Like Button

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Day God Died

One objection to the deity of Christ is that He died. We even sing about it in our hymns. The first lines from At the Cross say, "Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?" A favorite, And Can it Be?, asks, "How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" It's right there. A basic theme of Christianity is that Christ died for our sins. I mean, come on! How can He be the eternal God if He died. That puts an end to "eternal" and, therefore, to Christ as God. End of story.

This is problematic. For the Trinitarian, we're standing there declaring that Jesus is God Incarnate. He is God. So we have to say that God died ... right? But that's a serious issue. If Christ, as God, died, nothing would exist. "In Him," Paul wrote, "all things hold together" (Col 1:17). If God died, nothing would hold together. If "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28) is true, then without Him there would be no being. Everything would cease to exist. Poof! End of all that is!

"No, no," they assure me, "It wasn't God who died. It was just the Son -- the second person in the Trinity." That seems to solve the problem. Except that it creates a new one. If God is immutable and God -- at least part of God -- died, then we have a change, a mutation. And God is no longer immutable. And He is no longer God.

For the non-Trinitarian, it's a different problem. "Yes, Jesus died, but he wasn't God, so it had no effect on the universe." Sure, but it also had no effect on sin. Without a divine offering for sin, the sacrifice could cover only one person. Taking $5 as final payment on a quadrillion dollar tax bill is generous, but it's not just. If God is just, only a payment sufficient to cover the debt would be suitable. So in denying the deity of Christ, they either deny salvation for anyone or the deity ... of God.

So what do we do? We can deny the deity of Christ and end up dismantling everything, or we can affirm the deity of Christ and end up dismantling everything. Those seem to be our options. But there is one other -- the truth. We can properly understand the nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a human with a divine nature. He was what the creeds describe as "fully God and fully Man." It's important, however, to remember that the two didn't mix. The deity of Christ did not become human and the humanity of Christ did not become divine. When Christ died on the cross (as He most certainly did), He did not cease to exist. He did not cease to be God. What ended was the Man, Jesus. What ceased to operate was the physical nature of Christ.

This shouldn't be hard to grasp. We expect it, in fact. We do not believe that when we die we cease to exist. When we die our spirits are with God (2 Cor 5:8). We are, as it were, trinitarian beings ourselves, consisting of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 5:23). So death isn't a "cease to be" even for us; it's a separation of body and the rest of us. And if Christ was God Incarnate -- God in a body -- then dying would be the separation of body and the rest of Him. In a way, then, God died when Jesus died on the cross. He just didn't cease to be in the same way that humans do. But God didn't end when Christ died on the cross. Christ didn't cease to be. That would be a misunderstanding of Christ, of the cross, of God Himself. So we retain the deity of Christ and salvation for all. God wins.

No comments: