As briefly noted in the last post, Dr. Irons’s Christology is almost exclusively founded on the creature-creator distinction and harnessing the prologue as speaking of literal preexistence regarding the son as the logos. Some Pauline passages dealing with the creation that has taken place through the son are also used in an interpretation of literal creation. His persistent claim that Jesus’ is ontologically identical with Yahweh has also been well worn.
On pages 7-8, his stress on Jesus calling God "Father," thus proving something regarding divinity is certainly a moot point in my opinion. Uniqueness does not mandate divine or metaphysical ontology. Granted, there is no disputing that Jesus had a unique relationship with God and that God was literally shown to be Jesus’ Father in the human sense, but this does not prove divinity on these grounds (Luke’s genealogy for instance speaks of Adam as “son”). None of these texts he cites, speak of eternal generation. Rather, the conclusions drawn by Jesus’ adversaries in John are relied upon for drawing conclusions of what “blasphemy” entails. It is taken as a proof text since Jesus claimed God as his Father, that – due to the accusation of his peers - he is making himself equal with God. This is poor logic for multiple reasons, but we need not even step outside the book of John to realize that if this is what was being communicated, there is a substantial contradiction, even to the prophets. If we read three chapters later, we find the “Jews” - with whom Jesus is disputing - calling God their Father as well,
“We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God” John 8:41.
Further, when appearing to Mary after his resurrection Jesus tells her,
“I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
This does not make one equal with God. The prophets had described,
“For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.” Jer. 31:9;
“You are our Father…You, O LORD [Yahweh], are our Father” Isa. 63:16;
“But now, O LORD [Yahweh], You are our Father,” Isa. 64:8;
“Just as a father...So the LORD” Ps. 103:13.
Perhaps even of greater clarity is the statement from the Prophet Malachi (2:10),
“Have we not all one [echad] Father? Has not one [echad] God created us?”
One God = one Father. Whether the intention here is to equate “father” with “God” or rather that the progenitor of Israel (“one father”) corresponds to Abraham, and “one creator” to God, matters not for the use of echad, as it pertains to both. Even Paul when writing to the Romans and Galatians states,
“you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).
What fails to make sense with this argument is the claim that it somehow works into Trinitarian dogma. It actually works against it. If identity with Yahweh is what is being communicated, it makes for something closer to Modalism. The Father is numerous times identified as Yahweh. How is this to work with Jesus as a separate person, identical or ontologically the same as Yahweh, but yet distinct from the Father? Can the Father grant authority to someone who is equal in essence and rank? How does this make any sense? If the Father and Son share the same ousia (essence), in what way then, are we to understand Jesus’ claim that he does only that which his Father tells him and permits him to do?
Usually the objection resounds something like this,
“this only means that He has been given power and authority in his human nature, not divine nature.”
Herein lies the difficulty; to postulate this explanation one must presuppose the doctrine of the two natures, a dogma of which the text says absolutely nothing about. In other words, it’s a circular argument; one must read the text according to this doctrine to claim it supports the doctrine.
Irons makes a statement later in the book commenting on Smith’s explanations and posits that the “obvious meaning” of texts are self-evident when they are not “being twisted to fit a preconceived dogma” using “exegetical gymnastics” p. 148. Here, I would point out - using Irons’s own logic - that Jesus is like anyone else who was given authority by another. He was dependent on that authority and subservient to it.
Of course Irons does not disregard Smith's claims of Jesus as the human Messiah. Jesus rather, is only half of the complete person that makes up the “Son.” To reiterate, the problem is Irons’s reliance on later developed dogma. While he cites early sources as seeming evidence of the Church's unity on the matter (dispelling the psilanthropic error, p. 146) he does so against greater evidence that there was not one universal or unanimous position held by the "Church" as a whole. Thus, such a position is anachronistic and Eusebian flavored. It seems to me that this is another case in which it may be proper to ask, "why isn't the emperor wearing any clothes"?