3 Damaging Impacts of the Church’s Neglect of the Doctrine of Creation

The doctrine of creation is crucial for the Christian story in three ways: in the initial creation (God made everything that exists and it was very good), in the liberation of creation (Jesus came to redeem and save the world – that is all of creation that was utterly wrecked by the Fall of Man), and in the restoration/correction of creation at Christ’s return (God is making all things new! – Revelation 21:5).  Creation is a key component in the Christian story in the beginning, middle, and end. 

Revelation 21-5

I think this doctrine is neglected the most within the Church in our teachings concerning the final act of Christ’s full restoration of creation in which all things will be made new.  Having this doctrine intact radically changes the “salvation package.”  Often times because of the neglect of this doctrine in this key part of the Christian story of salvation, the presentation of the Christian message is relegated to the two-fold imputation of justification – the teaching so excellently explained in Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws:

1.) God loves you and created you to know Him personally; 2.) Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love; 3.) Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love; and 4.) We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.

As a Lutheran, I recognize that the individual reception of Christ is done through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:12-13), but other than that distinction, these “Four Spiritual Laws” pretty well summarize the way I have presented the Gospel to people – and as many other Lutherans I know have done as well – except that we, as well as many other Protestants, would add some little tidbit about when we die we’ll be with the Lord forever! End of story.  Yet the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all creation at Christ’s return is the true end (or do I say beginning?) of the complete and final hope Christ has in-store for us! 

The neglect of not having a fully developed endgame of Christ’s return in view is damaging in three ways: it makes us think death is a good thing for the Christian, it leads Christians to function as Gnostics, and it diminishes the hope we have in Christ. 

First, it makes us think of death as our friend.  Even my four-year old daughter has picked up on this false-narrative.  She recently heard that someone’s grandmother died, and she immediately said, “Well death is good, because then we get to see Jesus.”  It’s true that we get to be with Christ when we die in faith, but that death is not good!  I’ve even emphasized the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return with my young daughter, but she’s still picked up on this placating view of death.  Our spirit would be with Christ at death, but that’s not who we really are – we are body and spirit – and even at that moment of being with Christ though disembodied – much more is still wrong in the world that is not yet restored to its sinless glory.

Two – focusing almost exclusively on the salvation of the spirit, and not the full humanity of spirit and body, has in some ways led Christians to function as Gnostics – valuing the spiritual over and above the physical.  Obesity runs supreme in the Church (at least in some states or regions) and no one bats an eye about it – while we keep offering donuts as the “snack” at Church.  Online churches are now a thing – along with a special designated pastor who is called the Online Pastor.  We likely don’t think so much about the care of God’s creation either – one example – the number of chickens slammed into a shed with artificial light stacked on top of each other in in cages crapping on the ones below, getting vaccinated relentlessly against the new diseases that emerge from their environment, and if the chickens get to walk out on a concrete patio for some sparse minutes each day, they can be labeled as “free-range.”  Probably not the best stewardship of chickens and our source of eggs – in fact I know it is not, but I don’t really care, because I can get my eggs cheap!

Third, and finally, maybe most devastating is that we have lost sight of the greatness of the hope that we have in Christ, a full and total restoration of creation, a making of all things new again.  The good gifts of God in this life should be expected to be present in the world to come.  The things we love to do in this life that are good, we should expect to partake of them in some way in the life to come (most of them at least).  We’re going to be stewards of God’s re-creation – the new creation at Christ’s return that will be without sin, without curse, and with God visible and in direct relationship with us while we tend to what he has made.  What Jesus has in store for us at his return is so much more to live for than that cheap image of floating on a cloud with a harp or singing praise songs forever and a day in an eternal worships service that is so often pitched to us due to the woeful neglect of the doctrine of creation in our Christian story.


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The Sacraments are Signs

One of your elders comes to you with a question about the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  “It says in Apology 13 that the sacraments are ‘signs and testimonies of God’s will towards us’ (AP 13.1).  My Baptist friends say that the sacraments are symbols too.  How is this any different?”

Trigger Warning

Elder John, I am glad that you are reading the confessions and mulling over their meaning. This is a very good question.  I tend to forget the wording of that passage of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.  When a Baptist calls the sacraments signs, he means that the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ are not actually present in communion, and that baptism does not forgive one’s sins or unite one to Christ or gives one new life and an adoption into the Kingdom of God.

I’m actually surprised that you’ve encountered Baptist friends who would even call baptism and communion as sacraments.  They usually refer to the sacraments as ordinances, meaning that they are being obedient to Christ’s commands when they are baptized or take communion.  When you ask a Baptist what baptism is the typical answer is that baptism is “his public commitment to be a follower of Christ.”  When you ask a Baptist what communion is the typical answer is that communion is “a remembrance meal in which he remembers Christ’s suffering for him.”  You can notice by these short explanations of what baptism and communion are to the Baptist that he views them as acts that he does, and he does them because Christ tells him to – hence the Baptists call them ordinances.

Lutherans however view the sacraments quite differently.  We agree with the Baptists that they are instituted by Jesus.  However, we see that they also have the promises of forgiveness of sins attached to them in Scripture – hence we call baptism and communion means of grace.  They are ways in which God has promised to deliver grace to us.  They are the promises of the Gospel connected to or with a visible and external element – in baptism it is the Word with the water and in communion the Word with the bread and wine.  Because we have not striped the promises of God’s forgiveness and grace from the sacraments we trust that in baptism we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection and that in communion we are drinking not just bread and wine but also the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, literally tasting the forgiveness of sins as we eat and drink.

The confessions refer to the sacraments as signs, because of the promises God has given to us in the gracious gifts of baptism and communion.  The physical elements and the words that accompany them are signs and witnesses of God’s will towards us.  We know that is his will that no man perishes, but that all come to repentance and be saved.  We see that in the waters of baptism that wash away our sins and unite us in Christ’s death and resurrection.  We see that in the meal in which we eat his body broken for us and drink his blood shed for the forgiveness of all our sins.  We believe these gifts are actually present and active in the sacraments trusting that the Holy Spirit is working through them to strengthen and preserve our faith and give us the assurance that we are saved.

The assurance that we have of salvation in the sacraments comes from the promises of the Word of God that accompanies the water, bread, and wine.  Yet, the assurance also comes from the external and physical nature in which these promises come to us.  We are physical people.  Jesus came to save us physically. The Word became physical flesh. We are saved by the shedding of his physical blood. We are saved by his physical death and resurrection. God still comes to us today physically.  He comes to us through physical water with the Word.  He comes to us with physical bread and physical wine with the Word. It’s assuring to hear our sins are forgiven in the Gospel proclamation, but it’s also assuring to have our sins physically washed away and to be able to physically touch, taste, and smell the forgiveness of our sins.

We should feel sorrow for our Baptists brothers who have turned the gifts and gracious promises from Christ to his Church into works of the law and thus works of men.  We should feel sorrow for them that they have nothing external that is from God to look to and to touch and to feel to know that they are forgiven.  Because Baptists have denied monergism (that God alone works in salvation), they have involved their work in salvation – even if it is just the work of faith; it is a work that casts doubt on their assurance and certainty of salvation.  Since faith is the work of men in Baptist’s theology, Baptists can be plagued with the questions: “Have I believed enough?” and “Do I have too many doubts to be saved?”  To answer these internal questions, they have nowhere to look outside themselves for assurance of God’s “signs and testimonies of God’s will towards us.”  So typically, they look to their external works for that assurance of faith, since Scripture promises that we will bear fruit in Christ… but we’re still sinners and we cannot accurately make such judgments without falling into self-righteousness or despair.  Again, I say we should feel sorrow for our Baptist friends who have turned God’s gracious gifts in the sacraments into ordinances (commands that we must obey). 

Roman Catholicism on Justification by Grace Alone

A friend of yours who is a Roman Catholic asks you the following question: “When I hear descriptions of the Reformation, I usually hear that the distinctive feature of Lutheran theology is that we are justified by grace alone.  But my church also teaches that we are justified by grace alone.  So is there any real difference between us on this part?”

To be clear the Reformation distinction is more nuanced than just saying we are justified by grace alone.  The distinction is that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that we know all of this by Scripture alone.  The Calvinist reformers typically add that all of this is to the glory of God alone.  The word alone is spoken in all of these prepositional phrases to stress that our individual works, or merits, are completely void in our salvation.  Grace does not involve our works.  Faith is not our work.  Christ’s work alone is where our faith clings for salvation.

This is not what Rome means when Roman Catholics speak of being saved by grace alone.  For Rome, our works are still involved in our justification.

To demonstrate this point directly, one can look at the Council of Trent’s Cannons on Justification:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

And…

“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema” (Canon 14).

Anathema is a very strong word.  It means accursed or eternally condemned.

Such statements reject the Reformation teaching that justification is completely void of our works.  A rewording of Canon 9 from the negative stance to the positive would state that “something else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that this is in every way necessary.”  To my knowledge Rome never states directly that we are justified by grace and works, but such statements push one to such a conclusion.  To demonstrate in more detail how Rome teaches that our works are involved in justification, one only needs to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on this doctrine:

Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man” (CCC, par. 2019).

“No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods” (CCC, par. 2027)

In the first quote from the CCC, it is plainly stated that justification includes not just the remission of sins, but also sanctification and the renewal of the inner man.  This definition of justification points us not to the work of Christ alone for our justification, but instead it turns us inward on ourselves.  How am I doing?  Am I progressing enough in sanctification?  Am I experiencing this inner renewal day by day?  When we are honest with ourselves and uphold the full instruction of God’s commands and demands for us, such an inner turn for our justification can only lead to despair.  Since in Rome’s definition of justification, the work of Christ alone and his righteousness are not the sole means by which we are justified, we lose all assurance, confidence, and certainty of salvation.  The second quote I provided from the CCC details this further with the clear words that “we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life.”  Merit by definition involves my works, and according to Rome, I am even capable of working to merit the graces necessary for the eternal life of others too!

These graces that I can merit are found in the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. Concerning the graces of these sacraments, the CCC states:

“The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions” (CCC, par. 1131).

Here the CCC stresses that to receive the graces proper to each sacrament one must receive them with the required dispositions – this again involves our merit, our work.

In Reformation theology, justification is the work of God alone.  Our work, or merit, or required disposition, is not a qualifier for our justification at all.  In Reformation theology, justification is instantaneous – at the moment of faith – a person is declared justified, declared righteous in God’s sight on account of Christ’s righteousness, though we are still sinful.  Sanctification in Reformation theology, unlike in Roman Catholic theology, is distinct from justification; in Reformation theology, it is not part of justification, but in Roman Catholic theology it is, as was previously quoted from the CCC.  Sanctification is a process, a life-long process of becoming less and less sinful, more and more like Christ and his image of perfect righteousness.  This process is not always a constant upward motion of increased holiness.  There are dips and valleys in this life-long process of sanctification, which is in Reformation theology is viewed as the process of becoming what we were already declared to be in justification.  This process is never complete this side of heaven.

This proper distinction of justification and sanctification in Reformation theology gives the person who has received God’s grace through faith the assurance and confidence that his or her sins are forgiven, because on account of Christ’s innocent, bitter suffering and death, that person is truly forgiven – instantly at the moment of faith.  In Roman Catholic theology, because there is no proper distinction between justification and sanctification, one cannot look to Christ’s saving work through his death and resurrection alone.  The person must look at their process of growing in holiness as the gauge of their justification.  Since the person will always have sin in his or her life and since God alone is the true judge of righteousness, the Roman Catholic who believes the doctrines of the papacy will have no assurance, no comfort, and no confidence of his or her eternal salvation.  This wreckage to our certainty of salvation is what inserting our work into justification always produces.

Metcalf’s Definition of Original Sin in Response to Sam Harris

R.C Metcalf has written a counterpoint to Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation.  In this article, I will only address Metcalf’s presentation of original sin within his counterpoint, not his entire rebuttal to Harris’ open letter.  Metcalf introduces the Christian doctrine of original sin into his rebuttal as a way of pointing out that mankind is by nature prone to sin as a way of illustrating that we have a greater problem than just needing to be concerned about the promotion of morality as a way to increase human happiness and lessen suffering.  Metcalf understands that we need a full restoration of humanity, a solution that only God can provide.  Moving forward in this paper I will focus on evaluating Metcalf’s description of original sin and his method of persuading Harris to accept original sin. I will make this evaluation on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions, which I believe to be an accurate exposition of the teachings of Scripture*.

First, I want to address Metcalf’s description of original sin.  Metcalf writes, “We are not all born with the burden of Adam’s specific sin pressing down upon us.”  On the contrary, we are all born, even conceived, in a state of guilt having inherited a sinful nature that comes from Adam’s specific sin.  Article I of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord states, “As a result of Satan’s seduction through the fall, human beings, in accord with God’s judgment and sentence, have as their punishment lost the original righteousness with which they were created” (Kolb, p. 536.27).  This punishment is defined in the same article as such: “The punishment and penalty for original sin, which God laid upon Adam’s children and upon original sin, is death, eternal damnation, and also “other corporal” and spiritual, temporal, and eternal miseries, “the tyranny and domination of the devil”’ (Kolb, p. 534.13).  As such, “this inherited defect is guilt, which causes us all to stand in God’s disfavor and to be “children of wrath by nature” because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, as the Apostle testifies in Romans 5[:12]” (Kolb, p. 533.9).

Second, Metcalf expresses that original sin is “an inherent tendency toward sinful behavior; a sense of selfishness that yields a desire to promote our own personal happiness.” Metcalf’s use of the word tendency lessens the severity of our sinful disease that invades all of our humanity. He even closes this section by stating that we have the capacity to do good, it’s just that “we do not have the capacity to only do good; we must also sin.” This is another point in which Metcalf is in error, since the inherited defect of guilt in original sin is not just a “tendency toward sinful behavior.”  This defect places us all in a state of total depravity, so that we by nature cannot approach God or do anything to please him in any way apart from God’s work in us to produce any goodness.  Original sin is not just the tendency for us to sin; it is the cause of our sin.  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession in Article II explains that we have only two options concerning our relationship to God due to Original Sin: “For our weak nature, because it cannot fear, love, or believe in God, seeks and loves carnal things; it either despises the judgment of God in its complacency or hates it in its terror” (Kolb 115.24).  In other words, we are bound to sin and are incapable of doing good by God’s standard.  To be accurate, we can speak of our doing good by the standards placed upon us by our society or culture, but not by the standards of God.  This is another flaw in Metcalf’s description of original sin – there is no clear definition of morality, most importantly there is no clear standard for absolute, universal morality.

Third, I want to address Metcalf’s approach to convincing Harris of the reality of original sin.  From Harris’ open letter, he assumes that Harris won’t accept the words of the Apostle Paul on this issue, so he adopts the approach of speaking of evolutionary theory and his perception of evidences of selfishness in all of us from birth.  This is the wrong approach to convincing someone of original sin.  Metcalf is trying to reason with Harris using observations of our human experience to bring him into a recognition of original sin, however, reason alone cannot lead to a knowledge of original sin.  In Article I of the Third Part of the Articles of the Smalcald Articles of the Lutheran Confessions, it is confessed, “This inherited sin has caused such a deep, evil corruption of nature that reason does not comprehend it; rather, it must be believed on the basis of the revelation in the Scriptures (Ps. 51[:5] and Romans 5[:12]; Exod. 33[:20]; Gen. 3[:6ff.])” (Kolb p. 311.3).  Understanding original sin is not optional, because our view of the cross is directly related to our view of sin.  Article II of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession explains this point stating that “we cannot know the magnitude of Christ’s grace unless we first recognize our malady” (Kolb, p. 117.33).  Despite Metcalf’s assumption that Harris won’t accept Paul’s words, those words are exactly what Metcalf must share and what Harris must hear in order to be convicted of sin so as to receive the only true solution to our predicament of suffering – the sweetness of the Gospel message received in saving faith.

Finally, knowing that it is through the revelation of God in Scripture that one can alone come to the knowledge of both sin and God’s saving grace, one must opt to defend the truthfulness of this doctrine through the use of Scripture.  This is not done by convincing people that everyone is selfish from birth through anecdotes of crying infants… the truthfulness of this doctrine is defended by defending the truthfulness of Scripture by pointing people to the reality of the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.  As the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15, “If Christ is not raised, then the Christian faith is a lie.”  We do not have to trust that Scripture is the Word of God by its description of itself apart from other evidence as Harris suggests Christians and all religious adherents do of their sacred texts.  Christians can approach the New Testament Gospels as historical documents.  We can see that their text has been reliably transmitted to us today.  We can see that they are internally consistent and that their authors intend to convey factual information that they claim to have seen firsthand or that they are relaying the testimonies of people who were eyewitnesses.  We can see that there are no competing testimonies from the first century, and that the Jews and Romans who both had the motive and the means to disprove the testimonies of the Gospel writers and the apostles could not produce the bones of Jesus.  The best that they could do was persecute the apostles and the other believers in an attempt to shut them up!  Such persecutions were unable to stop them from speaking their witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.  They had no earthly reason to fabricate this message – to lie – especially under such physical and emotionally distress of physical death. We can trust their testimonies and thus the words of Christ they record for us in which he affirmed the Old Testament Scriptures to be the Word of God and gave his seal of approval on the teachings of the apostles that were to come (the New Testament Scriptures).  We can then trust that the Scriptures are the Word of God and thus believe the revelation of Original Sin that can be known from Scripture alone.

* For Bible verses on Original Sin please watch my video: “Scripture Verses for Original Sin”

Book of Concord quotes from the following translation:

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000)

Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation

Metcalf’s Counterpoint

In the person of Christ, God died!

The following is a scenario that is anticipated to arise in a Bible class discussion of Jesus of Nazareth’s death.

Andy: (Referring to the following verses on a class handout: John 3:16-17, 1 Tim 2:5-6, Romans 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:14-15, Hebrews 2:9, 1 John 2:2, John 12:32, 2 Peter 2:1) Scripture teaches that on the cross, the Son of God died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  This is in opposition to the Calvinist teaching that Jesus only died for those that will be with Christ for all eternity.

Jesus' DeathBill: Andy, I agree that Scripture teaches universal or general atonement, but I have a question about your statement that the Son of God died.  Technically, the Son of God only died according to his human nature.  Isn’t that right?

Andy: That’s a good question. I’ve heard this question before from someone who sent me an email after reading my book.  He questioned a line that I wrote in which I said, “In Christ, the divine nature was put to death with his human nature.”  Let me get a gauge here with where everyone is at on this concept, how would you respond to that statement?  “In Christ, the divine was put to death with his human nature.”  True or false?

Nancy:  I would think like Bill… that Jesus only died as a human, not as God.

Jack: Yea, it was only as a human that Jesus suffered and died, not as God.

Andy:  Why would you say that, Jack?

Jack: Because God can’t be tempted, God can’t get tired, God can’t get hungry, God can’t bleed, God can’t die.  And so that’s why Jesus had to become human, so that he could do these things to be our savior.

Andy: Is that what you are thinking too Nancy and Bill?

Nancy and Bill: Yeah.

Andy: Does anyone want to answer true?

Megan: I think the answer is true, because Jesus is one person with two natures.  He’s fully God and fully man.  That’s why I’ve heard him called the God-Man.  It seems that what happens to Jesus happens to both natures.

Andy:  What Megan has stated does express how the historic church has understood the union of the two natures of Jesus.  Jack was right when he said that it is impossible for God to be tired, hungry, thirsty, tempted, and killed.  So Bill and Nancy, you too are correct on these points, except in Jesus, the divine has assumed a human nature, and according to that human nature, God can experience what would be impossible according to his divine attributes.

Bill:  So because of the union of the divine nature and human nature, is it safe to say that God was entirely dead?

Andy:  Yes.  But only in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (the 2nd person of the Trinity) did God die.  The divine nature did not die in the Father or the Holy Spirit, when Jesus died.  From the moment of the Incarnation, when the 2nd person of the Trinity assumed a human nature, the divine and human natures became united so as to not be separated from his personhood – ever.  If the humanity of Christ is put to physical death, then so too is his divinity.  Since Jesus is fully God, we can say God was tired, hungry, thirsty, tempted, and killed in the person of Christ (the 2nd person of the Trinity). These feelings and experiences were experienced by Jesus in accordance to his human nature, yet due to the union of the natures the divine nature experienced them too.

Bill: So since Jesus’s divine nature could die when he took on a human nature, does that mean his divine nature was in some way reduced?

Andy: We might think that could be the case, but that’s not what Scripture teaches.  The attributes of humanity that Christ experienced of which the Father and the Holy Spirit cannot partake occurred because Jesus allowed them to occur, because he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but instead he humbled himself and chose not to make use of his divine attributes or retain the glory due to him because of his divinity.  In other words, the divine nature did not receive human attributes with the union of the two natures in the person of Christ.  That would be a reduction of Jesus’ divinity, which we know did not occur.  If his divinity is reduced, he could not be our savior.  Does this answer your questions?

Bill:  Well, I guess I have one more question.  Another reason why I thought that Jesus’s divine nature did not die is because Scripture to teach that Jesus holds all things together.  That’s what Colossians 1:17 says, and Hebrews 1:3 states that Jesus upholds all things by the power of his word.  If Jesus died as you are saying, and it makes sense that he died with the way you have explained that death occurring to the person, would his death interrupt his ability to hold all things together by His powerful word?

Andy:  That is a very good question, and it is one that I have considered.  There were certainly signs that the universe was falling apart as the Lord of Glory was dying on the cross, such as the darkening of the sky and the earthquake at his death, so there appears to be some indication that his death did impact his role of holding all things together.  However, we know that the Father and the Holy Spirit did not die.  They could have held everything together.  I also know that before his resurrection, Jesus descended into the prison to proclaim victory.  He wasn’t there suffering.  He could have been holding things together then.

I also know that when we speak of salvation, we speak of Jesus being our savior, because Scripture speaks like this, but we also know that the Father and the Holy Spirit work in our salvation.  The Father sent the Son.  The Father accepts his sacrifice.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, gives us faith, and preserves us in that faith, and sanctifies us.  We typically speak of the Father as the Creator, yet we know that Jesus worked in creation, as did the Holy Spirit.  My point here is that just as we typically credit one person of the Trinity with a particular work, as Scripture does at times, we also can see that the other persons are also at work in that way in some capacity.  Therefore, the Father and Holy Spirit could be at work in holding creation together, not just Jesus.  Examples I can think of are that Scripture speaks of God (the Father) giving rain and sunshine to both the righteous and the wicked and giving every good gift in life to us (is that not part of holding creation together)?  Also, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as giving us life (physical and spiritual).  That physical life is an aspect of holding creation together.

That’s the best I can do to address the question about who was holding creation together as Christ was dying in respect to both his divinity and humanity being put to death for our salvation.  And that’s the best I can do to answer that question based on what the Lord has revealed to us in Scripture.

Bill:  That all makes sense.  Thanks for answering my question.

Andy: I’m glad you asked it.  It seems that others had similar thoughts and it is good to work through these questions, because the union of the divine and human natures in Christ are vital to him being our savior.

Megan:  And why is that?

Andy: As the God-Man, Jesus alone was able to redeem mankind from its sinfulness. Being fully divine, he was able to fulfill God’s standard of righteousness. Being fully man, he was able to be tempted and die in our place, suffering hell eternally on the cross. Now that may not make sense, but since Jesus is fully God, he could suffer hell eternally in a short time span; God after all can do all things. And since Jesus is fully God, he was able to die as a replacement for all of mankind. In Christ, the divine nature was put to death with his human nature. The death of God is valuable enough to serve as a vicarious atonement for all of mankind, past, present, and future. No other religion can claim such divine redemption, because no other religion was founded by God incarnate.

Megan:  That makes sense.  Thanks.

Andy: Any more questions on the person and natures of Christ?  If not, we’ll go back to our study of Christ’s atoning death for all of mankind.


In the above discussion I drew upon three kinds of communication between the two natures and the person of Christ and his saving work.  They are the genus idiomaticum (the kind of communication that pertains to the attributes of the natures to the person), genus maiestaticum (the kind of communication that pertains to the majesty of Jesus’ divine nature to his human nature), and genus apotelesmaticum (the kind of communication that pertains to the natures to the work of the person).

In the genus idiomaticum, the attributes of the divine nature and the attributes of the human nature are both communicated to the person of Christ.  This communication is what I was drawing upon when I spoke of the person of Jesus having attributes that come from both attributes.

In the genus maiestaticum, the attributes of the divine nature communicate to the human nature so that the human nature may receive divine attributes.  This communication is one way; the divine nature does not receive attributes from the human nature, otherwise, Jesus would not be divine.  This communication is what I was drawing upon when answering Bill’s question of if Jesus being able to die meant there was a reduction of his divinity.

In the genus apotelesmaticum, both natures are always at work in whatever the person of Christ does – or in the question at hand, in whatever is done to the person of Christ, both natures are involved – even when dying.