Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mistakes, Disease, and the Humanity of Christ: Necessary Inferences and the Burden of Proof

Say that an evangelical pastor/teacher has come to the conviction that, following His incarnation and  prior to the Cross, Jesus made factual mistakes and/or that Jesus suffered from diseases. If this pastor/teacher limited himself to speaking on biblical examples of Jesus making mistakes or suffering from particular diseases, what would he say? Nothing at all. There is NO biblical example of Jesus making a mistake or suffering from a disease.

Should this fact end discussion of these matters outright? Not necessarily. There are such things as necessary inferences from Scripture.

Concerning the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, the Westminster Confession of Faith paragraph 1:6 declares:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
Paragraph 1:6 of the Second London Baptist Confession begins with the exact same wording, except that in place of the Westminster phrase, "or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture," the Baptist Confession has the phrase "or necessarily contained in Scripture." As Fred Malone notes:
Fred Malone
Likely they [the Baptists] did this [i.e., changed the wording at this point] in order to distinguish true good and necessary consequence, which should always be limited by the containment of Scripture, from the abuse of good and necessary consequence as logical inference alone. [Fred A. Malone, The Baptism of Disciples Alone (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2007), 20.]
In the work cited above, Malone had previously noted:
[I]t is a valid hermeneutical method to draw inferences from Scripture. Drawing good and necessary inferences is required to draw up confessions, to do systematic theology and to engage in pastoral applications to people.
Given the validity of necessary inferences, the question is: does the humanity of Christ necessarily imply that He made mistakes and/or that He suffered from disease? I have argued that the answer is "no." Mistakes and diseases are not necessary to the definition of humanity: Adam in Eden would not have made mistakes or contracted diseases; refraining from mistakes or avoiding disease does not make one less than human. Even in light of the Fall, we find that the Gospels record Jesus facing situations in which we who are affected by sin would normally make mistakes or contract disease, yet in the accounts of these situations there is no hint that He made a mistake or contracted a disease. Furthermore, the idea that Jesus made mistakes and/or that He contracted diseases raises problems for important biblical considerations: namely, inerrancy and the unique work He performed in His passion. (I grant that the idea that Jesus was without error is more clear and crucial in this regard than the idea that He was free from all disease.)

The burden of proof, then, is firmly on those who would argue-without direct scriptural example-that we must infer mistakes and/or diseases as necessary to Christ's humanity. Are necessary inferences being made in these matters? The answer to this question must NOT lie in human reasoning about how the fallen world around us normally looks. Rather, we must form our thoughts upon the analogy of faith.

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