By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.
Since writing the first part of this series, considerable conversations happened on Facebook. The agreements are overwhelming, but the small band of Full Preterists demonstrated an almost total lack of understanding of even the basics of what Christianity discusses under the subject of Christology – the careful study of just who this Jesus fellow is.
Since I wrote Part 1, I also was reading through Alan Bondar’s book, The Journey Between the Veils, published and entirely endorsed by my nemesis, Don K. Preston. Basically, in that book, Bondar demonstrates quite plainly that the one who the Scriptures uniformly call, “the son of ‘adam” (the son of a man), and “the man, Christ Jesus” – a man with a soul and a body – a human being, is no longer such.
Allow me to quote from Bondar, as I have done on Facebook, so that there is absolutely no misunderstanding of what he (and Don K. Preston) teaches. “…the physical body of Christ was permanently destroyed at his ascension…the elimination of the physical body of Christ is absolutely necessary…” (180). On page 181 he speaks of the “total elimination of the physical body…” Don K. Preston, one of the main leaders of Full Preterist claims, states in the Foreword, “Bondar shows that it was necessary that Christ lay off “the body of flesh” to enter the Most Holy Place…” (10).
So that it is further understood, both Preston and Bondar are not saying that Jesus’ physical body was “changed” or “glorified” in any way. “The claim,” Bondar writes, “that Christ had a glorified body after his resurrection is unfounded” (185). Noting that there is debate within some circles as to whether Jesus was glorified the morning of, or later at his ascension (recorded in Acts 1), Bondar concludes that neither is true. When he says the physical body of Jesus was destroyed, he means that there cannot be a “glorified physical body of Christ” (186). “[T]he idea that Christ’s physical body was glorified (whether pre- or post ascension) is pulled out of thin air” (186). Further, Jesus is to come into the glory of his father in heaven, and the father “doesn’t have a body” (187). Therefore, neither does Jesus.
So let there be no mistakes here. There is no room here to say, “but.” Bondar is forthrightly clear. When he says that Jesus’ physical body was “destroyed” he means “eliminated”, “divested” – not changed, not glorified, not anything, but entirely gone. Ceased to exist.
Now, to believers this may come as a shock. To many of those who call themselves Full Preterists, this has come as a shock (not to me, because I taught the same thing when I was a teacher in that movement). One may ask the reasoning behind such a wild claim, and this article will deal with that, focusing solely on the comments of Bondar on Philippians 2.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” (2.6-9 – DRA).
Bondar spends two pages on this passage, a most famous passage, to show that Jesus did indeed, “took on flesh” (118). However, when he ascended he “returned to his non-physical state” (118). He then quotes the passage above and states that this is what Saint Paul teaches, if only we read it “without the filter of tradition” (118). That is, don’t read what the theologians have said about this passage in Christian history, or the fact that Christians of all walks have uniformly agreed on what this passage says, whether Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Protestant. This agreement is found in the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed and the Council of Chalcedon. They are unifying creeds of the Christian Faith. Bondar, however, does not want any “filters”. In other places in the book he attacks these statements of faith.
First off, Paul is speaking of Jesus. “Who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” In other words, Jesus is God, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. One God, Three Persons. Bondar does not deny this (as far as I can tell). Now, the Greek of Paul’s hand notes that Jesus is “being in the form of God”, and the verb here for “being” is present participle. The word for “form” is morphe, which can refer (and does) to his nature – his essence of being. Bondar has already correctly noted that God “doesn’t have a body” (187). Since we agree here, then, that God does not have a body (and so does every other Christian) then theologians have insisted that the term morphe here cannot denote “form” in terms of spatiality, but must mean “nature” or “essence”. The NIV has, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” This spares us, then, of going through those details.
It’s the next verse that creates the problem, “But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man” (DRA). The word for “emptied” is the verb keno-o. He emptied himself, and “took” the form (morphe) of a man. He “took” (lambano) human nature to himself. And that which he took, the human nature of man, he was found, seen, became, a human being, body and soul. This is what the term “likeness of men” means. He looked, smelled, ate, burped, went to the bathroom, and fell asleep.
Bondar, again, correctly notes that the Son of God, the Eternal, Uncreated Son, who is God, came into “a particular state or condition (that he did not previously have)” (118-119). The Son “took” human nature to himself, and as a result “became a human being.” Where he gets into trouble is where he write, “Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God by becoming something created” (119). But, then he quickly states, “That doesn’t mean Jesus lost His right to be God, or that He wasn’t God anymore” (119). He explains, “It just means that, for a time, He chose to divest Himself of using Godness for the purpose of His mission.” However, this is contradicted just as quickly, “…as long as Christ maintained his form as created being, then He could not also maintain equality with God because God is not created” (119).
Bondar is apparently unaware of the contradiction for he never addresses it. If the Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, took upon himself human nature, and this does not mean “that He wasn’t God anymore”, then how is it that as a man, “he could not also maintain equality with God”? Bondar wants to avoid saying that while Jesus was on earth he ceased being God. However, he contradicts this when he says that while he was on earth he could not be equal to God! In other words, Jesus cannot be both God the Son and man at the same time. But, this is precisely what Paul states: the Son of God, who is God, took to himself human nature and likeness while at the same time “did not think it a thing to be grasped” to be God. He was both. In theology we have taken Paul’s statements here and said, “One Person, Two Natures, Human and Divine – existing in One.”
What Bondar is saying, though, is this: “If taking on the flesh meant kenao (sic), then Christ had to cease kenao when he completed his mission” (119). That is, if the Son of God emptied himself of his divine-ness – being God – then when he ceased his mission while he was man, he would empty himself of his human nature in order to refill himself of his God-ness. You read it right.
So, not only does the Son of God cease being God for a time, but when he done being a man, he divests, empties himself of human nature to regain being God the Son again. Therefore, not only is the physical body destroyed, but the entirely of human nature is emptied upon his ascension into heaven! This would mean, then, that the human body is essential to being a human being since he destroyed it when he ascended. Folks…..
Now, Bondar states, “So, yes, Christ took on a biological body. But He does not have to keep His biological body to be “man”” (33). Again, “Christ is still “man”” even “apart from His flesh” (34). So, how does this all square? How does the Son of God empty Himself and become a man, then destroys his body, and does not now have a body, yet still be considered a man? What Bondar appears to be saying is that Jesus emptied himself of his human body, but did not empty himself of human nature. The human body, then, simply becomes something that really serves no ontological purpose other than a shirt, or a pair of pants. Shirts are nice. So are pants. We like clothes. They have a purpose. But, clothing has no real purpose in terms of defining who you are. Same with the body.
Bondar never defines how Jesus is still a man in heaven. Since having a body is non-essential (except to be born and live on earth), and Jesus apparently didn’t think too much about it since he ditched it, then why should we care for it at all, really? It has nothing to do with who we are.
Bondar is faced with, on one hand, maintaining that Jesus is still a man in heaven – a full man, yet, on the other hand, maintain that in order for Jesus to become a man, he had to empty himself of divinity because he could not be both – in fullness – at the same time. Well, how can he be both now in heaven? If it required him to empty himself to be man, and he emptied himself again so as to be God again, then how can Bondar insist that he is now in heaven as man and God at the same time? If he could God and man in heaven, why could not also be God and man while he was on earth? Why would it require this emptying in order to be?
Well, the theologians have solved this a long time ago, and they used Paul to do it. The Son of God, who is God the Son, took to himself all the essentials of becoming a man – body and soul – for both are essential. The Son of God himself did not empty himself of any divinity whatsoever. None. The human nature he took upon himself, however, did. That dude is the one we see in the Gospels, Jesus the infant, the 12 year old, the traveling Rabbi, the carpenter’s son, Yeshua ben Miriam (son of Mary).
Paul states, “For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5). He is telling human beings to be like the human being, who has a mind (not had a mind, but has a mind), Jesus Christ. Jesus, the man, humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation, that while “being” God the Son, did not rely on his divine nature, but rather, as fully man, humbled himself and learned obedience just like you and me. It is entirely absurd to suggest that the Logos, the Son of God ceased being divine when he was a man. Rather, because he the Person of God, the Son, “took” to himself human nature in every way, that man humbled himself. Two Natures, Divine and Human, One Son, One Logos, One Person.
Further, Bondar must create this absurd notion that Jesus “destroyed” his body when he entered heaven because he is a Full Preterist, and they insist that the resurrection of the dead has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the human body being raised again. Therefore, even the raised body of Jesus only serves as a temporary shirt. Yet, Bondar wants to still insist that Jesus is a man in heaven. Well, a man has a soul and a body. And, since the body was destroyed, what happened to the human soul of Jesus? See, for Bondar, when we (human beings) die, we go to heaven – our souls go to heaven. And, if Jesus was a man, then he must have had a soul, too – a soul that cannot be the Person of the Son. If Jesus is both man and God the Son in heaven, then what is it that is man about him? The theologians have insisted, Jesus, the man, had a soul and a body – a human soul and a human body. Bondar ditches the body, keeps that Jesus is a “man” in heaven, empties himself of his human nature, and….what about the soul of the carpenter’s son? This is not answered.
Christians maintain that the man, Christ Jesus, a human being with a body and a soul, died, was buried, was raised and ascended as a man, body and soul, in heaven. That the Son of God (One Person) took himself human nature in all of it meaning, and that this man ascended heaven at the right hand of God, crowned in glory and honor. I finish with Psalm 8:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings(1 )and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The author of Hebrews quotes at length this psalm and concludes, “But now we see not yet all things subjected to him”, that is, to man. “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2.8-9). We see Jesus, the man, who was made man, and by his resurrection from death (his body dying) he was raised in that body and “crowned in glory and honor” AS MAN. For, the Son of God, who is God, the Logos, Eternal, never lost his glory, never ceased in his divinity, and never suffered death. The man, Christ Jesus, did. Because the man was a human being united with the Divine Nature of the Son of God, he was raised from the dead in righteousness, glorified and exalted as man in heaven. Bondar’s teaching robs us of our glory, for God made man to have glory and honor, and to have dominion over his creation in a new heavens and a new earth. Bondar’s view destroys the body, leaves creation in the mess that it is, and has man “in heaven” the rest of his life (eternity).