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Archive for August 14th, 2013

surviving drive by

Some who follow the apologetics of Gordon Clark really don’t like Cornelius Van Til and while I have benefited from both men’s writing I also don’t think both men were perfect.  I am perplexed at how some are willing to go so far to paint the other side as wrong that they are willing to take things out of context and twist the words of people to mean things they didn’t mean.

Enter Charlie J. Ray.

Ray Charles

Under my post “,” Mr. Ray wrote the following comment:

Anyone who thinks that Jesus has a “similar” nature to the Father and the Spirit is way off. The Definition of Chalcedon says that Jesus had the SAME divine nature as the Father and the Spirit. Homoousios, not homoiousios. And your quotes above shows how confused Van Til was. He was worse than a modalist.

Note the accusation made against Van Til (and I presume by inference his followers).   According to Mr. Ray’s understanding of Van Til’s theology, Jesus has a “similar” nature to the Father that is like in some ways but when it comes down to its essence, the two nature are not the same.

The issue boils down to what “similar” means.  Two definitions according to Webster’s dictionary, of what “similar” means is important:

1. : having characteristics in common : strictly comparable
2. : alike in substance or essentials:corresponding <no two animal habitats are exactly similar — W. H. Dowdeswell>
(Source: “Similar.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/similar&gt;.)

Here he takes it that Van Til (and myself in the essay) is using the first definition of similar, in the sense of “strictly comparable” but not essentially the same.

Thus, Ray thinks that Van Til and the essay denies Jesus having the SAME divine nature as the Father and the Spirit.  There’s some problems here I have with Ray’s claim about Van Til and the essay:

1.) Contrary to Ray’s comment, when I did a search on the article, none of my quotes from Van Til used the word “similar.”  So it’s kind of hard to establish that Van Til is using the first sense of “similar” when none of my quotes of him ever had him used the word “similar” at all.

2.) Perhaps Ray’s contention is with my position itself:  But I do affirm the truth that Jesus had the SAME divine nature as the Father and the Spirit so I don’t see this objection having anything to do with my actual position.  Ray missed the mark.

4.) In the essay, I am using the word “similar” in the second sense of the definition according to Webster: which is to say, similar means same in essence.

5.) The rule of interpretation of a word is to always look to the context to determine its meaning.  So I’m rather befuddled with where did Ray get the idea that I’m using “similar” in the strict comparable sense.  I think he does have the burden of proof to demonstrate that I or Van Til deny Jesus having the same nature as the Father and the Spirit.  Perhaps there’s a quote from Van Til out there that I am not aware of?  I don’t think he will find a legitimate quote from me denying this proposition.

6.) I think a careful reading of the essay will reveal the sense I am using of “similar,” when it comes to the topic of Christ’s nature in the God head.  Since it was a long essay, and Ray might have missed what I was trying to say, I think the following quote is important:

In the Creed of Chalcedon, ousia is commonly translated as “co-substantial”, where Jesus is described as co-substantial with the Father.  Biblically speaking, the Bible teaches that Jesus has the exact nature as God the Father (Hebrews 1:3).  This similar nature is their Divinity.  In describing this Divineness of Jesus which He shared in common with God the Father, a term was needed to describe this reality and the extra-biblical phrase that was used by the church was the term ousia. “

And further down in the same paragraph:

Given that the semantic range of ousia was “essence, substance, being, genus, or nature”[51], the term was seen at that time to be an appropriate short-hand to indicate what the “thing” (for lack of better word) was that Christ shared with the Father.  There is “something” Divine about Jesus which is similar to the Father.”

Note I am not denying that ” Jesus had the SAME divine nature as the Father and the Spirit,” but I am affirming it!  I affirmed it not once, but several times this truth:

  • “Biblically speaking, the Bible teaches that Jesus has the exact nature as God the Father (Hebrews 1:3).”
  • “This similar nature is their Divinity.”
  • In describing this Divineness of Jesus which He shared in common with God the Father, a term was needed to describe this reality and the extra-biblical phrase that was used by the church was the term ousia. “
  • Given that the semantic range of ousia was “essence, substance, being, genus, or nature”[51], the term was seen at that time to be an appropriate short-hand to indicate what the “thing” (for lack of better word) was that Christ shared with the Father.

Charles Ray’s Drive-By comment misses his shots.

But I’m not complaining.

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