Understanding the Humanity of Jesus

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August 24, 2010 Tags: Christ & New Creation

Today's video features N.T. Wright. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this new addition to our Conversations series, BioLogos senior fellow Pete Enns asks N.T. Wright to respond to questions that have come to BioLogos via Twitter, email, and its blog. The first question for Wright is as follows:

Q: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding that western 21st century evangelicals have about Jesus and how does it stunt their understanding and witness?

A: Wright offers that one of the most common misconceptions is the idea that because Jesus is divine therefore he couldn’t have had any questions about his life or his vocation—or he that couldn’t have meant it when he wondered if there could have been another way in Gethsemane. One of the key things to remember, says Wright, is that in the great formulations of faith in the early church, the humanity of Jesus is every bit as important as his divinity. That isn’t a “clever balancing act,” he notes, rather it is a very profound insight on the part of the early church. The divinity of Jesus isn’t an abstract thing—instead, it is very much entwined with his humanity. The lack of recognition of the human aspect of Jesus, however, is something that much of evangelical understanding has a hard time with and that ultimately prohibits one from actually engaging with what the Gospels are all about.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


N.T. Wright is a leading biblical scholar, former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, and current Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St Andrews. He studied for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was ordained at Merton College, Oxford. Wright holds a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford University in addition to several honorary doctorates. Wright has also written over fifty books, including the multi-volume work Christian Origins and the Question of God and his two most recent books Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters and How God Became King.


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Scanman - #26860

August 25th 2010

Correction…‘I believe’...not ‘You believe’...I need to proofread a little more before I hit ‘Submit’.

Peace


Bilbo - #26895

August 25th 2010

I forgot to say why Hinuism thinks everything is good:  because everything is God.


Bilbo - #26898

August 25th 2010

Hi Karl A,

I might be a little unfair to some of the Biologos people.  Karl Giberson acknowledged that there was natural evil His preferred solution was that nature has been endowed with freedom, and natural goodness and evil are results of that.  I think that might be an acceptable view.  My guess is that Darrel would favor a similar view.

My guess is that the Biologos theologians are the ones who are drawn to what I term “new age” views.  I believe that panentheism is all the rage these days in some seminaries.

How about it, Pete?  Care to tell us where you’re coming from?  Or do you want to keep it a secret?


pds - #26912

August 25th 2010

Bilbo,

Thanks for the clarification.  I see your point.  “New age” is pretty vague term, I think. 

I have been struck as well by the fact that Biologos is not terribly interested in maintaining theological orthodoxy.


Bilbo - #26919

August 25th 2010

I think there is a lot of room for theological differences in Christianity, pds.  I just prefer it when people show their cards.


pds - #26921

August 25th 2010

I think there is a lot of room for theological differences in Christianity too, Bilbo.

Maybe I misunderstood.  Do you think a “new age interpretation of evolution” is consistent with Christian orthodoxy?

“Now what is the New Age all about?  Either it is a Buddhist view, that calls physical reality an illusion.  Or it is a Hindu view that says that all of reality is really good.  Either way, there is no real natural evil.  Welcome to Biologos.”

Are these just theological differences within Christianity?


Headless Unicorn Guy - #26944

August 25th 2010

If YEC is mistaken (and I believe it is), then natural evil has been around a lot longer than humanity.  Some other explanation is needed.  Either Dembski’s retroactive Fall — the Fall works backwards in time —or C.S. Lewis’s Satanic Fall have been offered as replacements.—Bilbo #26833

“Dembski’s Retroactive Fall” sounds like something I heard about how once Adam & Eve took a bite, all past cosmology & natural history were retconned to include death and carnivory.  Sort of Schrodinger’s Cat on a Cosmic Scale.


JMFK - #26959

August 25th 2010

Bilbo @ #26833 - Re: “natural evil” (as opposed to evil perpetrated or experienced by humans)

NTW has written much about the corruption of Christian doctrine by Platonism wrt life after death & resurrection. I think it is also worth considering its role in our concept of natural evil, for there is no specific concept akin to it in the Bible.

The expectation that an ideal Creator should have created an ideal creation - thus requiring an explanation for natural evil - arises from Platonist philosophy, not from the Hebrew OT. The Platonist says that God could not have created nature with its destructive storms, tectonics, predation, and animal death. The OT authors looked on these very things in nature and saw only the hand of their creator at work. This elicited neither their embarrassment nor dismay, but their worship (e.g., Psalm 104, Psalm 148, Job 38-41). The OT credits Yahweh for storms, earthquakes, & volcanoes, as well as for providing prey for the lion, roadkill for the raven, and blood for the eagle. God also brags to Job about having created the crocodile.

The expectation that it should be otherwise is not Hebrew, but Greek; not Biblical, but Pagan.


Bilbo - #26960

August 25th 2010

pds, I don’t think new age philosophy and Christianity are compatible.  But if people at Biologos think it is, then let’s discuss it openly, not beat around the bush.


JMFK - #26961

August 26th 2010

A big problem with a Retroactive Fall is that there is simply no Biblical basis for the idea. God may visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children and grandchildren to the 3rd & 4th generations of those who hate him, but nowhere does it even hint that he would ever visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, let alone their great-great-great-grandfather’s pets.

The Bible tells a story about how God created all things good, but still wild and untamed, intending that humanity should continue the work of creation in partnership with the creation and the Creator; of how humanity broke that partnership, losing the protection of both the Creator and the creation; and of how the Creator has worked and is working to more than restore the creative partnership once again.

If the creation has been cursed by the Fall, it is cursed in the same sense as a child is cursed by having a neglectful and abusive nanny. But rather than fire the nanny, it is the Father’s intention to redeem and marry her, so that they may all be a proper family together as he had originally hoped.


Bilbo - #26962

August 26th 2010

JMFK,

I disagree with you about the Hebraic view of natural evil.  Isaiah is the clearest, twice telling us there will come a time when prey and predator will be at peace.  That certainly suggests that the current state of affairs isn’t the most ideal.  Genesis is more indirect.  Before the human disobedience, all creatures (including humans) are allowed to eat plants and fruit.  Later, God is displeased with the violence of all flesh.  It’s not clear, but it seems “all flesh” includes animals, since they are likewise killed in the flood.  Aftrer the flood, there seems to be a compromise.  Humans are now allowed to eat animals, but only under certain conditions, chiefly, not eating their blood, as a sign of respect for life.

So there seems to be strong evidence that predation was not considered good in the Hebraic mind.

The chief difference from Platonic thought is that the Hebrews considered physical existence to be essentially good, whereas Plato did not.


Jon Garvey - #26983

August 26th 2010

@Bilbo - #26962

Bilbo - I think JMFK answered your point in his second post. If there was not an element of wildness in creation then man would not have been created to subdue it. The point of having a ruler deputising in your image is that you leave him some work to do towards your own final purpose. This may well have included a taming of the wilder elements of nature, but the fall supervened, so we won’t know this side of the parousia.

But we do know that Scripture nowhere says that the original state of earth excluded animal death. The Scriptural points you make are all subject to question, eg:

Genesis 1 gives man and animals *different* plants for food. Why is that?

All flesh cannot include animals: remember the curse according to Genesis was not the direct effect of sin but God’s judgement on it. Why would he judge his judgement?

The permissions under the Noahic covenant appear to leave animals as vegetarians. Why?

The prohibition on blood is because the animal’s life is reserved for atonement, as the law later makes clear (Lev 17.11). The message isn’t that predation is bad, but that sin requires the propitiation of a life. (...)


Jon Garvey - #26985

August 26th 2010

As for the Isaiah passage, nobody ever notices that in a picture of pastoral idyll, it’s the safety of the man’s flocks and children that are the issue, not the abolition of predation or death - after all, human death is included within the prophet’s vision (which therefore must not be taken as a literal description of the age to come).


Chris Rosebrough - #27016

August 26th 2010

The deceit in this video is VERY obvious.  The BioLogos folk have telegraphed their punch.  Here is how this video will be used.

Anti-Darwinian Fundamentalists claim that Jesus believed that Adam, Abel & Noah are literal historical people and that we should not have an opinion of Genesis that differs with Jesus.

But, says BioLogos we have a video from N.T. Wright that discusses a proper understanding of Jesus’ humanity and based on what Wright said we can therefore say that Jesus, the man, was a product of his time and was raised to believe the stories in Genesis were literal history.  He just didn’t know any better because of the limitations of His humanity at that time.  Therefore, if Jesus lived today, His human nature would have learned what we know today from science and Jesus would have believed in and taught the truthfulness of Darwinian Evolution and that Genesis is NOT literal history.  Here’s the problem.  This tactic relies on the Nestorian Heresy and clear passages of scripture that reveal that Jesus taught what was revealed by THE FATHER. “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”” (John 8:38)


Bilbo - #27083

August 26th 2010

JMFK: A big problem with a Retroactive Fall is that there is simply no Biblical basis for the idea..

True.  But there is no Biblical basis for an old earth, either.

The Bible tells a story about how God created all things good, but still wild and untamed, intending that humanity should continue the work of creation in partnership with the creation and the Creator;...

“...wild and untamed”?  What does that mean?  Are you saying that creation does things it shouldn’t be doing?  Wouldn’t that be natural evil?

If the creation has been cursed by the Fall, it is cursed in the same sense as a child is cursed by having a neglectful and abusive nanny.

OK, but a cursed creation would be one that had natural evil in it, wouldn’t it?  Then the only question would be, when did that natural evil begin?


Bilbo - #27085

August 26th 2010

Jon: Bilbo - I think JMFK answered your point in his second post. If there was not an element of wildness in creation then man would not have been created to subdue it.

I’ll ask you the same question I just asked JMFK.  Does this “wildness in creation” that we were meant to subdue:  is there something wrong with it or not?

But we do know that Scripture nowhere says that the original state of earth excluded animal death.

True.  So let’s make a distinction between animal death and animal suffering and predation.

Genesis 1 gives man and animals *different* plants for food. Why is that?

I don’t know.  Why?

All flesh cannot include animals: remember the curse according to Genesis was not the direct effect of sin but God’s judgement on it. Why would he judge his judgement?

Well, perhaps it was God’s judgment on the “wildness of creation” that he had hoped that man would subdue.

The permissions under the Noahic covenant appear to leave animals as vegetarians. Why?

Off the top of my head, how’s this one:  Man, as head of creation, is given permission to eat animals, therefore other animals also have permission to do so.

cont.


Bilbo - #27087

August 26th 2010

The prohibition on blood is because the animal’s life is reserved for atonement, as the law later makes clear (Lev 17.11). The message isn’t that predation is bad, but that sin requires the propitiation of a life. (...)

But since not all animals are offered as sacrifices, I would assume that the blood prohibition has more meaning than that.

As for the Isaiah passage, nobody ever notices that in a picture of pastoral idyll, it’s the safety of the man’s flocks and children that are the issue, not the abolition of predation or death - after all, human death is included within the prophet’s vision (which therefore must not be taken as a literal description of the age to come).

You think there will be animal predation in the age to come?


JMFK - #27130

August 26th 2010

Bilbo,

Your responses indicate to me that you think in Platonic terms, i.e., if something can be improved, then there must be something wrong with it; if something is not perfect, it must be bad. This is why Plato devalued the material creation, because (to his mind) nothing that actually existed could ever achieve the perfection of its Ideal Form. Hence you conclude that there is evil in nature because it does not conform to a preconceived ideal. In a sense, you are illustrating the problem I am trying to point out.

The Hebrews who wrote the OT did not think in these terms. They valued and gave grateful worship to the Creator for the goodness of his material creation - including those elements within it considered non-ideal by Western philosophy. There is a word for devaluing a gift because it is imperfect - ingratitude. This is part of what Paul was talking about in Romans 1:20-22:

“For since the creation of the world,...his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God, nor give thanks, but became futile in their speculations…Professing to be wise, they became fools.”


Jon Garvey - #27167

August 27th 2010

Bilbo

Again JMFK is on the nail. If I may I’ll address just a few points to avoid hogging the airwaves.

Genesis 1 gives man and animals *different* plants for food. Why is that? I believe the emphasis is not on vegetarianism, but on God’s provison for both man and beast. As a generalisation he gives the herbiage to beasts and seedplants and fruit to man. There’s a strand of agriculturalism throughout which we miss, because we’re mostly not farmers as they were. “Grass for the livestock, wheat and olives for the people” does not necessarily imply “meat for nobody”.

Similarly there’s a disintinction between livestock and beasts on Day 6, a distinction between shrubs of the field/rain and plants of the field/working the ground in 2.5ff, and a distinction between livestock and beasts in 2.19ff (incidentally, what do you do with livestock if you’re a naked vegetarian?)

“Well, perhaps it was God’s judgment on the “wildness of creation…”” Good thinking. Give a man a job to finish, and if he botches it up there’s a good case for sacking him and binning his work. If the work (and worker) barely survive, it’s good reason for the work to fear and dread the worker thereafter.


Bilbo - #27255

August 27th 2010

JMFK:  Your responses indicate to me that you think in Platonic terms, i.e., if something can be improved, then there must be something wrong with it; if something is not perfect, it must be bad.

Balderdash.  Pain, anguish, suffering, grief, are evil in and of themselves.  The forceful taking of life that is not willing to give it up is evil in and of itself.  It has nothing to do with reaching a level of perfection.  This has nothing to do with Plato.  You haven’t responded to my Scriptural references.


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