitative terms. This is the way I usually think of it: a slap in the face implies completely different consequences depending on the dignity of the person being slapped. Just compare the following: a hobo on the street, a fellow-citizen, a police officer, the President of the United States. Slapping each of these people has completely different consequences. When we consider that sin is a slap in the face of an infinitely holy and dignified God, then it becomes obvious that our sin creates an infinite debt. It is not payable, except by infinite and permanent death, the second death, in Hell. Christ’s death has infinite value, and can therefore pay infinite debts to an infinite degree.

  12. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 15, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Ron,

    You said:

    It’s not even close to the same question. Total Depravity means that it’s impossible for non elect sinners to believe because they’re blind and deaf. Jesus was not blind and deaf to anything.

    In both, it’s the question of the impossibility of acting against one’s nature. You continued:

    Jesus was unable to sin because he was a divine person. As such, he was impeccable. If Jesus could have sinned, then God could have sinned.

    God cannot sin, but neither can He be tempted. Scripture is explicit that Jesus was tempted. Therefore, the reasoning that, “If Jesus, then God…” is misapplied. In the incarnation, qualities were assumed that do not belong to divinity, such as finiteness, human limitations, the qualities of having a beginning and of being created, and the ability to be tempted. In all these, it is true that “God is not, but Jesus is…” You also say:

    Persons sin and not merely natures. Your position entails a radical kenosis in that it abstracts the human nature from Christ the Son of God.

    Persons are tempted and not merely natures; yet the divine impossibility of being tempted does not preclude the Person of the Son from being tempted through His human nature.

    The moral inability of Jesus to sin is of the same species as the moral inability of sinners to come to Christ. Neither can find it in their heart to do such a thing. But as Edwards and Fuller put it (referring to sinners), such an inability consists only in lack of inclination. It is in the power of his hand to do it, if he will. The impossibility is just this: that a man would choose to do what he does not want to do. It is not only impossible but absurd that a man would want to do what he does not want to do. However, the use of the terms of inability in these moral matters (as Fuller pointed out) is figurative (or “improper”) and not literal. Fuller,  “Reply to Philanthropos,” states:
    “<iem[…]when the terms cannot, inability, &c. are used in these connexions, they are used not in a proper, but in a figurative sense; that they do not express the state of a person hindered by something extraneous to his own will, but denote what we usually mean by the phrase cannot find in his heart; […]”
    Edwards, “Freedom of Will,” states:
    But it must be observed concerning moral Inability, in each kind of it, that the word Inability is used in a sense very diverse from its original import. The word signifies only a natural Inability, in the proper use of it; and is applied to such cases only wherein a present will or inclination to the thing, with respect to which a person is said to be unable, is supposable. It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be never so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be never so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. […] it is in some respect more improperly said, that he is unable to exert the acts of the Will themselves; because it is more evidently false, with respect to these, that he cannot if he will: for to say so, is a downright contradiction; it is to say, he cannot will, if he does will. […] Therefore, in these things, to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting is not a being able, but a being willing.

  13. November 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Lane,

    Carl Trueman’s and your view is the qualitative aspect of human transgression. You follow Anselm’s philosophy in this regard. Aquinas later took this idea and expanded it philosophically. It sounds rational, even plausible but, as it is, it is not biblically warranted in my view. I seriously doubt that I will change your view, partly because, other philosophical ideas are associated with it. This is the problem: it is human philosophy without scriptural grounding.
    Sin is quantitative and a slap is a slap no matter upon whom the strike is given. Of course a human acting in an official capacity would make the strike against the office as well as the human. All humans are the same however. The “slap illustration” breaks down when thinking about God also. When humans sin, they don’t affect God in any appreciable way. They hurt only themselves with their sin.
    Again, I don’t think I will change your philosophy at this point. You will need to think about and process whether the qualitative argument is, in fact, credible. The only illustration anyone can bring is the “slap argument” but that suffers easy deconstruction. I do not have space to deal with the biblical arguments which support the quantitative view of sin. However, humans cannot not pay for any sin since they need a sinless substitute.

  14. Ron said,

    November 15, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    “God cannot sin, but neither can He be tempted. Scripture is explicit that Jesus was tempted. Therefore, the reasoning that, “If Jesus, then God…” is misapplied”

    Ken,

    I find that woefully incomplete so please indulge me as I try to unpack and interact with the assertion.

    I’ve argued:

    Argument 1:

    1. If Jesus could have sinned, then God could have sinned
    2. God could not have sinned
    3. Therefore, Jesus could not have sinned

    You want to say I’ve misapplied that argument because you think it would suggest this unsound (and absurd) argument.

    Argument 2:

    1. If Jesus could have been tempted, then God could have been tempted
    2. God could not have been tempted
    3. Therefore, Jesus could not have been tempted

    Obviously we agree argument 2 is riddled with problems. Notwithstanding, I find it quite a leap of reason to suggest that the first argument shares these same problems. After all, what if the two arguments are *significantly* different?

    Scripture reveals that the Second Person was tempted (but only in his humanity). Therefore, argument 2 fails. We agree.

    Now then, we disagree on the success of argument 1. Your position is that it was *possible* for Jesus to have sinned, but that his sin would not entail the possibility of God sinning. You’d like to support that conclusion by noting that: Jesus’ temptations don’t imply that God could be tempted (therefore, the possibility of Jesus’ sin would not entail the possibility of God sinning). Am I tracking? Pretty sure I am.

    Here’s the problem:

    If Jesus could sin, then there are possible worlds in which Jesus does sin. (We will revisit that momentarily.) If you disagree with that, then we might have to discuss. It’s pretty straightforward though.

    I’m quite confident you are willing to say this:

    P1. Being one person, the Second Person was tempted (but only in his humanity).

    In other words, Jesus’ humanity wasn’t tempted but rather Jesus, a person, was tempted in his humanity. A *person* according to a human nature was tempted, as opposed to an impersonal nature having been tempted.

    The question is whether you’re also willing to say this as it relates to some possible worlds:

    P2. Being one person, the Second Person sins (but only in his humanity).

    If so, then what must be true for P2 to obtain? Let’s first review the bidding.

    1. You deny that God meticulously ensures the *impossibility* of the human will not submitting to the divine will in the hypostatic union. (That’s a fearful thought.)

    2. Instead, you affirm Jesus could sin (and, therefore, does sin in some possible worlds).

    3. Your position entails P2. Being one person, the Second Person sins (but only in his humanity.)

    4. That entailment implies either a radical kenosis that amounts to the Son emptying himself by subtraction rather than addition, or else a radical abstraction of the human nature from the Second Person.

    NOTE: At the very least, if Jesus could have sinned, then it was “possible” that redemption not happen, even in this world. Yet God promised redemption in Genesis 3, making non-redemption impossible. That leaves you with a real contradiction. To pit metaphysics against the fulfillment of prophesy just won’t work. Prophecy is known only in so much as it is meticulously ensured.

  15. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 15, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Re: 13

    There is another reason as to why Christ’s atonement is not quantitative. Substitution works on a one-for-one basis. Each individual sinner owes the entirety of Christ’s suffering and death. If God only wanted to save one, the cross would have needed to be the same as it was. I can’t look to the cross as if only a small fraction of His suffering was for my personal sins. All of it was needed to pay for my sin alone. So how is there any left over to pay for yours and the rest of the elect? It works for any who come only because it is applied on a one-for-one basis. Christ’s death is sufficient to pay for an infinite number of sinners, not because of any supposed superabundance, but because it is applied one-for-one by the Holy Spirit whose indwelling so joins the sinner to the identity of Christ as to give the sinner an ownership (or, “interest in”) all of Christ’s human accomplishments. Since there is no limit to how many may be indwelled by the Holy Spirit, then there is no limit to how many may have their sins atoned for by Christ’s death.

  16. Ron said,

    November 15, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    Lane: “I think that the parable of the unforgiving servant invites us, at least at some metaphorical level, to think of sin in quantitative terms.”

    Alex: “Carl Trueman’s and your view is the qualitative aspect of human transgression.”

    Alex,

    I’m not following. In a few words can you explain? Didn’t Lane suggest that we can’t avoid a quantitative aspect?

  17. November 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Ron,
    Well, maybe it is myself who fails to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative. The slap in the face, to me, speaks of the qualitative aspect. The quality of who is being slapped. Correct me if I am wrong. I know the concept have have worked at it in thought for 40 years when I first heard the argument in seminary. I know what I am talking about but possibly I am using wrong terms, forgive me.
    For any cumulative accounting of infinite, each trivial (if any sin can be called that) sin has to be infinite. Non infinite plus other non infinite can never make cumulatively infinite, therefore the smallest sin has to be infinite. Some say that God is infinite (I affirm this) therefore every sin against Him is infinite (I don’t affirm this).
    What clouds the understanding of the issue for most who think about it is that the sin whether it is infinite or not, cannot be atoned for without death. So even a small sin requires death and the thinking is that sin must be infinite. This does not follow though is my thinking.

  18. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 15, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Ron,

    I’ll admit I’m not as philosophically adept as you seem to be. But this notion of things actually occurring in other “possible worlds” doesn’t seem right. There’s only one world; and while it’s a world filled with genuine alternative possibilities, it is certain that God’s meticulous plan will be what actually occurs. What I’m affirming is a certainty that’s distinct from necessity. God need not remove all alternative possibilities in order to ensure with certainty that His plan will be carried out.

    At each moment, we are confronted with myriad possible paths from which to choose. God, with His knowledge and plan, transcend this temporal world. In God’s foreknowledge, all things are immutably known and are thus certain, even those things for which alternative possibilities exist within this temporal world. Possibility and impossibility are terms that only apply to this temporal world and are foreign terms improperly applied to God’s transcendent foreknowledge. Within the scope of the creation, it is not impossible that a foreknown event may fail to be. Even events that are completely random in this world, if there are any, are certain in God’s transcendent view—but without losing any of the contingency of their nature. God merely foreknows with transcendent certainty which of many alternative possibilities will come to pass.

    So then, when we say that something is impossible, we need to note whether the reasons for its impossibility are transcendent or temporal. If the reasons are transcendent, such as, the impossibility of God’s foreknowledge failing, or the impossibility of God’s plan not being carried out, or the impossibility of Christ failing in His mission, then this does not preclude temporal possibilities. To say otherwise is to conflate certainty with necessity. There is another account in Scripture that illuminates this principle:

    Matthew 26
    51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

    If there was any event in human history that was necessary, it was the central event of the crucifixion of the Savior. But here we have the surprising revelation of Jesus that alternative courses of action were indeed possible. His question to Peter serves well as a rebuttal to all who think that the foreknowledge or the sovereign plan of God invalidate or preclude the possibility of alternative choices or actions: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Those who think that there are no genuinely possible alternatives would have to answer Him, “No, I do not think You can.” And although Christ implicitly affirmed the possibility of the alternative, He also affirmed that the Scriptures will indeed be fulfilled (God’s foreknown plan will indeed be carried out): “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” The balance is found in God’s use of certainty, rather than necessity, to carry out His perfect plan.

    It was absolutely certain, in God’s transcendent knowledge and plan, that Jesus would not sin; but it remained a temporal possibility until His death. It was impossible that He sin only in the figurative (“improper”), transcendent sense, and not in the literal sense. He did not have it in His heart to sin—there was no willingness to do so. Just as sinners have no willingness to come to Christ. The ability and possibility remain even with the absolute certainty that attends the moral inability. Is it impossible for a man to do that to which he is wholly averse? Can you not see the two sides to that prospect? Why would the IRS not accept such an excuse? It is because lack of inclination does not literally make it impossible.

  19. Ron said,

    November 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    But this notion of things actually occurring in other “possible worlds” doesn’t seem right.

    Ken,

    Just to be clear, possible worlds aren’t parallel universes. Things aren’t “actually” occurring. Notwithstanding, possible world discussions are quite useful given such an assertion as yours.

    You’ve posited that it was *possible* for Jesus to have sinned. My approach has been to run with that assertion to see where it leads you. What better way than to imagine the possibility as actualized? If it’s truly possible that Jesus could have sinned, then let’s think in terms of him actually sinning in order to consider whether such an act would undermine any non-negotiable doctrine(s). If the result of Jesus sinning causes heretical contradiction, then we must forgo the hypothesis that Jesus could have sinned.

    Now then, for your assertion to be meaningful it must fit within a possible reality – a non-contradictory reality that includes a total description of how things might have been. Obviously we cannot fill in all the occurrences of a possible world, but we can draw some useful and necessary inferences about such a world, and that’s all I’ve done.

    Aside from your radical kenosis and nature-abstraction problems, I also pointed out that if Jesus could have sinned, then it was “possible” that redemption would not occur. Yet God promised redemption in Genesis 3, making non-redemption impossible. If non-redemption is impossible, then how could it be possible that Jesus act in such a way as to make the impossible somehow possible? That’s an argument that does not employ possible world language.

    There’s only one world; and while it’s a world filled with genuine alternative possibilities, it is certain that God’s meticulous plan will be what actually occurs.

    That certainly begs a few questions regarding causality, necessity and the grounding of truth.

    What I’m affirming is a certainty that’s distinct from necessity. God need not remove all alternative possibilities in order to ensure with certainty that His plan will be carried out.

    True possibilities might actually occur, which also means they might not occur. With nothing to ensure their actual occurrence or non-occurrence, it’s a dubious claim that they have a truth value, without which they define being known. As soon as you ground the truth so that it can be known, you will have established causal antecedent and necessity.

    I believe I’ve dealt adequately with these claims of yours. I think I’ve shown they lead you into theological and philosophical contradiction. I believe you’ve offered little by way of argumentation, both in defending your assertions and interacting with my arguments. That’s why I think we should stop. Please have the final word.

    Best wishes in your studies and reflections.

  20. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 16, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Ron,

    I’ve tried to emphasize the different meanings of “impossible,” but without any feedback here. It would be a shame if we were talking past one another. There is a completely different scope involved, compared to the scope that has God’s plan in view, when we posit the literal possibility of an action within the restricted scope of this world. Many things that are possible in the smaller scope are impossible in the larger; yet, it would be improper (or figurative) to say without qualification that the action is impossible.

    There is a similar difference in the meaning of terms of impossibility and inability when they are applied to decisions of men. Was Edwards wrong when he asserts that, although choosing against a man’s nature would be impossible, it is not a literal impossibility, since it is within the power of the man’s hand to choose either way, and if he was willing to go the other direction, nothing would stand in his way? I’m left to wonder why you have not addressed this. The Edwards/Fuller distinction between natural and moral inability is by far the best understanding. A natural inability is literal, and presupposes an absolute inability under which a man cannot do a thing “though he be never so willing to do it;” while a moral inability is figurative, and presupposes a remaining natural ability, but without any willingness to do a thing. That’s why the latter is without excuse. A literal ability remains even though it can be said that it is impossible for him to do it—it is a figurative expression describing the certainty of the situation. That it is figurative does not mean it is untrue. The man truly is unable, but the nature of that inability is different from one in which his will was the only impediment. It’s the difference between the inability to see because one is physically blind or because one just stubbornly holds his eyes shut: both have an inability to see, but only one is literal and provides an excuse.

    With these things in mind, let’s consider your replies. You stated:

    Just to be clear, possible worlds aren’t parallel universes. Things aren’t “actually” occurring. Notwithstanding, possible world discussions are quite useful given such an assertion as yours. You’ve posited that it was *possible* for Jesus to have sinned. My approach has been to run with that assertion to see where it leads you. What better way than to imagine the possibility as actualized? If it’s truly possible that Jesus could have sinned, then let’s think in terms of him actually sinning in order to consider whether such an act would undermine any non-negotiable doctrine(s). If the result of Jesus sinning causes heretical contradiction, then we must forgo the hypothesis that Jesus could have sinned.

    This is why I disagree with the “other possible worlds” approach. It presupposes a transcendent scope, having in view not only the proposed act but also how it would fit within God’s plan. I never intended to say that it was possible within God’s plan for Jesus to sin. My scope of meaning in saying it was possible is limited to the potential act itself and the nature of the inability.

    God’s plan will be carried out with absolute certainty. It is not necessary to eliminate all alternative possibilities in order to carry out this plan. It is not necessary for the prospect of Jesus sinning to potentially fit within God’s plan or to potentially fit within God’s nature or within theology, in order for it to have been a possibility—because it was utterly certain that it would not happen.

    To make an act impossible in the literal sense is to preclude all moral merit or demerit for that act. Take for example, the Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident, in which Ted Kennedy’s car ended up in the water, killing his lady passenger. Those who defended Kennedy tried to say that he was physically unable to save the lady, while those on the other side accused him of abandoning her to save his own life. It’s a difference that’s universally understood, and people often (for their own defense) try very hard to establish this difference between an inability that’s literal and natural, and one that consists only in a lack of inclination. Looking from the other side, it is no praise for a prisoner’s inability to escape if the cell door remains locked; but when the doors are left open, such an inability becomes a moral one and praiseworthy. You continued:

    Now then, for your assertion to be meaningful it must fit within a possible reality – a non-contradictory reality that includes a total description of how things might have been. Obviously we cannot fill in all the occurrences of a possible world, but we can draw some useful and necessary inferences about such a world, and that’s all I’ve done.

    You’re asserting that the possibility that I’m contending for cannot be meaningful unless the scope includes the whole plan of God—the whole world in which it potentially occurs. This begs the question of whether or not the scope can be reduced to the act without keeping God’s plan in view. According to His divine nature, He could not sin; but according to His human nature, the only thing preventing Him from sinning was His own human unwillingness, which itself stemmed from His divine nature. You also asked:

    I also pointed out that if Jesus could have sinned, then it was “possible” that redemption would not occur. Yet God promised redemption in Genesis 3, making non-redemption impossible. If non-redemption is impossible, then how could it be possible that Jesus act in such a way as to make the impossible somehow possible? That’s an argument that does not employ possible world language.

    Thank you for making my point! I agree that it is impossible for redemption to not occur; but, as I’ve repeatedly said, it’s a figurative impossibility, implying the extension, “impossible within God’s plan.” Forgive the repetition, but you did not address this earlier:

    Matthew 26
    51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

    If redemption not occurring was impossible in every respect, then explain why Jesus implied that He did not have to go to the cross but could instead call upon His father to send twelve legions of angels to set Him free. Within this temporal world, there are many genuinely possible alternatives to choose from, but it is utterly certain that God’s meticulous plan will be carried out. Even Jesus saw no inconsistency with these two facts. But your position would require you to answer Jesus’ question, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” with a denial, “No, I do not think You can.” But Christ’s clearly implied affirmation that He could indeed appeal to His Father in that way stands against you. Appealing to His father in that way was impossible within the scope of God’s plan, but it was not impossible in and of itself (in a literal sense). You stated:

    True possibilities might actually occur, which also means they might not occur. With nothing to ensure their actual occurrence or non-occurrence, it’s a dubious claim that they have a truth value, without which they define being known. As soon as you ground the truth so that it can be known, you will have established causal antecedent and necessity.

    Your vague terminology (“might actually occur”) isn’t helping. The future is not at all tenuous when God’s plan is in view. When presented with alternative possible courses of action, it is absolutely certain that only that course within God’s plan will be chosen. That certainty does not need to be grounded on causal antecedence alone, since God is providentially active within this world, ensuring that His plan is carried out, and with full knowledge of how anyone would act in any situation. You said:

    I believe I’ve dealt adequately with these claims of yours. I think I’ve shown they lead you into theological and philosophical contradiction. I believe you’ve offered little by way of argumentation, both in defending your assertions and interacting with my arguments. That’s why I think we should stop. Please have the final word.
    Best wishes in your studies and reflections.

    I disagree. But I appreciate the substantive and irenic exchange. Feel free to change your mind and reply if you find anything worthwhile.

  21. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 7:41 am

    “Well, maybe it is myself who fails to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative.”

    Alex,

    I might be in your boat.

    There are different degrees of torment in hell. Yet each degree will never lapse. Degree A is 1/2 degree B at a steady rate over time. It’ll take A twice as long to reach any cumulative of B. Not sure if that’s relevant. Both *will* suffer the same yet at any point one will have suffered twice as much.

    I think I can accept CT’s point but I wish he would’ve fleshed out “death.” Or maybe he did and I missed it. Butmaybe it’s obvious he meant infinite propitiation. If he did, than isn’t that qualitative and quantitative? Maybe that’s Lane’s point.

  22. November 17, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Ron,

    Could you give biblical references for the formulation of the scheme you listed regarding the final disposition of the wicked and the nature of their experience after judgment? You seem to have a well-developed and defined conception of these various categories. Usually, this is an area not studied to the degree as other biblical ideas. Are you primarily using the LWC for your ideas or do you specifically engage the biblical data?

  23. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Ken,

    Not only have you employed novel terminology, the very concepts as *you* understand them have been unlike any I’ve ever read (e.g. inability; impossibility; your most improper use of Edwards).

    I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood basic philosophical concepts. This is probably the most straightforward example of how lopsided this discussion has been in that regard:

    “Your vague terminology (‘might’ actually occur”) isn’t helping.” That’s truly remarkable and most ironic.

    There are several such examples as that one in the two threads, but that one is the most recent and concise. At the very core of this discussion is how “might-counterfactuals” relate to the “grounding objection.” What you found “vague” is telling. Yet even aside from the established taxonomy you found vague or evasive (another example is possible worlds), I also saw very little interaction with the very concepts the terms themselves contemplate. Not grasping the lingo is one thing, but to poo poo the concepts is quite another.

    It seems from this thread and the other that you think you have paved some third way between Arminianism and Calvinism. I suggest you read some William Lane Craig. At the very least you might gain an appreciation for the concepts that I was addressing. Craig and I would disagree, surely. But it would take all of five minutes to understand where we part ways.

    “ll admit I’m not as philosophically adept as you seem to be.”

    I passed over that before but I think it’s now fitting to say that regrettably, that has been our biggest challenge in this discussion. Please take some responsibility, that’s all. You might also consider that it’s highly unlikely you’ve forged a third way. With a bit firmer grasp of the debate, you might come to realize that you’re just a Molinist, which cashes out as garden variety Arminian in my book.

    That I didn’t just now interact with the substance of your post was intentional. I said I’d give you the last word. The debate is over. I just wanted to explain why it went so badly. You’re remark about the notion of “might” was important for me to comment on given your criticism. I hope it proves useful to you.

  24. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Alex,

    Revelation 20, judgemeant according to God’s perfect record. Also, Luke 12, to those who’ve been given more, they’ll beaten with more stripes than those who acted in ignorance. Tyre and Sidon vs covenant people who saw the miracles. James 3:1… teachers vs non teachers, but presumably our teachers are all saved!

    I think the Standards corroborate too.

  25. November 17, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Ron,

    Where do you get 1/2 degree of B? Does God’s record end at human death or do the resurrected unsaved keep sinning? If there are “fewer stripes” it seems the judgment ends at some point.

    I am very familiar with all the references you gave but am puzzled at how you arrived where you did. Plato is recognized as the one who originated the idea of native immortality of all undifferentiated humans. Didn’t God prevent Adam and Eve from eating of The Tree of Life in the sinful state?

    Eternal life seems limited to the redeemed while eternal punishment will be “stripes” requisite with transgressions during time on earth without any recourse. I reject any reconciliation or eventual universal salvation such as purgatory. When the punishment is over, that’s it.

    Yes, the bible is clear on eternal torment of an entity as mentioned in Rev. 20. It is also clear that the wicked will go to this same place. What seems to be different is the status of the various entities. In other words, unredeemed humans do not share eternal existence but are eventually terminated. This is eternal punishment in my view.

  26. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    “Didn’t God prevent Adam and Eve from eating of The Tree of Life in the sinful state?”

    Alex,

    Yes. Physical life would now come to an end.

    “In other words, unredeemed humans do not share eternal existence but are eventually terminated. This is eternal punishment in my view.”

    Paraphrases From Scripture….The worm never dies, the fire is never quenched. Forever and ever. Some unto eternal punishment, the righteous unto everlasting life.

    Not inclined to debate annihilation. It would be to debate the plain meaning of words.

  27. Ken Hamrick said,

    November 17, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Ron,

    There’s no doubt that Paul himself, should he reappear to disagree with you in this discussion, would find himself dismissed for failing to conform to the current philosophical scaffolding (I don’t think he’s read Craig, either ;) ). Whether that scaffolding serves to illuminate truth or to protect cherished errors remains to be seen.

    But let the readers note the validity of the critiques you’ve left on the table:

    1. You argued:

    …if Jesus could have sinned, then it was “possible” that redemption would not occur. Yet God promised redemption in Genesis 3, making non-redemption impossible. If non-redemption is impossible, then how could it be possible that Jesus act in such a way as to make the impossible somehow possible?

    My reply:

    Matthew 26
    51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

    If redemption not occurring was impossible in every respect, then explain why Jesus implied that He did not have to go to the cross but could instead call upon His father to send twelve legions of angels to set Him free. Within this temporal world, there are many genuinely possible alternatives to choose from, but it is utterly certain that God’s meticulous plan will be carried out. Even Jesus saw no inconsistency with these two facts. But your position would require you to answer Jesus’ question, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” with a denial, “No, I do not think You can.” But Christ’s clearly implied affirmation that He could indeed appeal to His Father in that way stands against you. Appealing to His father in that way was impossible within the scope of God’s plan, but it was not impossible in and of itself (in a literal sense).

    2. I’ve argued that you do not understand the plain language meaning of terms of inability (“cannot,” “impossible,” etc.) when applied to the will, which are always figurative and ever literal. I argued:

    The moral inability of Jesus to sin is of the same species as the moral inability of sinners to come to Christ. Neither can find it in their heart to do such a thing. But as [Jonathan] Edwards and [Andrew] Fuller put it (referring to sinners), such an inability consists only in lack of inclination. It is in the power of his hand to do it, if he will. The impossibility is just this: that a man would choose to do what he does not want to do. It is not only impossible but absurd that a man would want to do what he does not want to do. However, the use of the terms of inability in these moral matters (as Fuller pointed out) is figurative (or “improper”) and not literal. Fuller, “Reply to Philanthropos,” states:
    […]when the terms cannot, inability, &c. are used in these connexions, they are used not in a proper, but in a figurative sense; that they do not express the state of a person hindered by something extraneous to his own will, but denote what we usually mean by the phrase cannot find in his heart; […]
    Edwards, “Freedom of Will,” states:
    But it must be observed concerning moral Inability, in each kind of it, that the word Inability is used in a sense very diverse from its original import. The word signifies only a natural Inability, in the proper use of it; and is applied to such cases only wherein a present will or inclination to the thing, with respect to which a person is said to be unable, is supposable. It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be never so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be never so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. […] it is in some respect more improperly said, that he is unable to exert the acts of the Will themselves; because it is more evidently false, with respect to these, that he cannot if he will: for to say so, is a downright contradiction; it is to say, he cannot will, if he does will. […] Therefore, in these things, to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting is not a being able, but a being willing.

    The ability and possibility remain even with the absolute certainty that attends the moral inability. Is it impossible for a man to do that to which he is wholly averse? Can you not see the two sides to that prospect? Why would the IRS not accept such an excuse? It is because lack of inclination does not literally make it impossible.

    Was Edwards wrong when he asserts that, although choosing against a man’s nature would be impossible, it is not a literal impossibility, since it is within the power of the man’s hand to choose either way, and if he was willing to go the other direction, nothing would stand in his way? I’m left to wonder why you have not addressed this. The Edwards/Fuller distinction between natural and moral inability is by far the best understanding. A natural inability is literal, and presupposes an absolute inability under which a man cannot do a thing “though he be never so willing to do it;” while a moral inability is figurative, and presupposes a remaining natural ability, but without any willingness to do a thing. That’s why the latter is without excuse. A literal ability remains even though it can be said that it is impossible for him to do it—it is a figurative expression describing the certainty of the situation. That it is figurative does not mean it is untrue. The man truly is unable, but the nature of that inability is different from one in which his will was the only impediment. It’s the difference between the inability to see because one is physically blind or because one just stubbornly holds his eyes shut: both have an inability to see, but only one is literal and provides an excuse.

    Your only reply was this:

    Not only have you employed novel terminology, the very concepts as *you* understand them have been unlike any I’ve ever read (e.g. inability; impossibility; your most improper use of Edwards).

    Then you should read at least one more book, “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation,” by Andrew Fuller. As for Edwards, you’ve failed to provide any argument.

    In conclusion, I think you have not given me a fair hearing. But I accept you criticism that my knowledge of current philosophy is insufficient, and I will take your advice and study some of W.L. Craig’s books.
    Be blessed.

  28. November 17, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Ron,

    No one can argue a person to change their position if that is what they want to hold. I will not convince you because you seem to have made up your mind.

    I hold my position because I was convinced the the bible teaches consumption of the wicked. I affirm exactly what your verses say: Their worm is not destroyed, and the fire is not quenched. Exactly. Where are they? I see a worm and fire but not them. Also, “the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever”, that is the last thing, “Their smoke!” They no longer exist. If you have evidence that says that the unredeemed are forever existant, you have not given it. Give me one clear verse that explicitly says it. There is not one. This is why I was compelled to change my long held position which you now hold. No biblical warrant exists for
    the ECT position.

    In addition, many explicit verses speak of ultimate destruction: “they will only have ashes.” See especially Is. 26.11-27.4 where the context is the final disposition of cosmic powers. There are many sections of the bible that give eternal life only to the redeemed and explicitly speak of destruction of the unsaved. You can speak of “plain meaning” but you have the meaning already decided it seems. You have not given me anything that will stick. No explicit biblical passages teach ECT of the wicked. You have to be preconditioned to believe ECT and committed to it because of prior philosophical and confessional stances but in reality Eternal Conscious Torment has no biblical warrant whatsoever.

  29. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    “As for Edwards, you’ve failed to provide any argument.”

    Brother,

    That’s because you weren’t drawing from Edwards properly. Edwards was a *classical* compatabilist. I speak anachronistically, of course. He surely denied LFW. That you think that any utterance of his would corroborate your metaphysic as it relates to prescience is simply mistaken. He was concerned with act-determinism, not nature-determinism. (Whereas the WCF on free will focuses on the latter.) His use of “will not” as opposed to “cannot” merely speaks to his view of liberty, not metaphysical contingency. Your use of Edwards either suggests he betrayed his determinism or else it was irrelevant to your position. I merely avoided a confusion by not interacting with your use of Edwards. Anyway, man can do x if he desires to do x established for Edwards a robust doctrine of culpability in the face of an accusation of what we’d now call hard determinism. Edwards is not a friend to your position. Rather, he accuses it throughout Freedom Of The Will, a classic I’ve devoured.

  30. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    “Their worm is not destroyed, and the fire is not quenched. Exactly. Where are they? I see a worm and fire but not them.”

    Alex,

    You can’t be serious. What does the metaphor mean, God punishes with hell-fire literal worms forever?

  31. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    “There’s no doubt that Paul himself, should he reappear to disagree with you in this discussion, would find himself dismissed for failing to conform to the current philosophical scaffolding (I don’t think he’s read Craig, either ;) ).”

    That’s just a misrepresentation of the truth. It ignores that I find fault with your confusion over concepts, assigning novel terms to vague ideas and finding fault with ideas such as might-counterfactuals and possible worlds.

  32. November 17, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Ron,

    Again, you interpret the metaphors with your pre-decided stance. It is abundantly clear where the native immortality of the soul derived and Christians have adopted it from philosophy and not from the O.T. I choose the theology of the O.T. and interpret the categories of the N.T. from theology and not Platonic Philosophy. I held to ECT for 30 years but my commitment is the bible without philosophical baggage or erroneous historical Christian belief when its not warranted. Semper Reformata.

    Honest biblical inquiry will arrive at Conditional Immortality and eventual destruction of unatoned sinners.

  33. Ron said,

    November 17, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    What does the metaphor mean, God punishes with hell-fire literal worms forever?

  34. November 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Its a metaphor taken from the last verse of Isaiah. As such we should not press it towards a pet interpretation. Jesus quoted that verse for rhetorical purposes. Yet some want to literalize it and make it say eternal conscious torment. I don’t believe that was the intent of what Jesus was saying. You know, I am sure, that it is the best practice to see the bible’s teaching as a whole and work from clearer descriptions and ideas to the thoughts expressed in metaphors. I believe it a poor practice to merely proof-text and extract a theology from the figures used in discrete contexts. I ignore nothing the bible says. Every verse is precious. How it is read (interpreted) is another matter entirely.

    All too often when theologians lack valid argumentation, they use the force of their personalities to shove it down their listener’s throats. I am thinking of certain proponents of this doctrine and not you, Ron. As I studied this through the years, proponents, when they couldn’t respond to arguments, cited specialists. Yet when I read them, it was not what I was expecting. I don’t expect bald assertions but reasoned and careful arguments to if I am to be persuaded. I am not impressed with isolating proof-texts and attaching significance and meaning to them apart from the fuller message of the bible.

    I have other pressing matters and need to move on. This is my last word with you Ron, as is evident, you do not bring seasoned arguments but only pose questions of selected texts.

  35. Ron said,

    November 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    You’re an amusing fellow, Alex. Your posts have been purely autobiographical with a splash of gnostic insight into the psyche of those who hold to the traditional view of hell.

  36. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 21, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    @ Ron and others:

    (1) What does it mean to be “tempted”? Does the word imply the possibility of succumbing? If not, in what sense temptation?

    (2) Christ has been regarded since 681 as having two wills according to the two natures. Do both natures have to be impeccable?

  37. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Jeff,

    Not sure what more I can add. I don’t think the possibility of succumbing is a condition for true temptation. In fact, I think the burden of proof is upon those who think it is. A few thoughts…

    Of course that Christ was tempted isn’t being questioned. That leaves only the question of impeccability. If Christ was impeccable yet tempted, then the possibility of succumbing cannot be a condition for temptation. And if the argument for impeccability is sound, then the biblical idea of temptation must comport. You might then tell me, could Christ have sinned or is temptation compatible with impeccability?

    Obviously Christ wasn’t tempted through the occasion of indwelling sin. It must be in another sense that Christ was tempted. Accordingly, that he was tempted in all ways as we is not without qualification. With that qualification in view, Christ was subject to the same trials that all human beings face; yet the impossibility of succumbing doesn’t imply the want of true temptation. Temptation is a matter of nature. God and rocks don’t have a human nature. They aren’t tempted.

    The human nature has natural impulses. These impulses, being natural, are a distinct consideration and should not be confused with the desire to welcome them as opposed to resist them. That’s key I think. Jesus could be tempted because he had a human will. How would such true temptation be precluded on the basis of his perpetual unwillingness to succumb? That perpetual unwillingness was decreed and ensured. There was no metaphysical ability to do otherwise.

    What made Christ’s human nature incapable of sinning was its hypostatic union with the Word. Impeccability of the human nature also relates to the divine intention to prevent Christ from sinning in his humanity and the impossible consequences of Christ sinning. It’s highly improper to abstract the human soul from the divine person who possesses it in order that we might consider the possibility of Christ sinning. (That’s what inevitably happens when those take Hodge’s minority position.) It would no longer be Christ’s humanity under consideration but rather the humanity of a non-divine human being. Any relevance of the hypostatic union would be illegitimately dismissed from the start. Foul.

    If it was impossible for Christ not to have redeemed (given it was eternally believed he would), then at creation and onward it was at least accidentally necessary that he would not sin. The past belief would be necessary etc. It’s also impossible that Christ could sin in his humanity if the Son cannot be united to a sin nature, (which is an entirely different consideration than the Son having united himself with a nature that could be tempted yet without sin).

    It’s at best equivocal in a technical discussion as this to posit the true possibility of x occurring if it’s also true x will not occur. If it’s true that Jesus might have sinned, then it is philosophically false that he would not sin. The truth of not sinning would have been unsettled IF it were indeed true that Jesus truly might sin. In other words, it would not have been true yet that he would not sin. Open Theists are correct in pointing this out to other incompatiblists who want to hold to the doctrine of divine omniscience in the face of the grounding objection.

  38. Reed Here said,

    November 22, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Ron and Jeff, might the two-natures of Jesus have a role in the temptation question? In his divine nature, not temptable; in his human nature, temptable. Peccability attaches to the human nature, while the divine nature assures the impeccablle response.

  39. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Reed,

    Not sure how close you’re following but that leaves you with all I’ve argued against. It’s no different than the free will debate.

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    @ Reed: That’s my inclination also. I would understand Jesus’ temptations in Matt 4 to be parallel to Adam’s temptation in the Garden: with regard to His human nature and human will, Jesus was without sin or tendency to sin, yet capable of being tempted to sin.

  41. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    “Peccability attaches to the human nature, while the divine nature assures the impeccablle response.”

    Ok, let’s run what that statement.

    In other words, the Son has the capacity to sin in his human nature but does not sin in any possible world because of the divine nature. What is it to have a capacity that cannot possibly be exercised? And if it cannot be exercised, how is it then an actual “capacity” to sin? The solution is not to think in terms of capacity extricated from Person. That’s not a solution but an avoidance of Christological boundaries entailed by the incarnation of the Second Person. There’s a vast difference between Christ and the rest of humanity. The difference is not qualitative but one of relation. Christ and the rest belong to the set of all human beings. Neither Christ nor we are are lacking, or more or less human. The difference isn’t in our humanity but in the hypostatic union, the unique relation Christ the Son has to his human nature.

    I think we run into problems when we consider Christ’s human nature apart from incarnation. When we abstract the human nature from the concrete Christ who makes his human nature personal, the capacity of that particular person’s human nature is no longer under analyses. Inferences are no longer walled in by the unique relevance of the hypostatic union. If the Son cannot fail to meticulously ensure that he does not succumb to sin’s temptation in the flesh, then that should inform us of the Son’s alleged capacity to sin in the flesh.

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    @ Ron:

    It’s tough to talk about counterfactuals, since any “could have been different” scenario presupposes that God’s decree was different from what it actually was. Given that Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, He was not going to sin, whether assisted by divine nature or no.

    So by even asking the question “could Jesus have sinned?”, we are entering into a possible world in which God’s decree might not have been what it was. We are effectively pretending that we did not know that Jesus was (decreed to be) “slain before the foundation of the world.” And we are doing so in order to explore secondary causes.

    Lane’s response is that, in that hypothetical world, Jesus’ humanity was assisted by the divine nature, so that it would not have been possible for Jesus to sin. I agree with that response.

    Now let’s enter into a third possible world — one in which Jesus’ human nature were not assisted by the divine nature to not sin.

    In that case: could Jesus have sinned, in the same way that Adam sinned? That is, with respect to the human nature, was the temptation actually tempting to that nature, in the same way that the temptation to eat the fruit was tempting to Adam?

    You argue No, on two grounds — that a Person is tempted, rather that a Person with respect to a particular nature.

    I would like to see that point developed and defended, for it is not obvious to me.

    (1) Your point suggests that a Person has one will, but Jesus had two (unlike any other person in all of creation!). Given that unique situation, it is not at all clear that Jesus must have been tempted in both natures at once. In fact, since God cannot be tempted to sin (James 1.13), it is actually highly likely that Jesus was tempted in His human nature only.

    So I would like to see you develop your argument in a way that clearly distinguishes the two wills.

    Likewise, your point suggests that impeccability is a characteristic of Jesus’ human nature because it was a characteristic of the divine nature.

    RdG: What made Christ’s human nature incapable of sinning was its hypostatic union with the Word. Impeccability of the human nature also relates to the divine intention to prevent Christ from sinning in his humanity and the impossible consequences of Christ sinning.

    But that would confuse the natures by attributing the divine characteristic of impeccability to Jesus’ humanity.

    Since I am sure that you are a card-carrying Chalcedonian, I doubt that’s what you intend. So again, I would like to see you develop your argument in such a way as to clarify how Jesus’ human nature could be *human*, yet not partake of divine impeccability. After all, you do concede that being tempted is a function of nature, not personhood.

    (2) You argue that if Jesus could have sinned, then redemption could not have been decreed.

    RdG: That perpetual unwillingness was decreed and ensured. There was no metaphysical ability to do otherwise.

    But of course, that’s the nature of discussing any counterfactual. To ask “could it have been different?” is to automatically ask “if God had not decreed X, could X have not occurred, or do secondary causes make X inevitable?”

    So while your point about decrees is very true, it also misses the point of the exercise, which is to explore what might have been, outside of what we already know about God’s decrees.

    What I appreciate about Lane’s response is that it indirectly makes Reed’s point: Jesus’ human nature required assistance from the divine. This would imply that without such assistance, Jesus would have been capable of sin.

    Finally, on the issue of burden of proof, I would say that both sides must shoulder the burden of defining “temptation” in such a way that it makes sense of all Biblical data.

    Peace,

  43. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    It’s tough to talk about counterfactuals, since any “could have been different” scenario presupposes that God’s decree was different from what it actually was.

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure what makes it “tough” to talk about counterfactuals, but that’s what is going on here given the assertion that it was handed to me – that it was possible for Jesus to have sinned. If such an assertion meaningful it must fit within a possible world, which is no less than a possible reality, i.e. a non-contradictory reality that includes a total description of how things might have been.

    Lane’s response is that, in that hypothetical world, Jesus’ humanity was assisted by the divine nature, so that it would not have been possible for Jesus to sin. I agree with that response.

    So, you mean it was not possible for Jesus to sin?

    Now let’s enter into a third possible world — one in which Jesus’ human nature were not assisted by the divine nature to not sin In that case: could Jesus have sinned, in the same way that Adam sinned? That is, with respect to the human nature, was the temptation actually tempting to that nature, in the same way that the temptation to eat the fruit was tempting to Adam? You argue No, on two grounds — that a Person is tempted, rather that a Person with respect to a particular nature.

    If you understand my position, you aren’t framing it coherently. Persons are tempted according to nature.

    (1) Your point suggests that a Person has one will, but Jesus had two (unlike any other person in all of creation!).

    It’s apparent you do not understand what I’m certain has been clearly put forth (to those more acquainted with these sorts of things).

    I wrote: What made Christ’s human nature incapable of sinning was its hypostatic union with the Word. Impeccability of the human nature also relates to the divine intention to prevent Christ from sinning in his humanity and the impossible consequences of Christ sinning.

    You responded with: But that would confuse the natures by attributing the divine characteristic of impeccability to Jesus’ humanity.Since I am sure that you are a card-carrying Chalcedonian, I doubt that’s what you intend.

    That’s rather amusing, Jeff. I fully intended what I wrote. It’s not an affront to sound to orthodox Christology. That you think so makes me all the more eager not to continue. The contemporary debate is steeped in terms and concepts that have eluded this thread.

  44. Reed Here said,

    November 22, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Ron, I think it is all a bit simpler than the words are leading you to consider. I think Jeff has the right of it. In his human nature Jesus was like Adam, posse peccare. In his divine nature he is non posse peccare. His divine nature sustained his human nature. No need for any bifurcation. So speaking simply, he was tempted in all things, as we are, yet without sin.

    Not sure why it needs be more complex than that.

  45. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I think Jeff has the right of it. In his human nature Jesus was like Adam, posse peccare. In his divine nature he is non posse peccare. His divine nature sustained his human nature.

    Reed,

    If Jesus couldn’t have sinned, then he wasn’t like Adam in this regard. The discussion was to be on whether Jesus could have sinned.

    No need for any bifurcation.

    That’s rather dismissive, Reed. Would you call Paul Helm’s refutation of William Lane Craig’s view of Middle Knowledge “bifurcation?” After all, compatibilism isn’t that “complex.”

    So speaking simply, he was tempted in all things, as we are, yet without sin.

    By that statement, you must think that temptation is a sufficient condition for the capacity to sin, but that’s to beg the question.

    Not sure why it needs be more complex than that.

    Oh, I think it’s rather elementary. The problem is, there are some who hold a position that implies the Son can have an actual capacity to sin without it being possible to exercise such as capacity. That seems a bit silly to me, yet the refutation of those sorts of contradictions can at times get a bit complex. That’s why I’ve gotten into accidental necessity; the contradiction of might-counterfactuals as they relate to the grounding objection; the impossibility of unfulfilled prophecy and the rest.

    Maybe jot a few of your former professors a note. Ask them if it’s as simple as you just suggested.

  46. roberty bob said,

    November 22, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Was Jesus able to sin?

    The New Testament witness speaks loud and clear about the faithfulness of Jesus. This means that Jesus stayed on course in doing the will of his Father. Whatever the temptations he faced, he refused to yield. Thus it is said of him by the inspired apostles that Jesus was without sin or that he knew no sin. Having been accused of numerous sins and crimes, Jesus was crucified as a punishment; however, he was vindicated by his Father when God raised him from the dead. By raising Jesus, God declared him who was faithful to be Lord and Christ.

  47. Ron said,

    November 22, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Yes, RB. Jesus was faithful. What’s being denied by opponents of the vast majority of Reformed thinkers is that he couldn’t have done otherwise.

  48. Reed Here said,

    November 23, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Ron, I’m sorry. I was not trying to be dismissive. I was trying to offer a respectful response, one that respects you and my family with whom I am spending time away from ordinary ministry.

    I only used bifurcation in response to what I thought was your concern that my words divided the two natures of Jesus. I was not suggesting you’re bifurcating, but rather saying that I think you’re reading too much into my words. Nothing more.

    And I don’t think I’ve said anything other than consistent Chalcedonian theology. Jesus in his human nature “could not sin,” in that his divine nature sustained him. We can speak about the natures distinctly in terms of qualities, but (as I know you know), we must only speak of operation of the natures in union.

    Not trying to be controversial, but I really do think the answer is a bit simpler than the discussion. I’m not offended by the discussion. Nor am I trying to be dismissive. Instead, I think the principles of the Chalcedonian construction enable us to speak of a real posse peccare for Jesus, but only in the abstract, in his human nature as we distinguish its qualities from the qualities of his divine nature.

    Again, just to summarize what I’m thinking, we can speak of qualities in distinction (Jesus could sin, considering human nature alone). We must speak of operations in union (Jesus could not sin, considering human nature in union with his divine nature).

    That’s why I quoted Hebrews 4:12, not to beg the question, because I think that verse succinctly says these things. And yes, I believe that human temptability includes the possibility of sin. This follows from the correlation between the human nature of Adam and Jesus. They were the same in this regard, right? If that belief is incorrect, then I can see where the question of whether temptability includes the possibility of sin exists.

    (And no, I don’t see how the possibility of sin inherently is deficient in some manner that it attacks the perfection of Jesus. Adam was perfect, but incomplete. Ditto Jesus. Hence the teaching that his resurrection glorified him.)

    Again, I was not trying to be dismissive. Please forgive words where that came across. Peace. May you find deep increase in your thanksgiving this, and every day.

  49. roberty bob said,

    November 23, 2017 at 8:22 am

    God Manifested in the Flesh.

    Being God, he could not sin.
    Being Man in this sin-cursed world, he resolved that he would not sin.

    I am thankful today that our Lord Jesus Christ did not sin.

  50. Ron said,

    November 23, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Reed,

    I appreciate your note. Thank you. I confess I was frustrated, but I receive your clarification.

    Agin, not sure how closely you were following but challenges plagued this thread throughout, making it difficult to get to the nub of the problem. Please walk with me here…. We can resume off line or not at all.

    For instance, Edwards was invoked by one person in an effort to corroborate the peccability of Christ. Yet Edwards view of the will denies such a position. Moreover, Edwards explicitly noted, “It was *impossible* it should be otherwise, than that he should behave himself holily, and that he should be perfectly holy in each individual act of his life … it was *impossible* that the Messiah should fail of persevering in integrity and holiness, as the first Adam did.” (Edwards Works I:42f).

    The misapplication of Edwards indicated to me a lack of understanding of the requisite concepts for fruitful discussion. We couldn’t even begin to discuss impeccability until misconceptions were addressed. So, naturally, I tried to address them.

    A second person said, “with regard to His human nature and human will, Jesus was without sin or tendency to sin, yet capable of being tempted to sin.”

    A third person said, “So speaking simply, he was tempted in all things, as we are, yet without sin.”

    It’s to commit a false disjunction fallacy to assert temptation as a refutation of impeccability without establishing the two as mutually exclusive. Now I suppose one could now say an argument wasn’t being advanced, but context, I think, would suggest otherwise. Another misunderstanding was in interpreting orthodox constructs as contra Chalcedon. I could cite several other examples of misconceptions and misunderstandings but to what end?

    Reviewing the bidding:

    Please, again, walk with me… I began with a very simple argument:

    If Christ could sin, then God could sin. God could not sin. Therefore, Christ could not sin.

    This simple argument was met with resistance, which essentially came in the form of the counter argument: If Christ could be tempted, then God could be tempted. God could not be tempted. Therefore, Christ could not be tempted.

    Actually, on some level that was a fairly clever rejoinder. The intended inference one was to draw is that since the counter argument is obviously flawed, so must be my argument. From another perspective the rejoined wasn’t clever at all. It showed unfamiliarity with the enthymeme and even implied, ironically, that the Son cannot act according to one of two natures. That might take a bit of reflection.

    Anyway, I pointed out the rejoinder employed an improper maneuver. Christ, being God, was tempted in his humanity. Accordingly, my original argument could be recast:

    If Christ could sin in his humanity, then the Son of God could sin in his humanity. The Son of God could not sin in his humanity. Therefore, Christ could not sin in his humanity. (The recasting of my argument renders the counter argument impotent since the Son of God was indeed tempted in his humanity, not his divinity. Persons, not impersonal nature’s, are tempted. Similarly, persons, not impersonal natures, sin.)

    Yet still, nobody interacted with the argument. Rather, the discussion was derailed even further. Some implied true temptation refutes impeccability. Others preferred to assert a analogy based on the the pre-fall state of Adam, which simply ignored the arguments pertaining to the eternal decree, the uniqueness of the hypostatic union and the improper abstraction of the human nature from the person of Christ, (which leads to a form of Nestorianism). In response to apparent evasiveness, yes, I did employ other sorts of arguments that aimed to expose contradiction (e.g. semantic and accidental).

    In any case, it all comes down to a single question. The challenge is understanding the philosophical meaning of the question.

    Could God the Son have sinned in his humanity? If not, then Christ was impeccable. Reed, that question was never addressed. What was addressed in its place is a different question, as subtle as that might be for some.

    The question of whether the human nature can sin replaced the pertinent question. It wasn’t stated as such but that’s what’s going on here. The revision of the pressing question ignores the relevancy pertaining to the *person* who possesses the human nature. It’d be like asking whether the human nature can suffer the unmixed wrath of God. Well, it depends upon the person possessing it, now doesn’t it?!

    Other misguided arrows:

    Reed, this next part gets to the point of your recent, kindly stated, response. This is the whole enchilada.

    All this talk about what Christ the man could hypothetically do, but actually could never truly do because he is God, is just a result of a charlie horse between the ears. I’m sorry but it’s just simply incoherent. It’s either to (i) unwittingly consider Christ as two distinct persons (though they’ll deny the implication), or else (ii) abstract the humanity of Christ from the hypostatic union and consider impersonal humanity apart from the divine person who possesses it. (That’s what I find you doing.)

    The lack of familiarity with possible world terminology only compounded the challenges, but it’s the best analytical way I know to make the impeccability point clearly.

    NOTE: If Christ has a capacity to sin, he sins in some possible world. Additionally, if Christ at t1 might not resist temptation at t2, then it’s actually philosophically false at t1 that Christ resists sin at t2. At t1 there’s no truth maker for what Christ will choose at t2. So, naturally, the peccability of Christ denies philosophical fundamentals integral to Reformed compatibilism.

    At the very least, maybe opposers might consult, even email the living ones: Louis Bekhof; Herman Bavinck; R.L. Dabney; Jonathan Edwards; Wayne Grudem; Don Macleod; Derek Thomas; Mark Jones; James Anderson; A.W. Pink; William G.T. Shedd; Paul Helm; Oliver Crisp; Steve Hays; or Paul Manata.

    Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    Ron

    I’m familiar with Hodge and Sproul’s Table Talk.

  51. Ron said,

    November 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

    “Jesus in his human nature “could not sin,” in that his divine nature sustained him. We can speak about the natures distinctly in terms of qualities, but (as I know you know), we must only speak of operation of the natures in union.”

    Reed, that’s the impeccability of Christ. It’s also the impeccability of the human nature. “Could not sin” says it all. So, we are in violent agreement.

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 23, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Ron, the point is that it is not a quality of the human nature to have the divine quality of impeccability. That is rather a quality of the person Jesus.

    To attribute impeccability as a property of the human nature would be to impute a divine quality proper (“Having divine impeccability”) to the human nature.

    In Reformed theology, communicato idiomatum applies to the person and not the natures.

    So, it is a quality of the person of Jesus that the divine nature assists the human nature.

    Hence, we can speak of the impeccability of the person Jesus. But we cannot speak of the impeccability of the human nature, because that would be attributing a divine quality to the human nature.

    The nature of our disagreement is very narrow:

    * We agree that the person Jesus could not sin.
    * We agree that the person Jesus was tempted.
    * We agree, I think, that the person Jesus was tempted in his human nature (since God cannot be tempted by sin).
    * We agree that the person Jesus could not sin because the divine nature assisted the human nature.

    Our disagreement is whether to properly say that this means that the human nature was impeccable.

    I’m suggesting that it is important to distinguish here, so that we maintain the clarity of two natures in one person. The person was impeccable; the human nature was not.

    This distinction is also important so that we can clearly see the parallel between the first and second Adams.

    The first Adam lacked a sin nature, yet was tempted and fell.

    The second Adam lacked a sin nature, yet was tempted, and did not fall.

    If we suggest that Jesus’ human nature had the property of impeccability, then this destroys the parallel between the two.

  53. Howie Donahoe said,

    November 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Great question Lane. Thanks for teeing it up.

  54. Ron said,

    November 23, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Jeff,

    You’re dialing things back a bit. That’s to your credit. Nonetheless, you’re faking it.

  55. Ron said,

    November 23, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Nov 23, 2017, at 7:35 PM, Rondig1 wrote:

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Nov 23, 2017, at 7:28 PM, Rondig1 wrote:

    You brought up impeccability of the human nature here:

    “(2) Christ has been regarded since 681 as having two wills according to the two natures. Do both natures have to be impeccable?”

    I found that to be an odd question. I entertained it nonetheless. Christ couldn’t sin. Christ has two natures. Therefore BOTH natures of Christ must be incapable of sin, yet usually people speak of impeccability of the person (though Oliver Crisp predicates the same to the human nature, but only in the context of hypostatic union, not abstraction).

    Here, again, you’ve abstracted nature from person: “The person was impeccable; the human nature was not.” That’s to put asunder Christ, a Jeff.

    Some quotes that indicate I wasn’t arguing for the impeccability of an abstract human nature but the impeccability of Christ’s human nature. I wasn’t the one eradicating nature from person. No, that was something I had to address and correct throughout. That’s the material point.

    Natures don’t make choices. Persons do according to nature. When we speak of nature it must be a personal nature. That’s the point of only considering nature in the context of hypostatic union.

    Quotes:

    What made Christ’s human nature incapable of sinning was its hypostatic union with the Word. Impeccability of the human nature also relates to the divine intention to prevent Christ from sinning in his humanity and the impossible consequences of Christ sinning. It’s highly improper to abstract the human soul from the divine person who possesses it in order that we might consider the possibility of Christ sinning. That’s what inevitably happens when those take Hodge’s minority position.) It would no longer be Christ’s humanity under consideration but rather the humanity of a non-divine human being. Any relevance of the hypostatic union would be illegitimately dismissed from the start. Foul.

    Could God the Son have sinned in his humanity? If not, then Christ was impeccable. Reed, that question was never addressed. What was addressed in its place is a different question, as subtle as that might be for some.

    Note this, Jeff:

    The question of whether the human nature can sin replaced the pertinent question. It wasn’t stated as such but that’s what’s going on here. The revision of the pressing question ignores the relevancy pertaining to the *person* who possesses the human nature. It’d be like asking whether the human nature can suffer the unmixed wrath of God. Well, it depends upon the person possessing it, now doesn’t it?!

    All this talk about what Christ the man could hypothetically do, but actually could never truly do because he is God, is just a result of a charlie horse between the ears. I’m sorry but it’s just simply incoherent. It’s either to (i) unwittingly consider Christ as two distinct persons (though they’ll deny the implication), or else (ii) abstract the humanity of Christ from the hypostatic union and consider impersonal humanity apart from the divine person who possesses it. (That’s what I find you doing.)

  56. Ron said,

    November 23, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Nov 23, 2017, at 7:35 PM, Rondig1 wrote:

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Nov 23, 2017, at 7:28 PM, Rondig1 wrote:

    You brought up impeccability of the human nature here:

    “(2) Christ has been regarded since 681 as having two wills according to the two natures. Do both natures have to be impeccable?”

    I found that to be an odd question. I entertained it nonetheless. Christ couldn’t sin. Christ has two natures. Therefore BOTH natures of Christ must be incapable of sin, yet usually people speak of impeccability of the person (though Oliver Crisp predicates the same to the human nature, but only in the context of hypostatic union, not abstraction).

    Here, again, you’ve abstracted nature from person: “The person was impeccable; the human nature was not.” That’s to put asunder Christ, a Jeff.

    Some quotes that indicate I wasn’t arguing for the impeccability of an abstract human nature but the impeccability of Christ’s human nature. I wasn’t the one eradicating nature from person. No, that was something I had to address and correct throughout. That’s the material point.

    Natures don’t make choices. Persons do according to nature. When we speak of nature it must be a personal nature. That’s the point of only considering nature in the context of hypostatic union.

    Quotes:

    What made Christ’s human nature incapable of sinning was its hypostatic union with the Word. Impeccability of the human nature also relates to the divine intention to prevent Christ from sinning in his humanity and the impossible consequences of Christ sinning. It’s highly improper to abstract the human soul from the divine person who possesses it in order that we might consider the possibility of Christ sinning. That’s what inevitably happens when those take Hodge’s minority position.) It would no longer be Christ’s humanity under consideration but rather the humanity of a non-divine human being. Any relevance of the hypostatic union would be illegitimately dismissed from the start. Foul.

    Could God the Son have sinned in his humanity? If not, then Christ was impeccable. Reed, that question was never addressed. What was addressed in its place is a different question, as subtle as that might be for some.

    Note this, Jeff:

    The question of whether the human nature can sin replaced the pertinent question. It wasn’t stated as such but that’s what’s going on here. The revision of the pressing question ignores the relevancy pertaining to the *person* who possesses the human nature. It’d be like asking whether the human nature can suffer the unmixed wrath of God. Well, it depends upon the person possessing it, now doesn’t it?!

    All this talk about what Christ the man could hypothetically do, but actually could never truly do because he is God, is just a result of a charlie horse between the ears. I’m sorry but it’s just simply incoherent. It’s either to (i) unwittingly consider Christ as two distinct persons (though they’ll deny the implication), or else (ii) abstract the humanity of Christ from the hypostatic union and consider impersonal humanity apart from the divine person who possesses it. (That’s what I find you doing.)

  57. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 24, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Ron, it is very common in Reformed theology to consider the properties of one nature apart from the other.

    For we maintain, that the divinity was so conjoined and united with the humanity, that the entire properties of each nature remain entire, and yet the two natures constitute only one Christ…Thus the Scriptures speak of Christ. They sometimes attribute to him qualities which should be referred specially to his humanity and sometimes qualities applicable peculiarly to his divinity, and sometimes qualities which embrace both natures, and do not apply specially to either.

    — Calv Inst 2.14.1

    We believe that by being thus conceived the person of the Son has been inseparably united and joined together with human nature, in such a way that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in a single person, with each nature retaining its own distinct properties. Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth. Christ’s human nature has not lost its properties but continues to have those of a creature— it has a beginning of days; it is of a finite nature and retains all that belongs to a real body.

    And even though he, by his resurrection, gave it immortality,
    that nonetheless did not change the reality of his human nature; for our salvation and resurrection depend also on the reality of his body.

    But these two natures are so united together in one person that they are not even separated by his death.

    — Belgic Confession 19

    47. Q. Is Christ, then, not with us until the end of the world, as He has promised us?

    A. Christ is true man and true God. With respect to His human nature He is no longer on earth, but with respect to His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is never absent from us.

    — Heidelberg Catechism Q47

    So to consider the properties of one nature or the other, is not to “put Christ asunder”, but to simply consider that the two natures are not confused or commingled.

    RdG: Christ couldn’t sin. Christ has two natures. Therefore BOTH natures of Christ must be incapable of sin.

    This does not follow. The properties of the person are not necessarily properties of each nature separately. Rather, “Each nature retains its own distinct properties.”

    Eg.: Christ did not know the time of His return; it does not therefore follow that Christ in His divine nature is not omniscient.

    Eg.: Christ was tempted; it does not therefore follow that God can be tempted.

    Eg.: Christ in His humanity is no longer on earth; Christ in His divinity is omnipresent (per HC 47).

    Hence, the properties of the person are not automatically properties of each nature separately. In fact, to insist as you have that the properties of Christ apply to each nature would be some flavor of monophysitism if carried to its logical conclusion.

    The position I’m advocating is simple:

    Christ the person was impeccable because the impeccable divine nature assisted the human, which showed itself to be peccable because it required such assistance.

  58. Ron said,

    November 24, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Our disagreement is whether to properly say that this means that the human nature was impeccable.

    I’m suggesting that it is important to distinguish here, so that we maintain the clarity of two natures in one person. The person was impeccable; the human nature was not.

    Jeff,

    You say the human nature of Christ was not impeccable. It had the capacity to sin, in other words. While Jesus walked the earth, it could have been truly said, “Christ’s humanity can sin.” Necessarily, that’s your position. Where does it lead?

    Only a person can be capable of sin.
    Christ’s humanity was peccable (capable of sin).
    Christ’s humanity is a person. (Nestorianism)

    Let’s say you try to avoid Nestorianism by rejoining the human nature to the divine person. You’re now left with the conclusion that it was possible for Christ to sin as a human being, yet impossible for him to sin as a divine person. The problem you’re still left with is only a person can sin and Christ is one person. I’m sure you won’t say that Christ can sin in his divinity. That leaves you with his capacity to sin in his humanity. But since only persons can sin, you’re left to say the divine Second Person can sin in his humanity. That leaves you with the peccability of the divine person (due to his humanity), or else you’re back to Nestorianism. As long as you say Christ had the capacity to sin, you’re faced with the possibility of God sinning or else a two-person Christology.

  59. Ron said,

    November 24, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Jeff,

    I’ll combine my last post with an interaction with your last post.

    Ron, it is very common in Reformed theology to consider the properties of one nature apart from the other.

    I agree. What I’ve said is improper is to consider the respective properties of one nature apart from the person who possesses it,, which each one of your references support. Take Calvin:

    “yet the two natures constitute only one Christ…Thus the Scriptures speak of Christ.”

    “there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in a single person

    So to consider the properties of one nature or the other, is not to “put Christ asunder”

    Indeed, we may consider the natures in isolation from the other. I’ve never denied that; I have, also, argued accordingly to that principle. What we may not do is consider either as an abstraction from the person who possesses them. What I’ve said is to put Christ asunder is to place one nature at irreconcilable odds with the other nature, which in this case results either in theological contradiction or heresy. (I’ll demonstrate that below.)

    Eg.: Christ in His humanity is no longer on earth; Christ in His divinity is omnipresent (per HC 47). Hence, the properties of the person are not automatically properties of each nature separately.

    That the human nature is not ubiquitous is not at odds with the omnipresence of the Son. No contradiction obtains in putting forth both truths. However, positing the peccability of the humanity and the impeccability of the divinity results either in either heresy or theological contradiction. (Again, I’ll demonstrate that below.)

    Our disagreement is whether to properly say that this means that the human nature was impeccable.
    I’m suggesting that it is important to distinguish here, so that we maintain the clarity of two natures in one person. The person was impeccable; the human nature was not.

    You say the human nature of Christ was not impeccable. It had the capacity to sin, in other words. While Jesus walked the earth, it could have been truly said, “Christ’s humanity can sin.” Necessarily, that’s your position. Where does it lead?

    Only a person can be capable of sin.
    Christ’s humanity was peccable (capable of sin).
    Christ’s humanity is a person. (Nestorianism)

    Let’s say you try to avoid Nestorianism by rejoining the human nature to the divine person. You’re now left with the conclusion that it was possible for Christ to sin as a human being, yet impossible for him to sin as a divine person. The problem you’re still left with is only a person can sin and Christ is one person. I’m sure you won’t say that Christ can sin in his divinity. That leaves you with his capacity to sin in his humanity. But since only persons can sin, you’re left to say the divine Second Person can sin in his humanity. That leaves you – necessarily – with the peccability of the divine person (due to his humanity), or else you’re back to Nestorianism.

  60. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 24, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Ron,

    Thanks for clarifying your objection. I see your concern, but there is a third possibility.

    Namely, that we may without Nestorianism consider the actions of Christ’s person with respect to one nature or another.

    That’s what HC47 is doing. The action of Christ with respect to his humanity is to sit at God’s right hand; that does not imply two Christs (your first option), nor yet does that imply that the divine nature is located in one place (your second option).

    The same is true about Christ’s temptation. The person Christ with respect to His humanity was tempted (or was hungry, or suffered the wrath of God, or died), yet there were not two Christs; nor yet was the second person of the Trinity tempted, except and only speaking according to the communication of attributes, which speaks only of the person and not the natures.

    In fact, with regard to Christ’s suffering the wrath of God, it is an important point in Christology that the second person of the Trinity did not die: Christ suffered wrath and died with respect to His humanity. He took an action out of one nature only.

    Thus AA Hodge, Outlines of Theology 23.10:

    Mediatorial actions pertain to both natures. It must he remembered, however, that while the person is one, the natures are distinct, as such. What belongs to either nature is attributed to the one person to which both belong, but what is peculiar to one nature is never attributed to the other. God, i.e., the divine person who is at once God and man, gave his blood for his church, i.e., died as to his human nature (Acts 20:28). But human attributes or actions are never asserted of Christ’s divine nature, nor are divine attributes or actions ever asserted of his human nature.

    If the above is not persuasive, consider a second argument, a counter to yours.

    You have argued that the action of sinning is peculiar to a person. We agree; in fact, any action is peculiar to a person.

    Meanwhile, properties are peculiar to a nature.

    Those properties are the abilities to carry out actions. God’s property of omniscience is His ability to know all things.

    The person takes the action; the nature has the property, which is the ability to take action.

    So you have argued that if the human nature had the property of being able to sin, then the divine person could also have sinned.

    But this is not so. In the case where the human nature has the property of being able to sin, but the divine does not, then the hypostatic union would guarantee that the divine person would not sin.

    At this point, I’ve said my piece. Have a good Sabbath.

  61. Ron said,

    November 24, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    The same is true about Christ’s temptation. The person Christ with respect to His humanity was tempted (or was hungry, or suffered the wrath of God, or died), yet there were not two Christs; nor yet was the second person of the Trinity tempted, except and only speaking according to the communication of attributes, which speaks only of the person and not the natures.

    Jeff,

    Let’s first test the compatibility of temptation of the divine Second Person through the occasion of the human nature.

    P1. The Second Person can be tempted in his humanity without being tempted in his divinity. The temptation of the divine person in his humanity doesn’t negate and essential property of the Son. In other words, the Son remains God though tempted in his humanity. TRUE

    Now in the exact same way, let’s posit the compatibility of sin through the occasion of the human nature.

    P2. The Second Person can sin in his humanity without sinning in his divinity. The sin of divine person in his humanity doesn’t negate and essential property of the Son. In other words, the Son remains God though sins in his humanity. FALSE

    Accordingly, you must be arguing by way of false analogy when trying to use P1 to undermine the credibility of P2. For one thing, your analogy doesn’t take into account essential property of person.

    Your only escape is it posit Christ’s ability to sin, while also securing the impossibility of his sin through the divine nature. That’s what you’ve done here:

    So you have argued that if the human nature had the property of being able to sin, then the divine person could also have sinned. But this is not so. In the case where the human nature has the property of being able to sin, but the divine does not, then the hypostatic union would guarantee that the divine person would not sin.

    I’m sorry, but entering that door would seem to lead you to the same dead end. You’re positing true capacity yet not allowing for that capacity to be exercised in any possible world. That’s a philosophical foul, which can be run down and exposed thusly:

    You say that the hypostatic union guarantees that the divine person would not sin, though in his humanity he can sin. That’s simply philosophically incoherent. After all, If S has capacity to x, then S exercises x in some possible world. That’s an uncontroversial philosophical premise with which I would trust you must agree. For to deny that is to affirm that it’s both possible and impossible for S to x. It simply won’t do for one to say that it’s “possible” that S do x in one sense but not in another sense. The reason being, in this discussion the only “sense” it can be possible for Christ to sin is to abstract the humanity of Christ from the person of Christ(!), in which case we’re no longer considering Christ sinning but rather an impersonal human nature sinning! (That’s when you invoked the false analogy I addressed above.)

    Consequently, the only coherent analyses of yours that I can possibly locate is buried in this premise: “the hypostatic union would guarantee that the divine person would not sin.”

    Yes(!), the divinity of Christ guarantees he cannot sin in any possible world, which is precisely what renders any alleged “capacity” to sin absurd.

    To posit what Christ the man could do but could never truly do because he is God, leaves you with a possible-impossibility. In an effort to avoid the contradiction of the Second Person being able to sin without it being possible for him to truly sin, you have forced yourself into positing that Christ’s nature is capable of sinning. But that’s what leads you to this heretical conclusion:

    Only a person can be capable of sin.
    Christ’s humanity was peccable (capable of sin).
    Christ’s humanity is a person. (Nestorianism)

    Although I found all your references to other theologians misguided, I do believe you are fond of trying to employ others in support of your view. I can appreciate that. It’s with that in mind I suggest reading Oliver Crisp, Paul Helm and William Lane Craig on this matter.

    I think had you been more rigorous in dealing with the analytics of my posts, rather than just appearing to me to rephrase your position, we might have been further along by now. In any case, I receive your desire to move on from this discussion.

    At this point, I’ve said my piece. Have a good Sabbath.

    As well to you, Jeff.

  62. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 25, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Ron,

    I’ve ordered Crisp’s “God Incarnate.” It looks like a good read. Thanks.

    In exchange, I invite you to carefully consider Turretin’s Institutes Topic 13, esp Qn 8: “Were certain properties of the divine nature formally communicated to the human nature of Christ by the personal union? We deny against the Lutherans.”

    I have thoughts about your P2, but I’ll hold off until reading Crisp.

  63. Ron said,

    November 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks, Jeff.

    Crisp definitely lands on impeccability of Christ (Divinity and Humanity; Christology Ancient and Modern; God Incarnate). In the book you ordered, he also allows for the “capacity” to sin (but only as an abstraction from incarnation) while still upholding the impeccability of Christ. In that very qualified sense, which he doesn’t belabor, I’m OK; yet Helm’s brief review of the seems to me, at best, to consider it a hedge of inconsistency. It’s possibly not the happiest of terms, but I get Crisp’s point given his one time(?) qualification. For Crisp, the capacity (or disposition) to sin pertains to the real pull of temptation, given Christ’s humanity. What Crisp opposes, which I think is the watershed issue (and something I’m hoping you’ll oppose too, if you don’t already), is the notion that Christ merely remained sinless (the sinlessness / peccable view) as opposed to the “modal” claim of it having been *impossible* for him to sin. In other words, “capacity” for Crisp doesn’t afford any possibility of Christ sinning in any possible world. It’s a capacity that cannot possibly be exercised. For Crisp it’s capacity without capability, which I think is the dividing line. Whereas the peccable or sinlessness view implies the possibility of sinning in order to maintain true temptation.

    Again, thanks.


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