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Summary post

These are my concluding thoughts for a blog discussion here

So for the three of you who know what I'm referring to...

 

Here's what the discussion is not about:

It's not about progress of knowledge.

It's not about trust in Messianic prophecies.

Those are important questions for another time.

 

Here's what I am not saying:

I am not by any means saying that the Angel is the only title by which Christ is known in the OT.

Neither am I saying that every divine Person of the OT is Christ (the Appearing LORD reveals God Most High in the power of the Spirit).

I am not saying that Christophanies are the only or even the main way by which Christ was present to the OT saints (there were also the promises and types).

I am not saying that everyone who had true faith had to have met the pre-incarnate Christ.

I am not saying that conscious faith in the Mediator stands or falls on an identification of the Angel as Christ.

 

 

What I am saying:

The Angel who is both of the LORD and is the LORD was correctly identified by OT authors and saints.  This shows that they had a trinitarian conceptuality able to identify the distinct, divine Person of the Mediator. 

The Angel - the Sent, Appearing God from God - can be none other than the Image of the invisible God, the eternal Christ.

Reticence to identify the Angel as Christ betrays a quite different conception of revelation, mediation and doctrine of God.

There seems to be two interdependent presuppositions informing this reticence:

1) OT saints could not grasp a divine, distinct Mediator

2) OT saints did not need to grasp a divine, distinct Mediator.

1) remains stubbornly opposed to the plain sense of the Angel texts.

2) is what's really worrying me...

 

What I am worried about:

I still think solus Christus is threatened here.

While-ever the 'anonymous Christian' position is entertained...

While-ever the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures are considered as pre-incarnate Son (a truly bizarre and worrying proposition)... 

While-ever mediation is considered a broader concept than the concrete Person of the Mediator...

While-ever phrases like 'ultimate', 'final', and 'par excellence' dominate the discussion (as opposed to 'eternal', 'universal' and 'only')...

While-ever the history of interpretation on this issue is set aside, driven as it has been by solus Christus...

While-ever such stubborn resistance has been put up to the obvious meaning of the Angel texts...

While-ever it is considered that even if the Angel was a divine Visitor, He needn't be Christ...

'Christ alone' is patently under threat.

 

Some might feel I insist on a particularly strong version of 'Christ alone.'  In my opinion 'sola's stop being 'sola's when they are weakened.

.

17 thoughts on “Summary post

  1. Matthew Weston

    Glen, I've been following your discussions from afar - never having thought about these things before I had nothing of worth to contribute. I'm wondering, though, if you could point me in the direction of something that talks about how Hebrews fits into this. I was studying Hebrews 1:1-4 with a friend this morning, with all this discussion in the back of my mind, and was struggling to see how the writer could say "In the past God spoke in these ways, but in *these last days* he has spoken by his Son" if number 2 above wasn't true. Or am I getting revelation and mediation muddled up?

    Good discussion though - Owen's "Communion with God" has made its way up my reading list as a partial result, along with the Old Testament in general!

  2. Jacky

    Hi Glen,

    Can't believe the discussion is still going!

    Would like some clarity one on of your points - "While-ever the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures are considered as pre-incarnate Son (a truly bizarre and worrying proposition)…"

    Do you strictly mean pre-incarnation (in the sense of Son taking on human flesh), or are people saying that prior to Son being man He was never 'incarnate' on earth? Or is this some deeper third way (i.e. Revelation 13:8) which you're speaking of?

  3. Little Mo

    This:

    "I am not saying that conscious faith in the Mediator stands or falls on an identification of the Angel as Christ."

    and this:

    "Reticence to identify the Angel as Christ betrays a quite different conception of revelation, mediation and doctrine of God."

    contradict each other IMHO. If conscious faith in a mediator does not stand or fall on this identification of the mediator, then how does reticence to make this identification show a different concept of mediation? (Understand that question if you can!)

    Basically ISTM if it matters that TAOTL is Jesus to protect the doctrine that Christ is the only mediator then every OT believer would need to have met him for their faith to be based on Christ. This is patently not the case.

  4. Matthew Weston

    Which is partly where my query slots in. I'm also less clear as to how OT saints would have grasped the concept of mediation in the way we do. TAOTL isn't always around! I realise I'm jumping into a discussion that has already been taking place at a higher level for a while, so this may all be discussed elsewhere.

  5. Rich Owen

    I don't quite understand why you would want to insist that to have concious faith in Christ, knowing him to be the mediator of revelation and salvation, you need to have met him in person. Can you defend that Mo?

    I'm glad Glen isn't saying that because I've never met Christ in person, but still have a concious faith in him and still believe him to be the only divine mediator of revelation and salvation.

  6. Glen

    Hi Matthew,

    On Hebrews 1 - Christ is portrayed as the eternal effulgence (gotta love the KJV) of the Father's glory and His exact representation (v3). I don't think verse 1 is meant to be (or really could be) an exception to this. Given v3 and given that chapters 1-3 confidently quote the OT as trinitarian revelation with distinct Persons interacting and speaking in the various Scriptures, I think it would be a mistake to say 1:1 means OT revelation was not trinitarian / by-passed Christ. (see also how the OT revelation is called the 'gospel' in 4:2,6 and how Moses considered disgrace for the sake of *Christ* - 11:26).

    So what is 1:1 saying because clearly a great distinction is being made between v1 and 2?

    I think it's this:

    In the OT, divine revelation was brought to the people through the prophets. The appearing LORD (Christ) never
    appeared to the *people* as His own prophet. He never addressed Israel en masse but always went through intermediaries (prophets). Of course today is the same - He doesn't address us personally except through intermediaries (apostles). But these last days were ushered in by something breath-takingly new - the ever-effulgent Son came as His own Prophet (for revelation, and Priest for salvation - but that's later in the letter). For three years in the middle of human history the Son appeared to the people, cleared away all intermediaries and spoke Himself.

    And Hebrews says, 'Therefore listen up!'

    Glad you're wanting to read Communion with God. Cracking, heart-warming read.

  7. Glen

    Hi Mo,

    Remember: I'm not saying that everyone had to meet TAOLT to have faith in Him. I've met Christ through intermediaries and so have you. But it's been essential for our faith in Christ that those intermediaries have known His distinct deity as the Mediator.

    (oh - just seen that Rich has beaten me to the punch here. Great minds Rich...)

    And remember: I'm not saying that TAOLT is the only title under which is revealed in the OT - that's what I meant by my 'stand or fall' comment. I'm not hanging everything on the Angel because frankly Christ is all over the OT.

    Why discuss the Angel in particular then? Because conscious and careful use of the title 'Angel of the LORD' by OT authors and those saints who met Him shows me that the OT believers did have a 'God from God' conceptual framework able to acknowledge this divine, distinct Mediator.

    Perhaps read again those things 'I'm not saying'. Because I'm really not saying them.

  8. Little Mo

    Hi Rich and Glen,

    I totally agree with what you are saying!

    And that's my point. If its not important for having conscious saving faith in Christ that you have met him in person, then really, why does it matter whether the Angel is Christ?

    Aha, you say, to prove they had a God-from-God conception of the mediator. Well, as you say, I think that's all over the OT, and TAOTL would be a thing twig on which to hang that doctrine.

    My POV has been all along that TAOTL could be Jesus but I don't see why it matters. You said because unless we accept that he/He is we are saying there are other mediators apart from Christ.

    As you now seem to be saying that Christ can be the mediator in any number of ways (so, for example, those who trusted the prophets and the laws provision for their sin actually did trust Christ's mediation) then why, again, does it matter that he actually is TAOTL?

    Its all very well saying "read what I have written." My point is that I have done and I think the two statements are contradictory.

  9. Glen

    Hi Mo,

    Sorry if I'm not being clear. Here are the two statements of mine that you reckon are contradictory:

    (1) “I am not saying that conscious faith in the Mediator stands or falls on an identification of the Angel as Christ.”

    and,

    (2) “Reticence to identify the Angel as Christ betrays a quite different conception of revelation, mediation and doctrine of God.”

    Let me say in other words what I'm getting at...

    (1) I'm aware that proving the Angel to be Christ doesn't prove Solus Christus in the strong form I'm affirming,

    but

    (2) Solus Christus in the strong form I'm affirming means that the Angel must be Christ.

    Or, to put it another way...

    (1) To say the Angel is Christ is correct. But it still leaves you work to do to prove Solus Christus.

    but

    (2) To say Christ is THE Image of the invisible God means the Angel must be Christ because He is the appearing LORD.

    Or to put it another way...

    (1) Solus Christus (as I understand it) does not stand or fall on correct identification of the Angel.

    but

    (2) Incorrect identification of the Angel shows a deficiency in Solus Christus.

    Or to put it another way...

    (1) The Solus Christus debate is broader than the Angel debate.

    but

    (2) Reticence over the Angel's identity raises question marks over the underlying definitions of Solus Christus.

    Hope that's clearer.

    Christ is always the Mediator. And He is Mediator under any number of titles. The Angel of the LORD is definitely one of them. We single out this title because it proves 'God from God' mediation was understood in the OT.

    But here is a big misunderstanding of my position...

    I have *not* said that Christ mediates in any number of *ways* in the OT. And I certainly would not affirm what you hear me saying when you say this:

    "...those who trusted the prophets and the laws provision for their sin actually did trust Christ’s mediation."

    No. Saving faith is always faith in the Person of Christ. The Person is always 'clothed in His promises' as Calvin says. But Calvin also rightly insists that the Person is the object not the promises. They didn't trust a nude Christ, but neither did they trust in a pile of clothes. From the outset (Gen 3:15) saving faith was fixed on the God-Man redeemer of the world.

    So I am *not* saying that Christ mediates in any number of *ways* in the OT. He mediates under a good number of *titles* - yes. But that's something quite different.

  10. Little Mo

    I think this is "ways" and "titles" language is, if you'll forgive me, at risk of straying into "angels on a head of a pin" territory.

    Ok, you say, not a number of ways, but under a number of titles.

    I still don't understand the insistence on TAOTL being Christ. So Moses brings the people the Law? And through the law OT saints were able to trust Christ? But we don't insist that Moses is Christ?

    Or Isaiah brings the message of the Suffering Servant to the people? And through that message OT saints were able to trust Christ? (Even this I'm not sure I believe in the same way as you are expressing, but anyway, even so....) We don't insist that Isaiah is Jesus?

    I think the turning of the debate over TAOTL into a debate about Solus Christus is, I am afraid, at real risk of de-churching people with whom you really shouldn't be disagreeing. I don't really think it has anything to do with it.

    You'll be glad to know, however, that on the basis of the texts themselves I am beginning to come more convinced. I guess I am not just convinced that it matters as much as you say.

  11. Rich Owen

    Thanks Mo and Glen.

    That is really thought provoking, clarifying etc. I think you have a good point Mo and I take it on board and will think it through.

    Umm. Can I just say, it is nice that even when things have gotten heated that here we are continuing the debate in good cheer. Great work chaps.

    Errr.... here is a statment of where I'm at now:

    I think it matters that TAOTL, the Commander of the Army of the Lord, The Word etc is Christ, but only as much as it matters that the types and promises point to Him, and the Law shadows Him and his work. Each of those facets plays it's significant part in revelation, and each of those plays it's part in salvation too - mine as well as theirs.

    I think it matters for a few reasons off the top of my head:

    It matters exegetically (maybe we all agree here?) cause i think we are going to struggle otherwise.

    I think it matters evangelistically. Glen having debated with Muslims knows this, I know this from talking with Christadelphians. I have found that being able to show God from God in the person of TAOTL to be really helpful - not just polemically, but pastorally too - their God is transcendant and impersonal by definition, but look at how gentle TAOTL is with Hagar etc. It is useful becuase it is (or at least I thought it was) pretty easy to show God from God to anyone who has a sincere commitment to studying the word, which for all their heresy, the Christadelphians do have. I must admit, I'm more upset that it has been such hard work to get Christians to look at the texts (not you Mo) than whether or not they actually conclude that TAOTL is Christ. Frustrations emerge as sinful thoughts and comments etc. Apologies.

    I guess it matters ontologically too - that Christ is actually present with them - in the same way that it matters ontologically (to a calvinist or lutheran at least) that Christ is actually present with us - eg in the lords supper or in our fellowship bond - being in the loaf together as it were. That Christianity is not just a mental ascent to ideas about Christ, but that we know him and experience him.

    That may not make any sense at all... but I'm short of time.

    Rich

  12. Missy

    Glen, it's been more than a year and a half! I'm so glad to see you use "effulgence" in a sentence once again. ;)

  13. Glen

    Hi Mo,

    Here's the question as far as I see it:

    "Do you have to know Christ to be saved?"

    Now, for me, the answer "Yes, but you don't have to know that you know Him" is a compromise of solus Christus as I understand it.

    In technical terms, it's the question of conscious/explicit versus unconscious/implicit faith.

    Two prominent theories of 'implicit faith' will show that this is not a small matter:

    1) The Roman Catholic Church has at points taught that a person needs only to be an obedient, communicating member of the church to be saved. This obedience to the church is deemed to be faith in Christ, even if the person in question doesn't know anything so advanced as the Person of Christ clothed in His gospel.

    2) 'Anonymous Christians' (again a Catholic has proposed this - Rahner - but many other Catholics are opposed to it) are those of other faiths who respond to the 'Christ' within their own tradition and are deemed to really trust Christ.

    Interestingly Sam has called attention to the similarity between 'implicit faith' in the OT and the 'anonymous Christian' position.

    I am *not* de-churching Sam. But neither am I saying that this is an 'angels on a pinhead' question. I hope you see how solus Christus would have to be differently construed depending on your answer to the 'anonymous Christian' question.

    And hence the difference between 'titles' and 'ways'. Titles are attached to the *Person* of Christ who is known and named. It is highlighting that Christ Himself must be personally known for salvation. On the other hand, if 'ways' refers to 'provisions in the law' which an OT saint trusts but does not link to Christ Himself - then that is a form of implicit faith. And I am against it.

    I believe you both have to know Christ *and* know that you know Him.

    Once again, I am not de-churching anybody. But I am saying that implicit versus explicit faith is a very important question.

    Now this is what I hear you saying. I hear you saying that an OT saint can savingly trust in 'the law's provision' but not know that this law is proclaiming the atoning work of Christ. Is that what you're saying? In which case they don't know Christ - or they don't know that they know Christ (i.e. they have implicit faith). Am I reading your position rightly?

    If so, do you see the links with the 'anonymous Christian' position? Do you agree or disagree with that position? Do you see why 'conscious' and 'explicit' are important adjectives to discuss when we discuss saving faith?

  14. Glen

    Hi Jacky and Will,
    Not a typo. One of the commenters at the other blog has repeatedly said that all of the OT should be considered as pre-incarnate Son - not testimony to Him but *as* pre-incarnate Son. So for him the word that became flesh was all God's revelation prior to incarnation. I haven't been able to pin down whether, according to him, this is the extent of Christ's pre-existence or not. If that is the extent of Christ's pre-existence it's not really different from any number of unitarian positions.

    Of course we believe that Christ was incarnate once-for-all when He was born of Mary but He was also a particular Character present and proclaimed in the OT as the one Divine Mediator.

  15. Mo

    Hi Glen,

    Thanks for your response. I am coming to understand more of your position and see very clearly that it pours from your heart to see Christ glorified as he ought to be. Which is cool:)

    Two things:
    1) I actually haven't settled on how much those who were under the Old Covenant "knew Christ". Apart from a few very clear examples, I don't think the texts say. I agree with you, they must have known him some way to be saved. But I guess there are degrees of knowing - so how much does one "know Christ" if one knows about the promise of the seed and the blessing promised to Abraham and the sacrificial system? I think a bit, but not as much as we privileged NT believers know. I think to set up a polarity between those who think you don't have to know Christ at all and those who think you do know him fully, in what is an intra-evangelical argument, is to group a whole lot of people with Rahner who don't belong there. What's more I don't think there is as much difference between those who say OT believers trusted the promise and yourself as you think. Paul seems to use the promise idea and the trusting Christ idea interchangeably about Abraham in, say, Galatians.

    2) I still don't see that this means you have to believe TAOTL is Christ. A way of knowing Christ (like the prophets or the law, yes) but does he have to BE Christ?

    And a sneaky third:
    3) What we are both against I think is neo-dispensationlism "Believers knew God one way in the OT and differently in the NT". Believe me - I am against that too.

  16. Glen

    Hi Mo,

    Cool.

    I'm happy to say 'knowledge' varies. And clarity on the gospel work of the Seed might be very dim at times. I'm still insistent that the Person of Christ is the conscious object of faith. Of course OT saints laid hold of very many promises, but promises need at some point and in some way to be joined to the Person. Faith in the Redeemer and not just faith in redemption.

    From my point of view, TAOTL has to be Christ since, well, who else could He be?? Taking the OT details sersiously means that you really *must* confess this Character to be the LORD who is Seen, who is FROM the LORD and IS the LORD and is called God and receives worship. Given these details you have to confess Him as the Appearing God from God.

    If He's not Christ, who is He?

    And I really like number 3). The one Way is the same. Amen. (John 14:6)

    Every blessing in Jesus :)

    Glen

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