by Jims | December 8th, 2009
This brief overviews the above noted work, concentrating on the person of Christ as described by Warfield. Warfield begins with a secular historical view of the person of Christ. He notes several key figures who referred to Jesus as Christ. Warfield defends his argument that Christ was more than just a title but an affirmation of His deity. There are few facts that point to the founder of Christianity from secular tradition, but Christian writers fully fill in the gaps. Warfield relies heavily on the writings of Paul, noting the value of Paul’s conversion as a foundational proof of the reality of Christ. He notes, “Jesus Christ as crucified, Christ risen from the dead as the first fruits of those that sleep – here is Paul’s whole gospel in summary” (7).
At times the reader seems to be led down an uncomfortable theological trail. Warfield gives too much credence to another source for the gospels. He also uses some uncomfortable language at times in referring to the deity of Christ. However, the author normally ends up on solid theological ground. In several sections it appears that Warfield is allowing the reader to journey with him through his own thought process. In regards to the above mentioned “other source” Warfield notes that is was the authentic statement of the conviction of the earliest Christians.
A key point of perspective in Warfield is his notation that the death of Christ was not His defeat or misfortune, but rather His crowning achievement as the promised Messiah. In regards to His nature, Warfield states that the supernatural is the very substance of Christ. He notes that the mainstreams assaults are not to eliminate Jesus, but rather to eliminate the supernatural Jesus as presented by the gospel writers. He notes, “By thus desupernaturalizing Jesus he leaves primitive Christianity and its supernatural Jesus wholly without historical basis or justification” (21). These issues establish the foundation for the rest of Warfield’s work on the person of Christ.
Section two establishes the New Testament record as “the constitution of Our Lord’s person” as a matter of revelation, not of human thought. He repeatedly returns to this premise that the person and work of Christ cannot be of human origin nor invention as a result of its supernatural nature. Man’s attempts to naturalize Christ are efforts to control Him intellectually. Warfield’s treatment of Philippians 2 is excellent. He notes that the word “form” is a word that expresses the total qualities which make a thing what it is. Since Christ is said to be in the form of God, it is an affirmation that He is all that God is. Warfield systematically walks through the New Testament noting Jesus’ self affirmation as God. He notes the statements from Jesus regarding His eternality, deity, and equality with the Father. The reader gains a forceful polemic against those who claim that Jesus never made any assertions regarding His own deity.
One section deals with the interesting and often unexplored aspect of the emotional life of Christ. In a balanced contrast between Christ’s affirmations of His deity, Warfield demonstrates the perfect humanity of Christ by noting the emotions He experienced. He suggests that the tendency to minimize the humanity of Christ results in a skewed view of Him. Warfield provides great insight to the perfection of these emotions in Christ, especially his section noting the anger which Jesus displayed. Never was Christ controlled by the emotions He experienced.
His handling of the alleged confession of sin by some who do not understand Christ’s nature is summarized by stating, “. . . in denying that He was good and reserving this predicate to God alone, meant merely that His goodness was not original with Himself but derived form God the sole source of goodness” (172). Warfield’s answer is, “This declaration, however, is no evidence against the sinlessness of Jesus; rather, it is the true expression of the distance which human consciousness – even the sinless consciousness as being human – recognizes between itself and the absolute perfection of God” (174). The entire discussion is a contrast between Christ’s perfect human goodness and the infinite goodness of God.
Warfield deals with the struggle between the two distinct natures of Christ in a single person. He traces several alternatives, all of which detract from the biblical witness of the nature and person of Christ. The person section of his work concludes by addressing several controversies that seek to eliminate his previous presentations regarding the nature, person, and operations of Christ in the world. He works through the liberalism that has sought to eliminate the supernatural Christ as revealed in Scripture. Warfield’s work in this area is concluded in his statement, “The point which needs particular pressing lies, indeed, just here, — that in thus separating themselves from Jesus as the source and ground and content of their faith, they sever themselves from Christianity and proclaim themselves of another religion” (318).