[Note: This is a series of three questions, all on a related topic. The answers are interspersed between the questions.]
I want to ask you about John 6:57. What do you think Jesus meant by the words “I live because of Father.” ?
This is an interesting question. To be honest, I had never looked carefully at this verse. This is a curious statement by Jesus that he lives because of the Father. Jesus makes a curious analogy here. “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” The challenging part is that about himself he says two things, but about us he says one thing. So what, exactly, is the analogy? It can appear that Jesus is saying that if the Father had not given him life, then he would not live. But we know from other passages that this is not what Jesus is saying, as we know that Jesus was with the Father from the beginning.
To be honest, I am not exactly, entirely sure what Jesus is saying here. Let me create my own paraphrase. The life I give to you is given to you from the Father through me. If you feed on me, then you will have eternal life, and that eternal life comes through me from the Father. Another possibility is this. I live (in the sense of occupying a human body) because the Father asked me to take on human flesh. In the same way that the Father has asked me to take on human flesh and I have life in this body because of him, I am giving life to your mortal body as well.
Which is correct? I am not sure. What I am sure of is this–Jesus is not declaring that, like us, he is a created being. I know this from John 8:58-59, John 1:1-2 and others. A principal of biblical interpretation is that we interpret difficult passages (such as John 6:57) in light of more plain and clear passages (such as John 8:58-59 or John 1:1-2). Therefore, although the two possible interpretations I am offering may seem not to be the most obvious interpretation of John 6:57, the interpretation that Jesus is telling us that he is a creation of the Father is clearly to be rejected under the assumption that all Scripture is inspired by God, which I strongly believe.
Sorry for a somewhat difficult answer to your difficult question.
Thank you for your answer. I did not find much about it on your website, but that is what I had in mind when asked I asked about John 6:57. It is clear that Jesus is not a creature, but I suppose you know about the eternal procession teaching. It says that God The Son eternally procedes/generates/begotten from God the Father. I am aware that Church Fathers with great reputation followed this teaching. I know that it was enshrined as orthodoxy in the Nicene Creed. But there were some of the Church Fathers who did not agree with this teaching. Does this mean that these other Church Fathers were heretical in relation to Scripture? What do you think about this? It seems to me this teaching came from early Greek Apologists such as Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Athenagoras. They used some Hellinistic thought and terminology in trying to understand the Trinity. But I do not know where it is in Scripture. The only thing is the word “monogenes” and John 6:57. But monogenes as far as I know can be translated as unique, although there are NT scholars who would hold that this word has the implication of derivation. Still, there is no verse in Scripture that told us about Eternal or even Divine derivation of the Son from the Father. Rather he is begotten because he was incarnate. Of course, when the Bible speaks of Him as the Son it is surely mean much more than human incarnation. So my question to you is, what do you think about it? And what do you think what Title “The Son of God” means biblically? This is not easy questions , so you can really separate it in your answers (and it would be useful for visitors of your website) Also its seems to me this teaching names Jesus as inferior to the Father. If that is true, then the Father is casually prior to the Son. Also if those persons are one being, and every single person possesses wholeness of divine nature and every single aspect of it, then every person should be self-existing, Thus neither the Son nor the Spirit, should proceed from the Father..
You are making the point that the description of Jesus as Son in the Nicene Creed as “proceeding from the Father,” is somewhat speculative. I agree that it is. However, it may be helpful to look at where this idea came from historically. The historical problem is that in the fourth through sixth centuries there were many attempts by Christians to come up with a precise definition of the nature of God and, more specifically of Christ and the relationship between the Father and the Son. The problem arose because those who sought to present a “logical” picture (something that Greek Christians wanted very badly because of their obsession over philosophical questions) often came up with a clearly unbiblical picture. There was Arius who concluded that Jesus was created and is not God. There was Sabellius, the father of Sabellianism or Modalism, who said that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not persons, but different “modes” of one person–God. There were other false theologies. The mainstream of the Church wanted to allow the precise relationship between the Father and the Son to remain a mystery, which is exactly where the question ought to have remained. But, in view of the false theologies–and perhaps even heretical theologies, the early church fathers were virtually forced to come up with some sort of more precise definition.
Out of this came the idea that the Son eternally “proceeds” from the Father. They based this definition on passages such as John 6:57 and John 1:18. I will agree with you that this is theological speculation. And you are right that, if this is a correct description of the relationship between Father and Son, then the Father is “causally prior to” the Son. This does not imply temporally prior, but causally. Then, of course, the Eastern and the Western church fought over the silly distinction (silly in my opinion) of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only or from the Father and the Son–the point of division for the Great Schism.
My response, is that this idea that the Son “proceeds” from the Father is not in direct contradiction with Scripture. In fact, there is some wording in the Book of John which be used to support this idea. But, it is not a slam dunk, and the exact meaning of the passages in mind leave some significant room for interpretation. It is speculative theology at best. But we are not like the early church fathers who were, in effect, trapped into producing a clear and definite statement that I believe they did not want to make. We can leave the exact, precise nature of the relationship between Father and Son as the Bible leaves it–a mystery!!!
What I suggest we do is simply state what the Bible also clearly states. Jesus is God. Jesus is God, but he is also called Son of God. This seemingly illogical relationship is where the word Trinity comes from. We do not need to embrace the words trinity or proceeds, but we need to recognize that Jesus is God. He is not created. He has been with the Father from the beginning of time and even “before” there was time. Jesus does submit to the Father, so there is some sort of subordinate role that we do not need to fully understand or define. That Son is co-equal with Father and at the same time submits to the Father is clearly established by Scripture, so we can leave it there. We do not need to say that the Son “proceeds” from the Father. As you point out, this definition is somewhat speculative. Neither do we need to criticize those who use this terminology. All we need to do is explain why we hesitate to use this terminology, love those who do, and ask them to love those who do not.
You make one statement that I am not sure I agree with. You say (paraphrasing) that “Every single person must possess wholeness and every aspect of it–that every person must be self-existing.” To this I reply: Who says? Who makes this rule? Do human logical rules apply to God? Like I said, when human beings try to apply logical human assumptions to God they tend to get into trouble. We need to leave some questions to mystery and let what God said speak for itself. I will agree that what you say seems “logical,” but then again, John said of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” This clearly breaks some humanly logical rules, so we need to let the mystery remain. We ought to be careful against pridefully forcing what seems logical to us lower beings to one who is clearly way above us.
Last thing. We need to remain humble and allow people to have different thoughts on this. Some distinctions are not a matter of salvation. Those who deny deity to Christ (Arians, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.) may be outside of Christ, but most of these other theological speculations are not a matter of life and death.
That is my feedback.