This week I am hoping that Rob will show Biblical evidence for the essential relationship formulae of Trinitarianism:
- Father = "God", Son = "God" and Holy Spirit = "God"
- "God" = Father + Son + Holy Spirit
In Week 1 we saw that proving the first does not automatically prove the second, for even if we agree that The Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God, it does not necessarily follow that God = the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Both formulae (F+S+HS=G and G=F+S+HS) must be proved independent of each other. Additionally, Rob must show that all three are individual divine persons comprising a single divine being
For Biblical Unitarians, the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit begins with the Father as head of a divine hierarchy:
- God, the Father: "the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:19); "God of gods" (Deuteronomy 10:17); "rules over all" (I Kings 18:15); "Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Luke 10:21); "He alone possesses immortality" (I Timothy 6:16); "Almighty" (Revelation 21:22)
- Jesus Christ: "the Son can do nothing on his own initiative... I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true" (John 5:19, 30-31); "I live because of the Father" (John 6:57); "the Father is greater than I am" (John 14:28); "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36); "God is the head of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:3); "and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God" (I Corinthians 3:23)
- Angels: "angels came and began ministering to [Jesus'] needs" (Matthew 4:11); "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14); "he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels" (Hebrews 2:5); "[Jesus] is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him" (I Peter 3:22)
Thus we see that the Father is utterly supreme. He is the source of everything that exists and He is above the Son and the angels in every conceivable way, whether functional or ontological. The Son is subject to and dependent upon the Father for his very existence, while the angels are subject to the Father and Son.
Note that Scripture never includes the Holy Spirit in this hierarchy (further evidence that the Holy Spirit is not a person). Even the book of Revelation contains no vision of the Holy Spirit, despite portraying God, Jesus, the heavenly court, and the redeemed saints in multiple instances.
Father, Son & Holy Spirit: in the Bible's Own Words
How does God refer to Jesus? As a subordinate created being whom He brought into existence. As His exalted Son, representative and mediator to humanity:
- Matthew 3:17, "This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight"
- Luke 9:35, "'This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!'"
- Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5, "'You are my Son; today I have fathered you'"
- Hebrews 1:9, "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing"
- Hebrews 1:13, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"
- Hebrews 5:6, "'You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek'"
Galatians 4:4 reinforces this picture, telling us that Jesus was "made of a woman." The Greek word for "made" here is ginomai as in John 1:3. Both occurrences refer to something which was brought into existence. Thus, Jesus' existence has a commencement in time.
How does Jesus refer to God? As his Father and God, the source of his own authority and power:
- Mathew 28:18, "'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me'"
- Mark 12:29, "'The most important is: 'Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one''"
- Luke 22:29, "'Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me'"
- John 3:35, "'The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority'"
- John 5:22, 26-27, 43, "'the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son... just as the Father has life in himself, thus he has granted the Son to have life in himself... he has granted the Son authority to execute judgment... I have come in my Father's name'"
- John 17:7, "'Now they understand that everything you have given me comes from you'"
- John 20:17, "'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'"
- Revelation 3:12, "'The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well'"
Trinitarians might argue that many of these verses refer only to functional subordination (ie. difference in rank), not ontological subordination (ie. difference in nature). But if they take this line of reasoning, they must explain their apparatus for distinguishing one from the other. On what basis do they decide that a verse refers merely to functional subordination instead of ontological subordination? What criteria do they use?
In Acts 2:24, the apostle Peter tells us that Jesus was raised by God, Who "released him from the pains of death." Why would "God the Son" require "release from the pains of death"? This unquestionably refers to Jesus' transition from mortality to immortality, with an echo in I Corinthians 15, where Paul tells us that Jesus "became a life-giving spirit." (How can "God the Son" become a life-giving spirit? Surely he already is one?)
How does Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit? As the Father's divine power and presence (occasionally personified), which guides, inspires and empowers:
- John 14:16-17, "'Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you'"
- John 15:26, "'When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me.'"
- John 20:22, "And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'"
- Acts 1:6, "'For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'"
How did the apostles refer to God? Overwhelmingly as "our Father" and "the God and Father" of Jesus, Who sits at the head of the divine hierarchy:
- Romans 1:7, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- I Corinthians 1:1, "...called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God"
- II Corinthians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- Galatians 1:3, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ"
- Ephesians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- Philippians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- Colossians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father!"
- I Thessalonians 1:1, "... to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you!"
- II Thessalonians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- I Timothy 1:2, "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!"
- Titus 1:4, "Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!"
- Philemon 1:3, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
- II John 3, "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father
How did the apostles refer to Jesus? Overwhelmingly by such titles as "Christ" (Messiah), "our Lord", "our Lord Jesus", "Jesus Christ our Lord", "Saviour", and "our Lord Jesus Christ." Twice they call him "Son of God" (Acts 9:20 & 13:33). They carefully distinguish him from God and specifically identify him as human ("a man", "the man", "himself human"):
- Acts 2:22, "Jesus the Nazarene, a man"
- Acts 7:59, "'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!'"
- Acts 15:11, "'we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus'"
- Romans 5:15, "the one man Jesus Christ"
- Romans 1:4, "according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord"
- I Corinthians 1:8, "so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ"
- Galatians 6:14, " the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"
- Ephesians 3:11, "the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord"
- I Thessalonians 1:3, "hope in our Lord Jesus Christ"
- I Timothy 2:5, "Christ Jesus, himself human"
- II Timothy 1:10, "our Savior Christ Jesus"
- Titus 1:4, "God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!"
- II Peter 1:1, "our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ"
- I John 4:14, "the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world"
How did the apostles refer to the Holy Spirit? As a miraculous gift from God; the Father's divine power and presence, (occasionally personified), which guides, inspires and empowers — and could be bestowed by the apostles at their own discretion:
- Acts 2:38, "'you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'"
- Acts 8:17, "Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit"
- Acts 19:6, "when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them"
- Acts 20:23, "'the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town'"
- Romans 15:13, "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit"
- I Thessalonians 4:8, "the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you" (cf. Acts 5:3-4)
- Hebrews 2:4, "God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit"
Occasionally the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned together in the same context, but not in any way that suggests they are all distinct persons who together comprise the totality of God. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20, "the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit"), the Father works through the Son via the Holy Spirit (John 14:10, "the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds"), and all three were recognised as sources of apostolic authority (Luke 9:1, II Corinthians 12:11-12, I Thessalonians 4:8). It is therefore natural that they appear together in ways which reflect this relationship:
- Luke 1:35, "'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 holy; he will be called the Son of God'"
- Matthew 28:19, "'baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit'"
- Acts 20:28, "'The flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son'"
- II Corinthians 13:13, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all"
Throughout the NT we see Jesus' followers expressing these concepts in the same way he did. They recognised the distinctions between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and appreciated that these distinctions formed the basis of their interrelationship. They refer to the Father and Son not only as two separate persons, but also as two separate beings ("God" and "man"). They describe Jesus as "Son of God", not "God the Son" or some other proto-Trinitarian formula.
They treat the Holy Spirit as a divine power which is able to be transferred via the laying on of hands at the apostles' discretion. Using language reminiscent of water, they describe it as something which can "fill up", "baptise", "fall on", "come upon", and be "given." They refer to the Holy Spirit not as God, but as something belonging to God; an attribute of God; an extension of God's divine power and presence.
While it is true that the apostle Paul describes himself as being "poured out" (Philippians 2:17), he never describes himself as being poured out onto, or into, other people (cf. Acts 10:45, "the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles"). When we contrast the number of times the Holy Spirit is described using functional language (including the "water" vocabulary) with the number of times it is personified, we find that the former is overwhelming and the latter is sparse. That is the opposite of what we would expect if the Holy Spirit was a real person.
Since the Holy Spirit is the medium through which God interacts with creation, His words and actions are often attributed to it, just as He is often credited with words spoken by His prophets. This is a literary device carried over from the OT:
- Psalm 95:7, "For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture, the sheep he owns. Today, if only you would obey him!"
- Hebrews 3:7, 15, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!'"
The words are spoken by the psalmist under divine inspiration, so the author of Hebrews attributes them to the Holy Spirit.
In some cases this is more explicit:
- Psalm 2:1, "Why do the nations rebel? Why are the countries devising plots that will fail?"
- Acts 4:24-5, "When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, 'Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather, 'Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things?''"
Here the words spoken by David are attributed to God via divine inspiration. Note the progression: "God... said by the Holy Spirit through... David." Thus, David, through the Holy Spirit, spoke the words of God. (Cf. Psalm 110:1, "Here is the LORD's proclamation to my lord, 'Sit down at my right hand'"; Mark 12:36, "David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said, 'The Lord said to my lord, 'Sit at my right hand''"; Hebrews 1:13, "to which of the angels has [God] ever said, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'?").
The natural way in which Scripture interchanges these references throughout the OT and NT is a demonstration of the first-century Christians' adherence to OT Jewish religious teachings. There is no sudden ideological breach between the Testaments.
Jesus Christ: Son of God, Jewish Messiah & Sacrificial Lamb (I)
Central to the relationship between the Father and the Son is Jesus' role as the Son of God and Jewish Messiah. "Son of God" already possessed a generalized antecedent in the OT title "sons of God", applied to angels (Job 38:7, "all the sons of God shouted for joy") and mortal men (Psalm 82:6, "You are gods; all of you are sons of the Most High'"). Faithful believers are described as "sons of God" (Luke 20:36, Galatians 3:26) and Adam is described as the "son of God" since he was created by the Father as the world's first man (Luke 3:38). But when Jesus is described in this way, we are left in no doubt that the meaning contains a unique significance (Luke 1:35, "'Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God'").
We know that the Jews of Jesus' day believed that the Messiah would be the Son of God (Matthew 26:63, "'I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God'"). Here the high priest equates "Christ" ("Messiah") with "Son of God." He saw no blasphemy in the idea that the Messiah would be the Son of God; in fact, the Jewish rulers never objected to this concept. What they objected to was Jesus' claim to be the Son of God, since he did not match their preconceptions about the Messiah's identity and mission.
The use of the term "Son of God" tells us that the person referred to in this way is not actually God Himself. "Of" denotes a distinction between "Son" and "God", not an equivalence. Some Trinitarians try to circumvent this by arguing that "like begets like; human begets human; God begets God." But the analogy fails on several grounds. If true, it would mean:
- Jesus' divine existence had a beginning in time (which Trinitarianism denies)
- Jesus' deity is not inherent, but derived from the Father (which Trinitarianism denies)
- Jesus is a separate being from the Father (which Trinitarianism denies)
Most of the church fathers from the 2nd Century and onwards subscribed to this belief (known as "ontological subordinationism"), which formed the basis of what would later be known as Arianism.
Justin Martyr (ANF 1.170):
We assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation
Theophilus (ANF 2.103):
When God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word. He uttered the First-Born of all creation.
Irenaeus (ANF 1.576):
As He was born of Mary in the last days, so did He also proceed from God as the First-Begotten of every creature.
Tertullian (Adversus Hermogenem, III):
Because God is in like manner a Father, and He is also a Judge; but He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son; the former of which was to constitute the Lord a Judge, and the latter a Father.
Hippolytus (ANF 5.150, 151):
This solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos... Him alone did [the Father] produce from existing things. For the Father Himself constituted existence, and the Being born from him was the cause of all things that are produced.
Origen (Contra Celsum, 8.14):
And I am therefore of the opinion that the will of the Father alone ought to be sufficient for the existence of that which He wishes to exist. For in the exercise of His will He employs no other way than that which is made known by the council of His will. And thus also the existence of the Son is generated by Him.
Examples could be multiplied. Suffice it to say that this later Christological development is well recognised by Trinitarian commentators. Catholic theologian Michael Schmaus (Dogma, Vol. 3, "God and His Christ", Sheed and Ward, 1971, p. 216):
The Christian writers of the second and third centuries considered the Logos as the eternal reason of the Father, but as having at first no distinct existence from eternity; he [Jesus] received this only when the Father generated him from within his own being and sent him to create the world and rule over the world. The act of generation then was not considered as an eternal and necessary life-act but as one which had a beginning in time, which meant that the Son was not equal to the Father, but subordinate to Him. Irenaeus, Justin, Hippolytus and Methodius share this view called Subordinationism.
None of these early church fathers were Biblical Unitarians — but they weren't Trinitarians either. In fact, even as late as the 4th Century AD, Christians were hopelessly confused about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This situation was tackled by three prominent theologians: Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and his brother, Basil of Caesarea. Gregory of Nazianzus gives us some insight into the church of his day when he complains about his fellow Christians (NPNF 2-07):
But, they go on, what have you to say about the Holy Ghost? From whence are you bringing in upon us this strange God, of Whom Scripture is silent? And even they who keep within bounds as to the Son speak thus. And just as we find in the case of roads and rivers, that they split off from one another and join again, so it happens also in this case, through the superabundance of impiety, that people who differ in all other respects have here some points of agreement, so that you never can tell for certain either where they are of one mind, or where they are in conflict.
Now the subject of the Holy Spirit presents a special difficulty, not only because when these men have become weary in their disputations concerning the Son, they struggle with greater heat against the Spirit...
Jaroslav Pelikan (The Christian tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1, University Of Chicago Press, 1975, p.213) quotes Basil of Caesarea as saying:
Of the wise men among ourselves, some have conceived of him [the Holy Spirit] as an activity, some as a creature, some as God; and some have been uncertain which to call him... And therefore they neither worship him nor treat him with dishonor, but take up a neutral position.
Gregory of Nyssa was similarly offended, and wrote a letter to Bishop Ablabius of Nicaea complaining that he and his friends were accused of believing in three gods.
This snapshot of the church in the late 4th Century reveals that the Trinity was still not a fully established doctrine. Christians were still arguing about the identity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit; there was widespread agreement on various points, but not enough to maintain a united church.
Did the first-century Christians believe that Jesus was the God of Israel and the Holy Spirit was a co-equal divine person with him? No; these ideas emerged long after their time. Did the second-century Christians believe in a Trinity? No; many believed in a pre-existent Christ whom they considered a type of divine creature with a finite existence, following the Logos Christology of Justin Martyr and others.
Perhaps the third-century Christians? No; Modalism, and ontological subordinationism were still common in that era. Maybe the fourth-century Christians? No; the identity of the Holy Spirit was not fully defined at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, while the First Council of Constantinople (AD381) left gaps in the definition of Christ's dual nature that would not be covered until the Council of Chalcedon in AD451. The relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit was blurred for centuries.
Rob is somewhat vague about the point at which he believes the church embraced true Trinitarianism, but we receive a general sense that he perceives an implicit Trinitarian Christology within the NT which gave quickly rise to fully-fledged Trinitarianism. Precisely how long this took and what process was involved, Rob does not say. It is one of several questions to which I am still awaiting answers. But the history of Trinitarianism — as admitted by its own theologians — is an excruciating mess of debate, controversy and confusion spanning several hundred years.
How can Trinitarianism be the doctrine once preached by the apostles, whom the Holy Spirit would "lead into all truth" (John 16:13)? It bears no resemblance to their preaching in the book of Acts, or the doctrinal statements in their epistles to fellow Christians. It is absent from the earliest extra-Biblical writings (e.g. the Didache) and the works of the first-century church fathers (e.g. Papias and Polycarp). It is contrary to reason, antagonistic to Scripture, and undermined by the record of history.
Jesus Christ: Son of God, Jewish Messiah & Sacrificial Lamb (II)
Surprisingly, Putting Jesus in His Place (hereafter PJIHP) is light on atonement theology. Genesis 3:14-21 is universally regarded as the bedrock of Christian soteriology, but it's not even mentioned. PJIHP's treatment of Christ's atoning work is almost entirely restricted to a handful of references between pages 209-213.
The argument presented throughout this section (entitled "The Way, the Truth, and the Life") is that Jesus' atoning work is largely predicated upon his ability to forgive sins ("Jesus' contribution to our salvation is not limited solely to his death and resurrection, as great as those redemptive acts are", p.210), but no attempt is made to address Jesus' words to his disciples in John 20:23 ("'If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained"'). But if our atonement is primarily based upon the fact that Jesus is God and has the power to forgive sins, is there any need for an atoning death at all?
The Bible's emphasis is on OT typology, which is redolent with the need for a perfect, sinless blood sacrifice. This principle is established in Genesis 3 (coats of skins for Adam and Eve), reaffirmed in Exodus 12 (institution of the Passover) and repeatedly emphasised throughout the Law of Moses, with its complex system of typological offerings. As we have seen in previous weeks, the atonement consists of three main points:
- Sin deserves death
- Sacrifice offers a covering for sin
- Only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice; a sacrifice which is "other than God"
The sacrifice itself demands two essential qualities: mortality and moral perfection. Under the Law of Moses, moral perfection was symbolised by physical perfection; a sacrificial offering had to be healthy and flawless (Deuteronomy 15:21). Having lived an obedient, sinless life, Jesus fulfilled this typology as the perfect "Lamb of God" without any moral blemish, and was sacrificed for the sins of humanity (John 1:29, I Peter 1:19).
A common evangelical objection to the Biblical Unitarian atonement is that Jesus could not have been morally sinless unless he was God, because all humans are considered sinners from the moment of their birth as a result of "original sin" (or "total depravity", as the Calvinists call it). But Biblical Unitarians do not believe in "original sin" or "total depravity." We believe that human nature is capable of sin and prone to sin, but humans are not regarded as sinners until they sin. Thus Jesus' human nature did not preclude the potential for sinlessness.
This presents yet another weakness for Trinitarianism: the question of Jesus' nature. As an evangelical, Rob surely believes in some form of "original sin"; but how does he view it in relation to Jesus? If Rob's Jesus does not have original sin, how can he be truly human and "made like his brothers in every way"? If he does have it, how can he be sinless? Donald Macleod wrestles awkwardly with this problem (Did Christ have a fallen human nature?) and ultimately concludes that Jesus' nature was not fallen, which leaves him with a Christ who is perilously close to Docetism. (He is contradicted by Karl Barth, J. B. Torrance, Edward Irving and others, who believed that Jesus "assumed 'fallen humanity'"; Oliver Crisp, Divinity and Humanity: the Incarnation Reconsidered, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.91).
Rob believes Jesus could be tempted, yet was incapable of sin (PJIHP, p.122). But there can be no temptation without the possibility of sin. To deny that Jesus could sin is to deny that he could be tempted, so the statement "Jesus could be tempted but was not capable of sin" is both self-refuting and utterly meaningless. If Jesus cannot be tempted, then Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 are both false. If Jesus was incapable of sin, then Hebrews 2:17 and Galatians 4:4 are both false.
This is one of many theological contradictions Rob lists in his book. Since by his own admission he cannot resolve them, he simply labels them "paradoxes" and decides that this legitimises the contradiction. But it does not; it merely re-states the problem without addressing the cause. (Ironically, Rob's "paradoxes" would disappear completely if he embraced Biblical Unitarianism).
The traditional method of addressing these Christological contradictions is to argue by reference to the hypostatic union, claiming that Jesus acts and responds "from his human nature" or "from his divine nature" depending on the context. Jesus' physical weaknesses and limitations are attributed to his human nature, while his supernatural capacity is attributed to his divine nature. As far as I can tell, Rob endorses this approach as an effective way to deal with the logical conflict of the hypostatic union. Yet it merely presents new difficulties.
Dividing the Trinitarian Jesus' two natures in this way essentially treats them as two separate persons, thereby lapsing in to the heresy of Nestorianism (see Justin Cloute, Reformed Christology: Modern Nestorianism?, 2000). Reformed Christians have been criticised by Lutheran and Orthodox theologians for their neo-Nestorian Christology, while the Reformed respond with accusations of Monophysitism. Can Biblical Unitarians be legitimately criticised for rejecting Trinitarianism when even Trinitarians cannot agree on their own Christology?
The Message of Reconciliation
A common mistake by Trinitarians is to overlook the differences between the post-resurrection Jesus and the pre-crucifixion Jesus. Biblical Unitarians take these differences very seriously. The man who rose from the dead is the same man who died on the cross, but free from the weaknesses and limitations of mortal humanity. He is not a "mere man"; he is the immortal, archetypal Adam. The perfected man, raised above all creation, imbued with the Holy Spirit beyond measure, whose power is almost limitless and whose authority is second only to God's. We can relate to him because we know he can relate to us.
The Bible describes Jesus' humanity in a way that leaves no room for deity and totally precludes the "God-man" hypothesis. Born as a mortal man and made like his brethren in every way (Hebrews 2:17), he was subject to the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and capable of sin (Luke 4:1; cf. James 1:13-14). His sinless life was made possible by his superior mental and intellectual qualities (Luke 2:46-47), his close relationship with the Father (John 1:18, 10:30, 38), and the angelic assistance he received whenever necessary (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43).
We know that he struggled with the awful burden of his task (Matthew 26:39-42; Luke 22:42) and suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15), but completely resisted sin. As a mortal man, he required release from the pains of death (Acts 2:24) and recognised this need through his prayers and supplications to God, who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7). Submitting obediently to his sacrificial death on the cross (Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:20) he was raised to life by the Father (Galatians 1:1) and now sits at His right hand in an exalted, glorified form (Mark 16:19; Acts 5:31; Philippians 3:21), exercising divine power, authority and judgement while he awaits his Second Advent (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 21:27; John 5:27; Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20-22).
Biblical Unitarianism's high Christology is based upon a high anthropology. We recognise humanity as the pinnacle of God's creation. Adam and Eve were the only creatures created made in the image and likeness of God, and humans are the only creatures capable of reflecting Him. The first Adam sinned, fell, and lost his relationship with God. The second Adam (Jesus Christ) obeyed and was exalted, offering a way to restore the relationship between God and humanity.
It is that relationship which God now invites us to share through the power and love of His Son. "We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation" (Romans 5:11).