Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dennis Luker: Jesus Christ Was Fully Man and Fully God

Mr. Dennis Luker stated in his July 18 letter to the brethren that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. Here is a link to that letter:

What does it mean to say that Christ was "fully God and fully man"?

Traditional Christianity, which believes in the trinity doctrine, believes that Jesus Christ was not really a man like other men, that He was somehow God and man at the same time, and trinitarians often state that Jesus was fully God and fully man to express this. But Herbert W. Armstrong and the Church of God have taught that Jesus was a man like every other man, fully man but not fully God at the same time.

Christ was fully God with God the Father before his human birth. He GAVE UP His divine power and glory to BECOME a man, fully man, like other men. He had God's Spirit without measure. He lived a sinless life. He was the same person, the same center of consciousness who was with God as the Word, and He seemed to have some memory of that prior existence (Luke 10:18, John 8:55-58). But He had none of the divine power He had as God, except as comes through the Holy Spirit, which power is available all Christians. He was limited, as all humans are. He had a human spirit, as all men do (1 Corinthians 2:11). The miracles He did were done by faith, and it was the Father who did the works (John 14:10). Because He was the same person who was with God and was God, He was "God with us" (Matthew 1:22-23). But He was not FULLY God because He didn't have many of the attributes of God when He was human.

God is infinite in power, Jesus Christ was limited. God cannot sin, nor can He be tempted (James 1:13), but Jesus Christ could be tempted (Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-3, Hebrews 2:18, 4:15), and He could sin (but He didn't). God is immortal and cannot die, but Jesus was mortal, able to die, able to die completely just like any other man.

Jesus Christ was fully God with the Father before His human birth. He became fully man, not fully God anymore. Then He died as any other man died. His mind ceased to be conscious for three days and three nights, as if He were asleep. After His death, the next moment of His consciousness was when He was resurrected back to life as fully God again, no longer man. Had God the Father not resurrected Him, He would have remained dead forever, just like any other man, just like any animal for that matter.

Then God the Father resurrected Christ back to life, not as a man, but as God, as Christ was God before (John 17:5). Now He is fully God again, but not fully man.

He was fully God. Then He became fully man. Then He became fully God again at His resurrection. But He was never fully God and fully man at the same time. Those are two contradictory conditions that cannot exist at the same time, except in the imagination of those who think God is a trinity.

This is vitally important for several reasons.

One, it is important to understand that Christ was fully human just as we are because the fact that He is now God is proof that man can become God. One of the key doctrines of the Church of God is that God is reproducing Himself in man! Our destiny as Christians is to become God! Yet that is a hard concept for the world to grasp, in fact, they cannot grasp it, because they are blinded. That man can become God as children of God in the family of God is one thing that Satan does not want the world to know. There is every type of false religion and false idea in the world, and every mixture of truth and error, but no religion I know of has this truth, except us. It is unique to God's true Church.

I quote from my book, Preaching the Gospel: "Can a man become God? IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED! Jesus Christ is called a 'forerunner' (Hebrews 6:19-20). He was God who became flesh, became a man just like us (John 1:14). He died for our sins and was in the grave, and then was resurrected back to life as God. God has shown by the resurrection of Christ from being a man, dead in the grave, to being God again with the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5), that it IS possible for a man to become God!" (section titled "God's Purpose for Mankind", Chapter 2).

Many people in the world, especially in traditional, mainstream Christianity, say "Man become God? IMPOSSIBLE!" But the resurrection of Jesus Christ to being God shows that it IS possible. That is the proof that Herbert W. Armstrong was right to say that God is reproducing Himself. But that proof only works if Jesus was a man just like us, limited, not having any divine power that is not also available to us through the Holy Spirit. If He somehow was still "fully God", if there was some aspect of God's power and eternal existence that He kept when He was human, and in that way He was different from us, then His resurrection to God-life proves nothing as far as what God can do for us. But if He was fully human just like us, then His resurrection to God-life proves that we also will be resurrected to God-life, for we will share in His resurrection, and our resurrection will be just like His (Romans 6:5).

To say that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man at the same time when He walked this earth as a human being is a subtle way of saying He was NOT fully man. Deep down inside, people know that to say Jesus was fully God and fully man is a contradiction. In effect, it means He was NOT fully man, He was NOT just like us. It is a subtle way of doing away with the good news of the Kingdom of God, the good news that we can be born into that kingdom, because that kingdom IS the family of God, and when we are born into that divine family through a resurrection, we will BE God as part of God's family.

Another reason why this is important is because John, when warning about the anti-christ, warns in 1 John that every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not of God. "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:2-3).

What does John mean about every spirit confessing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God? Doesn't mainstream Christianity say that Jesus came in the flesh when He was born as a human being? No, not really. They may use those words, but they have something else in mind. I was raised Catholic, and I was never taught, as I recall, that Jesus was a man just like any other man. I was taught that He suffered, yes, but that there was something special about His existence, that He was somehow God and man at the same time, that He was part of a trinity and remained part of that trinity when He was on earth as a man. In the minds of some trinitarians, it was as if part of Christ was on earth in human form while part of Him was still in heaven as one of the three persons of the trinity, at the same time. They call it, "incarnation", that Christ wasn't really flesh, but that somehow He just seemed to be flesh, that He was spirit putting on the appearance of flesh, kind of like a masquerade, pretending to be human, but not really completely human like us.

Trinitarians believe in a very close identity between the three persons they think are one God, or else they could not think of those three as one. They do not think of God as a family of three persons. They do not think of God as three beings. They think of God as a mysterious combination of persons that they say we cannot understand, almost like three persons in one person, though they would never word it like that. But it is not possible in the trinity doctrine to think that one of those persons could separate from the trinity and become a man just like any other man.

I do not think Catholics and other trinitarians think that God stopped being a trinity in heaven while Jesus Christ was on earth. They HAVE to believe that He remained "fully God" and was still part of a mysterious trinity even while He walked the earth. They believe He had a connection with God the Father that we cannot have as Christians. And they believe that makes Him different than us, and the kind of resurrection He experienced is unreachable for us. Thus, they believe we can never become God because we can never be part of that trinity that they imagine God to be. They believe we will not become God when we are resurrected because they think our resurrection will be different from Christ's resurrection, or they do not think Christ was resurrected back to God-life because they think He never stopped being fully God as part of a trinity even before His resurrection.

All of that is part of Satan's deception to blind men to the true gospel. Satan does not want people to know that we can be in God's family and can share in God's rulership of the universe, because if mankind knew that, mankind might understand WHY it is important for us to learn to obey God's law and way of life and make it a part of our character, so that we will get along with each other as we live that way of life for eternity. As long as Satan can deceive men into thinking they will just be like happy puppy dogs in heaven looking at their master's face for all eternity, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, having no need to cooperate as a team, then he can deceive mankind into thinking there is no need for us to learn a way of life.

There were many people in Worldwide that paid lip service to the doctrines of the Church, but they had no depth of commitment to the Bible. They "went along", but when the test came, they showed their true nature. Now many people think that everyone who went into United Church of God, Living Church of God, and many other Churches of God that have retained the doctrines taught by Herbert W. Armstrong has shown that he is deeply committed to the Bible, but that is not necessarily true anymore than it was true in Worldwide. Just because some rejected Joseph Tkach fifteen years ago does not mean they are solidly committed to the Bible anymore than those who came into Worldwide were necessarily solidly committed to the Bible.

The percentage of deeply converted members in the Churches of God today may not necessarily be much greater than the percentage in Worldwide when Mr. Armstrong died.

Many people in the Churches of God today, especially teenagers and young people who have grown up in the Church, do not feel comfortable being different from mainstream Christianity and from the world. And as time goes on, that percentage tends to grow.

What are some of our doctrines that most offend traditional Christianity and separate us from the world?

1) We do not accept the trinity doctrine.

2) We teach that God is reproducing Himself in man, that the destiny of Christians is to become God in the family of God.

3) We teach the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days as required observances. Many in mainstream Christianity do not object to our meeting for Church services on the Sabbath and holy days, as long as it is optional, not required. But they are offended when we teach that the Sabbath and holy days MUST be kept, that those days are commanded by God and still in force.

4) We teach that the English-speaking nations are the lost tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. This is ridiculed by the world and by mainstream Christianity.

5) We teach that God is not trying to save the world now, but that the majority of the billions who have lived and died will have a chance for salvation in a future resurrection, as illustrated by the Last Great Day we just kept. Implied in this is our teaching that mainstream Christianity is false Christianity (there is a connection between those two things).

There may be others, but these seem to be among the top ones that separate us from mainstream Christianity. I have participated in a number of discussions with members of the public on the Internet in blogs and forums, and it is my experience that these are among the top doctrines that offend members of mainstream churches.

I have read that phrase "fully man and fully God" applied to Christ in the blogs and forums of this world, but I have not recently seen it in the writings of ministers in the Churches of God, except when I saw it in Dennis Luker's letter.

Perhaps Mr. Luker meant that Christ was fully man and fully God, but not at the same time, that He was fully God, became fully man by a human birth, then became fully God again by a resurrection. If this is what he meant, then there is nothing wrong in what he said. I have tried to email him about a month ago asking for clarification, and I am still waiting for a reply.

But when Catholics and Protestants use that terminology, they are talking about a trinity. Because in the trinity doctrine, Jesus could not be the same as us - He would have to remain part of that trinity even while showing Himself in human form. And this is implied by saying He was fully God and fully man at the same time.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

The Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Chapter 2

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

The Annual Holy Days and the Plan of God, Chapter 2

Pentecost - the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment, Chapter 2

Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy


Norbert said...

This is an excellent general summation on the nature of God. Whether or not you receive a reply, I do hope Mr. Luker and many others have read what you are expressing.

John D Carmack said...

It may be that "Traditional Christianity, which believes in the trinity doctrine, believes that Jesus Christ was not really a man like other men, that He was somehow God and man at the same time, and trinitarians often state that Jesus was fully God and fully man to express this." However, this has never made any sense to me.

If God is a "trinity", then how could Jesus be "fully man"? As you said, part of Him would have to still be in Heaven. That also means He couldn't have died. How can 1/3rd of a being die? The other 2/3rds would still have to be alive, right?

However, if Jesus was "fully man" because He was still the same person, the same character and the same mental identity that He was before, I could buy that. I could also buy the fact that He was and is Creator God. He created it all, He still held that rank, and He still had the authority to call down a legion of angels -- if He so desired. In that sense, He was still "fully God" and wasn't replaced by anyone.

I think the "fully God and fully man" makes more sense in the non-trinitarian view, as long as we are agreed that "fully human" also means the ability to die. said...

You are right that the fully-man fully-God idea does not make sense with a trinity, nevertheless, trinitarians do use that term. Anything that does not make sense in the trinitarian doctrine they explain by saying, "it is a mystery", or in other words, we cannot understand it because of our limited human minds. I think that in regards to Jesus as a man, they think that somehow the second person of the trinity manifested Himself as a human on earth while that person was still in heaven, sort of like a projection of some kind. If you put a slide in a projector, the original slide is still in the project, but an image of the slide is projected on the screen. They also seem to think that the second person of the trinity did not die, but remained alive and conscious in heaven during the time Jesus was in the grave.

To me, to be "fully" something means completely, lacking nothing, having EVERY attribute. Jesus Christ was given authority to ask the Father in prayer for angels, and God would answer His prayer (Matthew 26:53). We also have authority to ask things of God, and God through Jesus Christ gave His disciples authority to command demons and the demons had to obey (Luke 10:17), but this did not make the disciples fully God, in fact, they did not even have God's Holy Spirit.

If Jesus were "fully" God while He was human, He would have every attribute of God, nothing lacking. He would have all of God's power, His immortality, His immunity to temptation, everything. Otherwise, I do not see how we can use the label "fully".

But if Mr. Luker meant that Jesus Christ was fully God before His birth and after His resurrection, and fully man between His birth and resurrection, both fully man and fully God, but at different times, then of course he is right. My concern is that this term "fully man and fully God" is used much among trinitarians, but not at all in the Church of
God that I have seen (until I saw Mr. Luker's letter). The only other time I heard or read this phrase in the Church of God might have been when Mr. Tkach was changing doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problematic thing about growing in knowledge. It has been my experience that it tends to add phrases. Sometimes to the point that when they are used, the person may not actually know what they are talking about. However it is also possible that the author knows how added phrases are meant to be used. Which may not be how the the reader is perceiving them.

Sometimes all a person can do is hope for the best for their neigbour.

Anonymous said...

I'm using your post for Bible study, so my questions and comments may come piece-by-piece and slowly.

But you say of God: "nor can He be tempted.... but Jesus Christ could be tempted...."

Isn't this parsing at words? Doesn't the fact that Jesus never yielded to temptation show He "cannot" be tempted, either?

For instance: someone could come up to me and offer a $100,000 bribe. If I listen to him and turn him down, does the mere listening prove I "could" be tempted? Would I have to stop the offer before it starts, to prove I "cannot" be tempted?

Are you saying Jesus made a big mistake by going into the wilderness -- because God the Father would have rejected such a step out of hand?

P.S. President Luker said during at the Feast site I attended he is inundated with daily e-mails, and wishes he could answer them all -- but finds he's not able to do so. said...

I fully understand that Mr. Luker is overwhelmed with emails. That is no doubt why he has not replied. Eventually he may reply and that can clarify what he meant. But in any case, I thought it would be a good post to highlight the difference between Church of God teachings and the teachings of traditional Christianity. We need to be reminded of these things because these issues still come up in the Church. One minister with a Church of God background, not in UCG, recently emailed me about the nature of Christ, saying that Christ as a person did not pre-exist before His birth (I wrote and published an article for him showing he is wrong). Other members of the Church may hear that phrase "fully man and fully God" from their Catholic or Protestant friends, and we need to know what people mean by that.

As far as Jesus and God being tempted, God cannot be tempted in that He does not have to struggle to resist a temptation. He is not drawn to sin. He has no desire to sin, and He does not have to struggle against the pulls of the flesh. Whereas, Jesus, when He was human, DID have to struggle. It was not easy for Him. He was PULLED in the direction of sin and had to resist that pull in a way that God does not have to do. It was hard for Him just as it is hard for us. That is one reason why Christ cried out to God (Hebrews 5:7-8).

That is my understanding.