Monday, 25 January 2016

A Case for the Deity of Christ in Light of Muslim Objections, Part III

Continuing from Part II
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 KJV) Here Paul explains that Jesus preexisted with the Father with the same nature as God. Jesus then lowered himself being found in appearance as a man. Paul then explains the crucifixion and states that every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will confess that he is Lord. Aside from the explicit statements about Jesus having the nature of God, preexisting with the Father and then becoming a man, the fact that Paul said every knee will bow to Christ and confess him as Lord proves that Jesus is God Almighty. In the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures we read:
Declare what is to be, present it — let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none but me." Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (Isaiah 45:21-23)
Notice that the Isaiah prophecy says that one day in the future every knee will bow to Yahweh and every tongue will swear by Yahweh. Well according to Paul in Philippians 2:10-11 this will be fulfilled as soon as every knee bows to Christ and confesses Christ is Lord by their tongue. This is because Paul is teaching that Jesus is Yahweh. Muslim Objection: Shabir Ally states: Paul’s letter to the Philippians ch. 2, vv. 6-11 is often quoted as proof that Jesus is God. But the very passage shows that Jesus is not God. This passage has to agree with Isaiah 45:22-24 where God (Yahweh) said that every knee should bow to Yahweh, and every tongue should confess that righteousness and strength are in Yahweh alone.  Paul was aware of this passage, for he quoted it in Romans 14:11. Knowing this, Paul declared, “I kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14). (28)

Christian Response:
Ally’s objection doesn’t address a number of issues relevant to Philippians 2:6-11. He doesn’t address Jesus being in very nature God, Jesus being equal with God, or Jesus leaving his exaltation in heaven and becoming a man. Ally attempts to address the knee bowing and confessing issue. However, his response is full of holes. First of all, Ally doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that Christ is said to be bowed to by all people and confessed as Lord fulfilling Isaiah 45:21-23. Ally merely says Philippians has to agree with Isaiah about Yahweh alone being bowed to and confessed as Lord. Indeed, Paul does agree because to him Jesus is Yahweh and when Jesus is bowed to, Yahweh is bowed to. This is what Ally can’t see and won’t even acknowledge. Ally notes how Paul said he kneels to the Father in Ephesians 3:14. All that this establishes is that both the Father and the Son are bowed to in different contexts. The Father being bowed to once by Paul and the Son being bowed to by all people fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 45:21-23. Ally doesn’t try to address Philippians 2:6-11 exegetically and thus fails to make a compelling case. Indeed, Paul was aware of Isaiah 45:22-24 and since he believed Jesus is Yahweh he wrote about Isaiah 45:22-24 being fulfilled when Christ is bowed to and confessed as Lord by all people.

Muslim Objection:
Zaatari also takes a shot at debunking Philippians 2:6-11: Many Trinitarians use the above verse to claim that Jesus is God because Paul claimed that Jesus existed in the form of God. Yet what the Trinitarian failed to realize is this that this verse greatly refutes them! Notice Jesus is not called God! There is a difference between being called God, and being called to exist in the form of God! Why didn't Paul just simply say Jesus who was God! God is God! (29)

Christian Response:
When Muslims can’t refute a verse properly or address what the verse actually does say, they have to invent their own criteria and then claim the verse doesn’t meet them. Zaatari’s view is that unless Jesus is “called God” here it doesn’t matter what else is said. Jesus “being in very nature God” isn’t enough for Zaatari. Jesus taking on flesh leaving his exalted status behind isn’t enough. You can’t simply invent your own criteria and then claim that because the verse doesn’t meet them in your opinion, that therefore the verse doesn’t teach the Deity of Christ. That is not how to exegete scriptures. We believe Jesus and the Father are distinct in personhood yet both fully God. The Father is often called God and so Jesus is described as God, but not called God, because the title is reserved for the Father in some scriptures which, however, does not undermine our theology at all. The fact is that Jesus is described as having the very nature of God, preexisting in an exalted state with the Father, and then coming down from heaven becoming a man by his own will in perfect accord with the Father.
Muslim Objection:
Zaatari states: Furthermore, why does Paul state that Jesus did not regard equality with God to be something to be grasped, if Jesus is NOT God then such a statement makes sense, since Jesus is not God, he did not regard it as a major thing to be equal with God. An example could be given with a servant who is equal with a king, but does not consider that to be special, that statement only makes sense because he is a servant and not the king himself! Now off course Jesus was not fully equal to God, as Paul has demonstrated that Jesus is UNDER God, and God gave Jesus authority, and God made Jesus a leader, hence it's not a literal equality. One must understand the theology of Paul and certain Christians on this issue; they believe that Jesus is God's PERFECT representative on earth, and that Jesus fully carries out God's will and orders, for instance Jesus said that he who sees Jesus sees the Father, for these Christians they take that verse and say since Jesus is God's perfect representative, and fully does what God wants, then in that certain sense he is equal to God. It is indeed a very high exaltation of Jesus, but it is in no way meant to say that he is God. As one Christian writes: So what can we conclude about morphe? The Philippian church consisted of Jews and converted Greeks. From the Septuagint and their other writings, the Jews were familiar with morphe referring to the outward appearance, including the form of men and idols. To the Greeks, it also referred to the outward appearance, including the changing outward appearance of their gods and the form of statues. The only other New Testament use of morphe outside Philippians is in Mark, and there it refers to the outward appearance. Also, the words related to morphe clearly refer to an outward manifestation or appearance. We assert the actual evidence is clear: the word morphe refers to an outward appearance or manifestation. Jesus Christ was in the outward appearance of God, so much so that he said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Christ always did the Father's will, and perfectly represented his Father in every way. (
Now as Muslims we would never use such language or terminology, but that is a different issue, what does matter is that Philippians 2:6 was not meant to call Jesus God, it was terminology being used according to a specific theology and thought. (30)

Christian Response:
I have never seen so many errors in one explanation of a passage. Instead of accepting Zaatari’s Unitarian heretical exegesis of the scriptures, let us examine the assessment of Philippians 2:6-11 made by Robert M. Bowman, J. Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock because they give a lengthy discussion on the passages. Notice that everything Zaatari just stated and quoted gets utterly refuted in this exegesis. One of the most important biblical passages for our understanding of the person of Jesus Christ is Philippians 2:6-11. In these six verses, Paul taught that Christ was a preexistent person who was fully God and yet humbled himself by becoming a human and dying on a cross (vv. 6-8). Then, in Christ’s resurrection, God the Father exalted him in order that he might be honoured by all creation as their divine Lord (vv. 9-11). Although this understanding of the passage has come under criticism, the evidence is decisive that Paul was, indeed, affirming the divine pre-existence of Christ. In verse 6, Paul says that Christ “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” The natural way of understanding this statement – and the way that the vast majority of Christian interpreters historically have understood it – is that Christ existed “in the form of God” in heaven before he became a man. Thus, Paul goes on immediately to say that Christ “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness,” and that he was “found in human form” (v, 7) …
Most of the scholarly debate regarding Philippians 2:6 focus’s on the meaning of the Greek word harpagmos. Since the word occurs only once in the Greek Bible and is rare in extrabiblical literature, scholars have limited lexical data on which to base their understanding of Paul’s intended meaning here. Some understand Paul to be saying that Jesus did not consider it “robbery” to be equal with God” (NKJV, following the KJV); others assert that Jesus did not consider equality with God something “to be grasped” (NASB, NIV, ESV). Still others maintain a more nuanced view, namely, that Jesus did not think of equality with God as “something to be exploited” (NRSV). Although the technical discussions of the meaning of harpagmos can be complex and confusing, this does not mean that we cannot really know what Paul was saying in Philippians 2:6. However harpagmos is translated, Paul is still affirming the divine pre-existence of Christ. The rendering “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (NKJV, following the KJV), which has the least support among biblical scholarship today, would mean that Christ was equal with God and did not think that he had taken that status wrongfully. The more common rendering “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (NASB; cf. NIV, NET, ESV) would mean that the preexistent divine Christ did not try to seize recognition of his rightful status of equality with God, but chose to put the glory of the Father and the salvation of sinners ahead of his own glory. The rendering “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” (NRSV), now favoured by many and possibly a majority of commentators, would mean that Christ was equal with God but did not seek to take advantage of the status for his own persona; comfort or gain.
Although these ways of translating harpagmos are very different, the resulting ways of understanding the overarching thrust of the passage are essentially the same. Paul is saying that Christ was divine in his nature or glorious form but did not act in the self-serving manner one might have expected an omnipotent Deity to act, taking whatever he wanted and demanding to be treated as superior. This understanding fits the context well. Paul’s point is that although Christ was in God’s form and was (at least by right) God’s equal, he did not demand his divine rights but humbly took a servants form and became a human being. (31) Zaatari’s eisegetical mishandling of the scripture has no leg to stand on in light of scholarly research on the subject. Zaatari doesn’t address the argument that Philippians 2:6-11 fulfills Isaiah 45:21-24 either. Zaatari’s Unitarian handling of the Greek word ‘morphē’ (form) is also problematic. They claim that it only means that Jesus was a metaphorical outward appearance of the Father – perfectly representing him when it says “Who, being in the form of God.” This metaphorical representative interpretation doesn’t work. The passage is talking about Jesus being in heaven as the morphē (form) of God and then leaving that position thus becoming themorphē (form) of slave. Paul uses the same Greek word (morphē) in verse 7 describing Jesus becoming human in nature. With this in mind the only conclusion is that, just as Jesus was found in human morphē (lowered slave form), he was originally in the morphē (form of God) while in heaven before the incarnation. This is about Jesus having the glory and nature of God. Since Jesus Christ had the appearance (form) of God it means Jesus had the glory of God because God’s appearance or form is glory and divine exaltation. However, no creature can have the glory of God. Jesus isn’t a creature but instead the divine second person of the Trinity. Therefore Jesus preexisted having the glory of God and then he lowered himself having the nature of man in the first-century. That is what Paul is teaching here and that is why the Weymouth New Testament and the NIV translate this as Jesus being in the very “nature” (morphē) - God.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy. (Colossians 1:16-18) Here Jesus is described as the creator of all things. Paul notes that Christ holds ALL THINGS together. In order to be able to do this Jesus would need to be all powerful, all knowing and everywhere. Creatorship, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are attributes of God alone and thus when Paul proclaims that Jesus is the creator who holds ALL THINGS together he is affirming his Deity.

Muslim Objection:
Shabir Ally asserts: Paul believed that Jesus was an agent whom God used in creating the cosmos. (32)

Christian Response:
If we grant Ally’s interpretation it proves that Jesus is God according to Islam. Firstly, Ally doesn’t address the fact that it says Jesus sustains all things and holds them together. That alone entails Jesus’ Deity. In order for Jesus to hold all things together he would need to know what needs to be held together (all knowing), he would need to have the power to sustain it (all powerful), and he would need to be able to sustain all things at once in all places (everywhere). This means Jesus is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. These are attributes of God alone. But even with that said, in order for Christ to be the agent that the Father used to create the cosmos it would mean that according to Paul Jesus preexisted alone with the Father (and Spirit, Genesis 1:2). And it must mean that His existence and fellowship with the Father and the Spirit is eternal, for it doesn’t simply say He was before all things, as if there could have been a time before creation when the Son was not with the Father and the Holy Spirit; it says “He IS before all things” right now. This demonstrates that it was not the position of early Christians like Paul that Jesus was just a prophet who first saw life at birth. That is not the Jesus of the first-century. The Jesus of the first-century preexisted with the Father in glory, he had a part in creating all things (see also John 1:1-3), and he is now sustaining all creation.
However, according to Islam if this is true then that makes Jesus God. Remember the first classification of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism). Tawheed al-Rububiya: Unity of Lordship. Lest I be accused of re-defining the first classification of Tawheed, I will let Muslim apologists Zawadi and Zaatari define it: Allah is one in lordship. Muslims must believe that Allah is the sole lord who is in control of all things. He is the ultimate being who sustains and nourishes all things, and there is no one else who shares that kind of authority alongside with him. (33) Tawhid of Lordship, that there is only one God and that he is the creator of all things, in charge and owner of all things, and so on and so on. (34) Notice that according to these Muslim apologists Tawheed al-Rububiya means that God creates, sustains and controls all things alone. But wait, according to Colossians 1:16-18 Jesus had a part in creating all things. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who sustains and holds all things together! Thus, according to Islam Jesus is God. This should make people wonder why Shabir Ally asserts that the Bible doesn’t teach that Deity of Christ, when, in light of Islamic monotheism, Jesus has the unique attributes and characteristics of God. 1 & 2 Thessalonians
In the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians Jesus is said to return to earth with HIS saints/angels displaying great glory and might: so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all HIS saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13) This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with HIS powerful angels. (2 Thessalonians 1:7) This very fact is reiterated in the gospel of Matthew and Mark:
‘For the Son of Man is to come with HIS angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.’ (Matthew 16:27) At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.And he will send HIS angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:26-27) Interestingly we read in the book of Psalms that the angels and saints belong to Yahweh! Yahweh is sovereign over all creation and thus it belongs to him. This shows that Jesus and Yahweh are one and the same since Jesus is said to own the angels and saints. Bless Jehovah, ye HIS angels, That are mighty in strength, that fulfil his word, Hearkening unto the voice of his word. (Psalm 103:20) Praise ye him, all HIS angels: Praise ye him, all his host. (Psalm 148:2)

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this argument or these passages. 1 Timothy
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

Muslim Objection:
Muslims often use these passages to assert that because it says that there is “one God” and then it later identifies Christ as “the Man Christ Jesus” therefore, according to their understanding, Jesus is distinct from God. Muslim apologist Shadid Lewis states: In first Timothy chapter two verse five, “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” So God is on one side, mankind is on the other; in the middle is the mediator and the mediator is not God. The mediator himself is a man also. So I saw these claims and I said well Islam is speaking the truth then. (35)

Christian Response:
However, if Lewis was logically consistent he would have to also argue that Jesus cannot be man either since he is in the middle of BOTH God AND mankind, not just God. Thus, per his reasoning since Jesus is in the middle he must not be human after all! Moreover, despite the Muslim distortion of this scripture, 1 Timothy 2:3-6 can be used to establish the Deity of Christ if proper exegesis is utilized. Sedevacantist and traditional Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics argues that this verse actually affirms the Deity of Christ: Jesus Christ is the only unique mediator between God and man because he is the only one who is both God and man. That is what St. Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 2:4 when he says there is one God and one mediator between God and man the Man Christ Jesus. (36) To further clarify Mr. Matatics’ position I will say that according to Paul, all mankind is burdened with sin from birth. This doctrine of inherent sin can be found in the following passages: What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; (Romans 3:9) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned. (Romans 5:12) The position of Paul, as well as the other New Testament writers, is that humanity is sinful inherently and in need of a saviour because of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. So it is clear that all humans have sinned according to Christian theology. However, these same New Testament authors exclaim that Jesus Christ became fully man, was sinless and the only one qualified to pay for our sin by dying on the cross as the unblemished lamb. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5) Since all humans have sinned and are unable to sufficiently atone for it themselves, the second person (Jesus) of the tri-personal God-head had to become a sinless man acting as mediator on our behalf. Man is corrupt and unable to save himself from his sinful ways but the God-man Jesus, who is 100% God and 100% man, incarnated himself into the world to redeem humanity. Matatics’ position on these passages is correct and it affirms the Deity of Christ because only God can live without sin, therefore God’s death in the cross has saving value and atonement. 2 Timothy
who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10) This scripture indicates Christ’s preexistence with the Father and it implies his incarnation into the world. This is exactly what we would expect to find in Paul’s epistles if he supported the Deity of Christ. In order for Christ to be God he must have preexisted before his human life. New Testament scholar Dr. Gordon Donald Fee illustrates this point in his work ‘Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study’: Even though the “impoverishment” motif does not occur in this passage, the emphasis is once more on Christ’s preexistence and the genuineness of his incarnation. Christ’s preexistence is asserted by the clause “God saved us … in keeping with this own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” His incarnation is then expressed as, “but has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus.” Thus, this very Pauline concern finds expression in the corpus yet one more time. Christ preexisted with the Father, and at one point in human history he became incarnate in order to redeem. (37)

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this passage or argument. Continuing on Part IV

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