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 independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church to which I used to belong supported a small Bible institute based in my home town. A close family friend from this church is a graduate of this school. He now pastors another church, and I have regular contact with the associate pastor. This associate once told me that his church no longer fellowships with the Bible institute in question since it merged with another more established Bible college for two reasons: one, the school’s getting taken over by so-called “Hyper-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 am 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.
Is it your understanding that DeHaan’s “medical” opinion regarding the origin of blood in humans is in error?
I don’t know about the doctor’s medical opinion. But I’d be inclined to doubt it pending further documentation. Even if he is completely right about it, his exposition of Scripture on the matter is superficial enough to make me certain he’s reading his association of that idea with the transmission of sin into Scripture, rather than pulling the meaning out of it, which, as you and your pastor know well, is the basic goal of interpreting Scripture. 😉
What makes me wonder about Dr. DeHaan’s medical assertions is that the point made by all of the medical experts he cites, only document the fact that the mother’s own blood and the fetus’ blood are separate and does not pass from one to the other. The formation of blood post-conception is not documented, but only asserted and illustrated–by the formation of blood in the egg of a hen. Also, he writes that, “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.” He never attempts to prove that the male sperm has solely in and of itself the capacity to form blood. It seems to me it wouldn’t have this capacity until it fertilizes the egg and combines itself with the properties of the egg. Of course, I have no medical training as De Haan had, but he hasn’t proven this point, only asserted it. That leaves room for doubt. But the primary dispute is with the fact that he’s allowing his medical knowledge to color his interpretation of Scripture to the extent that he’s crossing the line between the orthodox position of the full humanity of Christ and entering the realm of the, if you will, “more than full” deity of Christ and the “less than full” humanity of Christ.
Let all things, whether, philosophy, medicine, world view whatever, be viewed by the lense of Scripture, and not vice versa.
Jesus is 200%. He is unique in all things because of this fact…He is 100% man, and 100% God…He is 200%.
Post Tenebras Lux
If I was a kissing man, I would kiss you!
Don’t worry Gage, Fort Worth and Dallas metroplex is very big and a needle your size is hard to find even if John knows where you are all the time!
I just quivered when I read it, that is DeHann’s interpretation of the birth of Christ!
If I was a kissing man, I’d say, “What am I, chopped liver?”
I’ve heard this stuff about Jesus’ blood being “divine” for the past 14 years or so, and it doesn’t make me quiver, now it just makes my stomach turn. On the other hand, there’s nothing more exciting to me than orthodox doctrine!!!
I think I will align with having an upset stomach, chopped liver, yum yum especially with some really good onions! 🙂
Thanks Michael, I think….(better yet…be a kissing man and kiss thine own beloved)…
oh and by the way… I’m definitely…a filet mignon…the Cap’n is fish and chips…that’s what all Cap’ns are.
Shiver me timbers, let’s get back on topic, brethren! But thanks for padding my stats!
I am convinced the hypostatic union is a valid Biblical Truth. I have always heard that the blood comes totally from the male of the species. I will research that topic. In in case, we are talking about God becoming totally man without losing His totality as God. If nothing else, God always transcends our finite thinking with His infinite wisdom.
I agree that the hypostatic union is a valid Biblical Truth. I have also always heard that the blood comes totally from the male of the species, and that would be fine if it is a fact of medical science, but my point is that it is not taught in Scripture as the precise means through which sin itself is transmitted. The Scriptures present it in a more general sense than that, and to pinpoint some aspect or other as the precise physical means is to go beyond what is written: the biblical expositor ought to be satisfied that the most precise means is one’s relation to Adam as a descendant–and that fact is just as true whether he has a human father or not. The “seed of a woman” is also a descendant of Adam, and God would impute Adam’s sin to him just for being born if it were not for the “overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.”
Look closely at what the angel told Mary about the process and result of her conception: “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'” The result of the Holy Spirit’s power is the holiness of the child. The Holy Spirit is the agent of all sanctification, even that which separates the human nature of Christ from any imputation of Adam’s sin to him, or any actual tendency toward sin in the body itself. To attempt to zoom in on it more than that would be like asking what God was doing before he created the world–if we start trying to infer this or that, we will lead ourselves astray from the revelation of God and will fall into a ditch with other blind guides and their followers.
Finally, it is the case that the orthodox presentation of the two natures of Christ in one person (“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” — see the Definition of Chalcedon above) is as you put it “God becoming totally man without losing his totality as God.” And yes, God’s infinite wisdom lies beyond what he has revealed to us in his Word, and it behooves us to be careful not to go beyond what he has revealed to us in his Word because our thinking is indeed finite. We dare not make stuff up that’s not revealed explicitly in his Word, or deduced “by good and necessary consequence” (Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, section 6).
The fact that DeHaan’s “deducing” that the blood of Christ is divine puts us back in pre-Chalcedonian days when the human nature of Christ is “confused” with the divine nature of Christ, is proof that his deduction is not derived “by good and necessary consequence,” and thus far has he led us out of the realm of orthodoxy and far too close to that infamous “ditch.” That which is deduced by good and necessary consequence will keep us within the realm of orthodoxy. Let us build our Christology on the shoulders of the orthodox guides from fifth century Chalcedon who have done the best job of keeping the church between the guardrails of Scripture.
Believers have invented all sorts of creative ways to “protect” Christ from inheriting man’s sinful nature. The fact is, once you understand federal headship, you realize it’s unnecessary. . . Christ doesn’t need our help to remain untarnished. It’s amusing and sad that we continue to view SIN as PHYSICAL. We tend treat sin as if it is a communicative disease that we all catch in the womb – or perhaps think by some breakthrough we can pinpoint it’s molecular makeup and find a way to cure it. Adam was not Jesus’ representative – Christ was the second Adam.
Great comment, Brandon.
two things, this quote of yours from above and a Bible Quote:
You wrote this above and I want to say I have not read anything stronger for a sentence, thanks:
[[The Holy Spirit is the agent of all sanctification, even that which separates the human nature of Christ from any imputation of Adam’s sin to him, or any actual tendency toward sin in the body itself.]]
Now for the Bible Quote:
Heb 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
I have done an extreme amount of meditation or pondering or thinking on that Bible verse and I cannot say I find a day where it does not thrill me to the marrow of my bones!
I think we need to distinguish between what is communicated to us because of Adam. What is communicated through Adam is the sin nature, what is imputed to us because of Adam is guilt. At the end of (Romans 5:12) there is a very interesting little phrase, (“All sinned”). That is a past tense form of the verb, meaning it is a completed act in the past. How is that possible? How can the text say we sinned when Adam sinned? We weren’t alive when Adam sinned. Some say sin is passed through biologically, the seminal view (the natural act of procreation) which I think the good Dr. in your above quote is somewhat saying… This view was held by Augustine. Now of course there are several ways that men have tried to explain how original sin was communicated to mankind. The Federal Headship/Representative view does not deny that our sin nature is communicated to us biologically. But not guilt. Guilt is imputed. The guilt of Adam’s sin is even on those who have not committed a sin like the one Adam did. Paul even mentiones the period between Adam and Moses, when there was no law (Romans 5:14). People still died. Now, why did they die
if there was no written law to be broken? They died because they had sinned in
Adam. They died because Adam’s guilt was imputed to every single person he
represented. We are sinners by nature and riddled with guilt by the imputation of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin is enough to condemn us. Thankfully, Christ’s righteousness is more than enough to stand in the court of God as righteous!
I like what FF Bruce said in his commentary on Romans 5, “In God’s sight, there are two men—Adam and Jesus Christ—and these two men have all other men hanging at their girdle strings.”
Post Tenebras Lux
Thanks for that, Gage. I was beginning to detect the need for clarification on federal/seminal headship myself.
The Westminster Confession does a good job of showing how both forms of headship apply. In chapter 6, section 3, it reads, “They (Adam and Eve) being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”
Guilt imputed–Federal Headship;
death and corrupted nature conveyed by ordinary generation–Seminal Headship.
Huh…your explanation is much shorter and much clearer than mine. But yes.
But yours has the advantage of being an actual exposition of Scripture, whereas, mine is merely an exposition of the confession. One step removed.
Ahh yes, but the confession is an exposition of scripture… and a lovely one at that.
How very Presbyterian of you. And of course, I mean that in a good way.
Does that “good and necessary consequence” stuff not apply to the Westminster Confession?
Since the reference to deducing “by good and necessary consequence” that which is implicitly taught in Scripture is the explicit teaching of the Westminster Confession, then that would mean that the writers of the confession (along with those who confess it is “the system of doctrine contained in the Scriptures” ) believe(d) that that which is confessed is either explicitly taught in Scripture, or is deduced by good and necessary consequence. Are you wishing to compare DeHaan’s deductions to those of the Westminster Divines? I would say that to date those of the Westminster Divines have already been confirmed to a far greater extent than DeHaan’s ever will be. Or do you have some other point in mind?
[…] posted on this topic before here and here. The names I’ve used for this fundamentalist heresy are “Divine Blood” and […]