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The Impeccability of Jesus Christ

The impeccability of Christ is an important, though debated point. It involves not only the sinlessness of our savior, but whether it was possible for him to sin. As we consider the issue, we turn to F. W. Kremer’s article, “The Impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ” published in Reformed Quarterly Review, Volume 26, April 1879.

We discuss the tendency to consider Christ’s humanity independently of his divinity. It’s not merely that people recognize the natures are distinct, but that they implicitly acknowledge that his humanity can be abstracted from his divinity. In the abstract, we could acknowledge that Jesus’s human nature had the capability of sinning. For example, his body was physically capable of taking a sword and murdering someone. But we cannot consider Christ’s human nature in the abstract. He is the second person of the trinity who has assumed a true body and a reasonable soul. Sin involves a moral agent. Does the human nature of Christ constitute a full moral agent apart from the person of the son? This also raises serious issues regarding God’s decree. Throughout the episode, we maintain that if it was possible for Christ to sin, it was possible for Christ to fail.

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Transcript

[showhide more_text=”Show Transcript (%s words)” less_text=”Hide Transcript”]Camden Bucey: 00:07 Welcome to Christ The Center, your weekly conversation of reformed theology. We’re now in episode number 551. My name is Camden Bucey. I serve as the pastor of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Grayslake, Illinois. I’m back with Jeff Waddington, who serves as stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Lansdowne Pennsylvania. I’m advocating that we now call it Orthoknox Presbyterian Church.

Camden Bucey: 00:33 Welcome back Jeff, it’s good to have you with us.

Jeff Waddington: 00:35 Good to be here, Orthoknox Presbyterian Church, that would save time.

Camden Bucey: 00:40 That would save some time. We’re thankful for you joining us and for your ministry down there.

Jeff Waddington: 00:40 Glad to be here.

Camden Bucey: 00:45 We also have with us Adam York, our friend, who is the pastor of Providence OP in Kingwood Texas. Welcome back Adam, it’s good to speak with you.

Adam York: 00:55 Well what a blessing it is to be here with your brothers.

Camden Bucey: 00:57 Yeah, it’s good to have you back on this side of the podcast divide. We have Proclaiming Christ, one of our favorite programs out there, alongside Theology Simply Profound, and then we have Christ The Center, as our three regular weekly programs. We’re delighted that the those are going strong, but to have Adam, who is a regular on Proclaiming Christ come on over here to Christ The Center, is always a delight. We need not have dividing walls like the Jews and Gentiles did prior to the work of Christ.

Adam York: 01:30 We’re tearing down the dividing wall of hostility.

Camden Bucey: 01:33 Yeah, no hostility here, but it just so happens the way that we often schedule. I guess Jim and Glenn are flipping over, they’re regulars over on PC2. So it’s good to have you with us Adam, and we’re glad that you brought with you a wonderful topic. Today we’re going to be speaking about the impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is an issue of whether or not Jesus was capable of sinning in his human nature, and all of the details and the attendant circumstances therein.

Camden Bucey: 02:07 So we’re going to speak about that. It’s a probably more contentious issue than you think. But there are different people, even within the reform community that have differing views. So we hope to unpack that and speak about the importance of Christ’s impeccability and what that actually means, in just a few minutes. But I do want to mention that Christ The Center is listener supported, and we do rely on the generous support of our listeners and our viewers, everyone involved with what we’re doing here to help us to produce and distribute all of our programs, free of charge, as well as to host events and do some other things.

Camden Bucey: 02:41 We’ve got a lot planned for reform forum over the next six to 12 months. We’re very excited about the things going on. But one of those big things is our theology conference, October 5th through 7th, here in Grayslake, where are our topic this year is: Seeing God, The Deeper Protestant Conception, Aquinas, Bart, Vos & the Beatific Vision.

Camden Bucey: 03:02 We’ve gotten a lot of interest on Facebook, people are taking a look at possibly coming and asking their friends if it would be a good event to come to. I do want to encourage people to check it out. We have a lot of information on the website. If you go to reformforum.org, there’s a big ole’ banner right on the front homepage. You can click on that and go to our event information. It may sound like an esoteric subject we’re going to bring it down to the level of people that are going to be there in attendance, we’re not just going to be speaking about abstract things, these are things that really matter, that really matter. And the beatific vision, more or less, is that wonderful blessing that we will enter into when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returns. And when we see him, we will be like him, First John 3:2.

Camden Bucey: 03:48 The question is how is that? And there are several theological options, that have been presented, even within the reformed community, you know. And there are many people that would say that we participate in the divine essence, our intellect perceives and participates in the divine essence, so that we behold it, not just by knowing and understanding it, but in one way, shape or form, namely by participation, becoming god. And that might seem like wacko and out there, but that is a [inaudible 00:04:19] view, and we’re going to develop that.

Camden Bucey: 04:22 We’ve all been reading a ton of Thomas and reading Thomas himself on this subject, and learning quite a bit, so we hope to share that research with people. But on the far other end, you might ask: Well, does God somehow change himself in order to accommodate this new blessed relationship? And then we of course have the Bartian side of things, where God identifies himself with humanity through the revelatory Christ event, you know, in God’s time for us.

Camden Bucey: 04:51 So these are extremely practical issues, we’re not just speaking about things that engage the abstract mind, but things that, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is where theology matters. And how we answer these questions, how we develop them, and then what we do about it, has a lot to do with the work of the church. And we want to speak about those things. It’s a little bit of a foretaste. But if you go to the conference page, you can see not only a schedule of events, titles and the speakers who will be in attendance, but also we’re working on providing very succinct thesis statements for each lecture, and then in some cases also a brief little abstract or summary for the topic.

Camden Bucey: 05:33 So our early bird registration is in effect until the end of August. You can come to the main conference session for $55. It’s gonna be a full day and a lot of wonderful material for $55. We also have some tickets available for our VIP dinner that Friday night, where you can come, and we’re gonna have roughly about 25 people at a very long single table. But we’re gonna hear a lecture from Danny Olinger on the nature and destiny of from Vos to Gaffin. He’s going to be speaking. It’s gonna be a wonderful kind of Vos event. And there’s a surprise in store, we’re working hard. Not quite ready to announce it, because we want to get a few things finished and a few things ready to make sure that we can deliver. But we’re looking forward to it. All of this online, October 5th through 7th.

Camden Bucey: 06:26 You can learn more at reformforum.org. And also save the date, I don’t want to overload everybody, listen in, and don’t want to talk forever, we want to get through our subject. But save the date, April 1st through April 6th in Wimberley Texas, that’s the year 2019, for those who might be listening many years into the future. But the first week of April 2019, we are going to have an entirely new format of an event, something we’ve never done before. And we’re going to have a seminar that’s going to be taught, April 2nd, 3rd and 4th. So in the day, and so at the late morning, probably around 10:00 or so, we’re gonna have two half hour lectures by Lane Tipton is teaching the class, it’s going to be in some respects an intro to reformed theology/biblical theology.

Camden Bucey: 07:18 He’s gonna teach 12 total, 30 minute sessions that we are going to record on video and eventually turn into an adult Sunday school course. If you want to be part of that, if you want to be there, come and visit us. We’re gonna host the event at the Old Glory Ranch in Wimberley, Texas. But we also will be renting out cabins, they’re really kind of tiny houses, they’re not rustic cabins, but cabins on site in Wimberley, Texas, where reform forum people will be staying. And you can also rent a cabin and stay on site where not only will you attend the sessions in the daytime, but you also can can spend time with us, hang out with us over dinner, barbecue, whatever we’re doing in the mornings and evenings. So that’s gonna be a wonderful event. We’re gonna have more information on that and registration available soon. But save the date, April 1st through 6th, 2019.

Camden Bucey: 08:15 Okay guys, I think that’s enough of my marketing. But I just can’t talk enough about these things, I’m so excited about what we’re able to do. It’s kind of a new era in reform forum, and we’re very thankful for the ways that the Lord has provided for us, so that we are able to support the church in her work of the great commission. She’s been given that mandate by the Lord to make disciples of men. Then we also are designed to support the church specifically by assisting her in presenting every person mature in Christ. That’s our mission statement, right out of Colossians 128. And everything we do is directed toward that, helping people know Jesus better, through a radical consistency to scripture. So that’s our all-encompassing idea, and we want you to be part of that too, everybody who’s listening. So one way to do that is, come to an event. We’d be happy to meet you.

Camden Bucey: 09:08 So brothers, one thing that’s important know about our Lord Jesus, is that he was perfect, he was not a sinner. He became sin on our behalf, so that he would also die to sin and triumph over it through his death and resurrection. But he committed no sin. But the question isn’t within orthodoxy, I should say within orthodoxy, the question is not did Christ sin? We’re on a different level if that’s the question we’re going to talk about.

Camden Bucey: 09:36 But today, we’re not asking the question did Christ sin? We’re asking the question, was it possible for Christ to sin, and then maybe to put a finer point on it, was it possible for him to sin in his humanity. So those are some of the issues, but Adam I’d like for you to introduce to us, because you brought to us an older article, that that’s now been collected into book form, we’re reading it on Google books, by the Reverend [F. W. Kramer 00:10:07], The Impeccability Of The Lord Jesus Christ. It appeared, I believe, if my info is correct here, in the reformed quarterly review, volume 26, April 1879.

Camden Bucey: 10:20 So Adam, how’d you find this, and why has this been on your mind lately?

Adam York: 10:25 Well yes, and so it’s an older article, but it’s a good article. And the reason why I came to this brothers, is because in seminary, going back to my seminary days, I can remember my beloved professor Dr. Robert Strimple, addressing this topic. He spoke about it in his lecture notes. And we might also get a link to that, I think that is available online, that may be helpful.

Camden Bucey: 10:57 I’m listening to a class of his now, I’ve imported into one of my apps on my phone, and that’s kind of my running listening and driving listening now. He’s brilliant, love Dr. Strimple.

Adam York: 11:11 Now with respect to this question, unfortunately he decided, or fortunately, whatever way you want to look at it, I don’t believe he actually lectures on this topic on the MP3’s, he gave an outline. Most of the outline is kind of fill in the blank, very scant. But this section on impeccability is completely filled out, his full thoughts on this. And he simply assigned it as a matter of required reading to show up on the test, but because not being able to cover everything in class, he picked and chose.

Adam York: 11:49 But I found him to be imminently clear, as always very good. And I didn’t really give it much more thought, until I got into the pastorate, and I found that I would make just really occasional references to Christ’s impeccability, not only that he was sinless, but that he was unable to sin, and it was a little befuddling to people, they weren’t sure about that. Is that right? Is that orthodox? Do we really hold to that? So I found the need to go into a little more depth on it, at least on a pastoral level. And I’ll just sort of stop at that. There’s more I could say, but it-

Camden Bucey: 12:39 Well it’s an important point, and it is kind of befuddling to many of the people in churches, but not just the members in churches, but also ministers and others. There is debate about this issue, and very well respected men, people that we look up to in many ways, and people that are very reliable theologians, have even had different answers to this.

Camden Bucey: 13:02 We hope to discuss this, you know, with great charity today. But Adam shared with us a video clip from a 2012 Ligonier event, where R. C. Sproul and Sinclair Ferguson were speaking on this issue, and taking the view that we would not hold. So this isn’t to say that everyone has the same view top to bottom, even within our [inaudible 00:13:25] circles as it were, but that there are some differences. But we want to raise that issue and start to look into this, and see not only what people’s answers are to the questions, but maybe some of their motivation for answering that way. And then, when we start to unpack this, you know, at a very deep level, I hope that we can see and arrive at a more consistent systematic theology.

Camden Bucey: 13:50 It’s not only the answers that we provide, but we need to be thoroughly reformed in the way we get there, in our method. And I think what we may find when we start to look at people who want to affirm the impeccability of our Lord’s humanity, that the conclusions are arising from a slight misstep in the way they consider our Lord in his divine human nature.

Adam York: 14:16 We could say that they arrived at their conclusion perhaps out of a legitimate concern, and that is that they think that the doctorate of the impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ undermines the reality of his temptations. In other words, the temptations become a show, a charade if you will, a farce or a sham, I think some of the words that appear in the article.

Camden Bucey: 14:48 Or make him somehow subhuman. We wan to to affirm entirely that Christ has assumed a true full human nature. A true body and a reasonable soul.

Adam York: 15:02 And the charge that kind of bubbles up to the surface, both in the Kramer article and interestingly in Dr. Sproul’s concern. And look, I love Dr. Sproul, learned so much from him. But I think I’d have to part ways from him on this, but the concern is that if you affirm an impeccable Christ, you’re affirming a docetic Christ, docetic in he only appeared to be [inaudible 00:15:34].

Camden Bucey: 15:36 And the other side is, we also don’t want to affirm a Nestorian Christ, or a Nestorian Christ.

Adam York: 15:41 Exactly.

Camden Bucey: 15:43 So if we want to throw terms out there, we can play that game.

Adam York: 15:49 Our argument in a nutshell, is going to be, and this is probably important so that folks don’s lose the forest for the trees, our argument has to do with the hypostatic union and the integrity of the person of Christ. And so if you go down this road, you end up sundering, and that’s the reference to Nestorianism, but you end up separating the divine and human nature, so that they’re no longer united in one person.

Camden Bucey: 16:22 Let’s back up a little bit, we’ll slow down and start walking into this, because these are all the things at stake, and I hope people are interested in this and realize the significance of what we’re speaking about. This is very important material.

Camden Bucey: 16:35 So impeccability here is this idea that Christ, not only he didn’t sin, but also that he is unable to sin in his human nature. But here let’s speak about the hypostatic union. Maybe Jeff, you can describe to us very briefly what the hypostatic union is and sketch that out for us, so that we have all of these proper categories, orthodox, confessional, ecumenical categories in our minds.

Jeff Waddington: 17:01 So the hypostatic union is the belief that the Son of God, the Word in John Chapter one, took the second person of the Trinity, the trine, in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, became incarnate, that is in time, took to himself to use the language of the Westminster Standards and earlier doctoral standards, a true body and a reasonable soul. So that in one person, so we don’t have a schizophrenic Christ, we have one person with two natures. Those two natures, the human and the divine are able to retain their properties and integrity, all the while being united in one person. And so we can say things about the person, that may seem odd if-

Jeff Waddington: 18:00 That may seem odd if we were just to think about the natures. In other words, Paul, I think in Acts Chapter 2 talks about God shedding his blood. Of course, God as a spirit doesn’t have a body apart from the incarnation, and therefore, has no blood to shed. But that’s because Paul is talking about, has in view the incarnation of the son of God and his death on the cross

Jeff Waddington: 18:28 Sometimes we’ll say that that’s speaking improperly. Doesn’t mean wrongly. It just means improperly in terms of technical understanding of these matters. So you have the two natures in the one person. Remember that the person of the son, there’s not two persons. It’s the … Make sure I get this right, Camden. There is the an-hypostatic and then there’s the en-hypostatic.

Camden Bucey: 19:02 Yeah, it’s basically the similar idea. I think the positive one being a negator. The ‘an’ is the negative.

Jeff Waddington: 19:10 That is the human nature of Christ didn’t exist apart from the union.

Camden Bucey: 19:14 Right. Right. Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 19:15 And The person of the son, that is the logos, is the person.

Camden Bucey: 19:22 Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 19:22 Of Christ. Okay? It’s not an amalgam of the two natures.

Camden Bucey: 19:30 Right. Here would be a false view, that somehow there was a human embryo or just a walking, talking human person out there, that the Son adopted as his own and took it over. That would be a false view. What we need to maintain, according to scripture and the ecumenical tradition that we uphold, is that the Holy Spirit worked within the womb of the Virgin Mary and conceived Christ. Christ was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. And so there never was a moment, a split second or anything, any conception in which we could say that the human nature that Christ came to bear, that he assumed, somehow existed independently of that hypostatic union.

Camden Bucey: 20:21 So it’s not only a hypostatic union, we must also go beyond that and say it was an en-hypostatic and an-hypostatic, because this human nature never did, never will, exist apart from the person of the Son. Now, the person of the Son is eternal, and his divine nature is eternal. He didn’t adopt a divine nature, but that person now is united to, or I should say, put it the other way around, the human nature is united, hypo-statically. That is to the person, to the hypostasis of the son, not to the divine nature, properly speaking. And that’s where Chalcedon can come in and describe the inseparable union, but yet the distinction between the human and the divine nature. That would lead into us all other discussions with Lutheranism to talk about how the natures relate. But, at this point, we’re speaking about how each nature relates to the person.

Adam York: 21:20 Correct. So, well stated and I think you really boil it down to I think two important issues to think about here, and they’re Christological issues. That’s where it’s really helpful to focus things and reform people, you know, maybe we think hardly about the theology of the Reformation not realizing, as you were saying all the way along, that our Christology is formed pretty much intact, creedily in the early church. The reformers don’t seek to change or challenge, but they build on that such that the common way that people think today, that Christ is, you take a divine nature and you take a human nature and you add them together and you get the divine human person. And that’s not the way our creeds and confessions and our theology thinks. That, as you say, the divine person assumes a human nature which never existed. Was never hanging in the air. Can not be considered abstractly apart from his assumption of that nature, and secondly then, that the locus of personality therefore resides in the divine person.

Jeff Waddington: 22:45 Right.

Camden Bucey: 22:46 Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 22:47 And that’s what would be, the theologians have meant by the logos being the person. All right? It’s the second person of the godhead, who is the person who has taken to himself, or assumed, a true body and a reasonable soul. This is what we would argue is undermined if we affirm peccability, that is the ability of Lord Jesus Christ to sin.

Camden Bucey: 23:16 Yeah. Let’s speak about that. Let me give a just a mental exercise example, ’cause this will provide a sounding board or something that we can discuss in the concrete. Now, I imagine that we all would acknowledge this, and affirm this, that the human nature … let’s just take the body of Jesus while he was alive, and he still is alive, but I’m just saying as an adult, he certainly was capable in his … His body was physically capable of picking up a sword and theoretically thrusting someone with it and murdering them. I mean, his body wasn’t somehow deficient where he wouldn’t have been able to do such a physical act in a hypothetical world. That’s not a question, at least here. I’m wondering if that might be a question for some people who affirm peccability. Say, well his body could have sinned. Well yes, in that sense. That’s not precisely what we’re speaking about, at least I’m not.

Adam York: 24:15 No.

Camden Bucey: 24:15 So, what is the question then, and how then does our theology of the hypostatic union come into a scenario such as that. Where would someone who is thinking along those lines, let’s just think about the possibility of the human body, where is the slight misstep in theological method at that point?

Adam York: 24:41 Right. And I think, again, I mean maybe this is just circling around what we’re saying, but trying to understand, Christ is fully human, but he’s not just, if I can put it this way, any human, right? His humanity never exists for one moment apart from the divinity.

Camden Bucey: 25:07 Right.

Adam York: 25:09 So we have to think about it in those terms, but also, and I’m not sure if this is exactly scratching where you’re itching, Camden, but another thing to consider is that his human nature is also not exactly like ours ’cause even though Paul can say in Romans eight that he is born in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he does not have a fallen nature. So the temptations which are real, and we want to make sure that we affirm that he was really and truly tempted. Those temptations do not arise from within Christ as they would us.

Camden Bucey: 25:58 Yeah, well you’re touching on a related issue that’s very important, especially when we consider works of modern contemporary protestants. Guys like T.F. Torrance and others would hold to the notion that Christ is a fallen human nature. That’s another redemptive historical question that we’d like to answer and discuss. But I think perhaps the mental exercise, thinking about what Christ’s human nature, or even just more concretely, what his body could have done as a human body, is thinking about his human body or his human nature independently of the person. Human bodies don’t just act on their own. They’re not automatons. So when we’re speaking about peccability or impeccability, I find it to be a misstep, and more than that, a problematic error that has an effect in a whole other range of areas, to think that in his human nature, he was peccable, because peccable is something that can only be predicated, in my understanding, of a person.

Adam York: 27:10 Yes. Right.

Camden Bucey: 27:12 A person who also has a nature. To think of Christ’s human nature independently of the person is something that’s just, it ought not to compute is what I’m trying to suggest.

Jeff Waddington: 27:27 Right. Even if we think of, say, something about the divine nature or the human nature, it’s okay to think about that in the hypothetical, but then we have to bring it back. We have to ask the question, how does this square with or relate to the unified person.

Camden Bucey: 27:44 Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 27:44 In other words, the divine person. And that’s really the question we’re asking of those who affirm the peccability of Jesus Christ is, how do you square that with the personhood of the son who is both divine and human.

Adam York: 28:06 You know, brothers, one way that [Kramer 00:28:09] puts this, and I think this is a good orienting question in his article, is after looking at the affirmation creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Confession, he says this, “The question now comes up. Were these two natures ‘inseparably joined together’ as the church has always held? Or, was it possible for the union to be dissolved?” Or in other words, was it possible for Christ to sin?

Jeff Waddington: 28:40 That is the question at the end of the day.

Camden Bucey: 28:43 Yeah. And I think those need to be connected. We can’t think of those independently. Those issues aren’t related, and it’s important, not again, to rag on anyone, but to illustrate why this is a significant point, and not just on this question, but why the method behind addressing the question can have impacts in other areas. Our year long intern here at Hope, Mr. [Danajekanda 00:29:10] raised the very important issue, and when we were speaking about this, he even brought up Dr. Sproul’s view of the second commandment. And Dr. Sproul believes it’s perfectly fine and okay to make images of Christ because Christ did assume a true and real human nature, so the image of Christ is therefore not a violation of the second commandment, because it’s an image of his humanity, not of his divinity.

Adam York: 29:38 Right.

Camden Bucey: 29:38 But I find that there’s the same error being made in this reasoning, because you are considering his human nature independently. In effect, in method, I believe, have sacrificed the en and an hypostatic union, because you believe that you can make an image of the humanity with no conception of the person and also the united divine nature. And then that leads you also into other issues regarding the third commandment in terms of, can you contemplate the human nature of Jesus without worshiping him?

Jeff Waddington: 30:16 Right. Right.

Camden Bucey: 30:16 And then are we violating the third commandment by in effect, according to our tradition, taking the Lord’s name in vain by not offering to him what is due to him? We always need to maintain the distinction between the divine and human natures, but we can never separate them, not even in the way that we think about our Lord, and I think that’s happening here, and it’s something that I think we need to reform a little bit.

Adam York: 30:43 Here the issues is again, impeccability is vitally important, vitally important, but it’s the bigger issue of Christology, and do we as a church and particularly a reformed church, are we fully on board with the church’s affirmation regarding the unity of the Savior expressed at say, Chalcedon. So for example, in our Presbytery, I’ll ask candidates whether Christ was peccable or impeccable, not so much just to get the answer on that particular issue, but to expose and to better understand their Christology.

Camden Bucey: 31:26 Oh, that’s brilliant. Yeah. Asking leading questions like that, that are not trick questions. I don’t care so much about those things. When I’m on the floor and hearing brothers who are examined asking a question, you just want to hear them think out loud.

Adam York: 31:40 Yeah.

Camden Bucey: 31:40 Even if the guy doesn’t have the right answer, it’s not a quiz show. We want to see, okay, well walk me through it. You don’t know the answer? What Bible verses might you appeal to? What are some things going on in your mind right now, some things about theology that you do know are true? How might that inform your view? When you hear a brother walk through the issue, that’s just a glorious thing. That’s so encouraging, so that’s a very good question to ask not to trip somebody up or give them a gotcha. We shouldn’t have gotcha questions on the floor, but to hear someone work out the theology that they live and breathe.

Adam York: 32:18 It teases out the much broader Christology, and brings into view the unity of the divine person, of the divine human person.

Jeff Waddington: 32:29 Right.

Camden Bucey: 32:29 I agree.

Jeff Waddington: 32:30 Now think, not only in terms of the unity of the person, but also the unity of God’s plan.

Camden Bucey: 32:37 Oh, that’s a great point.

Jeff Waddington: 32:38 Kramer brings this up, and Jonathan Edwards himself argued this way for the impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is, that if it’s possible to, we would say, to dissolve the union of the two natures into one person, then it’s also possible to undermine the plan of redemption.

Camden Bucey: 33:00 Yeah.

Jeff Waddington: 33:01 And think about this, and this is where Kramer raised an element … Well, Edwards talks about, it undermines the prophetic element in scripture. Right? But Kramer goes even further and says that undermines the salvation of the Old Testament saint.

Camden Bucey: 33:17 Yeah.

Jeff Waddington: 33:18 Potentially, right? In other words those saints who are already gathered around the throne of God in heaven, worshiping him per Revelation, their salvation would be undermined by the potentiality … I mean, everybody’s salvation would be undermined, but in particular the Old Testament saints.

Camden Bucey: 33:37 Sure.

Jeff Waddington: 33:38 So that you would be involved in something like changing the past.

Camden Bucey: 33:44 Well, if you can put a point on it, you can just ask … let me ask this very pointed, simple question, to our listeners, to anyone listening, was it possible for Christ to fail as Savior. Just ask that question. Is anyone gonna want to say, “Yeah, he could’ve failed.” God was metaphorically up in heaving having decreed things, but he’s got his fingers crossed just hoping Jesus doesn’t mess up. Because if you say it was possible for Christ to sin, then it must, by consequence, good and necessary consequence, it must be possible for Christ to fail as savior. You can’t separate those two.

Adam York: 34:27 Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 34:27 No. It’s right. As I thought about this, and I hadn’t come to this conclusion before, but really the only theology that really meshes well with this is open deism, the idea of the peccability of the son of God.

Camden Bucey: 34:43 Again, we’re separating ourselves from hypothetical notion of what the physical body of Jesus was able to do, hence, he could pick up a sword, he was capable of doing things, but that’s something we’re separating off here because it makes the body, the human nature independent. But I think you’re right on, Jeff.

Adam York: 35:04 Yes.

Jeff Waddington: 35:04 Yeah, I mean, you think about the … what was I gonna say? Edwards made a distinction, and I may or may not be using it rightly, but he talks about the distinction between, with regard to the fall, moral inability and natural inability, and he says the fall results in moral inability, but natural ability. In other words, he’s recognizing that the fall doesn’t change the human being in terms of his physical structure.

Camden Bucey: 35:44 Other than being subject to death and decay and stuff. Right.

Jeff Waddington: 35:48 Right, but it doesn’t change him in terms of the capabilities, the intellect, the will, those kinds of things.

Camden Bucey: 35:48 Right. Right.

Jeff Waddington: 35:57 We still have those, and I think that’s what he’s getting at, and that ties in to what we’re talking about.

Adam York: 36:00 And that ties in to what we’re talking about.

Adam York: 36:04 I’m glad that Kramer brings up the issue of the decree. I’m glad that he focuses more Christologically. I think there should be probably a point of emphasis there, just in terms of our theologizing as a whole. We always have to bring into view God’s Decree. But, being careful to not do our theology first and foremost decreedally, which can bring, into view some problems. But, just to go back and touch base on what we were affirming in terms of the unity of the person.

Adam York: 36:45 Another way to turn the diamond here and to look at it, and I think this may really bring into view and crystallize the huge concern that exists here to our listeners. Is that if we are really saying that the human nature does not exist for one moment, hanging in the air as it were, existing by itself. But, is at all points united to the Divine person and that there is one person, one actor, one savior, who saves us?

Adam York: 37:22 To affirm that Christ could have sinned, and this is what Kramer brings out in his article, is ultimately to affirm that God could have sinned. I think that’s a vitally important point to bring in view. Let me just read a quote that he makes here on 264. He says, “The trials and temptations of Christ involved his person. Sinful proposals were made not to a quality or a nature in Christ, but to Christ himself. Had he therefore sinned, he would have sinned as Christ, the God man, the son of God. Unless therefore, the divine in Christ could sin, he could not sin at all. That he could sin as God, no one is willing to admit.”

Adam York: 38:20 I think again, that’s just so vitally important to see. To affirm that Christ could have sinned. If you’re being fully Caledonian, and Westminster Chapter 8, and other passages we could look at, that’s really to say that God could have sinned. Because the human nature nowhere exists independently of the divine person. I know we said that a couple of different ways. But bringing it back to the question that our listeners should recoil from, if we just ask them could God sin? No.

Jeff Waddington: 38:55 Yeah.

Adam York: 38:56 Yeah, our tendency will always be to veer to one or the other and not to do … It’s like with the Trinity, right? It’s either you stressed the persons, and you become a Tritheist, or you stress the nature and you become a Sabellian. In this case, the temptation is to forget the unity of the divine person. So when we talk about the two natures we have to be very careful that we don’t abstract.

Jeff Waddington: 39:27 I finally remembered what I wanted to say. That gets to the question that I think is behind the whole discussion. That is the reality of the temptations. Okay, we’ve already made note of the fact that the Son of God, the Jesus the God man did not possess a sinful human nature. Therefore, the language that I use … Dr. Kramer uses different language, but he’s saying the same thing. There is no Velcro internally for temptations to grab onto. Okay? For Christ.

Jeff Waddington: 40:05 What the additional thing that I’m going to say, we need to take into consideration that the Son of God did not have a sinful human nature. Much of the problem with our dealing with temptation is that we do have a sinful human nature. So right there we have a major difference between us and Christ. I mean if for Christ to relate to us and be our Sympathetic High Priest requires that he have a sinful nature, then we’re in trouble. Or we have to go back and start over again.

Jeff Waddington: 40:43 Now, the second thing is that the Son of God, is the only human being to never give into temptation.

Adam York: 40:52 Yeah, that’s true.

Jeff Waddington: 40:52 So he actually feels the full extent of the temptation where we don’t. In other words, we give in at some point prior to the full onslaught of the temptation. Whereas, Christ held on to the very end, and withstood the temptation. So it doesn’t undermine the reality and the severity of his temptations to say that he couldn’t sin. Because he’s the only one who has ever actually withstood temptation. Resisted temptation to the very last measure.

Adam York: 41:32 Amen. Amen. We can bring this in now or later, but you see, that’s exactly what we want to affirm when we appeal to him in the midst of our trials and temptations. That he is the savior who overcame, and could in fact have never fallen and failed. That’s the savior whom we want to appeal to in the midst of our struggles and trials.

Adam York: 42:08 I have another thought that I want to bring up, but in case you men want to think about that a little bit more.

Adam York: 42:13 Well no, it’s just to say that he … Hebrews 4:15 for example, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Yeah, we all affirm that, even I think many of the people who hold to peccability affirm peccability because of that verse. But I think it’s a misunderstanding of the nature of our Lord, and his person. So I affirm that with you, Adam, that we have a savior.

Adam York: 42:46 This is all the more reason we can go to him and worship him for all that he’s done for us. Because since he himself is our savior, he has endured all of this for us. Yet has triumphed, and he has been victorious.

Adam York: 43:02 That’s why the Son of God became man. That’s why one of us couldn’t do this.

Jeff Waddington: 43:09 Amen. Amen.

Adam York: 43:11 Now, the other thought that I was gonna get at, so Kramer is good because he turns this subject a number of different ways, but he encounters the objection. Which says, “That to be …” In essence the objection is this, to be human is to be able to sin. He says, “No, that’s not necessarily true, especially if you’re coming from the reformed background of let’s say the four fold state.”

Adam York: 43:43 We are never gonna cease to be humans. We’re never going to cease to be creatures. But are we always going to be able to sin?

Jeff Waddington: 43:53 Right.

Adam York: 43:53 Right.

Jeff Waddington: 43:54 Well, and this is an analogous to Peter [inaudible 00:43:58] error on scripture. Is he would identify sin with error. Not saying it’s exclusively error, but he would link the two. Therefore, if scripture is to also be in servant form and have a human element then it must be messy. It must also then have attended error, or at least the possibility of it, therefore we need to deny inerrancy.

Adam York: 44:23 Yeah, so this it I think a good point here. Because if you cannot say definitively, even with respect to us, we are not God men, and yet it’s not through without qualification that we will never be able to sin. There will be a time in the final state when we are unable to sin. So if you can’t affirm that of us, and we will not lose our humanity, how could you affirm that of the God man? That’s an interesting way of approaching the argument. It takes a little bit out of the wind of the sails of those who want to affirm peccability must go along with humanity.

Jeff Waddington: 45:11 Humanity. That’s a good point.

Adam York: 45:12 Right, right. I like that a long-term. That’s a different approach, but one that illustrates the point. That’s very insightful.

Jeff Waddington: 45:23 Yep.

Adam York: 45:25 That’s not just because we partake of the divine essences.

Jeff Waddington: 45:31 No, no.

Adam York: 45:33 Okay, good. You’re not a [inaudible 00:45:35].

Adam York: 45:37 Yeah, but it’s again saying, “Look, not even considered on your premises, where your premise is to be human entails peccability. That’s not even true of the image of God of-

Adam York: 45:53 Right. As the image of God himself in Jesus Christ, who is God himself? Yeah, that’s-

Adam York: 45:57 In the final state.

Adam York: 45:59 We’ve talked about different issues that can come to bear on this, Docetism, Nestorianism. One that I think can trip us up is, if we’re not careful, is a commitment to rationalism.

Jeff Waddington: 46:14 Oh yes, right. Okay. This is really the impeccability doctrine is an instance of what Dr. Van Til referred to as limiting concepts. In other words, the divine in human nature, or we affirm both as the scriptures require that we affirm both. But one of the implications that we might be tempted to draw, and in fact many have been, and have drawn, is this idea that if Christ assumed the real human nature, a full human nature, then he must have the ability to sin. So we need to challenge that and subject our thinking to the scriptures and the limits they put on our ability to think.

Adam York: 47:19 And in particular, I think the rationalist impulse comes out very strongly here is when we put things this way. Is to say that if Christ was unable so sin then his temptations could not be real, right? Because let’s face it, I mean there’s some challenge in harmonizing those things completely. I think there’s a number of things that we can say, and should say, we have said about those things. But there’s some mystery there going on.

Adam York: 47:59 In the final analysis we can see very clearly by virtue of our theology of the divine human person matters that we’ve already brought up that prevent the possibility of Christ sinning. Yet, in Hebrews in particular, the reality of his temptations are thoroughly affirmed at every point. How do we fit those two together? If we must be able to exhaustively explain how those things go together then we’re probably gonna end up on the peccable side.

Jeff Waddington: 48:34 That’s right on. That the temptation, you will be able to explain every last detail. The two extremes. That’s the one extreme. Of course, the other is to be intellectually lazy. We’re not interested in that, but we’re simply recognizing the incomprehensibility of God. And by definition that includes the incomprehensibility of the God man.

Adam York: 49:01 Are those two things taught in scripture either directly or by good and necessary consequence. We can say they are. Yeah.

Jeff Waddington: 49:13 No. That’s a very good point, Adam. Again, it comes back to our initial concern that we not only want to arise at a conclusion. But we want to get there according the the scriptural and biblical methods. It’s important that we would be controlled by God’s word, by his revelation, and think God’s thoughts after him.

Adam York: 49:36 Yeah, you should.

Camden Bucey: 49:38 But at a created level. That’s our revelatory epistemology. It just comes back to why we love Van Til so much, because he always pointed us back to that. This has been a wonderful discussion, and I hope people have enjoyed it. Discussing peccability and impeccability of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the virtues of the view thereof. So Adam, thanks for bringing this to the floor. And for unearthing this article from 1879 for us. I’ll have a link to the Google Books segment in the episode description.

Camden Bucey: 50:10 I also hope to put a link to the Ligonier reviews so people can follow up, or video I should say. And look at things themselves, and maybe carry on a conversation. We have a comment section on the website, so even if you’re listening on your phone. Or if this podcast has been automatically downloaded somewhere, you can follow the links back to areformedforum.org, and comment there.

Camden Bucey: 50:35 You can also subscribe to our other programs, or get in touch with us by sending us an email at mailatreformedforum.org. Again, we want to remind everyone of our events, October 5th through 7th, 2018. Then the big one in Wimberley, Texas April 1st through 6th, 2019. So we hope to meet you. Hope to see you, and get in touch with us. I do want to thank everybody for listening. I hope you join us again next time on Christ the Center.[/showhide]

Participants: , ,


Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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CM

1 year ago

Great show. I leaned heavily toward impeccablity but I had a few lingering questions; this episode completely resolved the issue for me. Thanks!

BTW, there are several other good articles in that Reformed Quarterly Review issue.

Patrick Brink

1 year ago

I think your point that persons sin not natures is the nail in the coffin to those who believe in peccability. Great show!!

William Duncan

1 year ago

Really great episode to provide an opportunity to examine various doctrinal positions one might have. Just to ask someone to give their own position can open a dialogue to worlds of theology. I even went back and asked my adult daughter the question, “Could Jesus have sinned?”, just to see if I had taught her when she was younger the doctrines needed to arrive at the correct conclusion. She passed!

Timothy Joseph

1 year ago

This show reiterates the importance of how our beliefs in one area of doctrine affect our theology overall. Impeccablility affects our understanding of who Christ was and is, as well as, who we will be in eternity! Thank you for this discussion! Jesus indeed was tempted like us in all things, yet without sin.

Tim

Bill Baldwin

1 year ago

This discussion considers two possibilities: 1) Christ, being divine, could not sin, and 2) Christ, being human, had a sinful human nature and therefore could sin. Having rightly rejected the second option, the speakers consider the first option obviously correct. I feel the discussion needs to address an obvious objection and consider a third option.

The obvious objection comes in response to F. W. Kremer’s observation, “Unless therefore, the divine in Christ could sin, he could not sin at all.” Or, as Adam York puts it, “But bringing it back to the question that our listeners should recoil from, if we just ask them could God sin? No.” (Hi Adam! Long time, no talk.) A few similar questions should point out my difficulty with these statements. Could God have a beginning? Could God be finite? Could God grow in wisdom and stature? Could God be tired? Could he sleep? Could God die? No, no, no, no, no, and no. Yet Jesus did all these things. And so it is orthodox Christology to state–“improperly” but truly–that God had a beginning in the womb of the Virgin Mary. God was finite in the body of Jesus. God grew in wisdom and stature. God became tired. The Keeper of Israel slumbered and slept. On the cross, the eternal God died.

We cannot resolve this paradox or rationalize these impossibilities. We can only state them as a means to provoke ourselves and one another to faith and awe. The discussion touches on the heresy of Nestorianism which so separates the natures of Christ as to make him two persons. But we must equally avoid the mirror image of that heresy–monophysitism or Eutychianism. We must not turn Christ into a person with a single nature created by the union of the human and the divine (in which, as one might expect, the divine trumps the human). If we do, we will make arguments like the above. Could God do X? No. Then Christ could not do X. I feel this argument is a dangerous attempt to rationalize the glorious Nicene and Chalcedonian impossibilities and paradoxes. We must staunchly affirm that the divinity of Christ does NOT keep him from any unfallen human capability, regardless of how contrary those things are to the nature of God. In particular, as mentioned in the discussion, God cannot be tempted. Yet Jesus was tempted.

I realize those in the discussion assert that Jesus being tempted does not mean he was CAPABLE of sin. But I don’t feel they prove that point. Surely God cannot be tempted precisely because he does not have a nature which can, even hypothetically, be induced to sin. Surely Christ’s temptations were real precisely because he could theoretically have given in but chose not to.

The participants in the discussion argue that Jesus did not have a sinful human nature. Absolutely true. But I feel they did not address the possibility that Jesus had the same nature as the first Adam prior to the Fall. This seems to me to be the teaching of Scripture. Adam was sinless but peccable. He did not HAVE to sin but he was free to choose to do so. Had he chosen not to, he would have been confirmed in righteousness and glorified. He would have been made impeccable, and he would have passed on that impeccability to his posterity, to all those for whom he was a federal head. Surely Adam’s failure, and the nature of the Life held out to him had he succeeded, must provide for us the terms under which Christ succeeded. If Christ was never peccable, then he has not earned impeccability on our behalf and cannot gift it to us as the Second Adam. If Christ was never peccable, it’s almost as though God’s admitting he made a mistake with the first Adam. God never should have let the man have the option of sinning because of COURSE he’ll end up exercising that option. So God fixes that mistake by giving us a head who doesn’t even have the option.

I don’t think that’s the Biblical story. The Biblical story is not that Jesus was tempted but there was never really any jeopardy because he COULD not sin. The story is that he was tempted–genuinely tempted–and DID not sin. Because he overcame that temptation he was confirmed in righteousness at his resurrection. Now he is impeccable. He cannot be tempted ever again.

Hermonta Godwin

1 year ago

Bill,
How would you answer the question of whether Jesus could fail?

Bill Baldwin

1 year ago

Depends what you mean by “could”. The discussion ends up in the woods on this one by bringing in considerations of God’s eternal decree that Christ would not fail. In that sense, of course he couldn’t just as I cannot help but type the words I am typing. After all, God foreordained them. This, of course, is not a Biblical way of looking at human choice before or after the Fall.

Brushing that aside, it seems to me that yes, Jesus had the capability to fail. And I don’t just mean his body had the capability of performing sinful acts and his lips could physically frame statements that would be lies. Jesus was not human merely with respect to his body. His humanity was complete. His mind and his will also had the capability to think sinful thoughts and make sinful decisions. Just like Adam. But unlike Adam, Jesus chose not to exercise the capability even though he possessed it. Instead, he exercised his capability to remain faithful to God and submit to his will.

Jesus had the complete freedom to choose righteousness or sin. Just as with Adam, there was no absolute necessity of his human nature compelling him to choose good. Nor does the divine nature, with respect to which he CANNOT sin, get to trump his humanity and compel choices that for a mere human would be unconstrained. This is the monophysite or Eutychian error in which the divinity overpowers the humanity and Jesus does not have a true human nature but only a combined nature which is essentially divine.

If the man Christ Jesus refrained from sin because his divinity offered him no alternative, then Jesus is not the second Adam. He does not succeed where Adam failed. And thus he does not succeed on our behalf. Since we in Adam failed the original test, we need a second Adam who passes the same test. Impeccability argues that Jesus took a different test. He did not pass the original by choosing to obey when he could have chosen otherwise. Rather, he rewrote the original test so that it was impossible to fail. That’s not salvation; it’s the Kobayashi Maru.

Hermonta Godwin

1 year ago

Bill,
You keep saying that you don’t want Jesus’ humanity to be trumped by His divinity but it seems that you wish the opposite to be true: his divinity is trumped by his humanity.

Next, do you believe that (pre fall) Adam had libertarian free will? If not, then you dont believe that Adam had complete freedom while in the garden before the fall, right? If Adam didnt have complete freedom then Jesus not having complete freedom to choose evil or good, would not be a problem as far as properly representing us goes.

Bill Baldwin

1 year ago

I don’t believe I’m saying that Jesus’ humanity trumps his divinity. The impeccabilists wish to argue that Christ’s divinity made him incapable of choosing evil even with respect to his humanity. I am not saying the opposite. I.e. I am not saying the Christ’s humanity made him capable of choosing evil with respect to his divinity. Neither side trumps. Being human, like Adam, he was good but capable of choosing that which was not good. On the other hand, being divine, he was INcapable of choosing to sin. This is a paradox consistent with orthodox Biblical Christology. Christ was mortal and immortal, finite and infinite, tempted and untemptable. On my side, the humanity does not override the divinity, nor vice versa. On the impeccabilist side, the divinity overrides the humanity and he becomes incapable of sin with respect to either nature. You won’t find a corresponding trumping on my side of the argument.

I’m not sure what you mean by libertarian free will. I believe Adam before the Fall had the ability to choose good or evil without any absolute inclination to one or the other. I believe he had a non-absolute, lapsable inclination to choose the good. He could (and in his case did) exercise his capability to override that inclination. Jesus, the second Adam, freely chose the good. Nothing about his human nature forced him to do so. He took the same test Adam took with the same nature Adam had. And he passed.

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