Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jesus Christ: The Firstborn Over All Creation

I do an "Ask Hank" column in the Christian Research Journal, and in the current edition of the Journal I deal with the issue of how the eternal Son of God can at once be the firstborn over all creation and yet the eternal Creator of all things, which is a question that is being exploded by cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses to say that Jesus Christ isn't really the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence - in fact, God created Jesus and then Jesus becomes a junior partner in creating all other things.

The way I deal with this dilemma is I point out that in referring to Christ as the firstborn Paul has in mind preeminence. This usage is firmly established in the Old Testament, which is to say that I always need to be tethered to the pillar and post of Scripture. I need to read Scripture in light of Scripture. For example, Ephraim, in the Old Testament, is referred to as the Lord's "firstborn" even though Manasseh was born first. In similar fashion David is appointed the Lord's "firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth," and this is despite the fact that he's the youngest of Jesse's sons. Neither Ephraim nor David was the first one born in the family, but they were firstborn in the sense of preeminence or "prime position."

So again, this gets to the issue of scaling the language barrier. It's not the word you use, but the meaning that is poured into the word. The biblical meaning poured into the word "firstborn" doesn't mean the first one born but the preeminent one or the one who holds the prime position.

Not only so, but Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation, not the firstborn in creation and as such "He is before all things and in him all things hold together." The force of this language by the apostle Paul is such that the cult of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who subscribe to the ancient Arian heresy that the Son is not preexistent and coeternal with the Father, have been forced to insert the word "other." In fact, in Colossians 1 they insert this word "other" four times in the text of their deeply flawed New World Translation of the Bible in order that they can demote Jesus Christ to the status of being a mere created being.

The final point is this: the panoply of Scripture makes absolutely plain Jesus is the eternal Creator who spoke and the countless galaxies leapt into existence. For example in John 1 He is overtly called "God." In Hebrews 1 He is said to be the one who "laid the foundations of the earth." In the very last chapter of the Bible Christ refers to Himself as "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Indeed, the whole of Scripture precludes the possibility that Christ could be anything other than the preexistent sovereign of the universe.

Again, an answer to a question that is brought up by the Jehovah's Witness on your doorstep. How do you deal with it? Well, if you have the answer you can deal with it with gentleness and with respect and point out that they're misinterpreting the language of Scripture. So again, in this and many other circumstances we have to learn, first and foremost, how to scale the language barrier. Jehovah's Witnesses say they believe in Jesus. The Mormons say they believe in Jesus. But which Jesus? What is the meaning that they pour into the word?

Tolerance Redefined

I have been dealing over the last several blog entries with the top ten reasons why a particular gentleman who wrote me is not a believer. These top ten reasons find their correspondence in the lives of a lot of skeptics. They have reasons why they can't accept the historic Christian faith and those reasons are very commonly expressed and that's why I'm dealing with them, not only for this gentleman but for the many people who doubt the veracity or the validity of the historic Christian faith.

One of the reasons that is given is that Jesus is not qualified to be God's representative because Jesus was intolerant. This whole idea of tolerance is bandied about a lot in our culture and the Christian faith in general is considered to be intolerant. Today tolerance is redefined to mean that all views are equally valid, and therefore, all lifestyles are equally appropriate. As such, Christ's proclamation that He is the only way is then vilified as the epitome of intolerance. Rather than capitulating to culture, we, as Christians, should be equipped to expose the flaws of this modern concept of tolerance while simultaneously exemplifying true tolerance.

First to say, "All views are equally valid" sounds tolerant, but in reality it's a contradiction in terms. If, indeed, all views were equally valid, then the Christian view must be valid. But the Christian view holds that not all views are equally valid! Thus the redefinition of tolerance in our culture is a self-refuting proposition. Moreover, we do not tolerate people with whom we agree; we tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid there'd be no need for tolerance at all.

Furthermore, today's redefinition of tolerance leaves no room for objective moral judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a Mother Teresa. With no enduring reference points, societal norms are being quickly reduced to mere matters of preference. As such, the moral basis for resolving international disputes and condemning intuitively evil practices like genocide or child prostitution is being seriously compromised.

In light of its philosophically fatal features Christians must reject today's tolerance and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that despite our differences we treat every person we meet with the dignity and respect due them as those who are created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming the truth, but it does mandate that we do it with gentleness and with respect. In a world that's increasingly intolerant of Christianity we, as Christians, must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. As I've said so many times, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.