Continuing the conversation, apologist Tom Gilson stands by his claim that the NT doesn’t teach that Jesus had faith during his earthly life, and indeed, tellingly declines to say that. He says, in part,
So the NT clearly comments on, and specifically names, many of Jesus’ virtues. If Dr. Tuggy is right, and the reason Jesus’ faith is not named as such is just because it was so clearly displayed, it seems remarkable that these other virtues of Jesus were named as such. Weren’t his teachings, his love, and his endurance obvious from his behavior, too?
I’m not sure how remarkable it is. Jesus can be both an object of faith and a model of faith in God. Perhaps the former simply overshadows the latter in their minds. Back to Mr. Gilson,
I return again to the point that there is something exceptional about the way the NT writers keep the idea of faith separate from the person Jesus. Jesus taught faith, love, endurance, forgiveness, kindness, and more. Why would he be clearly named as practicing all these virtues but one–the one that he emphasized more than any other but love?
This is special pleading, I think. As I showed before, the author of Hebrews, right after his big list of heroes of faith, seems to cap it off with “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of
our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (As Mr. Gilson notes, there is no “our” in the Greek here; translators have chosen to supply it. But it’s not clear it is needed.) Why exactly are we to think that this involved no faith on Jesus’s part?
And perhaps more importantly, the point stands that prayer requires faith, and Jesus prayed, and it seems, not just to show us how, but rather because sometimes he was distressed and/or in need of guidance.
Mr. Gilson acknowledges that this is a valid argument,
1. God doesn’t have faith.
6. Jesus had faith.
7. Therefore, Jesus isn’t God (Jesus and God are not numerically identical). (1, 6)
And I think he agrees with 1. I don’t see how, in light of the above, the relative silence of the NT on Jesus’s faith shows that 6 is false, or even really casts any doubt on 6. But one of those is his only way, I think, to avoid 7, since it is a valid argument.
At one point, he makes a concession:
Yes, Jesus acted as a man who trusted in God, but references to his having faith are very conspicuously absent. Dr. Tuggy cannot explain that simply by saying that Jesus’ actions demonstrated he was a man of faith. He needs to explain why, of all the virtues Jesus taught, this one is handled so differently by the NT writers.
“Jesus acted as a man who trusted in God.” So, Jesus trusted in God. Then 6 is true, and so (given 1) 7 is true.
Or does he mean only that Jesus acted like a man who trusted God, that Jesus put on a good act, but in fact had no need of faith? In light of what he says below, I think this is what he means – Jesus had trust, sure, but not faith, not a trust that is in the face of significant epistemic limitations.
Do I need to explain why the NT doesn’t directly, explicitly speak of Jesus’s faith? I don’t see why. It seems to me that I’ve given good evidence from the NT for 6 above (and in part 1), and that this relative silence is another matter. (I am willing to grant for the sake of argument that none of the passages that could grammatically be translated “faith of Jesus” really mean that.)
The heart of Mr. Gilson’s response, I think, is this:
I believe the best explanation is that Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, lived in a trusting relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity; that his trust was real; that this trust was, however, so radically different that the NT writers avoided naming it as “faith’; and that that difference is easily explainable in terms of faith being an attitude toward what is not seen (Heb. 11:1), whereas for Jesus, his relationship with the Father and the Spirit was one of perfect awareness, communion, and contact, in accordance with his being that second Person of the Trinity.
“perfect awareness, communion, and contact” Why all the stress, then, in the Garden of Gethsemane? Why the cry from the cross? (Matthew 27:46) Was the endurance of the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2) only a physical endurance?
Modern kenosis theorists about the incarnation redefine divinity so as not to require a divine being to be omniscient. But it seems to me that Mr. Gilson goes far in the other direction: Jesus’s knowledge is always unlimited, and so, any lack of knowledge must have been merely apparent – as is any virtue like faith which presupposes some lack of knowledge. His point is: trust, maybe, but not faith, properly speaking.
I wonder: wouldn’t a similar point apply to Jesus’s prayers? That they’re not really prayers (which require faith), so much as simple talking, or communication (which require only trust)?
If so, I think this is a problem. There are cases where God simply speaks back, and perhaps in which Jesus has a kind of access to God that most of us rarely or never experience, but when Luke says that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer,” we’re to infer that this was for his spiritual sustenance, or for specific needs, for things which he did not know would or would not happen. Not that he was merely hiding his perfect, unhindered access to the Father?
As the first commenter on his post says, is this the Jesus who was “made like his brothers in every way”? (Hebrews 2:17) I suggest it is not; our need for faith in God is a really central part of the (current) human condition. Further, I suggest that theory – catholic christological theory, in a simplified evangelical form – is trumping the clear implications of the New Testament here. For more relevant information, see comment #73, but this same MikeH on Mr. Gilson’s post. There is more in the gospels, I think, that bears on this – passages which arguably presuppose that Jesus is great in faith.
I note that Mr. Gilson declines to enter the theoretical agonies of classical catholic theorizing about all of this. I understand why, believe me! I’m sympathetic to leaving it off to one side. But I also know that the evangelical way is to assert “the deity of Christ,” and try to leave it there, hoping that all the machinery under the hood makes sense. The problem is that they also go around asserting that they defend “historical Christian orthodoxy.” I think they’re in denial, actually, about the newness of their post-Reformation approach. And the machinery under the hood is making all kinds of noises which has the mechanics scratching their heads.
To his credit, Mr. Gilson is trying to make sense of the matter, working hard to find a consistent and organic reading of the New Testament, rather than waving his hands and declaring it all a mystery beyond our ken. That too is part of the Protestant heritage, and one I fully agree with – not being content with theoretical solutions that for various reasons don’t work, and going back to the sources, rather than simply accepting old and dubious formulations as settling it all. I wish him all success in that endeavor.
I also congratulate him on an impressive tenth year blogging. Blog on!
(Here’s a link to all five of my posts in this series.)