Digital Persecution and A Look at Early Christian Apologetics

I know  “Second Century Apologetics” seems like a pretty boring subject, but trust me, it is really just a mirror to our present day struggle with explaining and defending our faith to a society that doesn’t understand it. Give it a chance and you will see that not much has changed in 2,000 years.

Description of Christian Apologetics in the Second Century

I believe Christian Apologetics in the second century can be summed up in one word: proactive. They met the opposition head-on and without shame.[1] I fear the boldness these early pioneers displayed has been largely lost in the sea of PC-ness that saturates our modern society. Whereas in our times, it seems Christians are reactive, in the second century, they were proactive. They directly confronted detractors instead of cowering or pandering to them.

Accusations Against Christians

The accusations against Christians were somewhat of their own making. For instance, one of the charges brought against them was their aloofness.[2] They kept to themselves and were therefore seen as secretive, mysterious, and cultish. Since people fear what they do not understand, terrible misunderstandings and rumors circulated. Christians called each other, “Brothers and Sisters.” Therefore, rumors circulated that they were incestuous. The Eucharist involves “the body and blood of Christ.” Therefore, outsiders thought the Christians were literally cannibals. Another claim was that the Christians were atheists! Since the Greeks and Romans believed in many gods and Christians would not honor these gods with sacrifices or tithes, they were deemed, atheist. These all seem pretty ridiculous today, but in the second century many Christians were martyred over such trivial misunderstandings. They needed a good PR person! Or a Community Outreach Program to inform the public of their ways! Continuing to stay away from society did not help their cause.

Response of Second Century Apologists

Apologists like Justin Marty responded by trying to show how moral Christians were rather than immoral as had been suggested.[3] By lifting the veil (so to speak) of secrecy, Justin sought to inform those who were misinformed. He made the plea so often heard today, for “tolerance”[4] of Christian beliefs and values. He wrote many works defending his faith and ultimately, Justin gave his life defending it.

Apologetic Principles that Could Be Used in a Modern Context

Apologetic principles that could be used today in a modern context are ownership of our beliefs and a boldness to proclaim and defend them. As I mentioned earlier, many of the accusations brought against the early church could have been rectified through an Outreach Program of some sort. Knowledge is power and if people don’t know what you are doing and don’t understand it: they will fear it. Today, modern apologetics need to meet detractors head-on and supply information to help them understand why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe.

Digital Persecution

As I read this text, I couldn’t help but wonder what Justin would do if he were alive today. What would his Social Media look like? What would he tweet about? What Facebook posts would he make?

My guess is he would be doing about the same thing as he was in the second century. Defending his faith. Making a stand. Spreading the knowledge of the Good News.

The second century saw horrendous persecution of Christians. They gave up everything for what they believed. They were physically killed. Today, is it so different? It is such a strange time to be a Christian. We may not be physically killed (in this part of the world) for our beliefs, but we can be digitally killed. We can be digitally persecuted and bullied. We can be ostracized and labeled a hateful bigot for defending our faith.

And isn’t it ironic, how the very same people who fought for their tolerance are not very quick to dish it out to anyone else?


[1] Everett Ferguson, Church History Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 76.

[2] Ibid., 72.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 76.


Ferguson, Everett. Church History Volume 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. 2 ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course CCHI 520: History of Christianity.

The Preexistence of Jesus Christ


Was there ever a time when Jesus Christ did not exist? Did He exist in some other form before He took on bodily form and came to earth? Was He always there or was He created at some point? Throughout history we have debated the preexistence of Christ. Even today, or rather especially today, the eternal nature of the Son is a hot-button issue amongst theologians. Preexistence should not be assumed, implied, or taken for granted. Not everyone agrees that Jesus Christ has always existed. Particularly in recent decades, this ostensibly fundamental principle has been called into question. For example, following the thought of Rahner and Pannenberg, English theologian John Macquarrie’s, “Jesus Christ in Modern Thought” attempted to debunk the preexistence of Christ.[1] Why the persistent trend in theology of doubting this elemental fact? It is argued that preexistence is a late and marginal idea. Does the Bible support the preexistence of Jesus? What are the implications of Christ’s preexistence? What are the implications if Jesus were not preexistent? The thesis of this paper is to prove that there is Biblical support for the fact of Jesus Christ’s preexistence.

Preexistence is simply defined as “existence in a former state or previous to something else.”[2] That definition is simple until it is applied to Jesus Christ. What does preexistence mean theologically speaking? R. E. O. White calls the pre-incarnate existence of Christ “rudimentary messianic, even adoptionist, assessment of Christ in the primitive Christian community (Acts 2:22-23; 10:38).”[3] It was a basic fundamental understanding as far as the early church fathers were concerned. White further says the concept of Christ’s preexistence was, in fact, “central to Christian faith.”[4] With a hint of sarcasm, White concludes that “the fact of preexistence is not questioned, except where Christ’s deity and divine mission are wholly denied.”[5] Jesus Christ existed in a former state previous to His earthly incarnation. Why, then, are there still theological debates on this very (as White suggests) rudimentary subject? The fact that there are lingering arguments on the preexistent Christ, demonstrates its powerful implications. The treatment of preexistence is still a concern, even to the modern theologian. To know where one is, one must know where one came from. In order to ascertain how modern theologians have reached their respective opinions on preexistence, this paper will look to the first theologians and their Christologies.

John’s Understanding of the Preexistent Christ

The most relevant Biblical passage declaring the preexistence of Christ is arguably John 1:1-18. Mark L. Strauss, professor of the New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, explains, “The dominant Christology of John is expressed in terms that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31). This is clear even in the prologue: (1) Preexistence is not a uniquely Christian idea with reference to the Messiah. The rabbis debated whether the Messiah would be preexistent.”[6]As he whisks us back to the very beginning of everything, John refers to Jesus as “the Word” (Logos). John says before the first tick of the cosmic clock the Word was with God. W. E. Vine points out the Greek for “with” denotes, “not mere company, but the most intimate communion.”[7] Not only was the Word with God, John further explains that the Word was God. The ESV describes these simple details as the “building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed.”[8] D. A. Carson writes in his Pillar New Testament Commentary The Gospel According to John, “Stretch our imagination backward as we will, we can find no point in time where we may agree with Arius, who, speaking of the Word, said, ‘There was once when he was not.’”[9] Therefore, Jesus was with God at the Creation. The next section will look at the unique relationship of the Father to the Son. John emphatically promoted the preexistence of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Understanding of the Preexistent Christ

Paul’s understanding of the preexistent Christ can be seen in what is commonly called, the “Philippian Hymn.” In Philippians 2:6-8, Paul states:

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV).

Paul explains there is a definite transition from Christ being in a prior form (of God), to taking a different form (of a servant). Therefore, if taking the form of a servant shows Jesus’s earthly ministry, there seems to have been a state from which he exited, prior to that in the form of God (one could say: His heavenly ministry perhaps). Before He was, and after, He was. Brendan Byrne, a professor of New Testament at Jesuit Theological College reflects on Paul’s soteriology, “Paul’s writings do not support playing down Christ’s pre-existence in the interests of a Christology supposedly more firmly anchored in his historical human life. On the contrary, the rhetorical effect of central Pauline texts is seriously eroded if Christ is not affirmed as the Fathers pre-existent Son. At stake here is Paul’s acute sense of God’s love for humanity made vulnerable to the world in the costly gift of the Son.”[10]

How did this transformation come into being? It is important to make the distinction that it was Christ’s own action. Coming from the initiative of the Father, the incarnation was obediently carried out by the Son. Paul’s phrase, “He emptied Himself,” hints at a conscious action. He was not specifically created to perform a task. He was there and made a choice. He was a person with a will who deliberately decided to act. This demonstrates pre-existence. If Jesus did not previously exist, there would be no ability to consciously decide anything. The very way in which Jesus purposely emptied Himself promotes His pre-existence.

Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Christ became poor. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV). If you become something, that indicates there was a prior state of the Son before the incarnation. If one were to say that they became famous, it would be assumed that previously they were not famous. Jesus did likewise. Taking the form of God and turning it into the form of a servant promotes a previous state. Simply, Jesus was in a state of riches before and poverty after.

Both of the above mentioned Scriptures (Phil. 2:6-8 and 2 Cor. 8:9), point to the gracious nature of the Son. The fact He was willing to give up riches and a divine status to become an impoverished mortal, indicates a supreme graciousness. Take, in contrast, Adam and his decision. Adam’s account is almost an exact opposite scenario. He tried to trade up to divinity as opposed to humbling down to servant hood. Whereas Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, Adam, in fact, did. This also further exposes Adam’s feeble humanness and amplifies Jesus’s benevolent deity.

Paul, when he referred to the Shema of Deut 6, insinuated the pre-existence of Jesus. He remarked, “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) Through whom all things came. This is a staggeringly universal account from the Father through Christ. Similarly, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16 (ESV) All things refer to spiritual things as well as physical things.

Paul also hints at the involvement of Jesus with the production of Israel as the nation representing God:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV).

Paul is clearly proclaiming that Jesus was present with the Israelites in the wilderness experience. The water-producing rock with Moses was in fact, Christ; the source. Philo said the rock equals “wisdom.” Wisdom (Logos again) personified is another identity of Jesus Christ. Paul also emphatically promoted the preexistence of Jesus Christ.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Understanding of the Preexistent Christ

Throughout the Synoptics, we are given countless indicators of the preexistence of Christ. For one, Jesus transcends the human and heaven divide. He has a heavenly identification as well as an earthly one. During the Transfiguration in Matthew 17, Jesus’s true identity was revealed. Both his identifications were visible at the same time. Also, Jesus is constantly privy to heavenly information. In one instance, Jesus knew that satan[11] desired to sift Peter like wheat. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” Luke 22:31 (ESV). This is reminiscent of the account of Job wherein the reader is allowed to peer into heaven at a scene (Job 1:6-12). Jesus is repeatedly recognized by heavenly personnel. God recognized His Son at Jesus’s baptism:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV).

Demons also recognized Jesus all throughout His ministry, “But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’” Acts 19:15 (ESV). Also note Matt. 8:28-34. The actions of Jesus’s numerous healings and altruistic forgiving also denote His eternal nature (Mark 2:3-12). Indeed, Mark’s preexistence-heavy account reveals Jesus’ overall authority. Jesus’s preexistence revealed His authority over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), His authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:3-12), and ultimately­, His authority over death and the grave. The Resurrection itself, points to the very preexistence of Christ (John 10:17-18; Matt. 12:38-40, 16:1-4; Luke 24:36-43). In this manner, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also emphatically promoted the preexistence of Jesus Christ. Now that we’ve established the views of the Apostles and Paul, we will look at Jesus’s personal identification as being preexistent.

Jesus’s Understanding of His Own Preexistence

Present with the Father

It is clear that Jesus fully understood His own eternal nature. Throughout His short time on earth He made many incredible claims. For instance, He claimed to be one with the Father in John 10:30. He also said that to see Him (Jesus) was to see the Father in John 14:7-9. Then in John 8:58, Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!” It is interesting that Jesus didn’t say, “I was” as would be expected. Instead, He says, “I am!” Either Jesus had horrendous grammar (which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous!) or Jesus was alluding to knowledge of His eternal nature. Erickson mentions a quote from Leon Morris from his book, The Gospel according to John, which implies a contrast here between, “a mode of being which has a definite beginning and one which is eternal.”[12] Jesus is very simply stating that He existed before Abraham hundreds of years prior. The Jews understood this statement perfectly as they attempted to stone Him for such a blasphemous claim.

In 1 John 1:2, John states, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—” (NASB). World renowned authority on the Greek New Testament, A. T. Robertson teaches “with the clause [“was manifested”] as a parenthesis, the Greek means to make known what already exists, whether invisible (B. Weiss) or visible, ‘intellectual or sensible’ (Brooke).”[13] Jesus Christ existed in a state elsewhere before he was manifested and therefore able to be known to us. Had Jesus not already existed, the Holy Spirit would have chosen a different word, such as “created” or “made.” Instead, Scripture says he was manifested which implies from one place to another. Similarly in Romans 8:3 and Galatians 4:4, we see God sends His Son to resolve the law. God sends Jesus. This insinuates Jesus was already present.. He was not created for that purpose and then sent. The following sections will look at how Jesus was present at the Creation and statements He made which are known as the “I have come,” statements.

Present at Creation

Jesus was an active partner in the act of creation. He is not solely a coming future (eschatological) figure. In addition, Jesus is an ever-present (proto-logical) figure. He will be a key figure for the end times and He was a key figure at the beginning. As this paper mentioned previously, John poetically informs us that Christ was not only present at creation, but was an acting agent in its production. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made,” John 1:1-3 (ESV). He was present when it started and He will be present when it culminates. Note also Col. 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:2.

The “I Have Come” Statements

Examining the “I have come,” statements scattered throughout the Synoptics are evidence of a prior state which offers the clearest indications of a preexistence Christology. These statements made by Christ immediately echo Old Testament sentiments. His I have come statements can be broken down into (A) I have come in order to do [Matt. 10:34], (B) The Son of Man has come [Matt. 20:28], and (C) the have You come, statements made by demons [Mark 1:24]. Coming with a purpose, in order to do something strongly suggests that one is coming from another place. It implies a deliberate act. A deliberate act implies pre-existence. It suggests a before and after. It is logical to assume that to come is to come from another place. Literally, one cannot come to or from nothing. Jason A. Fout, a professor at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge commented, “It has long been the received wisdom among New Testament scholars that the Gospel of John represents a portrait of Jesus as divine, coming down from heaven, whereas the Synoptic Gospels do not consider him in such exalted terms, and specifically contain no hints of Jesus being preexistent.”[14] Conversely, Dr. James P. Sweeney, a Pastor at Immanuel Church in Chelmsford, Massachusetts parlays “for the prima facie plausibility of the preexistence interpretation of the ‘I have come’ sayings on logical grounds and the implausibility of the other scholarly options.”[15] Jesus embraced, taught, and promoted the preexistence of Himself as Christ. In the next section we will look at what it would mean if Jesus were not preexistent.

Implications if Jesus was Not Preexistent

            The implications of Jesus not being preexistent are staggering. William Myatt, a professor at Creighton University at Omaha, Nebraska stated, “Removing the doctrine of Christ’s preexistence would leave us with different concepts of God, Christ, humanity, salvation, and creation.”[16] It would change absolutely everything. In essence, for one to imagine that disastrous scenario, one could take this paper and read into it, the exact opposite or negative. First of all, suggesting that Jesus was a created being who did not exist in a prior state before His incarnation would result in the Biblical having mistakes or errancy. If the Bible were wrong about this fact, then it goes to reason that it is wrong about everything else within its pages. If one follows the outline of this paper under the new assumption that Jesus is not preexistent, it would also mean that He was not involved in any shape or form in the act of Creation. It would also mean that Jesus lied about Himself. As Carson noted, denying Christ’s preexistence is paramount to denying His divinity. Not to get too dramatic, but if the Bible were, in fact, full of lies and mistakes, then the entire universe would implode.

Areas of Further Research

The Virgin Birth

            There are many avenues one could go down for further research. For example, Erickson suggests an incompatibility with preexistence and the virgin birth. He purports that if one subscribes to the preexistence of Christ then one cannot logically accept the virgin birth. Erickson asserts, “If we hold the one, it is claimed, we cannot hold the other. They are mutually exclusive, not complementary.”[17] Citing Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Jesus—God and Man[18] as the most recent statement arguing this objection. Logically, this would lead the researcher through the heresies of the Ebionites and later, Unitarians. This is an area that could benefit from further research. However, Erickson refutes this claim of incompatibility and states, “In the orthodox Christian understanding, Jesus is fully divine and fully human. His preexistence relates to His divinity and the virgin birth to His humanity.”[19] If these two concepts are kept separate then the issue seems to resolve itself.


Another area worth further research is an examination of how preexistence reveals Jesus as the only object to worship. Looking at such Scriptures as Matt. 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38, 20:28, we can conclude that because of His eternal nature it is revealed that the Jesus, and only Jesus, is worthy of our praise and adoration. Why is it that so many (far too common things and people) garner our attention and worship? Why not the One who has always existed? Why not the One who is so gracious? Why not the One who humbled Himself for us? When one meditates on the many gracious wonders of Jesus and His preexistence, all the things of this world fade away.

Preeminence vs. Preexistence

When Paul said Jesus is before all things, could He possibly meant first as in, prior to (time), or rank (advantage)? If we compare the account of Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 41). The Pharaoh said that Joseph was first over his house, second only to him. Here he obviously meant first as in place or rank. Could it be that the confusion over preexistence is actually wrapped up in His preeminence? The scope of that answer is outside of this paper.


            Theologian and author G. C. Berkouwer says, “But any number of any other texts points to the same direction. Repeatedly Christ asserted that His existence was not exhausted by His being a man on earth.”[20] Quoting Heering, Berkouwer also mentions, “One can hardly dismiss the difficulty by saying that Jesus says ‘little’ in this gospel about his pre-existence.”[21] Indeed, there are a myriad of Scriptures one could bring forth to prove the preexistent Jesus. Due to restrictions, this paper has shown merely a handful. If one notices, during the High Priestly Prayer in Jesus’s Farewell Discourse in John 17:5, Jesus says, “Now, Father, glorify Me to gather with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (NASB). This statement is evidence that Jesus knew who He was. Jesus was there before the world was, He was there as the world was being made, and He will be back in the future. Regardless of the contemporary debates, the sheer magnitude of entries one could draw upon demonstrate how truth of Jesus Christ’s preexistence. Paul and all the Apostles were in agreement: Jesus is preexistent. Jesus, Himself, confirms His preexistence. Jesus was there with the Father when our world began. In fact, Jesus was a Co-Agent of this process. Jesus made many claims that He was, is and always will be. If these claims were not true, then Jesus would be a liar. If these Scriptures were not valid, then the Bible would be full of lies. Jesus is who He said He was. The Bible is not full of lies, it is full of truths. One of those truths is the preexistence of Jesus Christ.

[1] John Macquarrie, Jesus Christ in Modern Thought (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1991), 1.

[2] “Preexistence.” Accessed June 1, 2015.

[3] R. E. O. White, “Preexistence of Christ,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 951.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Mark L. Strauss, “Jesus is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society57, no. 1 (03, 2014): 184-7,, 186.

[7] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 683.

[8] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2019.

[9] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), 114.

[10] Brendan Byrne, “Christ’s Pre-Existence in Pauline Soteriology.” Theological Studies 58, no. 2 (06, 1997): 308-30,, 308.

[11] This author deliberately refuses to capitalize the devil’s name or proper pronoun and wishes there was something lower than lowercase that could be used.  If it costs this paper a couple of grammatical points, so be it.

[12] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 473.

[13] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Concise ed., ed. James A. Swanson (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000), 638.

[14] Jason A. Fout, “The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Reviews in Religion and Theology, 15:1 (2008): 9-11, ProQuest Central, 9.

[15] James P. Sweeney, “The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.” Trinity Journal 29, no. 1 (Spring, 2008): 142-3,, 142.

[16] William Myatt, “He Came Down From Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and the Christian Faith.” Trinity Journal, (Fall 2006): 342-3, ProQuest Central, 342.

[17] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing 1991), 687.

[18] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus—God and Man, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), 143.

[19] Erickson, 687.

[20] G. C. Berkouwer, The Person of Christ. Studies in Dogmatics. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 164.

[21] Ibid., 163.


Bennema, Cornelis P. “Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society52, no. 3 (09, 2009): 655-61,

Berkouwer, G. C. The Person of Christ. Studies in Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954

Bibles, Crossway The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Byrne, Brendan. “Christ’s Pre-Existence in Pauline Soteriology.” Theological Studies 58, no. 2 (06, 1997): 308-30,

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Fee, Gordon D. Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics. Peabody, MA: Baker Academic, 1991.

Fout, Jason A. “The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Reviews in Religion and Theology, 15:1 (2008): 9-11, ProQuest Central.

Lederle, Henry I. Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Pub, 1988.

Macquarrie, John Jesus Christ in Modern Thought. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1991.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971.

Myatt, William. “He Came Down From Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and the Christian Faith.” Trinity Journal, (Fall 2006): 342-3, ProQuest Central.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Jesus—God and Man. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Concise ed. Edited by James A. Swanson. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000.

Schreiner, Thomas R., and Shawn Wright, eds. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007.

Strauss, Mark L. “Jesus is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society57, no. 1 (03, 2014): 184-7,

Sweeney, James P. “The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.” Trinity Journal 29, no. 1 (Spring, 2008): 142-3,

Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

White, R. E. O. “Preexistence of Christ,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course THEO 530: Systematic Theology II.

Muslims in Churches


The Central Issue

The central issue in the article “Muslims in Evangelical Churches” by Jason B. Hood is whether or not we should allow Muslims the opportunity to worship in churches if they need to. It’s like offering an olive branch of peace that says, “You can worship here if you want. Jesus told us to love, so here we are showing you His love.” That is the immediate issue of the article however, there are underlying deeper themes.

The Peripheral Issues

The peripheral issues are of tolerance and brotherly love. Are we properly and correctly demonstrating the love of Jesus in our daily lives particularly with regards to how we interact with opposing religious ideologies? Aren’t we commanded to love everyone regardless if they persecute us? Are we bound by this commandment of love to accept any and all beliefs without voicing our concern or making a righteous stand? I’m afraid it’s a spiritual Catch-22 in a sense. The world may exploit our tolerance if we show them love and it may condemn us as bigoted if we don’t allow them to do whatever pleases them.

My Position

My position on the issue is probably not going to be a popular one considering today’s politically correct climate. Here is my question: Would we be tolerant of a Wicca ritual performed in a church? Do you think Elijah should have cozied up to the 450 priests of Baal at Mount Carmel and allowed them to worship alongside the Israelites in 1 Kings 18? One may say: “Wait, that’s not the same thing!” But, isn’t it really? Any belief that is not based on Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who was crucified and raised from the dead is false: that goes for Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Ideas From My Investigation

Some ideas from my investigation include the contradiction of Jesus saying anyone “who is not for Me is against Me” (Matt. 12:30) and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). One is either for Jesus or against Him. However, we are to pray for and love those who are against Him. Is this love demonstrated in allowing said people to worship false gods in our church? Absolutely not.

How can we demonstrate the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40) to those who do not know Jesus if we are never around them? Is allowing them access to our church “a way in” to start a conversation? Or is more likely: won’t Muslims just worship and then leave without any change of heart? The answer is: We go to them, not them to us. Luring Muslims into our church so they can worship their idols with the intent of hoping to convert them is bound for failure. A more direct approach seems more appropriate.

Support For My Position

My position is supported by scripture. In John 14:6, Jesus said that He is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There are many other verses that verify and proclaim that only through Jesus can any be saved. John 10:9, Romans 5:2, Eph. 2:18, 1 John 5:20, and Matthew 11:27 just to name a few. I do not want to share my wife with anyone else and Jesus would not appreciate sharing His bride with Islam (Eph 5:25-27). God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14, Deut. 4:24, and Josh 24:19). He has made it abundantly clear to not have any other god before Him (Exd. 20:3). Allowing a group who so obviously disagrees with Christianity access to worship falsely in our church is dangerous territory indeed.

Postscript: This article is from Christianity Today which not a peer-reviewed journal and therefore not a scholarly resource.



Hood, Jason B. “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” Christianity Today, (January 2011). Accessed April 27, 2015.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course LEAD 635: Pastoral Ministry.

The Problem of Evil

According to Millard Erickson’s massive volume, “Christian Theology,” the problem of evil in the world with respect to God’s benevolence, can be summarized by various themes (theodicies).

A popular pulpit answer to the existence of evil in the world is the theme of “Evil in General as the Result of Sin in General.”[1] In other words, there is evil in this world because this is a fallen world. Who has not heard this answer from a Christian at some time or another? Humans are not living in the same world that God originally created. Evil entered in and subsequently, tainted every aspect of it. What was once perfect is now imperfect. Even Paul tells us that nature itself waits in eager expectation for things to be put back as God created it (Romans 8:19). Therefore, suffering, pain, and evil are all inevitable consequences of living in such a broken world.

However, the theodicy that best attempts to rectify the dilemma of “God’s power, God’s goodness, and the presence of evil in the world”[2] (particularly as it involves those who are critical of the Christian faith) is; “Evil as a Necessary Accompaniment of the Creation of Humanity.”[3] This theme supersedes the previous one. In order for the world to be fallen, man had to sin. God created the perfect environment and then man sinned. As man was made impure, so was his environment.

The logical question then is: Why did God allow man to sin in the first place?

Erickson says, “For God to prevent evil, he would have had to make humanity other than it is.”[4] Other than it is—would be humanity without free will. Free will is a critical dimension of the human makeup. If God so chose, He could have made humans without free will. Yet the fact that man does have free will, shows that the way humans were made is perfect.

If God had denied man the option of personal choice, then man would cease to be man and would be… a robot; programmed to do this activity and to avoid that activity. As Erickson puts it, “For humans to be genuinely free, there has to be an option.”[5] Of course when there is an option, there is the possibility of error. With humans the possibility of error seems exponentially high.

Ultimately, a combination of various themes would most likely be the most beneficial in answering this dilemma. Is that cheating? Well, even Erickson concedes that a solution to this problem is “beyond human ability.”[6] He remarks that smartypantses* since the beginning of time have tried to crack this theological nut to no avail. Erickson notes, “We should not set our expectations too high in endeavoring to deal with the problem of evil.”[7]

* Erickson may not have used the term, “smartypantses”** per se. What he may have said was, “scholars,” but you get my drift.

** Smartypants is usually not in the plural, so I had to improvise.

[1] Millard L. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 397.

[2] Ibid., 384.

[3] Ibid., 394.

[4] Ibid., 395.

[5] Ibid., 399.

[6] Ibid., 394.

[7] Ibid., 386.


Erickson, Millard J., Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.


Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course THEO 525: Systematic Theology.

Can’t Argue With That

Can’t Argue With That: Rules and Regulations of Logical Reasoning

(Yawn.) Wait, don’t fall asleep! This is riveting stuff, right here!

Anthony Weston’s book A Rulebook for Arguments is a concise overview to the art of making arguments and the critical aspects of logical reasoning. This succinct book is organized into forty-five specific rules with each rule illustrated and briefly explained.

Informed But Fictional

In Weston’s second chapter, he talks about generalizations. As an example, He purposes that women of earlier times were married very young.[1] He then substantiates that claim with three examples: Juliet in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Jewish women during the Middle Ages, and Roman women during the Roman Empire. I find it interesting that Weston uses a fictional character from a popular play as one of those three sources. By that standard, I could make the generalization that if the families of young couples object to their relationship, the relationship could end with poison and a dagger. Weston’s fourteenth rule is “Seek informed sources” wherein He states “Sources must be qualified to make the statements they make.”[2] Juliet is as qualified as Mickey Mouse to speak on the topic of average marital ages throughout history because both are imaginary characters and therefore have no authority.

A possible remedy to this dilemma could be to cite William Shakespeare, himself, as a source. After all, He was married at the reasonably young age of eighteen and “was under the age of consent that (therefore) his father would have had to agree to the marriage.”[3] Also, he was not fictional. Few would argue that Shakespeare is more qualified than a figment of said author’s imagination.

Poisoning My Own Well

Of course the more you delve into the art of making arguments, the stickier the terrain seems to get. For instance, by me saying that few would argue with my last point, I have violated one of the rules for a valid argument by committing a common fallacy. According to Weston, I have “poisoned the well” by using loaded language.[4] I have slyly manipulated your view of my position by playing on your need to fit in with common thinking. If you were to disagree with my statement, you would also be acknowledging that your position is now with the minority and therefore, most likely, incorrect.

Rock Stacking

The photo on the cover of Weston’s book captures the idea of arguments perfectly. It shows skillfully stacked rocks. One can only imagine the skill involved to allow those rocks to so perfectly remain balanced. If one of those rocks would be too heavy or not big enough, the whole thing would tumble. The stack would fall apart. Arguments require that kind of precision and balance or else, they too, would fall apart.

Evolutionists’ Faith

Let us apply Weston’s discipline to the theory of evolution. It seems that evolutionists make grand leaps in their faith in science yet scoff condescendingly at the faith Christians put in creation. There is a big difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is simply “a change in gene frequency within a poplulation.”[5] For example, if a pesticide is introduced to a species, the following generation could adapt to the pesticide and become immune. This is wholly within the realm of possibility. Macro-evolution refers to “evolution above the species level.”[6] For example, a chicken eventually turning into a rhino. This is, of course, wholly outside the realm of possiblity. Somehow, evolutionists get away with this fatal mistake. It seems Christians could learn a thing or too about faith from evolutionists.

Teleological Argument

The teleological argument is an argument for the existence of God based on perceived evidence of deliberate design in the natural or physical world. Weston’s rule 16 of Cross-check sources and the Teleological argument/analogy of God to a house is laughable.

A Dirty Joke

In fact, I heard a joke once where a man challenged God on the beauty of his (the man’s) garden. The man was proud at the wonderful vegetables he had grown. God reminded the man that it was actually He that allowed the man’s tomatoes to grow so plump. This angered the man for he toiled long hours in that garden. Indeed, his back was still aching from bending and pulling out all the weeds. The man argued that he was responsible for the garden’s success. He tilled the land, added water, and kept the deer away. God smiled and said, “Fine, let’s have a contest to see who can grow the best garden.” The man readily agreed and began to dig in the dirt to plant his first seed. “Ah, ah, ah!” said God. “Make your own dirt.”

 Raw Materials

God is the absolute creator. He even created the raw materials from which something could be built.” A point one should not be so hasty to forget. He is the only thing in existence that has not been created. God always was, always is, and always will be. Every single other thing in the known universe has been created… and all created by God. It all points back to a singular beautiful source! And we get the privilege to call that source Father!


[1] Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments (Hackett Student Handbooks), 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008), 10.

[2] Ibid., 24.

[3] Linda K. Alchin, “William Shakespeare info (the Complete Works online),” November 16, 2010, accessed April 01, 2015,

[4] Weston, 78.

[5] Roy Caldwell, “Understanding Evolution,” University of California Museum of Paleontology, accessed April 2, 20015,

[6] Ibid.


Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments (Hackett Student Handbooks). 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.


Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course SEMI 500.

Living and Dynamic

Living and Dynamic

Recognizing False Dichotomies in Approaches to Theology

False dichotomies abound in our churches today. Considering the endless variety of personalities sitting in the pews, it is no surprise conflicts arise. For example: Many services have a slavish devotion to rituals, which overshadow genuine appreciation of God’s grace. There are those who believe in salvation by works and those who believe in salvation by faith. There are even dichotomies between love and hell (How can an all loving and merciful God send anyone to hell?)

It is challenging to avoid such tensions.

One such false dichotomy is that of Faith versus Reason. Kapic went into great detail of how the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, “reason rightly works in the service of faith; and because of this, faithful theology does not despise rational reflection.”[1] To use a common phrase, it is a two-way street.

I have personally encountered this situation many times in my Christian walk. Faith versus Reason seems to be a common “go-to” counterargument when witnessing to non-Christians in particular. Non-believers assume that to be Christian is to abandon Reason. They also assume that by choosing Faith, we are being narrow-minded. However, according to Kapic, quite the opposite is true. “Faith expands our horizon, whereas a rejection of faith closes down inquiry and possible knowledge.”[2]

A common false dichotomy in contemporary worship is the dreaded word: change. There are members in every church who have a rigid loyalty to how the service was performed by their parents and their parents’ parents. There are also members who want to try something new even if it hasn’t been tested. On the one hand, if we stubbornly refuse to be flexible in our approach to worship then we run the risk of growing stale and stagnant. Conversely, if we defiantly forsake the “tried and true” practices of our predecessors, we run the risk of veering off course and missing the mark.

From Herman Bavink’s statement, “theological dogma is always a combination of two elements: divine authority and churchly confession,” Kapic concluded “we can value tradition without elevating it to the status of sacred writing.”[3] I believe he would advise the church to never forget it’s corporate purpose: to be a “living and dynamic response to God’s Word,” in whatever situation. It would require one to be mindful of the past and mindful of the future for one to be considered “living and dynamic.”

An obvious solution to this common dilemma is another dreaded word of our times: compromise. If both sides acknowledged the validity and importance of the other, a mutual respect could be attained. For example, if the source of tension is contemporary praise music as opposed to traditional hymns in the service, then each camp could concede in allowing both. The practical application would be for each praise song, a hymn could be sung. Meeting in the middle, so to speak, a balance is reached.

I propose that conflicts are inevitable, why not embrace them? A policy of open dialogue is far more conducive to ministry than a policy of cold shoulders. In John 13:35 Jesus revealed how Christians would be recognized. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for another (NIV).” Recognizing and resolving false dichotomies is just one of a million ways that we can demonstrate love to our fellow Christians.

[1] Kelly M. Kapic. A Little Book for New Theologians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 52.

[2] Ibid., 54.

[3] Ibid., 78.


Kapic, Kelly M. A Little Book for New Theologians. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course SEMI 500.


Tasks of a Pastor

Top 5 Tasks of a Pastor

The pastor of a congregation wears many hats. He has his finger constantly on the pulse of his church’s spiritual wellness. He is available to the Lord’s call and to the call of his flock. He is a servant to the servants. Although there are a multitude of tasks that a pastor may find himself performing, here are the top 5:

  1. Preaching
  2. Under-shepherding
  3. Praying
  4. Modeling
  5. Loving/Serving

Preaching: Not that this list is in any particular order, but preaching is given priority because when one thinks of a pastor or preacher, one automatically thinks of a person in a pulpit giving a Biblical message. After all, preachers preach. Teaching his flock the Word of God is of utmost importance to one called to the office of pastor (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9).

Under-shepherding: The word “pastor” comes from a Latin word, which means, “shepherd.” Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) and pastors are His under-shepherds. In His absence, Jesus instructed Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). As a literal shepherd guards, protects, and tends to his flock, a pastor guards, protects, and tends to the needs of the congregation (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28). There is no more tender and powerful metaphor than this.

Praying: A pastor’s first responsibility is to God, the Father. An open dialogue and intimate relationship is absolutely vital to successful ministry (Eph. 6:18). The early church fathers practiced “night and day praying exceedingly” (1 Thes. 3:10). How much more should contemporary pastors?

Modeling: Pastors are to live a life worth imitating (1 Pet. 5:3). Paul was able to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). How many Christians could say that? This doesn’t mean that pastors are supposed to act like they “have it all together” all the time. It means being honest about successes and shortcomings. Pastors represent Christianity to the world and therefore ought to do their best to do so “justly and blamelessly” (1 Thes. 2:10).

Loving/Serving: These two tasks are co-joined because, could they ever be separated? Just as Christ came to serve (Matt. 20:28), likewise, a pastor is to lovingly serve his fellow man. A local pastor once said that becoming a pastor is not a step up, but a step down into servitude. Christians in general, but pastors in particular, are called to a life of serving “one another in love” (Gal. 5:13). A pastor who loves, serves and a pastor who serves, loves. It is a win-win.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course LEAD 635 Theology of Pastoral Ministry

Systematic Theology

Doesn’t all this talk of theology just complicate matters that are already confusing enough? What is systematic theology? What is theology for that matter? In order for two people to have any kind of dialogue, they need a common vernacular and common ways to relate beliefs, thoughts, and concerns. That is where systematic theology proves its worth.

In Elwell’s “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,” B.A. Demarest defines systematic theology in an abbreviated fashion as, “The attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church.”[1] Later in his article, He expands the definition of theology:

“Theology might be more fully defined as the discipline that (1) presents a unified formulation of truth concerning God and his relationship to humanity as set forth primarily in divine revelation and secondarily in classical church teaching and the field of human knowledge and that (2) applies such truths to the entire range of human life and thought.”[2]

This definition of systematic theology relates to other disciplines of theology such as biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophical theology by—as Demarest concludes—“incorporating”[3] them all. However, before exploring these relations, it may be prudent to define biblical, historical, and philosophical theology.

Biblical Theology

Millard J. Erickson in “Christian Theology,” states that one can think of biblical theology as “the theological content of the Old and New Testaments, or the theology found within individual biblical books.”[4] For example, one can look at the teachings of Paul across multiple epistles or isolate Paul’s specific message to an individual church. Either way, this is an example of constructing a biblical theology. Simply put, Erickson says biblical theology is a “theology that is biblical, that is, based on and faithful to the teachings of the Bible.”[5]

Historical Theology

Historical theology is the study of “how others have done it before us.”[6] It looks at systematic theology through the lens of time. If biblical theology is the “raw material”[7] from which systematic theology works, then “history is theology’s laboratory”[8] where those materials can be observed. Historical theology offers the invaluable attribute of hindsight.

Philosophical Theology

Erickson expounds that philosophical theology may “(1) supply content for theology, (2) defend theology or establish its truth, and (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments.”[9] If we envision systematic theology as a product, philosophical theology would be the research and development step in the process of producing said product. It is the step that tests, weighs, and hones the prototype. Ultimately, this step improves the product and readies it for release.

Systematic Theology in Relation to Biblical Theology

Systematic theology relates to biblical theology by being “dependent on the work and insights of the laborers in the exegetical vineyard.”[10] As Erickson puts it, “biblical theology is the raw material”[11] from which systematic theology draws its conclusions. To remove, alter, or nullify the source, would be absolutely detrimental to systematic theology. Systematic theology really starts from biblical theology. It grows from its rich soils.

Systematic Theology in Relation to Historical Theology

Systematic theology relates to historical theology by allowing its practitioners to delve into the annals of time and glean important insights, learn from past mistakes, and study pathways blazed by previous generations. By employing historical theology, modern readers can draw upon Christianity’s rich heritage. As Erickson remarked, “The study of the theologizing work of a John Calvin, a Karl Barth, or an Augustine will give us a good model and should inspire us in our own activity.”[12] Historical theology also allows contemporary theologians the luxury of crosschecking to distinguish if cutting-edge ideas are really just “new forms of old conceptions.”[13]

Systematic Theology in Relation to Philosophical Theology

Erickson explains that systematic theology relates to philosophical theology in the sense that it “may serve to justify in part the endeavor in which theology is engaged.”[14] That is to say, it appraises any claims, terms, or ideas and attempts to “sharpen the message for clarity.”[15] Philosophical theology is a bit of an “odd man out” with this group so to speak. As Erickson remarks in his footnote of this section, “Although philosophy cannot prove the truth of Christian theology, it can evaluate the cogency of the evidence advanced, the logical validity of theology’s arguments, and the meaningfulness or ambiguity of the concepts.” Therefore, it can measure the evidence but not prove it either way.

The Most Important Theology-type in My Current Ministry

Any proper ministry will be well rounded by borrowing from and partnering with each of these schools. As Demarest says, “they are overlapping disciplines.”[16] However, systematic theology as it relates to biblical theology is the most important in context to my own personal ministry. It may seem redundant to state that I desire for my theology to be biblical, but (strangely and sadly enough) this is not the case with every ministry one may encounter. The gospel of Christ is the power of God (Rom. 1:16) and I can think of no higher source from which to draw.


[1] Bruce Demarest, “Systematic Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 1,162.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid., 1,164.

[4] Millard L. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 11.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid., 12.

[8] Ibid., 13.

[9] Ibid., 14.

[10] Ibid., 10.

[11] Ibid., 12.

[12] Ibid., 13.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 14.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Bruce Demarest, 1,163.


Demarest, Bruce “Systematic Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course THEO 525 Systematic Theology I

Was Paul a Mystic?

Was Paul a Mystic?

Paul’s Mysticism

I would say Paul’s theology was based on mystical experiences. Without the Damascus Road experience, Paul would have most likely continued on his destructive path of persecuting the church and consequently, Jesus. Also, let’s not forget that Paul said that he was taken up to Heaven and looked around (2 Cor. 12). So, yes, what we would consider “mystical” seems to certainly be the base. However, one must factor in Paul’s Jewish upbringing and Rabbinic education as well as the supplemental education Paul received from Peter and the disciples after his conversion. Therefore, it started with a mystical experience and then was aided and strengthened by more traditional external factors.

Well, what is a mystic—or mysticism for that matter?

F.F. Bruce defines the term “mysticism” in regards to Paul and his visions by quoting scholars Albert Schweitzer and Evelyn Underhill. Schweitzer defined mysticism as a term applicable “to every religious tendency that discovers the way to God through inner experience without the mediation of reasoning” and Underhill stated mysticism in a more positive fashion as, “the name of that organic process which involves the perfect consummation of the Love of God: the achievement here and now of the immortal heritage of men.”[1]

The “mysteries” that Paul received related to his ministry and the church by taking on the form of direct union with Christ (rather than direct union with God).[2] This was unique to Paul and is most easily displayed with his central teaching of being in Christ, or “Christocentric.”[3] Bruce calls it, “Pauline mysticism.”[4] Paul’s experience is also unique—especially to the Apostles—in the sense that Paul met the Risen Christ, not Jesus.[5]

Think about it this way: how would you respond to someone who said they just spoke with the Lord in person and then was taken on a little trip to Heaven? I would respond to a person today who claimed to have mystical revelations from God just like anyone else in today’s cynical society: with extreme skepticism. I suppose (just like everyone else) I would need proof. It would be hard to imagine anyone accepting something so controversial as this without hard proof. In our technological society, proof would mean photographs, video, or at least eyewitnesses. Even then, it would be hard to really accept because everyone has a computer and the majority of people know how to use Photoshop or AfterEffects to manipulate images digitally.

[1] F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 136.

[2] Ibid., 137.

[3] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003), 354.

[4] Bruce, 137.

[5] Robert Wayne Stacy, TheDocinabox, “Paul and the Jesus Tradition,” accessed January 28, 2015,


Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament, Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003.

Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “Paul and the Jesus Tradition,” TheDocinabox, January 10, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2015,

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NBST 520 New Testament Orientation II

A Closer Look at Phil. 2:1-11

A Closer Look at Phil. 2:1-11

We will be looking at Philippians 2:1-11. First, we’ll view the passage in its entirety through various translation comparisons:

6. Phil 2 1-11

The above screenshot from represents Philippians 2:1-11 from a formal equivalent translation (the New American Standard Bible [NASB]), a functional equivalent translation (the New Living Translation [NLT]), and “the best known example today”[1] of a paraphrase translation (Eugene Peterson’s The Message [MSG]).

Differences Between Translations

At first glance, the most obvious difference is the length of each translation. The formal equivalent NASB is by far the shortest. Surprisingly, the longest translation isn’t the Message’s paraphrase; it is the functional equivalent NLT. I say this is a surprise considering how the Message’s paraphrase version —with its loose stream-of-consciousness style—typically seems to be longer than most versions.

Another obvious difference is the chapter titles. Even though they cover the same exact text, each translation has a different chapter title: “Be Like Christ” (NASB), “Have the Attitude of Christ” (NLT), and “He Took on the Status of a Slave” (MSG). Although the headings are different, the same basic idea still stands. The subtle discrepancies in the chapter titles perfectly sums up how each translation has its own specific nuance, which I will elaborate on later.

Lastly, the NLT translation indents verses 6-11 whereas the others do not. We will be diving into this section in greater detail later on (a little preview to wet your whistle: verses 6-11 are what most scholars consider to be an early Christian hymn—hence its indention). The NASB is the only translation of the three to have its reference to Isaiah 45:23[2] —“EVERY KNEE WILL BOW”—in all caps. The other two translations keep the reference in lower caps.

Although the same “gist” is detectable across the three translations, there are subtle differences that could potentially create significant problems. Take verse 5 for example. The NASB says to “Have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus,” but the NLT makes the same words seem more like an order, “You must have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had.” The MSG defuses the sternness of the NLT by going to the opposite extreme and making it seem more like a suggestion than a flat-out command. It says, “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself,” and then goes on to expound on that thought. So, how should one interpret verse 5? Is it a command, like the NLT declares? Is it a state-of-mind as the MSG insinuates, or is it a suggestion as the NASB hints? I suppose the answer could be a combination of all three: a suggested command of state-of-mindedness.

An advantage of the NASB for this portion is that it is the most succinct. It does not meander along, as the MSG is prone to do. Consequently, a disadvantage to the NASB—in this same manner—is that it doesn’t flow as naturally as the NLT or the MSG.

Naturally, an advantage to the MSG is that it reads extremely smoothly. It is like reading a normal conversation. It seems more relaxed and personal. However, this very attribute could be deemed a disadvantage seeing as it adds—what some may consider unnecessary—length and is, quite frankly, overly wordy.

An advantage to the NLT is that it is an excellent middle ground between the NASB and the MSG. It is neither long-winded nor rigidly brief. The MSG may appear a little too informal at times and the NASB may seem a little too stuffy at times. However, the NLT comes across as both respectable and modern. However, one disadvantage to the NLT is as Mounce says, it can “take greater liberties with grammatical structure”[3] and shouldn’t be recommended for serious studies. Another personal disadvantage to the NLT (and the MSG for that matter) is that it does not capitalize the pronoun, “He” when referring to Jesus as the NASB does. I cringe every time I come across this occurrence.

Lexical Analysis

Mounce says to look for a verse that “hangs” on a word.[4] Similarly, this whole section hangs on a verse (the sixth one). We can break the passage into the following sections: Section I is comprised of verses 1-4 and Section II is comprised of verses 5-11. Sandwiched almost perfectly in the middle, verse 6 is the hinge on which the entire passage swings. Also, I found verse 6 to be the most perplexing and thought provoking verse of the passage. As Blomberg states, “As a general rule of thumb, any word that seems somewhat confusing to the contemporary reader of Scripture is good fodder for a word study.”[5] My instincts were confirmed when I checked the other translations and noticed that the sixth verse had the most discrepancies.

  • KJV: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
  • NIV: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
  • NASB: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
  • NLT: Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
  • YLT: who, being in the form of God, thought [it] not robbery to be equal to God,

It is the word “robbery” that I find interesting. The same concept is translated as robbery, something to be used to his own advantage, and a thing to be grasped. Which is most accurate to Paul’s intended meaning? According to Strong’s Concordance, robbery is from the Greek word, ἁρπαγμὸν [Strong’s #725] translated “something to be grasped.” It is the transliteration of “harpagmon.” The cognate is harpagmos, “the act of seizing or the thing seized.” Harpagmos is a masculine noun. Its semantic range is extraordinarily limited: This is its only occurrence in the whole Bible.[6] (BDAG and Kittel, Vol. I, 473). Interestingly, the most closely related word to harpagmos is harpazo; plunder. Given this evidence, the translation of harpagmos as robbery seems correct.

The context of this passage is unity and being like Christ. Paul says we do this by having the same mind as Christ. The concept Paul is trying to convey is that Christ is our supreme example. Paul instructs his readers to have the attitude of Christ. In verses 1-4, Paul preaches about unity and humility with others. In verse 6, Paul switches the focus to Christ. Jesus showed ultimate humility by taking on the form of man. Yet, He did not regard His equality with God to be “robbery.” This shows how much He loves us. He did not consider Himself robbed of His equality with God. He did not consider His coming down from Heaven as an act of seizing something away. He gave up His Heavenly home willingly. Although He is completely equal with God, He did not consider Himself a victim of robbery by humiliating Himself by putting on flesh and coming to earth. If Christ is our supreme example, then we should show the same kind of humility that Jesus demonstrated when he lowered Himself to man’s level. We should show the same kind of love for our fellow man that Jesus demonstrated by His actions. You cannot steal something that has been freely given away.

Exegetical Outline

Continuing with the framework roughly started in the above section, we get a sense of the flow of the text. As mentioned, our passage is easily divided into two parts: Section I (verses 1-4) and Section II (verses 5-11). Section I points the Philippians to “unity of minds and hearts”[7] through a series of ‘if’ clauses (‘if x means anything to you, then prove it now’[8]). Then it shifts gears to Section II, which points the Philippians to “Christ, the Focus and Model for Discipleship.”[9] Of special note on Section I, Craddock rightly suggests “2:1-11 is tied inseparably to [Philippians] 1:27-30. The conjunction ‘then’ or ‘so’ (2:1) looks back to what has been said and builds upon it.”[10] Let’s look at that quickly:

  • 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. [NKJV]

Therefore, Paul is discussing Christian “experiences they have all shared”[11] Paul is also reminding his flock that they should act in a manner consistent with a Christian whether he is there or not. Therefore, the “entire passage before us is rich with images of the Christian life; soldiers, citizens, athletes, gladiators, and others, but as we shall see, it is the image of servant, of which Christ is the supreme model, which effectively focuses Paul’s discussion of living the gospel.”[12]

The “If” Statements


When we use “if” today, we are saying it “to express uncertainty or a condition contrary to the fact.”[13] As in, “I will need an umbrella if it rains.” Surprisingly however, the Greek usage here is with a sense of certainty: “‘If I were the king (but I am not)’ or ‘If I am your friend (and I am)’”[14] It changes the circumstance from something unsure to something implied or assumed. In this regard, we can almost replace the ‘if’ with a contemporary ‘since.’[15] [‘If I am your friend’ becomes, ‘Since I am your friend.’] Therefore, instead of reading unpredictability into the opening ‘if” statements, we can imagine Paul expressing affirmations! The point is: Paul is not calling attention to their past mistakes, in fact, he is doing the opposite.


According to theologian Ronald J. Allen, the conclusion of Paul’s conditional statement (the “then” part), is “the language of koinonia[16] (which) is the background of Philippians.”[17] The term is translated as “sharing” or “fellowship,” but it “often implies something relationally stronger, as ‘partnership.’”[18] With partnership in mind, there is an overtone of commitment (as in, “to carry out a mission”[19]). When “fellowship” is used in 2:1, the word is loaded with the meaning of “community, joint application, and communication.”[20] That is what and how a Christian community should operate, in harmonious and united koinonia. Paul indicates that these things listed in Section I, “must be demonstrated in practice.”[21] That is, we are to walk the talk we talk. But how do you practice congenial koinonia when the situation is far from congenial?

Tough Love

Taking Section II with its emphasis on the servant heart of Christ to heart, one is encouraged to take stock of his or her attitudes with fellow sojourners (believers) and fellow humans (unbelievers). Renowned Jesuit Priest and professor at St. Louis University John F. Kavanaugh, had an interesting take on the practical application of Phil. 2:1-11. He called it “Love’s Labor.”[22] Kavanaugh in his refreshingly honest paper, states that sometimes “in 24 hours I begin to hate the best of men… I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me.”[23] He quotes Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov wherein a character mentions, “’I love humanity, but the more I love humanity in general, the less I love people in particular.’”[24]

We all have people in our lives that are tough to love. It may be a negative employee or a nagging in-law. It’s always easy to love those who are easy to love, but Paul tells us that Christ loved everyone, even those who plotted against Him. He even loved those who actually murdered Him! Therefore, loving God and loving our neighbors are intrinsically tied together (Mark 12:31). In other words, you cannot have one without the other; to love the Creator is to love His creations! To go around professing devotion to Yahweh and then criticizing, bickering, and insulting people is to be false.

How does one enter that kind of a life? The door to that attitude is “an emptying of the self, a desire to serve rather than to be served.”[25] Jesus loved us in a way to be the example of how we are to love each other: As verse 7 tells us, He emptied Himself of His majesty in order to walk this earth with us and show us true love.

The Hymn

Lyrics and Music by…

Verses 5-11 of Section II are often referred to as the “hymn of Christ.”[26] It is quite the infamous portion. Scholars call it the “carmen Christi.”[27] I say, infamous, because its origin is still regularly debated. As D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo tell us, some scholars view the hymn section as a “pre-Pauline composition, perhaps coming from the early Palestinian church.”[28] F.F. Bruce says the hymn “was current as early as the Hellenistic mission in Syrian Antioch.”[29] If this is a hymn in the traditional sense, then the structure 2:6-11 has also sparked debate. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black explain “though most agree that Paul used the hymn to urge humility upon his readers, interpreters disagree over the number of verses in the hymn, the original source of the words, and the theological meaning of its content.”[30]

Some of the vocabulary is different than typical Pauline writing. Also atypical to Pauline writing is the focus on Christ as servant. Carson believes if the poetry was Hebrew or Aramaic in origin and then translated into New Testament Greek, then “the language and the rhythm would perhaps fit.”[31] Considering that Paul’s first language was Aramaic, (Acts 22:2; 2 Cor. 11:22) it also fits that he could have composed the lines himself. Still yet, “the most common opinion is that Paul has taken someone else’s composition and adapted it to his purpose.”[32]

As you can see, there are numerous ways to look at the origin of this text and therefore, coming to a conclusion about it could only ever be speculation. More important than answering the question of origin, is understanding the purpose of this section.

The Name


Using concise phrases, the hymn section basically sketches “the entire mission of Jesus Christ.”[33] Paul tells us that Christ left His home in Heaven, humbled Himself to the form of a man and ultimately, gave His life on the cross and therefore—God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above all names. That name is “’Lord’ (kyrios).”[34] ” He goes on to say that at that name, all shall bow and all shall recognize the great work of Jesus (a reference to Psa. 110:1). This will result in every person confessing that Jesus is Lord. All of this is to the glory of the Father. Now we have the end-result of all that has transpired. Jesus has gone from the very bottom and ended up on the very top. Jesus is exalted by the Father and the Father is glorified. Just as Jesus finished His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), His Father rewarded Him. Likewise, we can expect to be rewarded for also being about our Heavenly Father’s business.

In Matthew 10:32, Jesus says that whoever confesses His name before men, He will confess to His Father. It all starts, ends and is through Jesus (John 1:3, 3:35). Frederick G. McLeod in his commentary on Philippians says, “This was his [Paul’s] intent; to teach the Philippians that humility is good, with the potential to reward one who so acts.”[35]

Whatever—specifically—was happening at the church in Philippi we do not know, but we know that it was serious. Serious enough that Paul invokes Jesus as the cosmic Christ. Paul reminds them that Jesus currently is reigning over the entire universe. Therefore, as Craddock puts it, “in Paul’s judgment what the church needs is not a scolding but a reminder of the event that created and defined their life together.”[36] And further, “that which makes the church the church is the ‘in Christ Jesus’ mind.”[37] This whole section is a call to servitude and obedience. It all starts with Jesus.


Regardless of which translation of the Bible you personally study and disregarding which school of thought you privately subscribe to with respect to how the hymn section of Philippians 2 came about, one cannot deny the timeless and incredibly important message Paul is making in this precious portion of Scripture. As our society silently assimilates into an increasingly anti-social world (even though we call it “Social Media,” it is, in fact, quite the opposite), Paul’s words ring all the louder: Cultivate a spirit of koinonia. Plant fellowship, till community, and we will harvest unity! Sure, it is a laborious task, this harmony. But the benefits far outweigh the struggle.

Paul urgently reminds us to look to Jesus Christ as the supreme example in all our endeavors. The fruit of our hard work will be a life that reflects His. As Paul noted, Christ emptied himself and became a servant. We too, should empty ourselves and become servants. Just as Christ received His reward for His toil, so shall we for ours.

Raymond Pelly, in his article “From Below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim” states, “Paul’s answer is that Jesus’ actions were through and through motivated by love of others.”[38] How much more so should ours? Dr. R. Wayne Stacy refers to Philippians as “a ‘love fest’ between a church and missionary.”[39] Ultimately, our life should be described as a “love fest.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

[1] Craig Blomberg and Jennifer Foutz Markley, A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010), 42.

[2] “Philippians 2,” Bible Study Tools, accessed on January 14, 2015,

[3] William Mounce, Greek for the Rest of UsUsing Greek Tools without Mastering Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 27.

[4] William Mounce, 201.

[5] Craig Blomberg and Jennifer Foutz Markley, 124.

[6] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 133.

[7] John Muddiman and John Barton. “Pauline Epistles.” Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press, 2010. Accessed March 3, 2015. ProQuest ebrary, 194

[8] Ibid., 195

[9] Ibid.

[10] Craddock, Fred B. 1985. Philippians. Atlanta, Ga: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015), 35.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 31.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 35.

[16] James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 21st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 1.

[17] Ronald J. Allen, 2007. “Philippians 2:1-11. (Between text & sermon).” Interpretation Jan 2007Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 72.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 1.

[21] “Ambrosiaster Commentary on Philippians”. 2009. In Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians–Philemon. Westmont: IVP Academic.

[22] Kavanaugh, John F. 1996. “Love’s labor.” America 175, no. 7: 39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 39.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2,282.

[27] David Alan Black, “Paul and Christian unity : a formal analysis of Philippians 2:1-4.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 28, no. 3: 299-308. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 299.

[28] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 500.

[29] F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 131.

[30] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003), 444.

[31] D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, 499.

[32] Ibid., 501.

[33] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2,283.

[34] F. F. Bruce, 131.

[35] McLeod, Frederick G. 2009. Theodore of Mopsuestia. London: Routledge, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015), 111.

[36] Craddock, 42-43.

[37] Ibid., 43.

[38] Pelly, Raymond B. 2009. “From below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim.” Stimulus 17, no. 1: 9-16. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 10.

[39] Robert Wayne Stacy, TheDocinabox, “Lukan Authorship of Acts,” accessed January 14, 2015,


Allen, Ronald J. (Ronald James). 2007. “Philippians 2:1-11. (Between text & sermon).” Interpretation Jan 2007Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

“Ambrosiaster Commentary on Philippians”. 2009. In Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians–Philemon. Westmont: IVP Academic.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Edited by Frederick William Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Bibles, Crossway The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Bible Study Tools. “Philippians 2.” Accessed January 14, 2015.

BibleGateway. “Philippians 2.” Accessed February 9, 2015.;NLT;MSG.

Black, David Alan. “Paul and Christian unity : a formal analysis of Philippians 2:1-4.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 28, no. 3 (September 1, 1985): 299-308. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Blomberg, Craig, and Jennifer Foutz Markley. A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.

Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.Kittel, Gerhard. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.

Carson, D A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Craddock, Fred B. Philippians. Atlanta: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 17, 2015).

Kavanaugh, John F. “Love’s labor.” America 175, no. 7 (September 21, 1996): 39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament, Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2003.

McLeod, Frederick G. Theodore of Mopsuestia. London: Routledge, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015).

Mounce, William D. Greek for the Rest of UsUsing Greek Tools without Mastering Biblical Greek. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Muddiman, John, and Barton, John, eds. Pauline Epistles. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press, 2010. Accessed March 3, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.

Pelly, Raymond B. “From below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim.” Stimulus 17, no. 1 (February 1, 2009): 9-16. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “Philippians,” TheDocinabox, February 3, 2013. Accessed February 14, 2015,

Strong, James. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 21st ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NGRK 505 Greek Language Tools