Monday, November 03, 2008

"Son of God" and the Second Person of the Godhead

Dogmatically, I am trinitarian. I have zero struggles with the doctrine that the one God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I also have no beef at all with Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man. I fully and unequivocally accept the fact.

But when Christians read the Bible, I think there's been a little bit of trouble caused by reading "the second person of the trinity" in wherever we see "Son of God" (and perhaps "Son of Man" as well).

For example, Luke seems to designate Adam as God's son (Lk 3.38). This would seem to set up a parallel with Jesus (Lk 3.21).

Indeed, I'd speculate that Luke inserts the genelogy between Jesus' baptism and the temptation precisely to draw out the implication that Jesus is another Adam. Consider: Jesus is baptized as God's son, the second Adam, and he then is approached and tempted by the serpent. But someone greater than Adam is here. Adam had all the privileges of Eden at his disposal -- and all food save for the one tree. Adam still sins. Jesus doesn't simply step into Adam's experience in Eden, he needs to overcome what Adam wrought. Jesus steps into the garden that Adam made -- a desert that grows thorns instead of fruit. And unlike Adam who sinned even though he had plenty to eat, Jesus does not sin even though he's been fasting for 40 days.

In any event, the point is that Adam is not the Second Person of the Trinity, even though he is termed God's son.

And, of course, Israel's king is the "Son of God" (2 Sam 7.14). While I have a very high Christology, I don't think it's right to read "second person of the trinity" in for "Son of God" throughout the messianic passages of the OT (e.g., Ps 2). The focus here, I think, is that the messiah will reestablish humanity's position before God, the position that Adam lost for his children. So Jesus being the "Son of God" in the Scriptures, I think tends to focus on his humanity, and that he resurrects a dead humanity and lifts us up to God's right hand, which is where we were created to be.

That being said, I should also note that I think that "Son of God" is also sometimes used in the NT to refer to Jesus' divinity. So I don't have any problem with the argument that there is an exegetical basis for identifying the Son of God who is Jesus with the second person of the trinity. It's just that I don't think it should be limited in application to the divinity.


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