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Front Matter

 

The Only Perfect Man

 

The Glory of God in

the Face of Jesus Christ

 

Second Edition

Eric H.H. Chang

 

Public Release

We are pleased to announce that The Only Perfect Man, a work by Eric H.H. Chang, is now available to the public as a free PDF e-book. This is the second edition of the original edition printed in the United States by CreateSpace, an Amazon.com company, under the following registration numbers (these numbers are valid only for the original CreateSpace print edition):

            ISBN: 1494967715 and 978-1494967710

            Library of Congress: 2014901022

Though free of charge, the present e-book remains under copyright and is not in the public domain. It may be freely distributed under the following two conditions: no fee is charged, and the PDF file is not modified in any way from its binary form as issued by Christian Disciples Church. It may be hosted at your website as a free PDF download if these two conditions are met.

The version number of this e-book can be found on the book’s copyright page. To download the latest version, please visit
http://www.christiandc.org, which has a resource page for this book (look for “Monotheism” in the main menu).

This book may not be translated into another language without our permission. If you wish to translate it, please contact us through our website or write us at: biblicalmonotheism@gmail.com

Finally, this book is released to the public free of charge and in good faith, and with the same desire that Eric Chang had always had for the book, that it may proclaim Yahweh, the only true God, and His Son Jesus Christ.

 

The Only Perfect Man: The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ

by Eric H.H. Chang (with Bentley C.F. Chan)

Second Edition, version 2.1, February 27, 2016

Copyright © 2014, 2016

Eric H.H. Chang, Helen Chang, Bentley C.F. Chan

Scriptures 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, www.ibs.org. All rights reserved worldwide. (NIV quotations in this book are from the 1984 edition unless the 2011 edition is mentioned)

 

 

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. Chapter after chapter, page after page, this book offers the reader of any theological persuasion a rich encounter with the deep, penetrating insights of a former trinitarian and 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, the author did not come from 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 light of Biblical monotheism, and 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 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 with him for the last time. Eric Chang 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 he died in January 2013, after having served God devotedly for more than half a century, Eric Chang 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. But 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 notes were brief, some were developed, some 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, Eric Chang’s manuscript notes, despite 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—and in 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 death 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 only because I am more familiar with American conventions. In line with modern books, I drop all literary distinction between double and single quotes 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, followed 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 feedback on the manuscript; to Agnes and Lee Sen for your fine research on “in Christ”; to Winston for your help in proofreading; to Chris for your help in all things technical over the years; to my fellow regional overseers for your feedback, friendship, and caring leadership; to Felicia who gave me two good suggestions for the book; to those who have translated this book into Chinese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, with other languages coming up; to Robert a Canadian brother and Debbie an American sister for being God’s two instruments who have brought me to know Him.

My gratitude to Sir Anthony Buzzard, Dr. William G. MacDonald, John Reichardt, Greg Deuble, Bruce Lyon, Jean-Philippe Parent, Dan and Sharon Gill, Maksim Ryzhikh, Clark Barefoot, and many others in the western world, for your friendship, your moral support, and your proclamation of the only true God. I am grateful to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, father of the World Wide Web, for making it possible to disseminate the truth without the fear of it being suppressed.

Bentley Chan

Montreal, Canada

January 30, 2016

biblicalmonotheism@gmail.com


 

Preface

In this book we discuss some of the most important and keenly debated issues arising from the trinitarian portrayal of Jesus Christ as God. It is our fervent hope that our contribution to the overall discussion, in terms of presenting the relevant 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 both 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; Jesus is not God the Son; 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, came into the world by dwelling in the man Christ Jesus, the perfect temple of God, when Jesus was born into the world. (This is at odds with 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 (Jn.1:1-18) says that God, 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.

Fourthly, because TOPM was published after TOTG, one might think that the earlier book has to be read first before embarking on the present book. 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 indicate that a section, on account of its technical nature, can 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 many of them provide useful exegetical or biblical information. 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, Arndt, Gingrich). All citations from BDAG are taken from the 3rd edition; these can also be found in the 2nd edition, though sometimes under a different section number.
  • 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, and 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 letters 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 never heard from anyone else, 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 was 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 from his work 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 right at the 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 begin to 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 has taught us about loving God? The consequences of this failure for our lives and the church are evident for all to see. Some Christian leaders have told me that after having served in the ministry for 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 that 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 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 still 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 the 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 a fact 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. A person 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 people believe in God in some vague sense but that 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 careless work 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 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).[3]

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 standing 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 in comparison with 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 because he had 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. As such, Jesus 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 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 powerful forces are opposed to Him inevitably means 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 the 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 Paul’s statement: “this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ”.

A matter of crucial importance: procedure

A study of how trinitarianism 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 Scripture, it comes 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 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 came out 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, in any case, supplanted 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. Many 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, 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 the way 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, Xlibris, Bloomington, Indiana, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4363-8947-1, Library of Congress Number 2008911119. The PDF edition is available from http://www.christiandc.org.

[2] This experience of God and several others in my early Christian years are recounted in, How I Have Come to Know God, updated edition, OM Authentic Books, Andhra Pradesh, India, 2000. You can read this book online at http://www.christiandc.org.

[3] BDAG defines homoiopathē in this verse as “with the same nature”.

 

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