One of the benefits of broadening one’s theological horizons is that he can learn where the boundaries of orthodoxy lie and can begin to discern when the doctrine he’s being taught remains safely within, or begins to cross, the orthodox boundaries.
Case in point: Heavenly Flesh & Divine Blood.
What am I talking about? Does this have something to do with the Lord’s Supper? No, it does not. It has to do with parallels with ancient Christological heresies as well as the Radical Reformation in some corners of modern fundamentalism. Namely, the corner from which I emerged into Reformed theology.
The church to which I used to belong, Cornerstone Baptist Church, used to fellowship with the Independent Baptist Fellowship, International, based in Fort Worth, Texas. The institution which trains preachers for this fellowship is now called Crown Southwest-Norris Seminary (formerly, Norris Bible Baptist Institute). The former director of CBC’s former bus ministry who officiated my wedding almost 12 years ago is a graduate of Norris Bible Baptist Institute. He now pastors another church, and I work with his son-in-law, who serves that church as its associate pastor. This friend of mine recently told me that his church no longer fellowships with Norris Seminary since they merged with The Crown College for two reasons: one, the school’s getting taken over by so-called “Hyper-Calvinists” (which is what 4 point Arminian IFB’s call 5 point Calvinists), and two, one of the instructors teaches that Christ got his body from Mary. Some of you may be wondering, “And the problem with this is . . .?” But others of you may know where I’m going.
Where I’m going is to the teachings in vogue among some independent Baptists, among others, I suppose, regarding the source of the body of Christ, and the nature of the blood of Christ.
The Chemistry of the Blood
One popular teaching was popularized by Dr. M. R. DeHaan, founder of Radio Bible Class (now RBC Ministries), a physician turned pastor and radio preacher, who applied his medical knowledge to his doctrine of the sinlessness of Christ to promote what he called, “The Chemistry of the Blood.” Here’s an excerpt from sermon four in his book of the same title:
“THE VIRGIN BIRTH
“Passing strange, is it not, that with such a clear record anyone can deny that the BIBLE TEACHES THE VIRGIN BIRTH. We can understand how men can reject the Bible record, but how men can say that the Bible does not teach the VIRGIN BIRTH is beyond conception.
“The Bible teaches plainly that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin Jewish mother by a supernatural insemination of the Holy Ghost, wholly and apart from any generation by a human father. This the Bible teaches so plainly that to the believer there is no doubt. The record cannot be mistaken by the enlightened and honest student of the Word.
“The Bible teaches in addition that Jesus was a SINLESS man. While all men from Adam to this day are born with Adam’s sinful nature, and, therefore, are subject to the curse and eternal death, the Man Jesus was without sin and, therefore, DEATHLESS until He took the sin of others upon Himself and died THEIR death. Now while Jesus was of Adam’s race according to the flesh yet He did not inherit Adam’s nature. This alone will prove that sin is not transmitted through the flesh. It is transmitted through the blood and not the flesh, and even though Jesus was of the “Seed of David according to the flesh” this could not make him a sinner.
“God has made of ONE BLOOD ALL THE NATIONS of the earth. Sinful heredity is transmitted through the blood and not through the flesh. Even though Jesus, therefore, received His flesh, His body from a sinful race, He could still be sinless as long as not a drop blood of this sinful race entered His veins. God must find a way whereby Jesus could be perfectly human according to the flesh and yet not have the blood of sinful humanity. That was the problem solved by the virgin birth.
“ORIGIN OF THE BLOOD
“It is now definitely known that the blood which flows in an unborn babies arteries and veins is not derived from the mother but is produced within the body of the fetus itself only after the introduction of the male sperm. An unfertilized ovum can never develop blood since the female egg does not by itself contain the elements essential for the production of this blood. It is only after the male element has entered the ovum that blood can develop. As a very simple illustration of this, think of the egg of a hen. An unfertilized egg is just an ovum on a much larger scale than the human ovum. You may incubate this unfertilized hens egg but it will never develop. It will decay and become rotten, but no chick will result. Let that egg be fertilized by the introduction of the male sperm and incubation will bring to light the presence of LIFE IN THAT EGG. After a few hours it visibly develops. In a little while red streaks occur in the egg denoting the presence of Blood. This can never occur and does never occur until THE MALE SPERM HAS BEEN UNITED WITH THE FEMALE OVUM. The male element has added life to the egg. Life is in the blood according to scripture, for Moses says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood. . . For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof” (Leviticus 17:11, 14).
“Since there is no life in the egg until the male sperm unites with it, and the life is in the blood, it follows that the male sperm is the source of the blood, the seed of life. Think it through.”
DeHaan’s logic can be summarized in the following syllogism:
The life of the flesh is in the blood; there is no life or blood in the unfertilized female egg until the introduction of male sperm; Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit without the introduction of human male sperm; Jesus was sinless; therefore, sin is transmitted through the blood which comes from the human father.
Christian Orthodoxy and the Full Humanity of Christ
I submit that modern medical science bolstering a superficial interpretation of Scripture in the name of proclaiming the sinlessness of Christ compromises the historically orthodox doctrine of the full humanity of Christ. The orthodox interpretation of Scripture regarding the full humanity of Christ was encapsulated in 451AD at the Council of Chalcedon. This council was convened to correct two errors in vogue at the time which compromised the full humanity and the full deity of Christ. One was Nestorianism, which saw Christ’s divine and human natures as so separate that they constituted two separate persons; the other, the Monophysite heresy, taught that Christ’s two natures were so united that they were one single divine/human nature, two varieties of which are Eutychianism and Apollonarianism (for links, see below). Nestorianism and Eutychian Monophysitism both led the church in the fifth century to return to the drawing board of Scripture and look more closely at the passages relevant to the two natures of Christ, and they published their conclusion in a document called “the Definition of Chalcedon.” It’s only a two paragraph statement, so I’ll cite it in full from Phil Johnson’s Hall of Church History:
Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD)
“Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul <meaning human soul> and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf
of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.
“We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten — in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality <hypostasis>. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word <Logos> of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers <the Nicene Creed> has handed down to us.”
As long as Christians have interpreted Scripture within the bounds of the definition of Chalcedon, it has historically been regarded as orthodox: Christ’s humanity must be regarded as completely human. But if the Lord Jesus’ blood wasn’t the product of Mary, but was “divine blood” as DeHann heads a later subset in his sermon, then the Lord Jesus isn’t fully human, but his full humanity is compromised when his blood is put in a category distinct from that which flows through all of our veins. If his full humanity is brought into question, then so can his ability to represent us before the Father, being “man to God” as well as “God to man.” Someone posted a theological article in the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible which does a good job of presenting the importance of Christ’s full humanity.
Repeating the Mistake of Apollinarianism
The other Monophysite heresy which compromises the full humanity of Christ is called Apollinarianism. Since I’ve already written an excessively long post, I’ll just link you to some helpful reading on this heresy and how modern fundamentalist notions about the blood of Christ which compromise his full humanity parallel the spirit, if not the letter, of Apollinarianism. I recommend “Divine Blood” by E. A. Green; “Apollinaris of Laodicea” by Wikipedia; and finally, “Apollinarianism” from the Catholic Encyclopedia, featured at New Advent. To be clear, modern indpendent Baptists do not go to the extremes to which Apollinarianism and Eutychianism go in confusing Christ’s divine and human natures. But the fact remains that by their general refusal to consult the ancient ecumenical creeds which define the orthodox biblical Christology, they doom themselves to repeating the mistakes of history, having not learned from the correction of these mistakes at Chalcedon.
In part two, I’ll discuss how some Independent Baptists repeat the Anabaptist error known as the Heavenly Flesh of Christ.