Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ramen Noodles or Lasagna? - Clark

[O]pponents [of determinism] frequently rest their case for free will on their own consciousness of freedom. It seems immediately and introspectively clear to them that their choices are uncaused. But such a view assumes that they would be conscious of causality . . . [What are the] conditions under which a man could know that he had a free will [?]

We observe in children and sometimes in adults atypical forms of conduct that we ascribe to fatigue (the child is fussy because he has missed his nap) or to nervous strain (the adult blows his top or takes to alcohol). The individuals in question are acting voluntarily and may well believe that their choices are uncaused. We know better. We know what the causes are, and we know that they do not recognize them. Although it is easy to see this in the case of other people, there is a tendency to overlook the fact that the same is true of ourselves. We usually assume that nothing is affecting our own will, just because we are not conscious of the causality. But how could we be sure that there is no cause? What conditions would have to be met before we could know that nothing is determining our choices? Not only would we have to eliminate the possibility of fatigue and nervous strain, but we would have to eliminate other factors that are neither so easily examined after we think of them nor so easily thought of in the first place. There are minute physiological conditions beyond our usual or possible range of attention. Some incipient disease may be affecting our minds. There are also external meteorological factors, for admittedly unpleasant weather is depressing. And can we be sure that a sunspot, whose existence we do not suspect, leaves us unaffected? Even though the will is not mechanically determined, these external conditions as well as our physiology seem to alter our conduct to some extent. More important than physiology and astronomy is psychology. May there not be some subconscious jealousy that motivates our reactions to other people? Why do we eat chocolate sundaes when we know that we should reduce? Are we free from the influence of parental training? The Scriptures say, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." [Proverbs 22:6] Parental training and all education proceed on the assumption that the will is not free, but can be trained, motivated, and directed. Finally, beyond both physiology and psychology there is God. Can we be sure that he is not directing our choices? Do we know that we are free from his grace? The Psalm says, "Blessed is the man whom you choose and cause to approach you." [Psalm 65:4] Is it certain that God has not caused us to choose to approach him? Can we set a limit to God's power? Can we tell how far it extends and just where it ends? Are we outside his control?

The conclusion is evident, is it not? In order to know that our wills are determined by no cause, we should have to know every possible cause in the entire universe. Nothing could be allowed to escape our mind. To be conscious of free will therefore requires omniscience. Hence there is no consciousness of free will; what its exponents take as consciousness of free will is simply the unconsciousness of determination.

Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, in Christian Philosophy, The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark Vol. 4 (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 261-262. Italics and brackets mine. Also in God and Evil: The Problem Solved (inexpensive and much recommended).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Some Insights on Metaphorical Language from Dr. Clark

From a Reply to the Metaphorical Dr. Macky

[Peter Macky] seems to think – seems because it looks as if he is inconsistent – that the Bible is entirely metaphorical and that literal language has been imposed on it by later theologians. For example, in reporting my views he says, "The metaphor of the lamb is not what God was communicating. Instead it was . . . a surrogate for the real meaning, which Clark believes he can state literally and precisely. Thus a certain theological tradition is the truth . . . while the Bible's metaphors are only pointers to the truth" (pp. 241, 242). This gives me the impression that the literal statements of Biblical truth have come only in a later theological tradition. On the contrary, the metaphor of the lamb is explained literally by Paul in Romans and elsewhere. It is also based on the literal directions of the Levitical Law. And it could not be correctly understood without them.

Christ is like a lamb – in some respects, of course. They both have a head, two ears and two eyes. Christ remained speechless, as a lamb is dumb when being shorn. There are always dozens of similarities in any metaphor, simile or analogy. The figure of speech does not of itself indicate which similarity is intended. Without Romans and Leviticus we would have no basis for understanding what John the Baptist meant. And our base is not a later theological tradition but the Bible itself. . . .

Macky . . . asserts that the Bible is a "tasting of the reality of God." Does God taste like chocolate or salt? Tasting is a metaphor, but what is it a metaphor of? . . .

Macky at least seems to hold that the term "justice," as used in the doctrine of the atonement, is metaphorical also (p. 249), and he at least comes close to concluding that all words are metaphorical. He even criticizes me as inconsistently using the phrase "clear thinking." Perhaps I should have used the phrase "intelligible thinking" or "correct thinking." Are the words "intelligible," "correct" and "thinking" metaphorical? Indeed several language philosophers in the recent past have maintained that all words are metaphorical. This view is suicidal because if all words were metaphors, there could be no metaphors. The term "metaphorical" has a meaning only in relation to the term "literal." Neither is intelligible without the other – otherwise the dispute could not begin. Therefore if all of Macky’s words are metaphorical, no one can have the least idea of what he is talking about because the word "metaphorical" is metaphorical. [JETS 25/2 (June 1982) 201-203, italics mine]

From a Surrejoinder to Peter Macky

If a reply is often proper and if a rejoinder sometimes is, a surrejoinder is usually superfluous. This one seems to me an exception because Professor Macky’s rejoinder strikes me as a subterfuge.

Macky’s rejoinder discusses the value of metaphorical language and in particular C. S. Lewis’ own individual slant on the subject. Macky says, "Clark . . . clearly is not familiar with the particular theory of metaphor that Lewis presents." Now in the first place I am not interested in Lewis’ theory as such nor in any other author’s modification of the general position. My objections are directed against the common core of them all. Basically a metaphor states that X is like Y. But it never states what that likeness is, for if it did the metaphor would be superseded by literal language. Since there is always a number of likenesses between any two objects, the reader without additional information cannot logically determine what likeness is intended. Hence the value of metaphor is either aesthetic or it is a device to avoid making one's opinion public.

However, Macky’s rejoinder is a subterfuge because my reply’s main point had little to do with any theory of metaphor. Since some or even many readers of JETS may have seen few or even none of my publications, my main purpose was to warn them that Macky had seriously misrepresented my views. He assigned to me certain opinions that my writings explicitly and repeatedly contradict. I will with pleasure argue any day and with anyone concerning metaphors, or I will with pleasure compete with him in chess. But he must not say that I used the King's Gambit when I began with the English Opening. This is not a metaphor. It is a literal example. [JETS 25/2 (June 1982) 213, italics mine]

To read the full exchange:

The Role of Metaphor in Christian Thought and Experience as Understood by Gordon Clark and C. S. Lewis by Peter W. Macky: JETS 24/3 (September 1981) 239-250 

Reply to the Metaphorical Dr. Macky by Gordon H. Clark: JETS 25/2 (June 1982) 201-203 

The Theory of Essential Metaphor: A Rejoinder by Peter W. Macky: JETS 25/2 (June 1982) 205-211 

Surrejoinder to Peter Macky by Gordon H. Clark: JETS 25/2 (June 1982) 213

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremiah by Izzi Ray

Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the LORD; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:24

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Burning Doctrine of Hell - Grounds

The following portion is from the essay “The Final State of the Wicked” by Vernon C. Grounds, appearing in the September 1981 issue of the Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, p. 217-220. 
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Granted that since apostolic times Christians have given free rein to their imaginations in treating this dogma. Granted that a well-intentioned zeal has pressed into the service of evangelism a grossly literalistic hermeneutic and even in the cases of theological greats like Augustine, Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards has painted lurid pictures that revolt both sense and sensibility. Granted that popular preachers – a Charles Haddon Spurgeon, for example – have been guilty of an unconscionably sadistic depiction of lost souls. How far, we must inquire, are any of these eschatological pronouncements warranted by sober, careful, reflective study? How far is a Jonathan Edwards, whose philosophical insight even non-Christians applaud, justified in this sort of exposition?
The world will probably be converted into a great lake or liquid globe of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed, which shall always be in tempest, in which they shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day or night, vast waves or billows of fire continually rolling over their heads, of which they shall ever be full of a quick sense, within and without; their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins and their vitals shall for ever be full of a glowing, melting fire, enough to melt the very rocks and elements. Also they shall be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torments, not for ten millions of ages, but for ever and ever, without any end at all. [F. W. Farrar, Eternal Hope (London: Macmillan, 1892) 57.]
Does sober, careful, reflective study warrant – no, demand – such a ghastly prospect? Does it force us to adopt an attitude that Walter Moberley stigmatizes as "unconceivable callousness"? Does it close our ears and minds and, much worse, our hearts to Langton Clarke's comment?
I remember once going through the dungeons of one of our old feudal castles, and looking down into the dark hole in the floor of the dungeon, the only entrance to or exit from an oubliette, one of those awful "places of forgetfulness." And I well remember thinking – How could the people above be so stony-hearted as to be happy and merry with all this going on beneath their very feet? And then it suddenly flashed across me that this is what is said of the blest in the world to come! – that they are supremely happy with hopeless and endless torments continually going on before their very eyes. [Quoted in Moberley, Ethics, 333-334.]
If a sober, careful, reflective study warrants – no, demands – that we agree with these all-too-common depictions, expositions and asseverations, then we evangelicals must apparently become schizophrenic. We must rigidly compartmentalize our psyches, keeping our normal mental processes and emotional reactions from contaminating our creedal commitments with sanity and compassion. What, therefore, does probing Christian thought warrant and demand?

Here as in so many other hard areas of orthodox belief C. S. Lewis proves to be an immense help – discerning, lucid, and above all clear-headed. Confronting the fierce objection to the very notion of hell drawn from not only medieval art but "certain passages in Scripture," he argues that three symbols dominate particularly our Lord's teaching: punishment, destruction, and "privation, exclusion, or banishment." "The prevailing image of fire," he suggests, "is significant because it combines the ideas of torment and destruction." Then in an extended passage he develops the reality portended through the Biblical literary forms:
What can that be whereof all three images are equally proper symbols? Destruction, we should naturally assume, means the unmaking, or cessation, of the destroyed. And people often talk as if the "annihilation" of a soul were intrinsically possible. In all our experience, however, the destruction of one thing means the emergence of something else. Burn a log, and you have gases, heat and ash. To have been a log means now being those three things. If soul can be destroyed, must there not be a state of having been a human soul? And is not that, perhaps, the state which is equally well described as torment, destruction, and privation? You will remember that in the parable the saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all. To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter hell, is to be banished from humanity. What is cast (or casts itself) into hell is not a man: it is "remains". To be a complete man means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God: to have been a man – to be an ex-man or "damned ghost" – would presumably mean to consist of a will utterly centered in itself and passions utterly uncontrolled by the will. It is, of course, impossible to imagine what the consciousness of such a creature – already a loose congeries of mutually antagonistic sins rather than a sinner – would be like. There may be a truth in the saying that "hell is hell, not from its own point of view, but from the heavenly point of view." I do not think this belies the severity of our Lord's words. It is only to the damned that their fate could ever seem less than unendurable. And it must be admitted that as . . . we think of eternity, the categories of pain and pleasure . . . begin to recede, as vaster good and evil looms in sight. Neither pain nor pleasure as such has the last word. Even if it were possible that the experience (if it can be called an experience) of the lost contained no pain and much pleasure, still, that black pleasure would be such as to send any soul, not already damned, flying to its prayers in nightmare terror. [C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1943) 113-114.]
Help in cracking the shell of Biblical literary forms and so extracting their intended teaching comes as well from Robert Anderson. Inspector of Scotland Yard in Queen Victoria's era, he was a gifted and prolific author of theological works. His discussion of eschatology, Human Destiny: After Death – What?, Spurgeon praised as the most satisfactory treatment of that problem he had ever read. After examining the theories of universalism, conditionalism, and annihilationism and showing their untenability from a scriptural perspective, Anderson states some of the prevalent misconceptions about hell. He then proceeds to undercut the case against eternal punishment by an appeal to revelational principles. Suppose with a minimum of editing we quote his own phrasing of this rebuttal.
1.        The destiny of the lost is a great mystery, but it is only one phase of the crowning mystery of Evil. There must be some moral necessity why evil, once existing, should continue to exist. . . . By redemption God has won the undoubted right to restore the fallen race to blessing. But who can tell what moral hindrances may govern the exercise of that right and power?
2.       In a sphere where reason can tell us nothing, we are bound to keep strictly to the very words of Scripture, neither enlarging their scope nor drawing inferences from them. But in contrast to this, the inspired words have been used in such a way as to produce a mental revolt which endangers faith.
3.       All judgment is committed to Jesus Christ precisely "because He is the Son of Man." Hence because He is both the Son of Man and God the Son, His justice and goodness and love are beyond all question and doubt.
4.       The Bible was not written to gratify curiosity. . . . As regards the destiny of those the Gospel fails to reach, it is absolutely silent. The fate of the heathen is with God. And "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
5.       The lost will not be sent to their doom unheard. Twice in Scripture they are represented as parleying with their Judge. Each one will be fairly dealt with. The record of each life will be laid bare. The books will be opened, and the dead shall be judged every man according to his works. Each sinner in the countless multitude to be arraigned at the great assize shall hear his indictment, and be heard in his defense.
6.       Instead of absolute equality, Scripture indicates an infinite inequality in punishment. There will be the "few stripes" and the "many stripes."
7.       The "everlasting fire" is not to be the Devil's kingdom; it will be his prison, not his palace. . . . The word-pictures which describe the shrieks and curses of the lost on earth, as demons mock their anguish or heap fuel on their torture fires, are relieved from the charge of folly only by the graver charge of profanity. There is no spot in all the Queen's dominions in which the reign of order is so supreme as in prison. So shall it be in Hell.
8.       Obedience will be the normal condition in Hell. To speculate how it will be brought about is idle. It may be that the recognition of the perfect justice and goodness of God will lead the lost to accept their doom.
9.       There are no idlers in a well-disciplined gaol: in God's great prison-house is idleness to reign supreme? . . . Are we to suppose that all the energies of the lost are to be consumed in tasks of aimless punishment? . . . May we not suppose that in the infinite wisdom of God there are purposes to the accomplishment of which even they will be made to minister? . . . Why assume that the lost will be battened down in some huge dungeon with no occupation save to bewail forevermore their doom?
10.     Scripture leaves no doubt that in the world to come sin’s punishment shall be real and searching. We know that it will entail banishment from God, and further we know that infinite love and perfect justice shall measure the cup each must drink. But beyond this we know absolutely nothing. [R. Anderson, Human Destiny: After Death – What? (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1913) 113-179.]
Confessedly these revelational principles with their undeniable admixture of logical extrapolation fail to remove all difficulties, but at any rate they make hell a doctrine that does not offend the heart and crucify the mind.

Help in clearing away rhetorical fog from this area of theology is also provided by Friedrich von Hügel. He distinguishes between, on the one hand, "the essence of the doctrine of Hell," which he takes to lie "above all, in the unendingness of that destiny," and, on the other hand, "the various images and interpretations given to this essence.” In contrast to saved spirits, he reasons, lost spirits "according to the degree of their permanent self-willed defection from their supernatural call" will persist in four tragic, destructive dispositional patterns and behavior orientation. First, they will persist in "the all but mere changingness, scatteredness, distractedness, variously characteristic of their self-selected earthly life." Only in hell they will feel far more intensely "the unsatisfactoriness of this their permanent non-recollection more than they felt it upon the earth."

Second, lost spirits will persist "in the varyingly all but complete self-centeredness and subjectivity of their self-selected earthly life." Only in hell they will feel far more intensely "the stuntedness, the self-mutilation, the imprisonment involved in this their endless self-occupation and jealous evasion of all reality not simply their own selves."

Third, they will persist "in their claimfulness and envious self-isolation, in their niggardly pain at the sight or thought of the unmatchable greatness and goodness of other souls." Only in hell they will experience their consciousness of this "more fully and unintermittently."

Fourth, lost souls will persist in the pains felt on earth – "the aches of fruitless stunting, contraction . . . the dull and dreary, or the angry and reckless, drifting in bitter-sweet unfaithful or immoral feelings, acts, habits, which, thus indulged, bring ever-increasing spiritual blindness, volitional paralysis, and a living death." Only "the very pains of Hell (will) consist largely in the perception by the lost soul of how unattainable" is the opportunity to endure the sanctifying sufferings which saved spirits endured on earth. That very perception will be an intensifying source of "fruitless pangs." [F. von Hügel, "What Do We Mean By Heaven? And What Do We Mean By Hell?", Essays and Addresses on the Philosophy of Religion (London: J. M. Dent, 1924) 216-221.]

Though all of von Hügel’s extrapolation is vastly removed from the wooden, offensive literalism of much traditional theology, it is closer, one surmises, to Biblical truth and eschatological reality.

Lewis and Anderson, together with von Hügel, help to make hell a credible dogma despite the residual difficulties that compel the exercise of a reverent agnosticism and a post-critical faith.

What to say, then, in conclusion? The issues we have been considering are unspeakably momentous, the most momentous indeed that can occupy the human mind. It is impossible to exaggerate the seriousness and urgency that the doctrine of hell imparts to life here and now. How better to express this than to repeat what James Orr affirmed as he came to the end of his masterful lectures on The Christian View of God and the World?
Scripture wishes us to realize the fact of probation now, of responsibility here. We should keep this in view, and, concentrating all our exhortations and entreaties into the present, should refuse to sanction hopes which Scripture does not support; striving, rather, to bring men to live under the impression, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3). [J. Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (New York: Scribner’s, 1897) 345-346.]
 JETS 24/3 (September 1981) 211-220.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Singing the Psalms on Lord's Day

I lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, whence my help shall come.
My help shall come from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth.
Let not thy foot be moved; and let not thy keeper slumber.
Behold, he that keeps Israel shall not slumber nor sleep.
The Lord shall keep thee: the Lord is thy shelter upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night.
May the Lord preserve thee from all evil: the Lord shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall keep thy coming in, and thy going out, from henceforth and even for ever. Psalm 121

The Trinity Revealed in Scripture - Shedd

The doctrine of the Divine Unity is a truth of natural religion; the doctrine of the Trinity is a truth of revealed religion.

The various systems of natural theism present arguments for the Divine existence, unity, and attributes, but proceed no further.

They do not assert and endeavor to demonstrate that the Supreme Being is three persons in one essence.

It is because this doctrine is not discoverable by human reason, that the Christian church has been somewhat shy of attempts to construct it analytically; or even to defend it upon grounds of reason.

The keen Dr. South expresses the common sentiment, when he remarks that “as he that denies this fundamental article of the Christian religion may lose his soul, so he that much strives to understand it may lose his wits.” Yet all the truths of revelation, like those of natural religion, have in them the element of reason, and are capable of a rational defense.

At the very least their self-consistence can be shown, and objections to them can be answered. And this is a rational process. For one of the surest characteristics of reason is, freedom from self contradiction, and consonance with acknowledged truths in other provinces of human inquiry and belief.

It is a remarkable fact, that the earlier forms of Trinitarianism are among the most metaphysical and speculative of any in dogmatic history. The controversy with the Arian and the Semi-Arian, brought out a statement and defense of the truth, not only upon scriptural but ontological grounds.

Such a powerful dialectician as Athanasius, while thoroughly and intensely scriptural-while starting from the text of scripture, and subjecting it to a rigorous exegesis-did not hesitate to pursue the Arian and Semi-Arian dialectics to its most recondite fallacy in its subtlest recesses.

If any one doubts this, let him read the four Orations of Athanasius, and his defence of the Nicene Decrees. In some sections of Christendom, it has been contended that the doctrine of the Trinity should be received without any attempt at all to establish its rationality and intrinsic necessity.

In this case, the tenets of eternal generation and procession have been regarded as going beyond the Scripture data, and if not positively rejected, have been thought to hinder rather than assist faith in three divine persons and one God.

But the history of opinions shows that such sections of the church have not proved to be the strongest defenders of the Scripture statement, nor the most successful in keeping clear of the Sabellian, Arian, or even Socinian departure from it.

Those churches which have followed Scripture most implicitly, and have most feared human speculation, are the very churches which have inserted into their creeds the most highly analytic statement that has yet been made of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Nicene Trinitarianism is incorporated into nearly all the symbols of modern Christendom; and this specifies, particularly, the tenets of eternal generation and procession with their corollaries.  The English Church, to whose great divines, Hooker, Bull, Waterland, and Pearson, scientific Trinitarianism owes a very lucid and careful statement, has added the Athanasian creed to the Nicene.

The Presbyterian churches, distinguished for the closeness of their adherence to the simple Scripture, yet call upon their membership to confess, that “in the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

The treatise of Augustin upon the Trinity, which is here made accessible to the English reader, is one of the ablest produced in the patristic age. The author devoted nearly thirty years of his matured life to its composition (A.D. 400 to 428).

He was continually touching and retouching it, and would have delayed its publication longer than he did, had a copy not been obtained surreptitiously and published. Source.

William G. T. Shedd. For the full essay by Shedd, go here.

The Fulness of the Godhead in Christ - Clark

Colossians 2:9: Because in him there dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

The contrast between the fallacious deceit of human traditions and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lies in the fact that in Christ there dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This verse is the only verse which might seem to indicate that Paul is directly attacking Gnosticism. In the schemes of Basilides and Valentinus, all the fullness of the Godhead, or plērōma, was indeed contained in Christ, but not bodily. Thus the divine person did not die on the cross. However, this verse does not require a Gnostic reference, for the same is true of Docetism also; and from another point of view the Jews also rejected the proposition.

Aside from any reference to Gnosticism, the general question remains as to the force of the word bodily. The word fulness indicates the contents; for example, “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” The fulness of the Godhead is the totality of perfections, attributes, or qualities of deity. These include self-existence, sovereignty, omnipotence, and the like. The question now is, how do these exist in Christ bodily?

The question is sharpened by the word Godhead. Commentators regularly contrast the word in this verse (theotēs) with a similar but different word (theiotēs) in Romans 1:20, where the King James uses the same translation: “Godhead.” The latter refers to divine qualities and can be diluted to the level of such qualities as they appear in exceptionally qualified men. Or, as in Romans, the word can refer to some divine attributes while excluding others. But theotēs refers strictly to the full divine nature as such – to deity itself.

C. F. D. Moule acknowledges this distinction, but when the word bodily is added, he writes,

Commentators…group themselves…round five interpretations: (i) “as an organized body,” i.e., the totality of the Godhead is “not distributed through a hierarchy of beings” …but gathered into one “organism” in Christ…; (ii) expressing itself through the Body [of Christ, that is, the church]; (iii) “actually” – in concrete reality, not in mere seeming…; (iv) “in essence” so the Greek Fathers and Calvin; (v) “assuming a bodily form,” “becoming incarnate.” Of these, (iv) seems highly improbable, if intelligible at all.

Putting it a little more strongly than does Moule, the present writer notes that the first of these five requires either a Gnostic reference or a reference to Philo. Ronald Nash thinks that the phraseology of the Epistle to the Hebrews betrays a knowledge of Philo. This is chronologically possible, since Philo died around A.D. 40 or 50. But as for Colossians, Moule remarks that it depends on a single adverb, “a slender peg on which to hang so mighty a thought.” The second interpretation is so far-fetched that we shall waste no time on it.

The third and fifth together, as Moule says, “seem on the whole to present the fewest difficulties.” This is certainly so: The fulness of the Godhead was actually and really there, not there in mere appearance only. And there is the incarnate Christ. But however true this is, it is vague and incomplete.

To complete (iii) and (v), number (iv) must be added. Moule dismissed it as hardly intelligible. But the Greek fathers and Calvin are not usually unintelligible. The three views are compatible and complementary. The fourth means that the essence, that is, the definition, the reality of God, dwelt in the body of Jesus. Of course Jesus’ body as such was not omniscient, for bodies know nothing; nor was it omnipresent, for bodies are locally restricted. But the ego, the person, whose body and instrument it was, satisfied the complete definition of deity.

Another possible interpretation, or implication, one that Moule does not mention, is the Lutheran doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum. This means that the characteristics of the divine nature are also common to the human nature.

But a communicatio idiomatum ought to work both ways. If the divine attributes are common to the physical body, the characteristics of time, space, form, and tactual qualities should be held in common by the divine essence. But this implication, that God has physical and temporal form, is hard to swallow. Perhaps the communicatio relates only to mental, not physical, characteristics. In this case the thinking of the Father would be temporal, and he also would be ignorant of the date of Christ’s return. At any rate, the Lutheran interest is not in Jesus’ mind or soul. The communicatio refers to Jesus’ body. And for this reason the word bodily in the verse under consideration serves Lutheran purposes. The reason is that their doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum is essential to their sacramental theory of consubstantiation. Christ’s body is ubiquitous, and therefore that body is in, with, and under the bread wherever communion is celebrated. Calvinists object that, first, this violates the law of contradiction; and, second, its sacramentarianism is as un-Biblical as Romish transubstantiation.

So much for that. But before leaving this verse, the word Godhead needs further comment. To what was said a few paragraphs back, a remark should be made relative to the doctrine of the Trinity. American Christians in their pews – Bible-believing Christians – are apt to think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then stop thinking. If they are not consciously tritheists, neither do they clearly envisage the unity of the Godhead. Some who think a little more and have just a smattering of philosophic terms consider the Father as the unity, and the Son and Spirit as the diversity. Thus they attempt to solve “the One-and-the-Many problem” which Parmenides discovered and removed by denying plurality, which Democritus hardly considered at all, which embarrassed Plato, in which Plotinus failed horribly, and in which also William James turned Parmenides upside down by denying unity. The contemporary theologians may go further and constructively propose that unity and plurality are “equally ultimate” in the Godhead. They are not apt to have a very clear idea of what “equally ultimate” means.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity certainly teaches that the Father and the Son are equal in power and glory, and, as equally eternal, they may be called equally ultimate. But the Father is not to be equated with unity and the Son with plurality. The three persons are the plurality and the Godhead is the unity. The Godhead is not one of the persons as distinct from another, but rather the common reality shared by the three. Such is our partial answer to the objection of Islam, and also to some confused American theologians. But whether the group of common qualities, the Godhead, is more ultimate than any one of the three persons who share these attributes, and whether “ultimate” means “generic,” for certainly there is no chronological precedence in this argument, are questions more properly discussed in a systematic theology than in an exegesis of Colossians.

Gordon H. Clark, Colossians, in Commentaries on Paul’s Epistles, “The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark Vol. 12” (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 1979, 2005), 202-203. Commenting on Col. 2.9

Cherubic Hymn