Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article. The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point. If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.
. . .
I will quote John 5:16-19 because Kel refers to all that material in this section.
For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. – John 5:16-19 NASB
“Here in this passage Trinitarians draw the conclusion that since Jesus was making himself equal with God, then he must also be God by identity. However, it is quite plain to thinking people that being equal with another person does not mean you also share their identity. In fact, it means just the opposite. To be equal to someone else means you are not that someone else by identity. If Jesus is equal with God that does not mean we should conclude he is God by identity. In fact, we must conclude otherwise. If he is equal to God, it means he is not God. God is someone else.
Not only so, it is quite clear that Jesus was being accused of making himself equal with God the Father. Anyone can easily see that it would then be quite absurd to claim equality with God the Father would mean he is God the Father.”
Regarding the first paragraph, Kel is flat out wrong about his definition of “equal.” In Acts 11:17, Peter said that God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, saying “Therefore if God gave to them the SAME gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” – NASB. The word translated “same” is the exact word John used to say Jesus made himself “equal” to God. There is only one Holy Spirit, not one for Gentiles and another one for Jews. This fact alone invalidates his line of reasoning.
Further, being equal with another person does not mean that you are that person, but in the Trinity doctrine the Son isn’t the Father anyway. Besides, who said that God is only one Person? Kel cannot assume that without first proving it, which he has failed to do. He is also unclear on what he means by “being equal with another person does not mean you also share their identity.” He must mean sharing their identity as that other person – meaning he is making an argument which, applied to God, is again assuming as part of his proof that God is only one person – the Father.
As for the second paragraph, anyone can see that if Jesus is equal to God the Father, that either means that Jesus is God the Father or that Jesus is equal to the Father in some other way. One need not assume, as Kel apparently does, that if Jesus is equal to God the Father that either means 1) that Jesus is God the Father or 2) that Jesus is not God at all.
“3. God is not being identified as Jesus but as the Father
Notice very carefully the identity of God in this passage. Who is it? Jesus is telling the Jews right here who God is and how he is related to their God. He identified the entity known as “God”, not as himself, but as his Father. And this is also what the Jews understood – that he was calling the person they themselves understood to be “God,” his own Father, making himself God’s own Son. The verse is about Jesus relationship to God. The reason the Jews were so angry with Jesus is that he was claiming their own God was his Father. These Jews all had earthly fathers. But Jesus was claiming his Father was God himself. To be God’s own son afforded him a much higher status than these Jews who perceived themselves to be the legitimate sons of God and rulers of Israel (see Psalm 82:6; Romans 9:4). These Jews also identify God as their Father (8:41). What irritated them here was that Jesus was claiming to be God’s own Son. The identity of “God” was not Jesus but Jesus’ Father. Jesus was not claiming to be “God” but rather God’s Son. The same situation occurs again in John 10. In fact, this is what John is explicitly telling us in this passage. Indeed, they finally charged him with claiming to be the “son of God” (19:7). The Jews here do not perceive that he is claiming to be “God” but God’s son.”
It is completely irrelevant what the Jews thought Jesus was doing because the Scripture specifically said that by calling God his own Father Jesus was making himself equal with God. Jesus did identify his Father as God, but it is not true that Jesus in any way excluded himself from being God – see final section on John 5: 19-20. (Nor did Jesus say that God was his Father because of the virgin birth. There is no mention of the virgin birth in either John 5 or John 10, and there is no evidence that the Jews in these passages were even aware of that event).
It was not the fact that Jesus called God his Father that enraged these Jews, for they also called God their Father. Instead, it was the way he called God his own Father (Abba, Father, he would say). It was this supreme familiarity he had with God that made him equal to God.
In section 4 Kel goes on to argue that all Christians are also God’s sons, saying “What shall we say then? That they are also claiming to be equal to God and they are God too?” I call this a silly argument because of all the sons of God – whether angelic or human – only Jesus is said to be the only-begotten or unique Son of God (John 1:18). This puts him in a class all by himself and sets him apart from and above all the other sons of God.
Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” – NASB
“5. What Jesus did not do
At Philippians 2:6, we read that although Jesus was in the form of God, he did not regard being equal with God something to seize upon. Paul’s point is that Jesus did not attempt to be equal to God. Rather he assumed the position of a servant and obediently humbled himself even to death on a cross. Jesus also said he did not glorify himself since such self-glorification means nothing (8:50,54). Jesus didn’t seek equality with God. Rather, he denied himself and his own will and serve the One who is higher than himself: his God. He humbled himself to serve his God.”
Kel’s argument that “Jesus did not attempt to be equal to God” is irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus IS equal to God. Paul did not say that Jesus wasn’t equal to God. If you are not the king you can choose not to try to become king. But if you are already the king, you don’t have to try to become the king.
Nor is it humility for someone who is not God to admit he is not God. Is it humility for a boy to confess that he can’t put out the sun with his water gun? Is it humility for me to admit that I can’t bench-press the pyramids? I think this is just common sense to avoid making such claims; even a very proud man wouldn’t make these kinds of claims because he knows it would just make him look foolish.
In his renowned Word Pictures in the New Testament, A. T. Robertson says of the word form (of God) “Morph means the essential attributes as shown in the form . . . . Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ.” About the words “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” he said “Paul means a prize to be held on to rather than something to be won.”
Some Bible translations clearly reflect this meaning: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” – NIV; “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”- New Living Translation; “He who, while he was in the form of God, did not esteem this as a prize, that he was the equal of God,” – Aramaic Bible in Plain English; “Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality.” – GOD’S WORD® Translation.
Further, in any translation of Philippians 2:6-10, which came first for Jesus – being in the form of God or becoming a servant? Clearly, Jesus was in the form of God FIRST, humbled himself later (and was exalted again still later). This reminds me of the Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Jesus was rich first, then made himself poor for our sakes. Kel’s implication that Jesus started out as a servant and only later was exalted flies in the face of most if not all Bible translations. But I will save a fuller discussion of this passage for a later time.
“The Trinitarian claim also ignores a persistent theme in the Gospel of John – the confusion of the Jews. Nicodemus does not comprehend how a man can be born again. In John 6, the Jews cannot understand how Jesus could say, “I descended from heaven” or, how he could instruct them to eat his flesh. In John 8, Jesus tells us they could not understand what he was saying because they did the desires of their father the devil. For some reason, Trinitarians always think the Jews are getting it right when Jesus keeps pointing out they keep getting it wrong.”
Kel is absolutely wrong here because in John 5:18 it is not the Jews, but the Spirit inspired text, that says Jesus made himself equal to God. What Kel means by saying “Trinitiarians always think the Jews are getting it right” is unclear but he might be thinking of John 10:33 where the Jews said to Jesus that “you, a mere man, claim to be God.” – NIV But that is another text and does not change the fact here Jesus is said by the Bible to be equal to God.
After this a section appears entitled “analysis of the facts” that includes review of what was said and a section on Jesus healing on the Sabbath. I read this but did not feel it directly related to the point at issue. Next is a review of some of Kel’s points which concludes with the question “How was Jesus equal to God the Father?” Kel answers that question by quoting John 5: 19-20 and John 5:43-4:
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel,’” and “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”
Kel says that this means Jesus was equal to God in the sense that he “was acting in God the Father’s name and in His behalf.”
I think the passages quoted above indicate far more than just that Jesus was acting in God the Father’s name and in His behalf. Moses acted in God’s name and in His behalf, as did Joshua, Samuel, David, and all the apostles; but that didn’t make them equal to God. When Jesus said “whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing,” was he not affirming his Divinity? Who can do all things that God the Father does but someone who is also God?
“I am not able to do anything from myself.” – as quoted in The Trinity Delusion
Some see those words as evidence that Jesus is inferior to God. Such is obviously the case with Kel. But let’s ask ourselves, what kind of inability was Jesus really talking about? Was it like a man who can’t get out of jail? Or was it like a man who says he can’t punish his baby because the baby didn’t know what it was doing? I think it is obvious that Jesus’ inability to do anything from himself was of the latter kind; he “just couldn’t” do anything but what the Father does, because he didn’t want to. This fact is affirmed in John 10:17-18: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” – RSV
Jesus’ Equality With God Not Dependent Upon His Resurrection
Kel’s theory is that Jesus was not God before the crucifixion and resurrection, but instead receive his exalted or Divine nature at his resurrection.
“Jesus was a man and being a man he had been made lower than the angels but now in his resurrection and exaltation, the man Jesus became superior to the angels and had inherited a better name than them.” – quote from The Man who became Ruler of the Universe
“God had raised David’s son Jesus from the dead and seating Jesus down at His right hand, God had made this human being “Lord.”28 Peter explains very clearly that Psalm 110:1 was fulfilled when Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, this positionally making the human son of David ‘Lord.’” – quote from The Man who became Ruler of the Universe
“The idea here is the same as Pharaoh making Joseph Lord of all Egypt and granting Joseph the right to exericise his, Pharaoh’s authority. ” – quote from The Man who became Ruler of the Universe
Look at the following passages of Scripture:
Isaiah 53:10 “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin . . .” – RSV
Matthew 26:39 “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” – RSV
Matthew 26:53 “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” – RSV
When these passages are carefully examined, several revelations emerge. First, it was the will of God the Father that Jesus would die on the cross. Second, Jesus did not have to do this if he decided not to. Third, and most important, if Jesus had chosen not to, God the Father would have submitted to Jesus’ will. If any created being goes against God’s will, that is sin. But had Jesus decided not to go to the cross, the fact that the Father would have sent so many angels to honor Jesus’ choice shows that Jesus’ will would not have been sinful.
What mere creature would be sent 12 legions of angels from God the Father to help him avoid doing what the Father wanted him to do? Even the highest archangel would be on his own if he decided to go against God’s will. To me, this state of affairs is far more consistent with Jesus being truly equal with God — that he is God along with his Father — than it is with any other explanation.