Firstly, I must apologize for using some difficult, and probably, vague quotes from Taylor’s book. But I wouldn’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence by using the obvious and easy ones.
I think all of you know that there is, indeed, something wrong with Taylor’s book. All of us are forced to return to basic Theology 101, and in that sense, I believe most of us benefited from this little exercise.
Jenson actually mentioned John 1; Taylor did spend a chapter discussing John’s prologue and gospel in order to attack Christ’s deity. Wenxian posted a little summary on the doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine which many Christians do not take time to study. The next time we meet a Jehovah Witness, a Mormon or a Unitarian, let us be prepared to defend the Divinity of Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Daniel mentioned Sabellianism, which comes fairly close to Taylor’s direction of development for his Christology and Theology.
Nevertheless, I believe the most basic lesson for all of us is this: a book can begin with the language of orthodoxy and love (Taylor reiterated the concept of love numerous times), but its content might prove poisonous for the soul.
Finding Taylor’s book in the “Christian” section of the Tampines Regional Library is not the most disappointing event last week. But chancing upon Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion at the top-most shelf of MPH “Christian” section is. And guess whose work Dawkins used to support his atheism? On pages 95ff., he quoted the writings of Bart D. Erhman, the apostate textual critic. By the way, are Dawkins and Bertrand Russell related? They seem to speak the same things.
And again, what is Dawkins book doing on the shelf of the “Christian” section of MPH? Why was it not placed in other “Religion” sections?
In the following brief commentary on Taylor’s latest work, I have included several quotes that I did not publish in my previous question.
Let us read what Taylor has to say:
“[The Council of] Nicea seems to have little awareness of Old Testament use of such symbolic terms as Logos (Word), Wisdom, Spirit, etc. All of these biblical terms do not refer to separate divine persons or entities. (p 36)”
To understand terms such as Logos and Spirit as symbolical representations of Yahweh is to undermine the doctrine of the Trinity. Although Christians do not see the Persons of the Godhead as being “separate,” such terms do refer to distinct Persons within the Trinity.
“[The Council of Chalcedon] shows little knowledge of or respect for Scripture’s many literary forms and figures of speech. Where the Old Testament often spoke of God’s nature and activities by means of symbolic terms and personifications, such as Spirit, Wisdom, Word, etc., Chalcedon personalizes (or hypostasizes) these ways of speaking about God’s immanent activity without any critical elaboration of why it feels justified in doing so. The council mostly prefers the abstract metaphysical terms of philosophy to the biblical and historical descriptions of Jesus. (p 40)”
Again, by referring to the terms Logos and Spirit as “symbolical” literary forms or “figures of speech,” Taylor is directly denying the “hypostasizing” (using his language) of Biblical “ways of speaking.” This is a subtle denial of the Trinity as consisting of three Persons (hypostasis or subsistence).
“Earlier Christians would find the saving God in a fleshing of the descending Logos. Today Christians find the same God in the human Jesus, for in him God dwells fully with his transforming love and through his love has made Jesus a perfect image of himself. (p 42)”
This quote is quite blatant in its denial of Christ’s deity. Taylor implies that the divine Logos in the flesh is an “early” Christian concept, which is subsequently (or allegedly) replaced with the notion of a “human Jesus” in whom God’s love dwells.
“In my view, the prologue of John [John 1:1-5] speaks about the concept of God’s Logos, not to identify Jesus as the Logos himself, but dramatically to show why Jesus in the coming gospel is all-sufficient to the spiritual needs of John’s community. Jesus for John is the one in whom God’s Logos dwells. It is the Logos that descended from heaven. The term Logos in the Old Testament is a biblical metaphor for God’s outreaching love. For John it is probably his way of translating the term Wisdom, which is also a biblical figure of speech for God’s love when he exercises it within his creation. (p 70)”
Taylor, once again, seems to deny that Jesus is the divine Logos. According to Taylor, Jesus is “the one in whom God’s Logos dwells,” not the Logos Himself.
“For [the apostle] John salvation is realizing and possessing within oneself unity with God’s selfless love. John’s unique genius is in showing his readers this wonderful truth. His Jesus is not a divine visitor intervening from heaven. He is one of us, our human brother, who with God’s help has accomplished the divine purpose and in that glorious state has realized complete human fulfillment, manifest in his Resurrection from death and glorification in heaven. (pp 70-71)”
Taylor’s Jesus “is not a divine visitor intervening from heaven. He is one of us, our human brother.”
“Certainly if John saw Jesus as a singular divine person, equal in divinity to the Father, he would not have him say in chapter 5 that he “can do nothing on his own, but only what the Father shows him.” Rather, Jesus is loved and taught by the Father. His power derives from the Father. His judging role is given him by the Father. If Jesus seeks people’s submission and faith, it is not because he himself is claiming divinity, but because he is God’s chosen instrument to mediate his saving activity on earth (5:19-24). God is always present in the words and works of his mediators. (p 76)”
Taylor is putting words into the Apostle John’s mouth. He seems to understand that Jesus is not “a singular divine person, equal in divinity to the Father.”
“When Jesus was spoken of as the Son of God, it probably did not at first mean believers saw him as literally divine. More likely it was a way of showing that Jesus was understood to have had a privileged mission from God which he carried out faithfully. Eventually it was used to indicate in Jesus, his words and deeds, people saw a human embodiment of God and his will for them. (p 95)”
Now Jesus is a missionary. He is simply a “human embodiment of God,” not God Himself.
1. We can safely say that Taylor denies that Jesus is co-substantial with the Father. This would place his Christology at least on the same level as Arius. But I sincerely suspect that his Christology is lower than that of Arius.
2. Taylor also denies Christ’s eternal pre-existence, and in effect, repudiates His divinity. It seems to be quite clear that Taylor does not believe in a Jesus who is 100% God and 100% Man.
3. According to Taylor, Christ is a man, the spiritual leader, teacher and model. He is “the one who shows them the way to salvation. (p 41)” But He is not the way itself (John 14:6).
4. Taylor’s view hints of the ancient heresy called Dynamic Monarchianism or Adoptionism, but again, it is difficult to label a Christology which is in the process of development.