Friday, December 7, 2012

Michael Burgos vs. Samuel Brown

The following is a formal written debate that occured on the Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry's "private theological debate forum" between Michael Burgos (orthodox Trinitarian) and Samuel Brown (kenoticist). (click here for the debate on CARM) The thesis of this debate is, "The Son of God did not possess divinity during His postincarnate premortem state." Samuel Brown argued the affirmative in this debate, and Michael Burgos the negative.

The format is as follows:
1. Opening Argument - Affirmative ( 3000 words)  
     1a. Opening Argument - Negative 

2. Rebuttal - Affirmative (1200 words) 
     2a. Rebuttal - Negative 

3. Cross Examination - Affirmative (4 questions asked at once) 
     3a. Answers - Negative (4 answers at once) 
     3b. Cross Examination - Negative         
     (4 questions asked at once) 
     3c. Answers - Affirmative (4 answers at once) 

4. Closing Argument - Affirmative (1000 words) 
     4a. Closing Argument - Negative
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1. Opening Argument - Affirmative
Samuel Brown

The Bigger Picture

The working hypothesis of this side of the debate (a kenotic trinitarian position) is that the Scriptures present Jesus as possessing only a human nature from his conception to his resurrection. Core to this position is the understanding that the Bible does not present Jesus as being "fully God" in this period, while it does hold that he is and always has been the eternal, divine person, the Logos (“the Word”). This hypothesis stands in contrast to the hypostatic union side of the debate which presents Jesus as always possessing his human nature (post-incarnation) together with his divine nature.

In the New Testament period and throughout the first century of the Church, the concept of Jesus (post-incarnation, pre-resurrection) being considered “fully God” is unheard of. Proposing Jesus as being fully God from his conception onwards was the result of later theological conflicts over the deity, person and natures of Christ. These conflicts led to a distorted teaching regarding the supposed hypostatic union of Christ which was ultimately accepted by many theologians as biblical truth.

The following biblical passages support the Philippians 2 understanding that Jesus was “God-emptied” between his incarnation and resurrection. Both sides of this debate believe that the Logos was fully God before he came to earth and he is fully God since his resurrection. However, this side will seek to show that Jesus was not “fully God” between his incarnation and resurrection. Since this is the main focus of this debate, the following discussion refers only to the period between Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, unless stated otherwise.

This presentation of the biblical evidence allows us to have an appreciation for Jesus as a real human being and as a real model for us, as he depended on the Father for his revelation and on the Spirit for his power. But Jesus was not a mere human. He has always existed as the Logos and he is the creator of all things. However, he has not always had the same form/nature. This view does not denigrate Jesus below the biblical representation of him, only below the traditional “glorified” representation of him.

Getting Back to the Biblical Evidence

Christ emptied himself. Philippians 2:6-7 teaches us that Christ had the divine “nature” (morphe meaning “form, nature”) and equality with God, but he emptied himself of them and took on a human form. While a lot has been written on this passage to somehow show that Christ did not change or that he did not empty himself of anything significant, the exact opposite is true. The self-emptying of Christ is the greatest change ever recorded in the history of the universe. When the Logos made this transition, some radical changes took place in his being.

When this transition, this incarnation, was made, the Logos no longer knew all things, he would be tempted, get tired, learn, and ultimately he would die for us. Many theologians wrongly conclude that these things happened to Jesus while, at the same time, he remained fully God. Later posts will seek to show that this traditional view is only feasible if Christ is split into two separate persons or is some kind of a split-personality.

Those who hold to the doctrine of immutability (the unchangeability of God), limit God and the Bible from stating what God intended it to state. Not allowing God to change ultimately means that God cannot enter human experience as one of us. No change in God leads to the self-contradictory position of killing an always-alive God (cf. Deut. 32:40 with Rev. 1:18) and always separating the unity in the Trinity (cf. Deut. 6:4 with Matt. 27:46). Change in God was essential for Christ’s incarnation and atoning work to become a reality. A key element of Jesus’ humbling of himself for us was his surrendering of his divine nature and his equality with God. Only after his resurrection, does the Bible present Jesus as a man in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. The author of our salvation was made complete through sufferings (Heb. 2:10). After he was completed, he became the author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).

Philippians 2:6-7 says, “Although he was in the form of God, he considered it not robbery to be equal with God but (alla) he emptied himself and took (or “in order to take”) on the form of a servant ...” Alla is the strongest contrasting word in Koine Greek and always contrasts what comes before it with what comes after it. Also, it always assumes the content of what precedes it with what follows it. That is, Christ previously had the divine form/nature and equality with God, but he emptied himself of these. He “emptied himself” of what precedes the “but,” not what follows it. Also, opting for a participle of means “taking on” is not an acceptable translation as the very context does not allow for it. One does not “empty himself” by “taking on” anything. The Logos did not empty himself by taking on a human nature, as this would mean that he is still emptied today, since he continues to possess his human nature.

“The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us,” “he was made lower than the angels,” “he became poor,” and “in all things he had to be made like his brethren, … to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (John 1:14; 2 Cor. 8:9; Heb. 2:7, 17). He was made/became a lot less than what he was. He no longer had his own divine power, but did what he did in the power of the Spirit (Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:14; 10:21; Acts 10:38). He no longer had divine omniscience, but he knew what the Father revealed to him (John 8:28; 15:15). He took on a human nature (abandoning the divine nature) and became a human being, so that he could make propitiation for us. He was not expressing himself through the divine nature, for he did not possess it.

Jesus increased in wisdom (Luke 2:52). God is presented in Scripture as being all wise and full of wisdom (Job 12:13; Rom. 11:33). Jesus is presented as not only the wisdom from God (1 Cor.1:30), but also as the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). But this was not the case during his earthly sojourn. Luke writes that Jesus “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (2:52). Someone who is fully God cannot increase in wisdom.

Nearly 20 times in the Gospels, Jesus is said to have come to know something. Matthew 12:15 says, “The Pharisees went out and plotted against Jesus, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew from there.” After feeding the 5000, John writes, “Therefore when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he departed” (John 6:15). Jesus not only learned new information, but he learned from his experiences (Heb. 5:8).

Jesus did not know when he would return to earth (Mark 13:32). For many, it is this text which raises a flag to say something is not quite right with the traditional understanding of who Jesus was. The underlining understanding of divine omniscience is that God knows all things possible at all times.
Since Jesus is one person, he cannot know something and not know it at the same time. The idea that he can ascertain information through his human or divine nature, does not eliminate the problem that he is only one person who either knows something or does not know it. Being the one person, part of the Logos could not possibly not know something that another part of him knows. If he does know something and not know it at the same time, he is not one person, but two.

Since Jesus said that he did not know when he was coming back, two questions should be considered: Did he know the day of his return before his incarnation? and Does he know it today? Since God knows all things, both of these questions must be answered in the affirmative. That is, since Jesus is God (pre-incarnation and post-resurrection), he knew the day he was coming back before his incarnation and after his resurrection. But in the period in-between, he said that he did not know the day, as he was not fully God. Mark 13:32 clearly implies that a real change took place in the Logos' knowledge: he now had limited knowledge.

Jesus’ doctrine was not his own and he only spoke what the Father taught him (John 7:16; 8:28). To be taught something means he previously didn’t know it. The Bible never indicates that Jesus discovered the information in his divine nature.

The problem here is that one cannot be presented as God if that person does not have all of the essential attributes of God – otherwise these attributes are not essential to being God. Core to the very nature of omniscience, is that the person claiming to know all things, actually knows them. Christ never claimed to be omniscient when he was here on earth (nor did he ever claim to be God)

Jesus often prayed to God the Father. However, the reverse is not true. That is, the Father never prays to the Son. The Son never makes a decision over and above the Father. He is always pictured as being subject to the Father and dependent on him in prayer. Before choosing his disciples, Jesus spends the whole night in prayer, indicating his need and dependence on the Father in his decision making. If he was fully God, a whole night in prayer would be an unnecessary act, as he would already know who his disciples would be.

Jesus fell asleep. Several incidences in the Gospels portray Jesus as being vulnerable to human weaknesses, such as tiredness. When Jesus slept in the boat, was only the human part sleeping? Did the divine part roam around everywhere at the same time? Was he in heaven and on earth at the same time? If the Logos continued on as before, did he actually even come to earth (if he continued on being omnipresent, he would have already been here)? Was Jesus actually the Logos (if the Father and Holy Spirit are omnipresent as well)? What link was there between the Logos and Jesus? If there was not a self-emptying or humiliation of some kind (that is, a debasing change), then what are we called to imitate in Christ (Phil. 2:5-7)?

While traditional theology pictures the Logos as continuing on as though he was unhindered and unchanged in any way as God, Scripture presents him as changing into a truly limited state. He did not calm a storm or feed 5000 people while he was asleep. He was not seen in Jericho and Nazareth at the same time. He is only presented as operating within the limitations of his human form/nature. The fact that he could heal someone from a distance, walk on water, raise the dead or travel supernaturally from one place to another, does not imply deity. Jesus’ disciples did all of these things and deity is never attributed to any of them.

Jesus said the Father was greater than him (John 14:28). However, the Father never said the Son was greater than him. Such a statement would be an outright contradiction to John 14:28, as would the statement that the Father and Son were equal. The Bible never makes such claims, but traditional theology feels it has the right and authority to do so.

The Holy Spirit was greater than Jesus (Luke 12:10). This verse teaches that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, while blasphemy against Jesus is forgivable. Jesus’ statement here indicates that God the Holy Spirit was superior to him when he was here on earth.

Jesus says that he could do nothing of himself (John 5:19, 30). This statement clearly indicates one’s dependence on a higher source of power and authority. If Jesus came to earth as “fully God,” he could not make such a statement. Rather, Jesus kept his Father's commandments (John 15:10). While he lived in obedience to the Father’s commands, he never said that he commanded the Father (or the Holy Spirit) to do anything.

Jesus did not always do his own will (John 5:30; Luke 22:42). Jesus says, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” This is not a statement of one who claims (at the same time) to be fully God. In contrast, the Father always does his own will and is never said to seek to do Jesus’ (divine or human) will above his own. Jesus deliberately subjected himself in a submissive role to the Father, as a model for all believers to follow. Again, this pictures the Son’s submission and servitude, not his equality with God.

Jesus was forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46). On the cross, Jesus did not say, “My God, my God, why have I forsaken me?” When Jesus took on the sin of the world, he was separated from God so that he could be made sin for us. He died spiritually and physically. Since the Bible teaches that God cannot die, Jesus should not be considered as “fully God” when he was on the cross.

Traditional theology is fundamentally flawed at this point. When Chalcedon (451 A.D.) decided that Jesus is one person with two natures, it also said that these two natures are “inseparable” and “indivisible” (as they were well aware that having these natures act separately would result in Jesus being two separate persons). If Christ’s two natures are inseparable, then Christ’s human nature could not do anything apart from his divine nature. So how could only his human nature die? Is it or isn't it inseparable from his divine nature? In other words, to say that Christ had two inseparable natures (divine and human) while on the cross, ultimately means that God died (contra-Scripture). Otherwise, there was separation between his two natures (contra-Chalcedon). Rather than ending up in this Catch-22 situation, it is better to conclude that Jesus did not possess the divine nature when he died.

As a result, the separation from God that Jesus experienced on the cross caused no separation in the one divine nature and no separation in the make-up of Jesus. He was really and truly forsaken by God as he bore our sins. Traditional theology has Jesus asking the Father to take away his imminent death (“this cup”) from him, while Jesus was and continued to be fully God himself. Was God asking God to do what he didn’t want to do?

Jesus was alive and then died and now is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18). After Jesus returned to heaven, he says, “I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18). Change must be a part of this equation. Jesus is fully God today. However, he could only have said these words in Revelation 1:18, if he ceased being “fully God” during his earthly ministry.

Jesus was given life and authority by God the Father. “For as the Father has life in himself, even so he has given to the Son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment …” (John 5:26-27). At some point in time, the Son did not have all authority and life in himself.

Jesus was ordained (horizw) to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4). He was not "declared" to be the Son of God. The word horizw means “to ordain, appoint”; it never means “to declare” (Cranfield, Romans, 1:61). Just as Jesus was “ordained by God to be judge” (Acts 10:42) and is the man whom God “has ordained” to judge the world (Acts 17:31), so also Jesus was “ordained to be the Son of God.” Thus, Jesus was ordained to the special role of the Messiah, the Son of God, from his incarnation onwards and not before.

Here are some reasons why the title “Son of God” is not a title of deity:

The title “Son of God” indicates that one is in a special relationship with God. It is used in a similar way in the Old Testament for angels, Israel, and her king. Also, each Christian is referred to as a “son of God” (Luke 20:36; Rom. 8:14; 9:26; Gal. 3:26).

The only people presented in Scripture as (wrongly) concluding that the Father-Son language refers to the deity of Christ are the Jewish leaders (John 5:17-18; 10:33-36; 19:7). The claim is never made by God, angels, the apostles, the biblical authors, other believers or Christ himself.

Christ was appointed (“ordained”) to be the “Son of God” (Romans 1:4). No one can be appointed or ordained to be God.

The Logos is never called the “Son of God” or the “Son” before his incarnation. Only after Jesus was conceived, is he called the “Son of God.” Pre-incarnation texts that relate the title “Son” to Christ always occur with the future tense. The Father's begetting of his Son is presented in Scripture as an event that occurred in time, usually appearing with the time-related word “today.”

The title “Son of God” carries a functional nuance, not an ontological (“being” or “nature”) nuance. This title is consistently used in each of its biblical contexts in light of the respective person's function and relationship with God and never to indicate one’s nature. The title “Son of God” is used to show Jesus' special relationship to God as the Messiah (cf. Mark 14:61-62; Luke 1:32; and Matthew 16:16 with Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20). Also, Hebrews 7:28 says that the “Son has been perfected (perfect tense) forever,” indicating that this happened in time (not from a state of sin, but from a lowly state to a glorified state).

While the Scriptures present “God” as living forever (Deut. 32:40), they present “the Son of God” as giving himself up for us (Gal. 2:20) and dying for us (Rom. 5:10). The Scriptures never make the claim that the title “Son of God” refers to the divine nature or deity of Christ. Furthermore, writers in the first two centuries did not use the title “Son of God” to refer to the divine nature or deity of Christ (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 100).

Closing Remarks

To have a flippant God or one who changes irreversibly (for the better or worse) is not being proposed here. On the other hand, to have a God who is forever frozen in his actions, responses, emotions, etc. is not a more biblical view. The context of such passages as Malachi 3:6 and 1 Samuel 15:29 refer to God’s faithfulness, not his inability to change or relent (Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35; Joel 2:13).

This presentation has tried to show that Jesus, between his incarnation and resurrection, did not have the essential attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, and so he should not be considered “fully God.” To simply say that he only gave up the use of these attributes is still concrete change, which brings into question the essential attribute of his (supposed) immutability.

Jesus is presented in Scripture as a divine person who emptied himself of the form of God to take on a human form. Although he has existed eternally, he made these significant limitations to himself so that he could come and show us the way back to God. Although many people (including himself) said many things about him, no one ever said that he was God during this period (only the often-incorrect Jewish leaders did, although they didn’t even believe it themselves).

As detailed above, the Scriptures present Jesus as making this ultimate sacrifice, under all the limitations that came with it. To say that he really didn’t give up anything significant during this period is simply saying what we want Scripture to say, rather than what it actually says.

No one wants to appear to be saying too little about or belittling anything related to the Godhead. But saying too much can be just as much a deviation from Scripture.
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1a. Opening Argument - Negative
Michael R. Burgos Jr.

It is both my pleasure and a privilege to participate in this debate, and I would like to thank my opponent for his participation as well. In this debate I will demonstrate the destruction of arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God (2Cor 10:4-6) including my opponent's belief that supposes that the eternal Son of God ceased being divine during his premortem incarnate state. In this debate, I will demonstrate both the unbiblical nature of my opponent's position and its devastating theological implications.


If the bible is clear on one thing, it is clear monotheism. That is, there has been and will ever be one and only one God (Deut 4:35, Ps 86:10, Is 46:9). Both my opponent and I agree that prior to the incarnation the one being of God eternally existed in three co-equal divine persons. Since the bible is emphatic in its proclamation of monotheism, we must understand that the one God of Scripture is indivisible in every sense. There has not been, nor will there ever be a time in which there is more than one God. For God Himself has stated "before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me," (Is 43:10) and "I am God and there is no other" (Is 45:22). God has emphasized His indivisible unity when He stated, " hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut 6:4), and God is also identified as eternal (Deut 33:27).

Orthodox Trinitarianism is consistent with biblical monotheism. As such, orthodox Trinitarians understand the being of God to be completely indivisible in every sense. The doctrine of the Trinity acknowledges the possession of the one divine being by three co-equal, co-eternal persons; namely, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Each of these divine, eternal persons is fully God and therefore exhausts the divine being of what it means to be God. That is to say, the Holy Spirit is fully and completely God in an infinite sense. So too for the Father and the Son. Although the respective persons exhaust the divine being, they share by nature the absolute indivisible unity of that being. Should one of the divine persons be said to have operated in such a way that is essentially different to properties of the divine being, monotheism has then been discarded for something else. That is, my opponent's doctrine has introduced a division into the infinite God wherein one of the divine persons has ceased to be God. Because my opponent asserts that the Son ceased to possess the divine being, he has in doing so abandoned Trinitarianism, monotheism, and by virtue of that Christianity. My opponent's position requires that the divine subsistence of the Son in the Godhead was separated and ended. To break this scenario down into more digestible concepts, allow me to present an analogy: If I have one piece of cake and I removed a piece of cake from the original piece and ate it, at some point I had two pieces of cake. My opponent's contends that "the Second Person of the Trinity left the Godhead and became flesh" and therefore in doing so he has briefly introduced two separate gods. Thus, my opponents position is not consistent with monotheism.

I contend that my opponent's position also violates the eternality of God. To demonstrate the validity of my contention, let me present an analogy: A hammer by nature displays the unique qualities that make a hammer what it is. Those qualities consist of a set number of definitive attributes that differentiate a hammer from say, a microphone or a bucket. If I were to remove any of those qualities from the hammer, the object would cease to be a hammer and become something else. For example, if the metal portion of a hammer were removed the object would go from being a hammer to being a piece of wood. Now consider for a moment my opponent's position. God possesses a set of definitive attributes and qualities that make God what and who He is. Prior to the incarnation, these qualities include according to my opponents language "a plurality of persons." If any of those definitive qualities (i.e.; God's Triune nature) become essentially different (i.e.; the divestment of deity of the 2nd person of the Trinity), then God has ceased being God and has become something else. Therefore, my opponent's position necessitates that the one true God prior to the incarnation is not the one true God after the incarnation. This essential change in the being of God is in contradiction with any and all texts in the Old Testament that identify God as eternal. How can an eternal being cease to be? Eternality demands the existential consistency of a being. In other words, the eternal God cannot be eternal if He has ceased being that same eternal God. Definite eternality demands immutability. The texts that identify God as eternal (or everlasting) are manifold, but for the sake of this debate here are a few:

Genesis 21:33:
Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.

Deuteronomy 33:27: 
The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, Destroy.

Romans 16:26:
but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith

The bible is exceedingly clear that the Son of God was divine during the period of His humiliation. This is seen in a multiplicity of texts in Scripture. He is explicitly identified as God during this period; Is 9:6, Matt 1:23, John 1:18, etc. In addition the Son is identified as YHWH by all four of the gospels. Luke 3:4/John 1:23/Matt 3:3/Mark 1:3 all quote and apply Isaiah 40:3 to the post incarnate Son. Should the Lord Jesus have not in fact been divine, these characterizations would be false and blasphemous. Furthermore, the bible knows of only one Savior and that Savior is said to be YHWH (Is 43:11, 45:21) and the incarnate Son (Luke 2:11, John 4:42). It is only a Theanthropic Son who can fulfill the biblical qualifications to be Savior of the world.

The Son also utilizes the divine name numerous times during the relevant period. In John 8:58 we read "truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am." The phrase "Ego Eimi" (I Am) is a correlative to the divine name of Exodus 3:14. When we read Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint the phrase utilized is ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (I Am the Being). While this is not the exact phrase the Son uses in John 8:58, it should be noted that ὁ ὤν (ho ohn) is the participial form of ἐγώ εἰμι and therefore its exclusion in John 8:58 is of no consequence. This is made further evident by the numerous other texts that utilize the the abbreviated form of the name:

Deuteronomy 32:39 Behold, behold that I Am, and there is no god beside me: I kill, and I will make to live: I will smite, and I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of my hands (LXX) 

Isaiah 41:4 Who has wrought and done these things? he has called it who called it from the generations of old; I God, the first and to futurity, I Am. (LXX) 

Isaiah 43:10 Be ye my witnesses, and I too am a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I Am: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none. (LXX) 

Isaiah 45:18 Thus saith the Lord that made the heaven, this God that created the earth, and made it; he marked it out, he made it not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited: I Am the Lord, and there is none beside me (LXX) 

Isaiah 46:4 I Am; and until ye shall have grown old, I Am: I bear you, I have made, and I will relieve, I will take up and save you. (LXX)

Should my opponent attempt to usurp the validity of the Lord Jesus' usages of the divine name, it should be noted that the original audience did not. John 8:59 states "so they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple." The timing of the text obviously suggests that Jesus' usage of the name is what infuriated the Jews. The Apostle also emphasizes the reality and power of the incarnate Son when he records another of Jesus' usages of Ego Eimi in John 18:6 where we read that "when Jesus said to them, 'I Am,' they drew back and fell to the ground." Are we to expect that John is not identifying a cause and effect reality in John 18:6? Surely not, as the divine power of the incarnate Son is evident.

The deity of the postincarnate/premortem Lord Jesus Christ has also been made evident by His own actions. He displayed powers that are impossible for anyone to possess other than God Himself. He forgave sins (Matt 9:2, Luke 7:48). It is theologically and Scripturally inconsistent to assume that an appointed or even a specially anointed man could have this authority. This was commonly understood by the Jews(Matt 9:3) as it is today. David's statement in Psalm 51:4 denotes the Judaic understanding of the unique authority of God as judge and redeemer. When we read in John 20:23, " if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld," it should be understood that this authority given unto the Apostles was a declarative authority. This is evidenced by the Greek text wherein the verb ἀφῆτε (forgiven) is in the aorist tense. If my opponent attempts to argue otherwise, then why do we not see a Scriptural precedent for the real and unabashed forgiveness of sins in Acts or elsewhere as made efficacious by the proclamation of the Apostles or the patristics?

1Kings 8:39 states "then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind)." This text emphasizes the fact that knowledge of the hearts of men is exclusive to God alone (see also, 2Chron 6:30) and yet we see that Jesus in His humiliation at times displayed and possessed this knowledge (Mark 2:8, John 2:25). It should be noted that whether or not Jesus repeatedly displayed this knowledge is irrelevant, as the issue is whether or not he ever had knowledge that is exclusive to YHWH.

Zechariah 12:10 states, "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." The speaker in the text is none other than the Almighty, and it is He who identifies that the one pierced is He. An exclusively human Jesus would render this prophecy unfulfilled.

Acts 8:39 states, "'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him." After our gracious Lord healed the man who was possessed by a multiplicity of demons, the man sat at the feet of Jesus. This scene alone speaks volumes to the deity of Christ. Following this, Jesus gave this man very simple instructions; "declare how much God has done for you." This is exactly what this new believer did, as he went along proclaiming how much Jesus had done for him.

The Lord Jesus accepted worship during His earthly sojourn (Matt 2:11, 14:33, etc). Worship is a prerogative of God alone (Deut 8:19, Luke 4:8). Should our Lord had divested His deity, such worship would have been a violation of the Law of God.

John 5:23 states, "that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." Anyone who holds to my opponent's position and obeys this precept automatically commits idolatry. Either the Son falls into the category of God, or He does not.

The author of Hebrews identifies the Son as "upholding the universe by the word of His power." The order of Hebrews 1:3 suggests that this is a continual act undertaken by the Son of God in that the writer follows the phrase with "after making purification for sins." In addition the same text identifies the Son as the exact imprint of His (God's) nature. This is an explicit identification of the Son's possession of the divine being premortem.

The prologue of John tells us that the Logos was both with (pros) God and as to His nature deity. The third clause of John 1:1 states kai Theos en ho Logos. The placement of Theos (anarthrous predicate nominative) in the beginning of the clause in combination with the fact that the Logos is the subject of the clause (Logos has the article, nominative case), identify that the Logos is as to His nature deity. The broadband of New Testament scholars concur. Without qualification, the Apostle states that this divine Logos has become flesh (John 1:14). The text clearly suggests that the Logos prior to and after the incarnation maintain continuity of being. That is, it is the Logos who has been identified as divine now exists additionally in flesh. The operative word in John 1:14 is ἐγένετο (egeneto) and within in this context it does not support my opponent's novel doctrine.

There are also a multitude of texts that explicitly identify God as immutable. These include:

Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

In the text above, notice the word "everlasting," which in Hebrew is עוֹלָם (olam). According to Thayer this word's primary meaning is "forever," and the secondary meanings include "everlasting," "perpetually,"
"permanently," "always," etc.


Romans 11:29:
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

A mutable God cannot give an immutable calling.

Psalm 102:25-27:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.

This text is also quoted and applied to the Son of God in Hebrews 1:10-12, and it is done so without qualification as to its timing. Hebrews 1:5-6 suggest an incarnational timing as to its application to the Son. If my opponent's position were true, it could not be said that God is the same and His years have no end, because according to him, the second Person of the Trinity ceased being God.

Malachi 3:6:
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed

This text predicates the certainty of Israel's salvation on the fact that God is unchanging. My opponent may attempt to usurp this text, but its clarity precludes any such attempt. The principal within this text remains true; God does not change and therefore His promises do not change. The basis of his immutable decree is His immutable nature, as one stems from the other.

Hebrews 13:8:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

This text is clear and unambiguous. Contextually we see that in the same way the truth of the word of God is static (Heb 13:7), so too is the person of Jesus Christ.

Regarding Philippians 2:5-11: Should we understand the verb "ἐκένωσεν" (ekenosen) from "κενόω" (kenao) (meaning emptied and to empty respectively) to be taken in a wooden literal sense as my opponent does, we ought to observe that this would be the only time the Apostle Paul uses it literally. The three other Pauline uses of the verb ( 1Cor 1:17, 9:3/15, and Rom 4:14) carry a metaphorical/idiomatic meaning and not the hard edged meaning needed for a divestment of a divine nature. In addition the second clause of Philippians 2:7 utilizes the same language as verse 6 and therefore contrasts the μορφῇ θεοῦ (morphe Theou, God's form) with the μορφὴν δούλου (morphe doulou, a slave's form). This contrast suggests a change in function and not a change in ontological existence, as there is no ontological form of a servant. If my opponent wishes to contend otherwise, he ought to describe the ontological form of a slave in explicit terms.

The word modifiying "form of God," most often translated "being" or "existed" in Philippians 2:6 is ὑπάρχων (huparchon) and it is a present active participle. In light of this, theologian B. B. Warfield noted that "Paul is not telling us here, then, what our Lord was once, but rather what He already was, or, better, what in His intrinsic nature He is; he is not describing a past mode of existence our Lord." And, in so far as ὑπάρχων modifies μορφῇ θεοῦ (form of God), Warfield notes that the word "contains no intimation...of the cessation"(Warfield, Person and Work of Christ pg. 41, both quotes). That is, the Apostle is describing a continuous existence in God's form and the verb's usage assumes a continuity of divinity throughout the passage.

Grammatically speaking, the Apostle utilizes two instrumental adverbial participles to inform the reader as to how it was that the Son emptied Himself. Those two participles are λαβών (labon, translated "taking") and γενόμενος (genomenos, translated "being born"). Adverbial participles are known grammatically as "participles of means." According to Greek scholar William Mounce, "the action described by the [adverbial] participle is primarily directed toward the verb" (Mounce BBG pg. 241). The adverbial participles show how it was that the Son emptied Himself and clearly these directly relate to the the addition of humanity to the Son and not to a divestment of deity. Therefore, grammatically and exegetically my opponent's position goes beyond what is written in the text.
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2. Rebuttal - Affirmative
Samuel Brown 
(quotations in italics)

While your statements on monotheism are strong and well supported, your statements on the indivisibility of God are questionable. While there is never any divisiveness in the Trinity, we should not confuse this with the distinctions in God. The one Godhead is made up of three separate, distinct persons. They do not all occupy the same space. They are not all sitting at the right hand of the Father (cf. also John 16:7). Their distinctiveness lies in the fact that they are individuals. When God created the universe, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all said to have created it. But that does not mean that they carried out the exact same function. The Father designed the universe; the Logos brought it into reality; by the power of the Spirit. Similar with the redemption of humanity: the Father planned it; the Son executed it; by the power of the Spirit. Clearly, only the Son is said to have emptied himself and lowered himself to the point of death. If they are indivisible, as you say, then they all emptied themselves and died (who is the crucified “Lord of glory” in 1 Cor. 2:8?).

The beauty of the Trinity lies in the fact that the three persons of the Trinity are not the one and same person – they are distinct and carry out different functions. How could the Father abandon the Son on the cross and their supposed indivisibility still be true? How could one of the persons of the Trinity be made sin and the others not? The idea of God being “indivisible” does not accurately sum up all of the biblical evidence.

"… in doing so he has briefly introduced two separate gods. Thus, my opponent’s position is not consistent with monotheism."
This is a similar line of argumentation that unitarianism brings against trinitarianism. I have always held to a monotheistic trinitarian position. I have not “introduced two separate gods” any more than my opponent has 3 gods. At the core of kenotic trinitarianism is a flexibility in the Godhead to allow him to do what he has already done, while orthodox trinitarianism is stuck with a somewhat frozen God, who (according to Augustine) cannot even think about anything else but himself or else his thoughts change. Such thinking about God needs to change.

"Definite eternality demands immutability."
God is eternal in his very being and as that relates to each of the three persons of the Godhead. The confusion here lies in the difference between a divine person and the divine nature. Each of the divine persons, including the Logos, has always existed and was, is and always will be eternal. If God wants one member to abandon the divine nature so that he can die and redeem his creation, he is free to do that. If the Godhead consisted of just one divine person, that action would not be possible, since God cannot die, but there isn’t just one person – there are three divine, eternal persons.

"The bible is exceedingly clear that the Son of God was divine during the period of His humiliation. … He is explicitly identified as God during this period; Is 9:6, Matt 1:23, John 1:18...[etc]"
Isaiah 9:6 specifically refers to him after the statement “the government will rest on his shoulders.” Only then is he called the “Mighty God.” Has he ever been called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Eternal Father,” or “Prince of Peace” before?

Matthew 1:23 is an exact quote from Isaiah 8:10. Both the Greek and Hebrew in both the OT and NT have the exact same wording “God with us”. While both texts allow “is” to be added, the English translations usually have one “is” in Isaiah but not in Matthew. This needs to be corrected to reflect the original texts and not mislead the reader. Then these texts would clearly show that the individuals in Isaiah 8 and Matthew 1 are not being called “God” but a name that indicates that God is with us. Just as Elijah’s name means “My God, Yahweh,” but no one says that he was God.

John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time. The special/unique Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, has declared him.” The Son was clearly seen by many. Therefore, he is not God at this point in time since a lot of people saw him.

Actually, no text shows that “the Son of God was divine during the period of his humiliation.”

"In addition the Son is identified as YHWH by all four of the gospels. Luke 3:4/John 1:23/Matt 3:3/Mark 1:3 all quote and apply Isaiah 40:3 to the post incarnate Son."
Mark 1:2-3 is a combined quote from Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3 which may be a reference to Jesus as the Lord. But even this is not exceedingly clear. MacArthur holds that the messenger in Mal. 3:1 is the Lord himself. Is John then YHWH in Mark 1:2? Just as the “son” who was called out of Egypt was Israel in the OT and the same quote refers to Jesus in the NT, we should not automatically assume that Jesus “the Son” carries the same connotations as Israel “the Son” or that Jesus is Israel. You haven’t shown that “the Lord” in these NT quotes refers to Jesus and you haven’t shown that it has the same connotation as YHWH from the OT.

Luke 3:4 (and Matthew 3:3) refers to God, not Jesus. John is “a voice of one crying the wilderness.” In v.8, John then identifies God as this “Lord.” The people think John is the Messiah in v.15. Only then does he introduce Jesus.

In John 1:23, Jesus identifies himself as the “voice of one crying the wilderness.” He does not refer to himself as the “Lord” here.

Hopefully, the orthodox position doesn’t depend on these texts alone to show that Jesus is divine in this period.

"The Bible knows of only one Savior and that Savior is said to be YHWH (Is 43:11, 45:21) and the incarnate Son (Luke 2:11, John 4:42)."
It is interesting that the only one Savior is immediately identified as two. YHWH on earth was looking up at YHWH in heaven and saying “Not my will but your will be done”? Then the indivisible YHWH was forsaken and abandoned by the (other?) indivisible YHWH? This is serious division in the indivisible God of orthodox trinitarianism.

"The Son also utilizes the divine name numerous times during the relevant period. In John 8:58 … is a correlative to the divine name of Exodus 3:14. When we read Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint the phrase utilized is ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (I Am the Being). While this is not the exact phrase the Son uses in John 8:58, it should be noted that ὁ ὤν (ho ohn) is the participial form of ἐγώ εἰμι and therefore its exclusion in John 8:58 is of no consequence."
The Hebrew YHWH and ehyeh (“I am”) can both refer to God, but they are not synonymous. Because Exodus 3:14-15 uses them in the same context, does not make them mean the same thing. Furthermore, the key element in any “I am …” statement is what follows these words. Jesus did not use the key part (ho wn) of the ego eimi ho wn (“I am who I am”) statement (LXX). So, John 8:58 does not refer back to Exodus 3 at all.

Ego eimi is never used as a substitute for Yahweh anywhere in Scripture. Many people use the words ego eimi in Scripture without any implication that God’s name is involved at all. The Jews would not even say the name Yahweh out of respect for God, yet they would say ego eimi. In John 8:24, Jesus tells some Pharisees that they will die in their sins if they do not believe that “I am” (ego eimi). They then ask him, “Who are you?” If the Jewish leaders did not know that ego eimi is a substitute for Yahweh, then who would have known? Jesus does not indicate here (or anywhere else) that ego eimi is the name Yahweh, as you assume.

The reason why the Jews got upset at Jesus in John 8 is that he was saying he had seen Abraham and was even alive before him (though not in his current form obviously). In John 9, the healed blind man identified himself with these very words ego eimi without any implication that he was claiming deity for himself. The Jews questioning the blind man did not think he had ever been blind or healed by Jesus. Shouldn’t they have stoned the blind man for saying ego eimi, if this was understood to be the divine name? Later, in John 18:6, the Jewish leaders wanted to find “Jesus of Nazareth” and Jesus said “I am (he).” Who? “Jesus of Nazareth.” The reason why they fell back to the ground is not stated. Jesus said ego eimi several times without this result. If ego eimi means Yahweh, then wouldn’t this result have happened automatically every time Jesus said “ego eimi,” even with his disciples?

Jesus previously told the Jewish leaders, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (ego eimi), and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). When the Jewish leaders later lifted up the Son of Man to be crucified, were they then suppose to know that he is the ever-alive Yahweh who cannot die? Can Yahweh and “I do nothing of myself” be used to describe the same person here? Surely not.

"The deity of the postincarnate/premortem Lord Jesus Christ has also been made evident by His own actions. He displayed powers that are impossible for anyone to possess other than God Himself."
Jesus himself says in John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do …”

"He forgave sins (Matt 9:2, Luke 7:48). It is theologically and Scripturally inconsistent to assume that an appointed or even a specially anointed man could have this authority. This was commonly understood by the Jews (Matt 9:3) as it is today."
In Matthew 9, when the Jews say about Jesus, "This man blasphemes!" Jesus responded immediately with "Why do you think evil in your hearts?” He did not affirm their misconception but confronted it. Then he goes on to say that “the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – the exact opposite to what you are saying.

"David's statement in Psalm 51:4 denotes the Judaic understanding of the unique authority of God as judge and redeemer."
It is not wise to base doctrine on the Judaic understanding of anything. Jesus was “ordained by God to be judge” (Acts 10:42) and is “the man” whom God “has ordained” to judge the world (Acts 17:31). He was appointed "judge" at some point.

"John 20:23 … it should be understood that this authority given unto the Apostles was a declarative authority. This is evidenced by the Greek text wherein the verb ἀφῆτε (forgiven) is in the aorist tense."
“Declarative authority” basically means “no authority.” John 20:23 allows for “delegated authority,” with God being the source of the forgiveness. Jesus was given this authority from the Father, similarly to how he gave it to his disciples. They were not the source of the forgiveness anymore than they were the source of the power they exhibited.

The aorist tense does not evidence “declarative authority” at all – you haven’t shown anything substantial here. You have convoluted the argument so that somehow the disciples-forgiving-others concept could not possibly have come out of the mouth of Jesus. But it did.

"… It should be noted that whether or not Jesus repeatedly displayed this knowledge is irrelevant, as the issue is whether or not he ever had knowledge that is exclusive to YHWH."
Actually, it is not irrelevant. Unless he has that knowledge at every point in time, he was not “fully God” at that point in time. When he was one year old did he know that information?

"An exclusively human Jesus would render this prophecy unfulfilled."
I do not hold to an “exclusively human Jesus” as I have told you before (are you debating me or somebody else?). This text should not be included in this debate as it does not relate to the period under consideration. The text (spoken and written pre-incarnation) refers to the future millennium (post-resurrection). We both agree that the Logos (“the pierced one”) is fully God pre-incarnation and post-resurrection.

"[Luke] 8:39 states, 'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.' And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.'"
Jesus healed this man by the power of God. This was not the first time someone did not follow Jesus’ instructions carefully (Mark 7:36). Certainly people today mix up Jesus with God in this period and say “God died” instead of “Jesus died.”

Sitting at one’s feet says nothing about deity. This was common in Judaism (Acts 22:3). Anyway, the Messiah, the King of the Jews, certainly deserved it.

"The Lord Jesus accepted worship during His earthly sojourn."
The Logos, the second person of the Trinity, the creator and king of the universe deserves worship. The fact that he was not in the form of God when he was here on earth, does not mean that he no longer deserved worship. He created everyone he met. While he directed their worship and prayers to the Father, he was not undeserving of these and did not prohibit them.

"The author of Hebrews identifies the Son as 'upholding the universe by the word of His power.'"
Whether “upholding” (phanerwn) or “manifesting” (pherwn) is original is debatable. Both words find significant textual support (although the latter is mainly used by the Early Church Fathers).

What is key to a correct interpretation of Hebrews 1:3 (regardless of which translation is preferred) is to understand that the Son is the radiance or reflection of God the Father’s glory (he is not said to have that glory here) and that he is an “impression” or “exact representation” of his “person,” “nature,” or “being” (he is not said to be that “person” or have that “nature” or “being” here). To assume that the object in Hebrews 1:3 has all the qualities and characteristics of the subject in verse one, is to say something that the author of Hebrews simply did not intend to say. We, like Christ, are called the “image of God” (1 Cor. 11:7; Col. 1:15). That description infers non-deity, not deity.

"… the Logos who has been identified as divine now exists additionally in flesh. The operative word in John 1:14 is ἐγένετο (egeneto) and within in this context it does not support my opponent's novel doctrine."
We both hold that John 1:1 teaches the divinity of Christ, pre-incarnation.

Novel or not, the text clearly does not suggest “that the Logos prior to and after the incarnation maintain[s] continuity of being.” The text shows discontinuity of being as he “became” something else. Your statement states the exact opposite. Since he now exists “additionally in flesh,” does he have the same make-up and is he in the same place (everywhere) as before? He added flesh and yet he didn’t change?

"There are also a multitude of texts that explicitly identify God as immutable. These include: Psalm 90:2 … from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

This confuses immutability (born out of theologians influence from Greek philosophy) with eternality – what we both strongly affirm (the one God exists forever; the 3 divine persons have and will always exist). Orthodox trinitarianism has God frozen in place forever. Kenotic trinitarianism has God able to change (within limits) to interact and redeem his people.

"Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. A mutable God cannot give an immutable calling."
God never says he is immutable. Of course, he can give an unchanging call or promise, and still be free to relent, change his mind, or change part of his being (like subtract or add something – like a human nature). He does not have to have the characteristics of what he gives. He gives mutable things as well. Is he therefore a mutable God? The fact that he does not go back on his promised word, means he is faithful (what Scripture says he is) and not immutable (what theologians say he is).

"Psalm 102:25-27 … Hebrews 1:10-12"
Rather than attack my position here, I would have preferred you explain yours. How do you understand Hebrews 1 in light of your view that the Son is eternally always the same, and yet he made the most significant change in the history of the world (adding a second nature to his person)?

The “same” carries the connotation of “eternality” in both of these passages. He is the same in the sense that the heavens and earth are not eternal, but he is not going anywhere (“your years will not end”).

"Malachi 3:6 … This text predicates the certainty of Israel's salvation on the fact that God is unchanging."
One word needs to be added to this sentence: “This text predicates the certainty of Israel's salvation on the fact that God’s word is unchanging.” God was ready to destroy them, but he couldn’t as he is faithful to his covenantal promises to them. It is a giant theological step to go from God’s immutable decree to God himself being immutable. The Bible uses “immutable” for God’s oath, but not for God (Heb. 6). God says he is angry (with the wicked) everyday (Ps. 7:11). Was he always this way? God says that he hated Esau (Rom. 9:13). Are you saying that he must then have a “hate” nature? This is just not a consistent or biblical way of understanding God.

"Hebrews 13:8 … Contextually we see that in the same way the truth of the word of God is static (Heb 13:7), so too is the person of Jesus Christ."
The context is not the person of Jesus (who possessed one nature in eternity past and in eternity future possesses two? what is static about that?), but the dependability of God’s promised word and the Word himself. The Word of God is living, not static. Rather, God is faithful to his promised word (vv.5-6). Christians, who are to be imitated, faithfully brought these promises and the gospel of Christ to them (v.7). They are not to be carried away by false teachings (v.9). [I hold that these false teachings ultimately come in many forms – including the Catholic creeds of Nicea, Chalcedon and Constantinople]. In this context, we are told “Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, today, and forever” (v.8). Since we know that he was not always “Jesus” or “Christ” and he did not always have a human nature, “yesterday” (in all forms of trinitarianism) has to go back to some point in time (to creation, the incarnation or resurrection), but not into eternity past. Kenotic trinitarianism holds that since his resurrection, Jesus has had the same make-up. “Yesterday” in Hebrews 13:8 can refer to any time between Jesus’ resurrection and the writing of Hebrews.

"Regarding Philippians 2:5-11: Should we understand the verb "ἐκένωσεν" (ekenosen) from "κενόω" (kenao) (meaning emptied and to empty respectively) to be taken in a wooden literal sense as my opponent does, we ought to observe that this would be the only time the Apostle Paul uses it literally. The three other Pauline uses of the verb ( 1Cor 1:17, 9:3/15, and Rom 4:14) carry a metaphorical/idiomatic meaning and not the hard edged meaning needed for a divestment of a divine nature."
Jesus did not cling to his form or equality with God, but emptied himself of them. Was he still full of equality with God? In the 4 other uses of this verb, Paul talks about the cross, boasting, and faith being made empty. The unquestionable meaning of this verb in each of these texts is that of being “empty” not “full.”

While Wallace in his Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (also quoted below), considers that “the verb [ekenwsen] is vague, almost begging to be defined,” he disregards the previous verse, with its two nouns (“the form of God” and “equality with God”) which are begging to be interpreted as its object. The alla (“but”) construction always contrasts what comes before it with what comes after it and always assumes the content of what comes before it with what comes after it. E.g., Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but (alla) those who are sick.” “But those who are sick” is incomplete? He is saying that “those who are sick” need a physician. Similarly in Phil. 2, Jesus emptied himself of what? … the form of God and equality with God.

"In addition the second clause of Philippians 2:7 utilizes the same language as verse 6 and therefore contrasts the μορφῇ θεοῦ (morphe Theou, God's form) with the μορφὴν δούλου (morphe doulou, a slave's form). This contrast suggests a change in function and not a change in ontological existence, as there is no ontological form of a servant."
Because a similar term is used in a similar context does not mean these terms are what is being contrasted, especially since the strongest contrasting preposition in Greek alla (“but”) is used between him having the form/nature of God and equality with God and emptying himself of them.

Surely, Paul is referring to the fact that Jesus took on a human nature here. The context then indicates that morphe (“form/nature”) in this context is ontological (and not simply functional).

"The word modifying "form of God," most often translated "being" or "existed" in Philippians 2:6 is ὑπάρχων (huparchon) and it is a present active participle."
The timing of a participle is not dependent on its tense, but on its connecting main verb, which is aorist here (general past tense). Whatever translation you go with: “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery” (KJV) or “although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself” (NASB), the past is being referred to, not the present or future.

"Grammatically speaking, the Apostle utilizes two instrumental adverbial participles to inform the reader as to how it was that the Son emptied Himself. Those two participles are λαβών (labon, translated "taking") and γενόμενος (genomenos, translated "being born"). Adverbial participles are known grammatically as 'participles of means.'"
The participles following this alla construction are not supposed to describe or explain the contrast within the alla construction.

The participle “taking” can just as well be translated “with the purpose of taking on …” (adverbial participle of “purpose”), or “when he took on” (“temporal”), or even “and took on” (verbal participle of “attendant circumstance”). Wallace lists “means” as only one of 8 different kinds of adverbial participles (he also lists “temporal,” “purpose,” etc). What’s more is that this verbal participle does not even have to be treated as an adverbial participle here. Your simplistic statement “Adverbial participles are known grammatically as "participles of means"” is either pure ignorance or is simply misleading the less informed.

Having said all that, Wallace does (questionably) opt for treating “taking” as a participle of means here (can orthodoxy allow him to say anything else?). He writes, “Taking it as a result participle is problematic, since it is aorist; leaving as temporal leaves the meaning of ekenwsen unexplained (and such an act is not explained otherwise in the following verses).”

Wallace thinks ekenwsen remains unexplained because orthodoxy does not let him use v.6 to explain it – where it naturally is explained grammatically. The “temporal” option (“when he took on”) fits the context naturally. It allows the alla construction to contrast what came before it and then goes on to say when this happened and what followed. He does not even deal with it being a participle of “purpose.”

Wallace, however, is stuck with a participle of means. He then writes, “The biggest difficulty with seeing labwn [“taking”] as means is that emptying is normally an act of subtraction, not addition.” Would Wallace not normally conclude: “Therefore, it cannot be a participle of means here”? The context simply does not allow a participle of means. A participle of means simply makes the text say the opposite to the very meaning of ekenwsen. Are we to have the mind of Christ who added more to what he already had? Orthodoxy has re-written the meaning of this text to conform to its doctrines, rather than the biblical author’s original intent.

You have inherited the job of defending an indefensible (albeit, so far, undefeated) mountain of doctrine. You did not come up with this orthodoxy and its questionable creeds (most of which were construed in heated debates by Catholic popes and priests) but, whether they conform to Scripture or not, you must support it faithfully - along with myriads of others - forever. You are not to meddle with it, or even question it, but defend it until Christ returns. Your bravery and loyalty are well noted, but I do not envy you.

[Note: Mr. Brown ignored the word limit for his rebuttal, however we agreed to proceed with the debate as is.]
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2a. Rebuttal - Negative
Michael R. Burgos Jr.

My opponent made the statement that, "Philippians 2:6-7 teaches us that Christ had the divine 'nature.'" In doing so, he has begged the question and overlooked the fact that the operative verb is the present active participle ὑπάρχων (huparchon). Once again, the Apostle is describing a continuous existence in God's form and the verb's usage assumes a continuity of divinity throughout the passage. My opponent cannot simply assume the meaning of a word when the grammar does not bear it out. He stated that, "one does not 'empty himself' by 'taking on' anything." This is another case of begging the question, whereas my opponent provided no grammatical or exegetical grounds to prove his assertion. It was also said that, "opting for a participle of means 'taking on' is not an acceptable translation as the very context does not allow for it." Firstly, saying that λαβών (labon) is an adverbial participle is not a translation, but a grammatical fact. Participles are either adverbial, substantive, or adjectival. I'd like to ask my opponent, if this participle is not adverbial and therefore instrumental, then what is it? It is not enough to simply assert something about the text. If my opponent wishes to have success in this debate, he must demonstrate the validity of his assertions with evidence.The self-emptying of the Son consisted of taking upon Himself the limitations of human existence and it ended in subsequent glorification (John 17:5).

Orthodox Trinitarians concede that the term "but" is contrasting something in the text of Philippians 2:7. It is contrasting the limitations of humanity with the majesty of His preincarnate existence. To go further and insist on a divestment of deity from the word "but" is bold eisegesis and is a case of going far beyond what is written (1Cor 4:6).

Speaking of the Lord Jesus it was stated that, "He has always existed as the Logos and he is the creator of all things." The Logos is said to be God (kai Theos en ho Logos), and therefore deity is part and parcel with His identity. That is, the term Logos is synonymous with the term God in the sense that John 1:1c communicates it. To then go on to say that "He has always existed as the Logos" even though during His humiliation He was exclusively human is untenable. The problem is that my opponent wants to assign to the Logos an identity of person that maintains continuity throughout the biblical narrative. However, my opponent's position does not afford such a sentiment because the Logos is a person and is a divine being. My opponent's statement is similar to saying, "a rock turned into a tree, but it is always a rock." The unity of being and person cannot be abandoned without committing logical harry carey.

The notion that the doctrine of immutability "limits" God is nonsensical. God is the greatest and most perfect conceivable being possible and therefore there are no grounds upon which God would need to change or could change for the better. The assertion that God is not immutable carries with it the implication that God is deficient in His infinite state; an obviously illogical and unScriptural conclusion that the kenoticist must address. Immutability is a sentiment that is founded in the Scriptures and the sufficiency of God.

My opponent went to great lengths to prove something. He spent quite a bit of time to tell us that the incarnate Son increased in wisdom, was ignorant of His return, spoke only that which the Father taught him, that He prayed, fell asleep, said the Father and Holy Spirit was greater than He, that he could do nothing of himself, that He did the Father's will, that He was made, etc. What has my opponent proven? He has proven that Jesus was... human. That is something I already affirm, and not only affirm but regularly proclaim. The fact that my Lord became a genuine human who is like us in all ways yet without sin is something I rejoice in. You see, proving that Jesus was a human does not prove that He divested His divinity. What my opponent has done is begged the question again. He has assumed that one cannot be human and have all the various characteristics of humanity and yet have a separate divine nature. Remember the thesis of this debate. The affirmative burden is to prove that the incarnate Son was not God during His humiliation. Instead of doing that, my opponent has only proven that the Lord Jesus is a human.

When we examine the terms used in the definition of Chalcedon we ought to do so in context. There is obviously a failure in my opponent's understanding of the ancient creed and what it means to communicate by the terms "inseparable" and "indivisible." What is meant by "without separation" is that the one person of the Son is recognized in two natures. What is meant by "without division" is that these natures are held by only one person, even Christ Jesus. My opponent made the assertion that "if Christ’s two natures are inseparable, then Christ’s human nature could not do anything apart from his divine nature." This statement is refuted in the definition itself when it stated that "the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son." In other words, the two natures of the Son are "without confusion" or "unmixed."

It was stated that Malachi 3:6 refers to "God’s faithfulness, not his inability to change." This is patently false. Malachi 3:6 states "for I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed." The text makes it clear: the faithfulness of the LORD is predicated on the fact that He does not change. My opponent has omitted the precept that is apparent in the text and kept its application. The bottom line is the kenoticist has no basis to believe the faithfulness of God because in their worldview, God does in fact change, and radically so.

My opponent stated, "after Jesus returned to heaven, he says, 'I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore' (Rev. 1:18). Change must be a part of this equation. Jesus is fully God today. However, he could only have said these words in Revelation 1:18, if he ceased being 'fully God' during his earthly ministry." This is yet another example of an unfounded assertion. Of course change is part of the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. He lived, died, and was resurrected as to His human existence. It does not follow that a divestment of deity somehow must be part of the equation. Yet again, logically fallacious argumentation has been provided as the kenoticist has assumed a premise integral to his conclusion. He stated "change must be part of this equation." This is an assertion that does not necessitate a divestment of deity, but rather only a genuine (that is, mutable) humanity. There seems to be a sort of underlying presupposition in the affirmative argument that rejects Chalcedonian Christology, but it does so only with the basis of circular reasoning.
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3. Cross Examination - Affirmative 
(Questions in italics)


1) In John 5:1-18, did Jesus break the Sabbath or was this the Jewish leaders’ false conclusion (v.18)? Please explain.

Burgos: 
According to the Jews Jesus broke the Sabbath. The Pharisees had constructed a large number of extra Scriptural laws that served as an apparatus to sanction the Sabbath, but ultimately went beyond its original intent (Mark 2:27). However, the prohibition against work during the Sabbath did not carry a prohibition against carrying a mat or healing a person. It seems to me what was of most importance to God regarding the keeping of the Sabbath was the intent of a person's heart, and I think Mark 2:23-28 testifies to that. Furthermore, Jesus explicitly stated, "I have kept my Father's commandments (John 15:10)," and "do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17)."

2) If YHWH is indivisible, was YHWH on earth looking up at YHWH in heaven and saying “Not my will but your will be done” … exactly who in the indivisible YHWH was forsaken and abandoned, made sin and crucified (1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 5:21) and by whom? Please explain.

Burgos: 
The postincarnate/premortem Jesus is YHWH, as the gospel of Mark begins by identifying that John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ:
Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'" 
This is a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 which states: A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God." 
Thus, because the text tells us that Jesus is in fact YHWH and by implication YHWH in human flesh, it was YHWH in human flesh who was subjected to what you have described. Jesus is a human being. The human will is axiomatic to human beings, and therefore, Jesus has a human will. In fact, He is a perfect human being and therefore it is fitting for the perfect human being to wholly submit His will to God, and He did. 
Your question seems to presuppose the impossibility of the one person of Jesus possessing two natures, and therefore you have yet again begged the question.

3) How do you understand Romans 1:4 based on my opening presentation of orizw not ever meaning “to declare” but rather “to appoint, ordain”? Please explain.

Burgos: 
When we examine a text we must not simply isolate and emphasize a phrase because we think it fits our doctrine, but instead examine it exegetically and contextually. When we do that we see that the Son of God was not simply "appointed." What we do see is that the Son of God was appointed in power. He was born in humiliation "according to the flesh" (vs 3), and "appointed in power by his resurrection from the dead." 
Your argument from Romans 1:4 has ignored what immediately came before it and after it.

4) Based on Wallace’s statement that “The biggest difficulty with seeing labwn [“taking”] as {a participle of} means is that emptying is normally an act of subtraction, not addition” in Phil. 2:7, does this participle choice ultimately mean that we are to have the mind of Christ who added more to what he already had? Please explain.

Burgos: 
We are told by the Apostle in Philippians 2:3-4 that we should "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." and "let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Clearly, the mind that is being commended to believers is that of humility. Jesus exemplified this virtue because He possessed the unspeakable majesty and glory He enjoyed in Heaven and humbled Himself by taking on human flesh at the behest of His Father. Furthermore, the humility demonstrated by Jesus in taking on human flesh was incredible, He increased His humiliation and servitude to the Father by being obedient even unto death on a cross. The contrast of the horror of the cross and the glory He had prior to the incarnation is the essence of humility, and the mind of which we are to imitate. Therefore, the notion that the Son's taking on of human flesh was merely "adding to what He already had" is asinine.
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3c. Negative Questions with Affirmative Answers

(questions in italics)

1. Psalm 90:2 states, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." This translation is completely consistent with the Hebrew text and literally tells us that the one who is God is everlastingly God. Using either contextual, exegetical, or grammatical means, can you please harmonize this text with kenoticism?

There is one God. He is always God eternally. The statement “from everlasting to everlasting you are God" does not contain a plural “you,” but singular. The one God is always God. It does not say, “you three divine, eternal persons are always fully God.” While some trinitarians may want this text to mean this, God is very specific about what he says and operates within the facts he gives about himself in Scripture and the make-up of his being so that he is able to do what he did at the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. I hold that the one God exists eternally and he is made up of three separate, distinct, eternal, divine persons who all exist eternally. One of them (the second person of the Trinity) changed from expressing himself through his divine form to expressing himself through a human form while he was here on earth. This has nothing to do with and does not jeopardize his continual, eternal existence as the Logos.

2. We read in the Old Testament that the God dwelled in the tent of meeting in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34, etc). This dwelling place was a place with walls, a roof, etc. In a word, the tabernacle was a finite place and yet the very presence of the almighty omnipresent God was therein. In John 1:14 we read that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. The operative word in that text is ἐσκήνωσεν (eskenosen) and it literally means to "pitch one's tent, or to abide in a tabernacle" according to Thayer. With this in mind, your repeated objection to the orthodox Trinitarian position stemmed from the finitude of Jesus' human existence, and you repeatedly questioned the possibility of Christ being present on earth while simultaneously being God (see your question #2 for ex.). But using your logic, couldn't the very same type of objections be raised to the presence of YHWH in the tabernacle? 
I have never held that my “objection to the orthodox Trinitarian position stemmed from the finitude of Jesus' human existence,” and I have never questioned “the possibility of Christ being present on earth while simultaneously being God.”

I do not have a problem with the possibility of this happening. In fact, I hold that Christ after his resurrection, while he was still on earth, was fully God. The problem is not the possibility of this happening, the problem is that it does not line up, in the period between his incarnation and resurrection, with all of the biblical evidence that I have listed in my opening statement.

YHWH says in Deuteronomy “I live forever.” YHWH says in Revelation, “I was dead.” These facts have to be reconciled. They can’t be reconciled with Scripture if you hold to a non-kenotic position and especially if you hold to a frozen God who can’t add or subtract anything to who he is (or else he changes).

3. You stated that, "the fact that he was not in the form of God when he was here on earth, does not mean that he no longer deserved worship." Jesus stated, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Luke 4:8). Since Jesus has made it explicitly clear that worship is reserved for God and God alone, and Jesus was worshipped during a period in which you claim He was not God, can you please reconcile the contradiction that you have presented?

Just as Unitarians struggle with God either being 1 God or 3 gods but not any kind of combination or Tri-unity – it has to be 1 or 3 but not both, you seem to be struggling with the idea that Jesus has to be fully God or not God at all, when he was here on earth. I do not hold to either of these extremes. He was a divine person that expressed himself through a human nature only. He can receive worship based on the fact that he is a divine person. I explained this in my rebuttal to you, “The Logos, the second person of the Trinity, the creator and king of the universe deserves worship. The fact that he was not in the form of God when he was here on earth, does not mean that he no longer deserved worship. He created everyone he met. While he directed their worship and prayers to the Father, he was not undeserving of these and did not prohibit them.”

4. John 18:6 states, "when Jesus said to them, 'I Am,' they drew back and fell to the ground." Upon what basis do you reject the causal relationship between "when Jesus said to them, 'I Am'" and the mob falling to the ground?

I don’t reject a causal relationship between Jesus saying “I am” in reply to them wanting to know which one of them was Jesus of Nazareth and them falling to the ground. I just don’t accept your explanation as gospel truth. I said before that we are not told why they fell to the ground. I prefer not to speculate here - when John doesn’t say anything more than just what happened - and then be overly dogmatic about it. What you haven’t proven in any way is that “I am” is used here as a name for God (John wasn’t too convinced of it as he abandons Jesus on that same night) and it certainly doesn’t mean Yahweh (it never does).
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4. Closing Argument - Affirmative
Samuel Brown

Since I have written way too much in my rebuttal, as my opponent has rightly indicated, I have chosen not to write a closing argument.
Hopefully, this will bring the advantage, that I have unfairly taken, back his way somewhat.

I appreciate my opponent's position and his fair and decent presentation of his side of the debate as well as in his interaction with my side of the debate.
I wish him all the best.
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4a. Closing Argument - Negative
Michael R. Burgos Jr.

Because the Scriptures do not support kenoticism, my opponent has demonstrated an utter failure to provide an affirmative basis for the thesis of this debate. My opponent possesses a presupposition that rejects Chalcedonian Christology, and therefore much of his argumentation was based on that foundation. It is no wonder that my opponent doesn't see the post incarnate/premortem deity of Christ in Scripture as he presupposes its rejection before opening the book. The failure to address the arguments I presented in anything more than surface level manor indicates that my opponent willingly lacks the motivation to engage in critical thinking. Take for example his response to my question about Psalm 90:2. He stated, "the statement 'from everlasting to everlasting you are God' does not contain a plural 'you,' but singular." Really? Is kind of thing supposed to be sufficient to explain away Psalm 90:2?

My opponent stated in response to my question about John 18:6, "I don’t reject a causal relationship between Jesus saying “I am” in reply to them wanting to know which one of them was Jesus of Nazareth and them falling to the ground. I just don’t accept your explanation as gospel truth." Really? So "when" Jesus said "I Am," the entire mob just happened to fall to the ground, wink wink. Is this the defense that kenoticism has to offer? My opponent basically said, "I don't want people to think I reject the obvious, but I do reject it because it does not fit my doctrine." The word of God is indeed sharper than any two-edged sword.

My opponent also barely attempted to interact with the two main theosophical objections I raised in my opening argument. Why? I believe his position does not afford him the means to provide a cogent response.

Kenoticism robs the Lord of glory of a part of His very identity. It also demotes God into something that is easier for the fallen mind to grasp. In a kenoticist's worldview, God is no longer the most perfect being conceivable, but a God who changes to meet challenges that He can't otherwise. Kenoticism robs the Christian of any rational basis to trust that God is the solid rock by which salvation is irrevocably set. Kenoticism is a relatively new belief that belongs in the same garbage heap with every other man made, man propagated, Satan originated heresy.

May my opponent and those like him bend their knee to the truths within Scripture and come to the true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 8:24 "I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I Am you will die in your sins."

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