Friday, July 28, 2017

Mark 13:32: the Son's Glorious Ignorance of the Day and Hour

Mark 13:32 reads:

 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

This verse is a favorite of anti-Trinitarians.  However, it by no means disproves the true Deity and equality of the Son of God with His Father; rather, it relates to the true humanity of Christ.  (I discuss the verse at length in lecture #16 of my Trinitarianism class, on my website here and also on Youtube).

My point in this post is not an apologetic or dogmatic one, however.  This verse is not just something to explain when speaking to a member of the Watchtower Society or another cultist, and otherwise pass over in painful silence.  As in my discussion in my work The Triune God of the Bible, a wonderful truth connected to salvation is taught in the verse.  The quote below relates to the way patristic Trinitarians responded to the Arian rejection of Christ's Deity based on Mark 13:32 and the Bible's affirmation of Christ's human ignorance.

It is basically the same argument that is to be applied to the atoning exchange between ignorance and wisdom in Christ—a problem that was much discussed in the fourth century, for the Arians had appealed to passages in the Gospels such as those in which it was said of Jesus that he increased in wisdom and even was lacking in knowledge [Luke 2:52; Mark 13:32]. Athanasius handled this question in entire consistency with his arguments about what the Son of God had done in making himself one of us and one with us in what we actually are in order to save us. That is to say, while the Son or Word of God who is one and the same being as the Father enjoys a relation of mutual knowing between himself and the Father, nevertheless in his self-abasement in the form of a servant he had condescended, for our sakes, really to make our ignorance along with other human limitations his own, precisely in order to save us from them. "He incorporated the ignorance of men in himself, that he might redeem their humanity from all its imperfections and cleanse and offer it perfect and holy to the Father." The fact that Christ was both God and man, and thus acted as God and as man, led some theologians in the fourth century to make ambiguous statements about the "economic ignorance" of Christ, and sometimes even to speak of it as unreal. Gregory Nazianzen, and Gregory Nyssen, both insisted on the reality of our Lord’s ignorance as essential to his humanity; but it was Cyril of Alexandria who developed the soteriological approach of Athanasius most fully. For him the ignorance of Christ was just as essential to his amazing self-abasement or kenosis as his physical imperfections and limitations, all of which are to be predicated of his one incarnate reality (mia phusis sesarkomene). It was an economic and vicarious ignorance on our Lord’s part by way of a deliberate restraint on his divine knowledge throughout a life of continuous kenosis in which he refused to transgress the limits of the creaturely and earthly conditions of human nature.

As the Word or Mind of God become flesh Jesus Christ was the incarnate wisdom of God, but incarnate in such a way as really to share with us our human ignorance, so that we might share in his divine wisdom. This was not just an appearance of ignorance on his part, any more than his incarnating of the Word or Mind of God was only in appearance. Had either been in appearance only, it would have emptied the economic condescension of the Son to save and redeem of any reality. Unless the Son of God had assumed the whole nature of man, including his ignorance, man could not have been saved. The wonderful exchange that lies at the heart of the interaction of the incarnation and atonement operates right here, as at every other point in the relation between God and sinful human being, for the human mind is an absolutely essential element in creaturely being. Hence God in Christ Jesus took it up into himself along with the whole man, in order to penetrate into it and deal with the sin, alienation, misunderstanding, and darkness that had become entrenched within it. Jesus Christ came among us sharing to the full the poverty of our ignorance, without ceasing to embody in himself all the riches of the wisdom of God, in order that we might be redeemed from our ignorance through sharing in his wisdom. Redemption was not accomplished just by a downright fiat of God, nor by a mere divine "nod," but by an intimate, personal movement of the Son of God himself into the heart of our
creaturely being and into the inner recesses of the human mind, in order to save us from within and from below, and to restore us to undamaged relations of being and mind with himself. Thus throughout his earthly life Christ laid hold of our alienated and darkened human mind in order to heal and enlighten it in himself. In and through him our ignorant minds are brought into such a relation to God that they may be filled with divine light and truth. The redemption of man’s ignorance has an essential place in the atoning exchange, for everything that we actually are in our lost and benighted condition has been taken up by Christ into himself in order that he might bring it under the saving, renewing, sanctifying, and enlightening power of his own reality as the incarnate wisdom and light of God. (T. F. Torrance (The Trinitarian Faith, pgs. 186-188; footnotes of original patristic sources not reproduced. While this is a great quote, regrettably, Torrance has severe theological problems and I am not confident of seeing him in heaven. Also, one must not push Torrance's argument too far and conclude that Christ actually assumed a sinful human nature instead of sinless humanity into union with His eternal Divine Person.)

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this quote (and on the verse in general) in the comment section below.  I would encourage you read my discussion of Mark 13:32 in The Triune God of the Bible or watch lecture #16 where I discuss it first, though.  


Jim Camp said...

I have always looked at Matt. 13: 32 passages in light of Hebrews Jer. 31: 34 & Heb. 8: 12.
Presuming that these 2 verses are not figurative statements of some type, these state that God will forget something, which lead me to the conclusion that it is an ability of the Godhead to chose to not know something.
My $.02 worth.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Camp,

Thanks for the $0.02.