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Front Matter

The Only Perfect Man

The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ

Second Edition (2.2)

By Eric H.H. Chang

Edited and Completed by Bentley C.F. Chan

Copyright © 2014, 2017, Eric H.H. Chang, Helen Chang, Bentley C.F. Chan

The print edition (ISBN 978-1532898273) and the Kindle edition (ASIN B074KY759Y) are available from Amazon.com and other online stores

Cover design by Bentley C.F. Chan

Cloud image © LilKar / Shutterstock

 

Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copy­right © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, © copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked HCSB are from the Holman Christian Stand­ard Bible. Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Pub­lishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB, and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. Scripture quotations marked NIV are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Interna­tional Bible Society. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Foreword

Those who seek after God’s truth in a good and honest heart—and strive for the faith once for all delivered to the saints—will find in this book a kindred spirit. Page after page, chapter after chapter, this book offers the reader of any theological persuasion a rich encounter with the deep, penet­rating insights of the author, a former trinitarian and staunch proponent of Christ’s deity. The engagement is ultimately with the Bible it­self, which is upheld in the present work as the sole and supreme auth­ority on matters of faith and doctrine.

Unlike most non-trinitarians, Eric H.H. Chang had never belonged to any histor­ically non-trinitarian move­ment, but had for de­cades lived in the world of trinitar­ianism, even the inner sanctums of trinitarian thinking. But one day his eyes were opened to the clear light of Biblical mono­theism. After a wrenching struggle with his own deep-rooted trinitarian belief, he has since desired to reverse the trinitarian teaching that he had been pro­mulgat­ing for years in his books, lectures, and church ministry trainings.

I have known the author, Eric H.H. Chang, and his wife, Helen, for over a third of a centu­ry. I first met him on September 11, 1977. Some 35 years later, Christ­mas Day 2012, I spoke to him for the last time. He is my friend, my teacher, and my pastor. He is my spiritual father and mentor who pointed me to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, Son of God and Lamb of God.

Before Eric Chang died in January 2013 after having served God devotedly for more than half a century, he had been work­ing on the present book. He and I had a prior arrange­ment for me to get it published when the writing is done. More than that, if he should de­part before the writing is finished, I will com­plete the writ­ing of the book. The latter scenario turned out to be true.

A few days after his death, Helen asked me to retrieve his manuscript files from his com­puter. Some of his manuscript notes were brief, some were devel­oped, but most were in between, which means that I could not avoid doing a fair amount of writ­ing. I fearfully but cheerfully, in that order, took up the chal­lenge of com­pleting the writ­ing of the book.

I believe that in God’s eyes, Chang’s manuscript notes, despite having some miss­ing gaps, were “com­plete” in a real sense when they were passed to me, for God’s timing in a person’s life—and in his death—will work for good for those who love Him.

Although he had more things in mind to write on, what Eric Chang had already said in this book—together with his prev­ious work, The Only True God—would be more than enough to discharge him of his earthly res­ponsi­bility of proclaim­ing Yahweh as the only true God, and of pass­ing on that respon­si­bility to his readers. In these two books we see his com­mit­ment to the truth, his submission to the Bible’s authority, his pastoral con­cern for the church, and his love for God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

My role in this book

It is not uncommon for a book to be completed by someone else after the passing of the original author. For example, the erudite Theology of the New Testament was written by the late Georg Strecker and “edited and com­pleted” by Friedrich Horn.

I likewise declare on the cover pages of the present book that the original author, Eric H.H. Chang, is the sole au­thor of the book, and that it has been “edited and com­pleted” by some­one else. I am, however, listed as the second author in the book’s ISBN regis­tra­tion because I account for 35% of the book’s con­tents in terms of inform­ation, and 65% of the written composit­ion.

In this book I use a simple style of writing. Despite my equal es­teem for British and American English, this book uses American spell­ing and punctu­ation, but that is only be­cause I am more famil­iar with American convent­ions. In line with mod­ern books, I drop all liter­ary distinct­ion between dou­ble and single quotation marks except for the purpose of nesting quota­tions. And I don’t hesitate to use contract­ions.

It sounds like a cliché to say that on me rests the responsi­bility for all mistakes and shortcomings in the book, but in this case the responsibil­ity is real and justly rests on me.

A man after God’s heart

This book was written from a shepherd’s heart by a man of God. Though trained in the Bible at several schools (Bible Training Institute; London Bible College; University of London), Eric Chang was not an armchair theo­logian but a true man of God who, as I can testify, loved God with his whole heart and had exper­ienced apos­tolic mira­cles as recounted in his book, How I Have Come to Know God. In 1997, my wife Sylvia and I spent a month in Israel with him and other co­workers, and there I was impressed by the concrete ex­pressions of his love for Jews, Christians, and Muslims (notably a certain Ali Hussein of Cairo).

My prayer is that you, dear reader, will be blessed by this book, and that the glory of Yahweh God will shine through you in Jesus the Mess­iah, bring­ing life and light to those around you. May God our loving Father be pleased to use this book to impart insight about Himself and His great Name, and Jesus Christ the Son of God and the only perfect man who has ever lived.

Gratitude

Special thanks to Helen Chang for your friendship and encouragement; to Sylvia for your love over the decades and your help on the manuscript; to Agnes and Lee Sen for your fine research on “in Christ”; to Winston for your proofreading; to Chris for your good suggestions over the years; to my fellow regional overseers for your friendship and caring leadership; to Felicia who gave me two good suggestions for the book; to those who have translated the book into Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, and other languages; to Robert a Can­adian bro­ther and Debbie an American sister for being God’s instru­ments who have led me to know Him.

My involvement in TOTG and TOPM has given me wonderful perks, one of which is a new and widening circle of friends: William and Eleanor MacDonald, Anthony and Barbara Buzzard, Dan and Sharon Gill, Greg Deuble, Bruce Lyon, John Reichardt, Maksim Ryzhikh, Tracy Zhykhovich, Clark Barefoot, and many others. To these good people I say thank-you for your friend­ship and your per­sonal pro­clam­ation of the one true God.

Bentley Chan

Montreal, Canada

July 1, 2014, revised July 8, 2017

biblicalmonotheism@gmail.com

 

 

Preface

In this book we discuss some of the important and keenly debated issues relating to the trin­ita­r­ian portray­al of Jesus Christ as the God-man. We hope that our contri­bution to the overall discussion, in terms of present­ing the biblical data, will motivate Christians everywhere to see the supreme authority of the inspired Scriptures in eval­uating the truth of any doctrine.

This book, The Only Perfect Man, is the sequel to, but also the counter­part of my earlier book, The Only True God. [1] For conven­ience, these two books will sometimes be re­ferred to as TOPM and TOTG, respectively. Beyond the symmet­ry of their titles, there are several points of similarity—and con­trast—that connect the two books.

Firstly, TOTG and TOPM are written from the per­spective of Bibli­cal monotheism and not that of trinitarian­ism. We take the term “monotheism” in its strict sense of the belief in one and only God, as op­posed to the poly­theistic belief in a multiplicity of divine beings. Our study of the Scriptures has led us to the solid conclusion that there is one and only God, that He is one Person, that His name is Yahweh, that He is the Father of Jesus Christ. We are equal­ly convinced that the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, not “God the Son” (a title that never occurs in the Bible); Jesus is not God; Jesus is the perfect image of God; Jesus mani­fests the full glory of God; Jesus exercises all the authority of God as God’s appointed plenipo­tent­iary.

Secondly, whereas the first book TOTG centers on Yah­weh the only true God, the present book TOPM centers on Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the only perfect man who has ever lived.

Thirdly, TOTG and TOPM are connected—and likewise God and Jesus Christ are connected—by the biblical truth that Yahweh, the only true God, dwells in (“tabernacles in”) the man Christ Jesus, the perfect temple of God. (This biblical fact does not require us to take the trinita­rian view that by incarnation the preexistent second person of the Trinity took on human exist­ence as Jesus Christ such that Jesus now poss­esses both a divine nature and a human nature.) John’s Prologue (John 1:1-18) says that God Himself, who is the Word, came into the world to dwell in Jesus. Verse 14 (“the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”) aligns with the truth that Jesus’ body is the tem­ple in which God dwells (Jn.2:19), as will be discussed in chapter 3 of this book. Indeed, Jesus speaks of his Father as “the Father who dwells in me” (John 14:10, ESV).

Fourthly, because TOPM was published after TOTG, one might think that the earlier book has to be read first before embarking on the present work. But that is not so. TOPM is a self-contained book that can be read in­dependently of TOTG. If you intend to read both books, you can read them in either order. For the benefit of those who have not read TOTG or have for­gotten its con­tents, I will in the pre­sent book occasionally refer to certain chapters of the earlier book for some background in­formation. You can then refer to the print edition of TOTG available from Amazon.com, or the PDF edition availa­ble at http://www.christiandc.org.

Fifthly, there is substantial carryover of TOTG into TOPM in that the dis­cussion on monotheism and trinitarian­ism in the earlier book will con­tinue well into TOPM. This is nec­essary for clearing the trinitarian obstacles that hinder our understand­ing of Jesus as the only perfect man.

Note:

  • I would sometimes point out that a particular section of this book, because of its techni­cal nature, may be skipped without impairing the flow of read­ing. This is for the benefit of those who prefer not to read the technical details.
  • Most footnotes may be skipped though most of them pro­vide useful exeg­etical or biblical information.
  • The appendixes may be skipped though the last one contains important information.
  • BDAG refers to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testa­ment and Other Early Christian Literature (Bauer, Danker, et al). All citations from BDAG are taken from the 3rd edit­ion, but these can be found in the 2nd edition, though some­times under a differ­ent section.
  • HALOT denotes Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. We consult HALOT and BDAG because they are the foremost lexi­cal authorities for biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek, respectively.

 

 

Statement of Belief: How I View the Word of God

In this study on Jesus the only Perfect Man, it is only right that the reader be given an understanding of how this writer looks at the Bible as a whole and the New Testament in parti­cular.

Many books have been written on the Bible but their authors seldom indicate exactly how they view the Bible. Is the Bible to them an ancient reli­gious document that may be of some or even consider­able value for the study of antiquity? Is the Bible, then, a collect­ion of an­cient docu­ments that are valuable for gain­ing an under­standing of the nations of the ancient Near East, of Israel in part­icular, but also of the enor­mous impact that the Bible has had, espe­cially on west­ern civiliza­tion?

But as an ancient document on religion and history, what authority does the Bible hold for our faith today? A view of the Bible that has no consider­ation of its authority would be of little more than acade­mic interest to us, and would not have any defining meaning for our faith and the way we live.

I wish to make it clear from the start that this is not the way I view the Bible, the Scriptures. I instead view the Bible as the Word of God. I do not mean that it is a piece of divine dictation given to the writers of its constit­uent parts, who during the dictation were funct­ioning as robots or recording machines while their minds remained passive. On the contra­ry, I believe that every writer of Scripture could be des­cribed as a preacher or a prophet who had been given a message from God, and who then re-expressed that divine message from his own heart and mind with the full deliberate­ness of his character and indeed his whole being.

This is confirmed by the fact that the books of the Bible, inclu­ding the New Testament letters, bear the linguistic styles of their respective writers and even their language abilities. For example, James has a high standard of Greek, either his own Greek or that of an amanuensis (roughly equivalent to a secretary in today’s terms), in contrast to the “rough” Greek of Revelation. There would be no such lin­guistic or stylistic diversity if the contents of the books were given to the writers word for word through divine dictation. As one who has preached many messages in my life­time, I have some glim­mer of understanding of what the prophet Jeremiah meant when he said that the message he had re­ceived from God was like a fire burning in his bones (Jer.20:9). This is not a state­ment that could have come from the mouth of a mere passive “stenograph­er” of God’s Word.

A man of God who taught me the Word of God

I view the Bible as the Word of God not because of any loy­alty to some denominational creed but because ever since the day I first exper­ienced God, I have come to know Him as “the living God” (a term used in both the Old and New Testa­ments). That crucial day stretches back six decades to Christ­mas Day 1953, in liberated China, when I was mulling over an invitation to have refreshments at someone’s home. I was unde­cided about going to a Christ­ian home because I had con­sidered myself, if not an atheist, at least an agnostic. After much hesitation, I arrived late at this home only to see that most of the people there were leaving. Only two remained: a man, just under 40, with a gentle, handsome and finely featured face, and a middle-aged woman with graying hair who was the one who had given me the invitation in the first place, and whose home hosted the small Christmas party.

I won’t recount the other events of that evening—during which the wo­man remained largely quiet, and the younger man, Henry Choi, spoke to me about God and Jesus Christ—except to say that before the day was over, I had arrived at my own “Damascus road exper­ience,” as Paul’s en­counter with Jesus in Acts 9 is often called.[2]

Within a year of that life-changing experience of mine, Henry, who had become my teacher of the New Testament and in parti­cular of John’s Gospel which he brought to life in a way I had not heard from anyone before, was one night arrested outside his home and never seen again. To the knowledge of all his friends, Henry had never been involved in poli­tics or expressed any interest in it.

Surely here is a man of God of whom it could be said that he was on fire for “God and His Christ”. Henry was a research chem­ist, and he used his income to fund his evangelistic and preaching activit­ies in the neigh­boring villages in the greater Shanghai area. Was it for this that he was arrested? On this side of eternity, we will never know.

Hearing God’s voice in God’s Word: The first commandment

Studying the Bible is not like studying any other subject be­cause the Bible is not primarily a book on history, geo­graphy or litera­ture, but is first and fore­most the word of God. Sometimes God does speak through the back­drop of history or geography but we cannot study the Bible in the way we study history or literature or any other subject if our aim is to hear God’s voice in God’s word. But if hearing God’s voice is not our object­ive, then of course we can study the Bible as an academic subject.

What then must we do to hear God’s voice when we read His word? We must start at the very beginning, with the first of God’s com­mandments, the importance of which was brought out by a scribe when he asked Jesus which is the first of the com­mand­ments. Jesus replied:

This first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first command­ment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other com­mand­ment great­er than these. (Mark 12:29-31, NKJV)

When we fulfill the two great commandments—love for God and love for neighbor—we will hear God’s voice in the Bible. What we prev­ious­ly thought were mere stories, historical events, poems and pro­verbs, now be­come the channel of God’s communi­cating with us. What we thought were ancient writings that have lost their relevance for us today are now liv­ing words that speak to our hearts. The God we have been reading about in the Bible is now the God who reaches our deepest thoughts with His word. Now we under­stand why He is called “the liv­ing God” in both the Old and the New Testaments.

But if we don’t fulfill the first commandment, we won’t know God as the living God. Many Christians find them­selves in this situation be­cause they haven’t been taught to love God with their whole being. In what mean­ingful sense are we the disci­ples of Jesus if we don’t fulfill what he had taught us about loving God? The conse­quences of this failure for our lives and the church are on display for all to see. Some Christian leaders have told me that after hav­ing served in the min­istry for some 20 or 30 years, they still don’t have the spiritual power to fulfill the ministry to which they have com­mitted themselves. The living God is hardly seen in the church today because the first great com­mand­ment has been neglected.

As trinitarians we rejected the monotheism of the first com­mand­ment which is central to the spiritual life of Israel as expressed in the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Lord” is literally “Yahweh”)

It is never too late to return to Yahweh our God. If we return to the first commandment, we will experience the fulfillment of a promise from God: “I will re­store to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Then we will have the joy of knowing Him who is called “the living God”.

Experiencing God is essential for understanding His Word

I remember something from my student days in London that remains etched in my memory. My professor of Hebrew was dis­cuss­ing with me cer­tain difficult texts in the Hebrew Bible when he paused and said to himself, “I wonder if there is really a God after all.” I was taken aback by his state­ment, finding it hard to understand how anyone could devote a life­time to study­ing the Hebrew Bible without believing in the existence of the God who is cen­tral to that Bible. Was he only inter­ested in its literature?

I too was look­ing at the texts that were being discussed when my pro­fessor uttered those aston­ishing words. I took a look at him and saw that he was gazing hea­ven­ward towards the ceiling while speak­ing in deep contem­plation. He was a well-known scholar who had pub­lished many books and arti­cles on special­ized topics on the Hebrew Bible. So why did he at this par­ticular moment stop to think of God’s reality? After a few minutes of reflect­ion, he returned to the text be­fore us and soon the session was over. But that incid­ent left a deep impress­ion on me. Here was an erudite scholar famous in his field of biblical studies who evidently had not come to any firm conclus­ion about God’s reality.

He wasn’t the only one in the Faculty of Divinity who had doubts about God’s existence. Some of the other professors didn’t believe in God appar­ent­ly because they hadn’t exper­ienced Him as a living real­ity. They would, how­ever, still teach the Old and New Testaments as academic subjects, with God being one of the topics. That the Scriptures were given by divine inspir­ation was not something that they accepted, for they re­garded the Bible as a pro­duct of human tradition, and found support for this view by pointing to the human errors evident in its pages as we have them today, including alter­a­tions to the biblical texts made either intent­ion­ally or by copying errors. In these tedious acad­emic stu­dies, God is lost sight of. It is well known that many Bible-believing Christ­ians have gone into theolog­ical studies with the aim of pre­paring for church ministry, only to lose their vision and even their faith because they too lacked the experience of the living God.

How we read the Scriptures is governed by whether we have ex­per­ienced God’s reality. One who knows God will “hear” His word in a funda­mentally different way from one who doesn’t know God. When I speak of knowing God, I mean it as Paul meant it when he said, “I know whom I have believed” (2Tim.1:12). Many believe in God in some vague sense but that kind of belief is not a substitute for know­ing God. A faith that is not rooted in the exper­ience of God will soon be­come nar­row, dogmatic, and hostile to those who don’t share its opinions. But those who know God don’t behave in this way.

I am mentioning all this because of its importance for under­stand­ing the message of this book, which is an exposit­ion of Scripture. I believe in the Bible as the Word of God not merely as a point of creed­al dogma, but hav­ing lived by its teaching and discovering through this process that the Bible “works,” I know it is the truth.

Jesus said to his fellow Jews, “If anyone is willing to do God’s will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (Jn.7:17). And in­deed I have found God’s word to be true.

It doesn’t mean that scholarship can be ignored or that biblical studies and accurate exegesis can be tossed aside. We can be sure that God is not glorified by carelessness in study­ing the Bible, for God is a God of perfect­ion. So even if we have not attained to a high level of technical com­petence, we should at least give our best efforts to the exposition of God’s Word.

 

Introductory Remarks

Firstly, as stated in the book’s title—The Only Perfect Man—the biblical Jesus is a man, a real human being like every other human person in the world. He is not a “divine man” or a “God-man” as posited in trinitar­ianism. If there was ever such a person as a God-man, he would not be a real man. “Divine men” or “gods” (cf. “gods many,” 1Cor.8:5) abound­ed in Greek mythology and were familiar to the early Christ­ians who lived in pagan soc­iet­ies. Barnabas and Paul, in their mission among the Gen­tiles, were mistak­en for the gods Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:12) when the peo­ple of Lycaonia rushed out to worship them, even preparing sacrifi­cial offerings to them. But Barnabas and Paul cried out, “Men, why are you do­ing these things? We are also men of the same nature with you” (v.15).

Jesus, as we see him in the New Testament, is a man with the same nat­ure as all human beings, just as Elijah was a man with the “same nature” as us (James 5:17). Because Jesus shared the same nature as humans, he was “in every respect tempted as we are, yet with­out sin” (Heb.4:15).

But being of the same nature doesn’t mean that he is the same as us in every respect. This brings us to the next point.

Secondly, the man Jesus was perfect. His perfection was not, however, some­thing that came to him automatically by any supposed status as God the Son, the second person of the Trin­ity, but something that he had learned through suffer­ing and at­tained by Yahweh’s indwelling pre­sence in him.

Thirdly, Jesus is the only perfect man who has ever lived. Among all the human beings who have ever lived since the fall of Adam and Eve, there has been “none righteous, not even one” (Rom.3:10). But when Jesus came, there was finally one, but only one.

Because there has never been a sinless person in history apart from Jesus, he is an extraordinary man, a unique man, a glor­ious man, the only man who has attained to the zen­ith, the highest point, of Yahweh’s eter­nal pur­poses for man. To emphasize this re­markable fact, it is appro­priate in some con­texts to use the capitalized “Man” to show that he is true man yet at the same time not an ordinary man, but one who had attained perfect­ion by Yahweh’s grace and power.

In some translations of the Hebrew Bible (the so-called Old Testament), a few peo­ple are said to be “perfect,” but in such cases the Hebrew word is more appropriately translated “blame­less,” a rendering that is seen in some other Bibles. No human apart from Jesus has ever at­tained absolute perfect­ion. What was achieved by the few right­eous people in the Old Testament was not an absolute perfection but a relative perfection or a relative blame­less­ness within humankind. But when we speak of Jesus as the only perfect man, we are speaking of his absolute sinlessness, of a total per­fection with no ifs or buts, of an achieve­ment that is truly astounding. The Perfect Man is the greatest mira­cle that Yahweh has ever done in Christ, for no man can ever attain to absol­ute perfection unless God em­powers him ev­ery moment of his life. This was achieved in the case of Jesus also for the reason that he lived every moment of his life in total obed­ience to his Father Yahweh.

Fourthly, because of his perfection, Jesus was exalted to the highest place in the universe second to God Himself. Jesus is seated at the “right hand of God,” made second only to Yahweh in all creation. God has subjected every­thing to him and committed all po­wer to him. Jesus thereby funct­ions as God’s visible representative, hence the sub­title of this book: “The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor.4:6). Anyone who sees the face of Jesus sees the glory of God.

Writing from the perspective of a battlefield

This study is not a work of one who lives and works in the academic world, though academia is not unfamiliar to him, but that of a church minister and leader of a fairly large fellow­ship of churches. The mission of the church uni­versal is to fulfill what Jesus had said to his dis­ciples, that the “gospel of the king­dom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Mt.24:14). Advancing God’s king­dom in a world in which mighty forces are opposed to Him will inevitably mean that our mission is not an easy walk­over but an intense fight (2Tim.4:7). That this struggle is not just a fig­ure of speech drawn from the lang­uage of athletic competi­tions such as those held in Corinth, can be seen from the literal suffer­ings and close brushes with death that Paul had encountered (2Cor.11:23f).

What it means is that this book is written from the vantage point of a battlefield rather than the pol­ished halls of academia. In turn it means that the subject-matter cannot be studied with the kind of acad­em­ic detach­ment that some scholars may be able to indulge in, but rather with the sub­jectivity of personal involvement in a battle that is “unto death” (Rev.2:10; Mt.24:13; Mk.13:13). Personal involvement may at times give rise to an inten­sity and vehemence of express­ion that are far removed from the cool and dispassion­ate state­ments of those who look at the matter from a dis­tance. Consider Jesus’ anger when he made a whip of cords to drive out merchants and money changers from the temple (Jn.2:15).

In reality few are disengaged from the im­portant issues dis­cussed in this study, for there are few topics that engage the emo­tions of the heart as much as the matters of faith discussed here.

Even so, when it comes to interpreting Bible pass­ages, it is crucial for us to have the objectivity that equips us to study them with care and ac­cur­acy, and with such acad­emic com­pet­ence as we possess, not allowing our doctrin­al presuppos­itions to influence our under­standing of what the Bible is saying to us.

Capitalization

In this work the terms “Bible” and “Scripture” are written in capitals as also sometimes their adjectival forms “Biblical” and “Scriptural,” not because of bibliolatry (worship of the Bible) but to emphasis that the Scriptures (the OT and the NT), as the Word of God (not by dictation but by inspiration, 2Tim.3:16), are the final and absol­ute authority for faith and doc­trine. The failure to adhere to this ultimate spiritual prin­ciple has resulted in the church’s falling into fatal errors.

Pronouns that refer to God are sometimes capitalized, not only out of reverence but to distinguish references to Him from pronom­inal refer­ences to others within the same sen­tence. For example, the fol­lowing sen­tence would be hard to understand without pro­nom­inal capitaliza­tion:

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing out­side his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subject­ion to him. (Heb.2:8, ESV)

If we capitalize “he,” which refers to God, with all other pro­nouns referring to Christ, the meaning becomes clear:

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, He (God) left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see every­thing in subject­ion to him.

On the same topic—the subjection of all things to Christ—Paul says:

For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is ex­cepted who put all things in subjection under him. (1Cor.15:27, ESV)

The meaning of the clause in italics is made clear if we capit­alize “he” (refer­ring to God). In fact, for clarity, NIV goes beyond translation when it inserts the words “God” and “Christ” into this verse: “this does not include God him­self, who put every­thing under Christ”.

Procedure: a matter of crucial importance

A study of how trinitarianism has developed will show that it be­gan with the Gentile worship of Jesus. That the early Gentiles had a propensity for wor­shipping their god-men is seen in the worship of Barnabas as Zeus and Paul as Hermes (Acts 14:12).

Since the trinitarian worship of Jesus as God is not based on the Bible, it will come as no surprise that the Nicene Creed and a few subse­quent early “Christian” creeds do not cite a single verse of Script­ure to support their dogmatic assert­ions. In short these are man-made creeds that are based on human authority and not on the authority of the Script­ures, the Word of God. No attempt is even made to conceal this fact. The church leaders, called Fathers and bishops, elev­ated themselves to being God’s appointed author­ity invested with the supreme power to make bind­ing deci­sions on doc­trine and to cast an anathema (a curse) on those with different views.

It was not until the Reformation with its acceptance of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) as the doctrinal basis for the church, and with its corres­ponding rejection of the author­ity of the Catholic church, that there was a funda­mental change in procedure as to how doctrine and practice are to be evaluated. But the pro­blem for the Protestant church which emerged in the Reforma­tion was that it practically took in the entire Catholic church creed. As a result there is no fundament­al difference in theo­logy—notably trinitar­ian theo­logy—between the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches. In the Catholic church as well as Protestant churches, the zealous loyal­ty to church dogma would raise its wary head whenever an effort is made in earn­est, whether by Catholic or Protestant scholars, to evaluate doc­trine solely on the basis of its fidelity to the Script­ures. The principle of sola Scriptura is in reality an instrument of the church to make the Scriptures con­form to church dogma, notably trini­tarian­ism. Procedurally, they start with trinitar­ianism and not with Script­ure. We will examine these efforts in the course of this study.

How can trinitarians read the Scriptures apart from the only perspective they have ever known?

How can it ever be possible for those of us who come from a trinitarian back­ground, given that we couldn’t even be bap­tized without accepting the church creeds, to read the Bible with­out approaching it from the trinita­rian point of view, which is the only perspective we have known? How can we read the Bible in its pris­tine purity if from the start we are required to read it through the prism of fourth and fifth century creeds? These creeds were formu­lated without any explicit citing of the Bible (whose author­ity was sup­planted, in any case, by that of the church leaders who wrote the creeds) and required all Christians to believe in a three-per­son “God­head”. “Godhead” is a strange word that we didn’t really under­stand, and soon discov­ered that no one else did either. But from the outset we were taught that God the Son, the second per­son of the God­head, be­came incarnate as the man Jesus Christ.

Most Christians begin their Christian lives under the nur­ture of the churches that they joined, in which they now take up various activi­ties and en­gage in various forms of wor­ship. Some Christ­ians, notably Catholics, don’t even own a Bible, let alone read one, not even years after their conver­sion, which means that the church has become their sole spirit­ual authority.

But even among evangelicals who claim to uphold the Bible as the final authority in all matters of faith and doctrine, the reality is that they come to the Bible as trinitarians, and don’t know how to read it except in the trinit­arian way in which they have been brought up as Christians.

That was the way I read the Bible for most of my Christian life, start­ing from the age of 19 and going past 70. Whether I was evangeli­zing to non-Christians, leading Bibles studies, or build­ing up the past­oral leader­ship of the church, somehow I would feel the need to im­press upon my hearers that Jesus is God. How then is it possible for us to read the Bible and allow it to speak for it­self when we habitually impose our precon­ceived ideas on it?

My trinitarian mindset also influenced how I read the Old Testa­ment. This was complicated by the fact that the Old Testa­ment has no trace or evidence of a person called “God the Son,” the central figure of trinitarian faith. This problem was taken care of, psychologically at least, by assuming that most of the instances in the Old Testament of “the Lord” (capitalized in most English Bibles as “the Lord”) refer to the pre­existent Jesus. But if “the Lord” refers to Jesus, where is the Father’s place in the Old Testament?



[1] Eric H.H. Chang, The Only True God: A Study of Biblical Mono­theism, CreateSpace, 2017, Charleston, North Carolina, ISBN 978-1532898204 (originally published in 2009 by Xlibris, ISBN 978-1436389471, Library of Congress number 2008911119). The book can be downloaded from http://www.christiandc.org.

[2] This and other experiences of God in my early Christian years are re­counted in How I Have Come to Know God, 2017, CreateSpace, Charleston, North Carolina, ISBN 978-1534995772. You can read the book online at www.christiandc.org.

 

 

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