Staying Within Proper Theological Boundaries: A Fascinating Icon

Nicaea_icon_(cropped_Greek_text_homoousion_tooi_p(a)tri,_Of_one_Being_with_the_Father) On a number of levels, I find this icon fascinating![1]

It takes the phrase homoousion tō Patri (“co-essential/consubstantial with the Father”) from the Greek of the Nicene Creed and adapts it in rather curious ways. Simultaneously, it appears to extract at least one other aspect of the message of the Creed into it.

First of all, the text/icon appears to be an unusual combination of mostly majuscule (akin to UPPER CASE letters) and one or a few minuscule letters (akin to lower case letters).[2] Secondly, and more obviously, the icon has placed one character over another multiple times.[3] Thirdly, it features an unusually depicted staurogram—the superimposition of a rho (P) over a tau (T), designed to visually represent Christ hanging on the Cross.[4] The latter may be a way of incorporating “crucified for us” from the Creed into the word for “Father” (here in its dative form ΠАΤΡΙ), by fashioning the alpha (A), tau (T), and rho (P) into one composite character in which each share one vertical stroke. Perhaps this is the icon-maker’s way of expressing that, in order to maintain the ‘co-essence’ of the Trinitarian ‘Persons’, in a sense, God the Father ‘died’ on the Cross?[5]


To better explain the particulars, allow me to provide my (non-artist’s) rendering of what this icon would look like if the phrase were in all majuscule without any letters placed atop or superimposed upon any others. In keeping with the usual practice, no spaces are placed between the words (diacritics, aka accents, are included).

With the FatherThe accent over the first omicron (O) is what is known as the rough breathing mark, indicating to sound the vowel with a prepended English “H” (“ha”). This is the reason for its transliterated spelling homoousion.

For comparison, below is the majuscule in modern keyboard text (sans diacritics) and below that is the minuscule (with diacritics, including the iota subscript under the omega):

Nicaea_icon_(cropped_Greek_text_homoousion_tooi_p(a)tri,_Of_one_Being_with_the_Father) ΟΜΟΟΥCΙΟΝΤШΠАΤΡΙ

ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρὶ

The 3rd ‘character’ from the left in the icon, which resembles a ‘snowman’, is actually three letters stacked one atop another. But they are not even in the correct order! They should be omicron (O), omicron (O), upsilon (Y). However, assuming the ‘hands’ of the ‘snowman’ indicate the upper portion of the upsilon (Y), then the icon shows an omicron at top, the chopped upsilon below that, and the second omicron on the bottom. I can only speculate as to why the icon was written this way.

Note that the way the acute accent (΄) is placed in the icon it appears to be intended to go over the truncated upsilon (Y), as opposed to the upper omicron. This would be consistent with where it should be placed had it been written out normally (see my rendering above). I might speculate that the second omicron (O) is at the bottom because of what might be considered an alternate spelling, in which this second omicron is dropped completely.[6]

In order, the next oddity in the icon is the omega (ω) under the tau (T), and the circumflex (˜) over the tau instead of the omega (see my rendering above for correct placement of circumflex). Given the stacking of omega under tau, the positioning of the circumflex makes sense. In other words, the circumflex would normally go over the omega, and since the tau is stacked over the omega, it follows that the circumflex would go over the tau/omega.

This tau/omega constitutes the Greek article (in its dative form), which is translated here as “with-the”. With that in mind, this looks to be simply an artist’s rendition of the article in this important phrase from the Creed. I like the idea!

The final curiosity in the icon is by far the most intriguing. Within the word ΠАΤΡΙ, the artist here has stacked the alpha (A—but see my rendering above for the usual depiction of this letter) atop the tau (T), and the rho (P) just under the tau, in such a way as to approximate the stylized staurogram. Essentially, the artist ‘bent’ the alpha such that the long, angled line of it is verticalized in order to conjoin it with the vertical axis of the tau, while also placing the curved portion of the alpha atop the horizontal bar of the tau. Comparatively, in the usual staurogram it is the curved portion of the rho (P) which sits atop the horizontal bar of the tau (T), in order to resemble a drooping head on a cross. Here it looks as though the artist purposefully drew one head over the horizontal bar of the tau (the curved portion of the alpha) and another head just below the horizontal bar (the curved portion of the rho) in order to depict not one, but two heads on the Cross. Is this to indicate Father and Son (cf. Acts 20:28: “…Ekklēsia of God, which [God] purchased with His own blood”)? Restating from above: Is this the artist’s way of expressing that, in order to maintain the ‘co-essence’ of the Trinitarian ‘Persons’, in a sense, God the Father also ‘died’ on the Cross?

Once again, fascinating!



[1] This icon is sourced from the Wikipedia page of Nicene Creed, under the History section. I have not yet determined its provenance.

[2] Assuming this icon was intended to appear contemporaneous with the establishment of the 381 (or 325) Creed, the presence of the iota subscript—the tiny downward mark (͵) centered under the omega (ω)—which was introduced ca. 12th century AD by Byzantine philologists, would render it an anachronism, if the omega is indeed majuscule, which (most of) the rest of the text seems to be. (But see note 3 below.) This is because majuscule (uncial) declined in use ca. 9th-10th century as minuscule had emerged (ca. 8th century) and was favored. But since omega looks the same whether in majuscule or minuscule (besides the smaller size of the latter), it is difficult to determine the intention of the icon maker with respect to this letter. Is the omega here in minuscule instead? If minuscule, why does the rest of the text appear to be in majuscule (but, again, see note 3 below)? If majuscule, why the iota subscript? A curiosity! (Side note: though the majuscule omega is usually depicted as Ω in Greek alphabet listings, Greek NT manuscripts use Ш instead, as far as I am aware.)

[3] Since the omicron looks the same whether in majuscule (O) or minuscule (o), besides the size, one cannot determine which is in mind in the ‘snowman’ character—the third from the left—which is actually three letters (omicron, omicron, upsilon) in one space! It is also possible the upsilon—the ‘hands’ of the ‘snowman’—is in minuscule (υ), as opposed to majuscule (Y). More on this further below.

[4] Staurograms are found in a number of Greek NT manuscripts from Alexandria, Egypt. In these, the Greek word for “cross” (stauros, CTAYPOC) is abbreviated and styled to resemble Christ hanging on the Cross. See hyperlink in main text above. Cf. the following papyrus at The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, specifically the end of the fourth line of manuscript P75 @ Luke 14:27. Click on manuscript to enlarge. Note that the word here (in the accusative) is CTAYPON, yet the staurogram eliminates both the alpha (A) and the upsilon (Y) as it depicts one hanging on a cross. Also note the overline atop the entire word, which was standard practice for what are known as Nomina Sacra.

[5] This is not necessarily heretical; it depends on how it is construed. See Forsaken For Our Sake, taking special note of footnote 1 there.

[6] See Schaff/Wace, EXCURSUS ON THE WORD HOMOUSIOS, as found on pp 3­–4 here.


Staying Within Proper Theological Boundaries: Important Words

This post is an extension of Staying Within Proper Theological Boundaries. Here we look at the color-coded words plus “Almighty” in the 381 Nicene Creed.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty [pantokratōr], Maker [poitēs] of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And (we believe) in one Lord Jesus Christ—the sole-kin/kind [monogenēs] Son of God, begotten [gennaō] of the Father before all ages [aiōn], Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten [gennaō] not made [poieō], coessential [homo-ousia] with the Father—through whom all things came to be; Who, for us men [anthrōpos] and for our salvation, descended from heaven—enfleshed by the Holy Spirit, and of the virgin Mary—and became man [en-anthrōpos] . . .

Comparing Paired Words

Following are the color-coded terms from the Creed and reasons for their highlighting here.

God, the Father is the ultimate “Maker” (Poitēs) of all things, while the Son is the agent through Whom all things came to be. Accordingly, the Son is not “made” (poieō) but “begotten” (gennaō) instead, which means He is not a creature.

The Son is also “begotten” (gennaō) of the Father before all “ages” (aiōn), meaning ‘pre-time’. It is difficult to speak of ‘a time before time’ without using some sort of temporal category (before all ages); but the implication here is the Son was “begotten” in the eternal realm, as opposed to the temporal realm, thereby establishing His eternality. In other words, since time and space are an integral part of creation—and we have established the Son is “not made”—speaking in terms of Him ‘predating’ all “ages” is to express that an intrinsic trait of the Son is eternality.

The use of “before all ages” with “begotten” serves as a means by which to describe what is implied of the Word (ho Logos) in John 1:1–2: In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning the Word [‘already’] was. Stated more succinctly, ‘Before’ the creation event, the Son ‘alreadywas with God.

The Son of God became man (en-anthrōpos) when He was “enfleshed” (“became flesh”—John 1:14) “for us men (anthrōpos) and for our salvation”. The Son of God willingly condescended to take the form of man in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to become a sacrifice for us—a Divine mystery for the sake of humanity.

Who is ‘Almighty’?

God is “Almighty”. Jesus is God (the God-man). But can we say Jesus is “Almighty”?

The use of “Almighty” (Pantokratōr) in the very beginning of the Creed prompts this question.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty [pantokratōr], Maker [poitēs] of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

This word “Almighty” is specifically applied to God the Father, but not to the Son. So, would it be proper to ascribe this same title to Jesus?

Pantokratōr (“Almighty”) is only found ten times in the New Testament. Nine occur in Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). The remaining one is in 2Cor 6:18, where it is sourced from the Old Testament (“LORD [YHWH], Almighty”). In Revelation most all instances are in the form “Lord God, Almighty”, except two as “God, Almighty” (16:14; 19:15) and one as “Lord God . . . Almighty” (1:8). This latter one is of special interest here. In the ellipsis is the same verbiage as Revelation 1:4: the One Who is, Who was, and Who is coming, which denotes a Divine Title (or Name)1 and is clearly a reference to God the Father in this context.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.”2

Moreover, the next occurrence of “Almighty” (4:8) also contains this same Divine Title (Name). Therefore, it would appear that the referent in 1:8 is also God the Father. This seems especially so given that the remaining instances of “Almighty” in Revelation all refer to the Father. And if we accept the implications of the language in in the 381 Nicene Creed (“one God, the Father Almighty”), then we should definitively conclude that 1:8 be understood as words of God the Father.

Yet in many ‘Red Letter’ Bible versions, these words are attributed to Jesus. These include: Amplified Bible, BRG Bible, 1599 Geneva Bible, International Children’s Bible, International Standard Version, Legacy Standard Bible, Modern English Version, New American Standard Bible, New American Standard Bible 1995, New Century Version, New International Version 1984, New King James Version, New Life Version, and the World English Bible.3 I contend these versions are in error, unless some strong evidence can be adduced to support such an interpretation.

Now, we must note that contained in Revelation 1:8 is the Title “the Alpha and the Omega” (cf. 21:6), which Jesus applies to Himself in 22:13. Moreover, Jesus also applies “the Beginning and the End” to Himself in 22:13, and this same Title is used by “the One Who sits on the Throne” (God the Father) in 21:6. In other words, there is quite a bit of overlap in the Titles of the Book of Revelation.

But then again, the Title (Name) the One Who is, Who was, and Who is coming is only ever applied to the Father.

Yet perhaps I’m missing a more solid connection to support attributing the words of Revelation 1:8 to Jesus? Thoughts or challenges?


1 See Not Declining the Divine Name?

2 It is possible the quotation ends just before says the Lord God: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, the One Who is, Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty. But this has no bearing on the issue at hand.

3 These are all found on BibleGateway, except the New International Version 1984, which I have a printed copy of. Following are among those Red Letter versions which do not use red lettering for Revelation 1:8: Christian Standard Bible, Common English Bible, English Standard Version, English Standard Version UK, Holman Christian Standard Bible, The Living Bible, New International Version, New International Version UK, and New Living Translation.

Staying Within Proper Theological Boundaries

In the formative years of the Christian Ekklēsia (“Church”)1 synods (councils) were convened in response to doctrinal controversies and other matters needing refinement. Those synods gaining acceptance in the Ekklēsia at large became known as ecumenical councils.2 Eventually a total of Seven Ecumenical Councils were called.3 The very first of these was the First Council of Nicaea in 325.4

Nicaea 325 primarily sought to define the Divine nature of the person of Jesus Christ, by clarifying His ontological relationship to God the Father—as revealed by Scripture.5 The goal was to settle Christological controversy (see Arius and Arianism).6 The Nicene Creed of 325 resulted. Nevertheless the controversy raged on, so a second council was convened to end it at last.7 Delegates gathered in Constantinople in 381. Another synod was held in this same city in 553; so, somewhat confusingly, this Second Ecumenical Council became known as the First Council of Constantinople (381).8

At this First Council of Constantinople in 381 the Nicene Creed of 325 was both expanded and stream-lined. This new Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) was later known simply as “the Nicene Creed”.9 To alleviate possible confusion, we will call it “the 381 Nicene Creed”.

The 381 Nicene Creed

The original text of the 381 Nicene Creed is in Greek. Philip Schaff’s Greek text in The Creeds of Christendom undergirds the translation below.10 This translation (mine) differs a bit from Schaff’s own English (as found, e.g., in the Wikipedia entry).11 Important Greek words are bracketed and placed just after their English counterparts. Explanations for their importance will follow. Words repeated in the Creed for the apparent purpose of comparison or contrast are color-coded. “We believe” is in the original text only once, opening the Creed, but is parenthetically inserted at points for readability:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty [pantokratōr], Maker [poitēs] of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And (we believe) in one Lord Jesus Christ—the sole-kin/kind [monogenēs] Son of God, begotten [gennaō] of the Father before all ages [aiōn], Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten [gennaō] not made [poieō], coessential [homo-ousia] with the Father—through whom all things came to be; Who, for us men [anthrōpos] and for our salvation, descended from heaven—enfleshed by the Holy Spirit, and of the virgin Mary—and became man [en-anthrōpos]; Who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, endured suffering, was buried, rose on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of the Father; and Who again will come with glory to judge the living and the dead—Him in whose kingdom there will be no end.

And (we believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Life-giving Lord, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke through the Prophets.

(We believe) in one holy, universal [katholikos], and apostolic Ekklēsia; we profess one baptism for remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to the life of the age [aiōn] to come. Amen.12

Before proceeding further we must acknowledge that the Creed cannot be understood as on par with Scripture. Yet, in agreement with Oliver Crisp, this creedal statement and others from the Seven Ecumenical Councils “are theologically binding because they are repositories of dogmatic reflection upon Scripture by the undivided Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”13 Accordingly, we must affirm that the above Creed is an accurate Scriptural interpretation. As such, it erects proper doctrinal borders within which to confine ourselves, in order to remain within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

This is not to state the 381 Creed is an exhaustive treatise on Christology, theology, or the Trinity. It is not. Yet one should be careful not to deviate from any of its language or tenets.

Examining the Text and Context

Applying a bit of discourse analysis may illumine the intents and purposes of the drafters.

While large portions of the 381 Creed adopt or paraphrase Scripture, the majority of the Creed is built around 1Corinthians 8:6, borrowing or mirroring its Greek text.

The first section sources one God the Father, (eĩs Theos ho Patēr) from 1Cor 8:6, inserts Almighty, then adds bits and paraphrasing of Colossians 1:16 (heaven and earth, visible and invisible). Both verses overlap in all things (panta). Yet, interestingly, the New Testament (NT) context of the Colossians verse refers to the Son as agent of creation, with the Father as implied Creator, whereas here in the Creed the Father is explicitly Maker. This appears to serve the dual purpose of making explicit what is implied in Col 1:16 (Father as Maker), while alluding to its explicit meaning (Son as agent). This allusion, then, provides a suitable bridge to the next section.

In the second section of the Creed, the middle portion of 1Cor 8:6 is found in the use of one Lord Jesus Christ (eĩs Kyrios Iēsous Christos). Then the text inserts descriptors of Christ (evidenced by my use of em dashes in the translation) before the resumption of 1Cor 8:6, which illustrates the Son’s agency in creation: through Whom all things (di’ oũ ta panta).14 This verbiage approximates that of John 1:3 (panta di’ auto, =all things through Him), and the Creed adds came-to-be (egento) from that verse in John.

The second section also appears to contain a chiastic pattern.15 It opens and closes with the portions of the Corinthians verse noted just above, thus providing an inclusio, framing this subsection:

A1 one Lord Jesus Christ . . .
–– B1 monogenēs Son of God
––– C1 begotten of the Father before all ages
––––– D1 Light of Light
––––– D2 true God of true God
––– C2 begotten not made
–– B2 homo-ousia with the Father
A2 . . . through Whom all things came to be

A1 begins and A2 ends this subsection. We can readily see that C2 is intended to parallel C1 in the repeating of begotten. The same applies to D1 and D2, given the obvious parallelism of Light of Light and God of God. Therefore, in similar fashion, B2 is probably meant to parallel B1 in some key way. Assuming so, the juxtaposition of monogenēs with homo-ousia may assist in defining the former through an understanding of the latter.

Much more can be gleaned, but this will suffice for our purposes here.

The words highlighted in the Creed will be expounded upon in future posts.


1 I prefer Ekklēsia over “Church” given the convoluted etymology of the latter. For explanation see Re-Assembly Required.

2 See Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 14 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), pp xi–xii. Also found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library—here.

3 But not every current Christian tradition affirms them all. The resultant creedal statements are more likely to be affirmed while the associated canons are more likely to be rejected (or forgotten!). Regardless of tradition, I think it important that the individual believer be at least somewhat familiar with these seven.

4 Confusingly, there was another council held in Nicaea in 787, accounting for why this is known as the “First Council of Nicaea”. The 787 is the “Second Council of Nicaea”. A similar thing occurred in Constantinople, as we shall see.

5 Though see Schaff and Wace, Seven Ecumenical Councils: “The question they were called upon to answer was not ‘What do I think is probable, or even certain, from Holy Scripture?’ but, ‘What have I been taught, what has been intrusted [sic] to me to hand down to others?’” (p 2). However, one must ask what exactly was handed down but that which was assumed to have been properly exegeted and interpreted from the Scriptures? In fact the Schaff and Wace verbiage on the next two pages (pp 3–4 [in EXCURSUS ON THE WORD HOMOUSIOS]) appears to contradict this statement.

6 See Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), pp 368–371.

7 See Allison, Historical Theology, pp 371–372.

8 So the 553 council became known as the “Second Council of Constantinople”. There was even a third synod convened in this same city, held 680–681, which became known as the “Third Council of Constantinople”.

9 See Allison, Historical Theology, p 372.

10 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, ed. David S. Schaff, 3 Vols., 6th ed. (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1931; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), pp II.57–58.

11 See Schaff, Creeds, I.28–29. Translation below is mine, with help from: Rodney J. Decker, Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2007), pp 229–235; Gerald O’Collins, The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), p 115.

12 Some of the differences between my translation and Schaff’s include “before all ages” in place of Schaff’s “before all worlds” and “through Whom all things came to be” in place of “by Whom all things were made”. On the former, the Greek is (as noted) aiōn, which is more literally “ages”, whereas the word for “worlds” would be kosmos. On the latter, the Greek preposition dia (διά) means’ “through” in dynamic contexts (see here), which seems best suited here, as opposed to Schaff’s “by”. Moreover, Schaff’s “were made” would imply that the Greek word is poieō or something similar (e.g. ktizō), while it is instead ginomai (here as the aorist egeneto), which is better rendered “came to be” or “became”. Taken together, this phrase best represents the Son as agent of creation: The Father, as Maker, created through the Son. See below.

13 Oliver D. Crisp, God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology (London/New York: T & T Clark, 2009), p 13; cf. p 14, esp. note 10.

14 It should be noted that this entire verse (1Cor 8:6) is verb-less—“to be” is to be assumed from 8:4–5. Accordingly, these are added to English versions in at least three different places in the verse (is . . . are . . . are).

15 See Palindromes and Chiastic Structures. Such patterns serve as mnemonic devices.

Forsaken For Our Sake

He was tortured for our transgressions, stricken for our sin sickness (Isa. 53:4–12). The One substituted for the multitude, the Just for the unjust. For our justification.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out to God the Father on the Cross. Yet we must consider the refrain of Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be?”

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

God died? God is eternal and cannot die.1 Yet, in a sense, we must affirm that God did die on the Cross (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25).

At the moment of the Incarnation, the pre-incarnate Divine Word (John 1:1) became God in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14–17; cf. Luke 1:26–35; 2:4–14). That is, Christ is the theanthropos (theos, God; anthropos, man), the God-man, and we must retain the integrity of His theanthropic person. We must not unduly separate His Deity from His humanity in His person, for this would fall prey to the heresy of what is known as Nestorianism—that Christ is two persons in one, a Divine person and a human person.

Yet, at the same time, we understand that it was Christ’s human nature that perished on the Cross, while His Divine nature continued on.2 But we state that Christ died on the Cross because of what is known as the communication of attributes. Simply stated, the communication of attributes affirms that what one nature does—whether the Divine or the human—the person of Christ does. Jesus grew tired and slept according to His human nature, though God never sleeps nor slumbers. Jesus Christ died on the Cross, though God does not die.

So Jesus’ cry to God the Father on the Cross emanated from the human nature of His person. Prior to this, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). This also was spoken from the human nature of His theanthropic person, for we must not think that Jesus as God has a different will from God the Father. Historical Christian orthodoxy affirms that the Trinity has one Divine will, while Christ has two wills—in accordance with His Divine and human natures.3

God willingly condescended to take the form of man in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to become a sacrifice for us. A Divine mystery for the sake of humanity.4


1 Strictly speaking, to believe God died—with no further qualification—is a heresy known as theopassianism or, depending on phraseology (“God the Father”), patripassianism. See, e.g., Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996), pp 204, 282.

2 For those having difficulty conceptualizing this, consider the Holy Spirit-indwelt believer as an analogy. As Christians we affirm that, upon conversion, the Spirit never leaves the regenerated believer. We also affirm that the Holy Spirit in one believer is the same Spirit in another believer. Yet the Spirit is surely not subdivided among believers! There is one Holy Spirit. God IS Spirit (John 4:24); that is, God is by nature a spirit Being. We believe God is omnipresent—that God is everywhere present, and not limited to one physical location or sphere. And, surely, when the believer dies the Holy Spirit does not die with the believer. Similarly, the hypostatic union of the Divine and human natures in Christ does not mean that the Divine nature is limited to, or wholly contained in, Jesus’ human body. The omnipresence of the Divine Word continued unabated, uninterrupted by the Incarnation. That is, Jesus’ Divine nature and His human nature were distinct in the hypostatic union of the one person of Jesus Christ such that the Divine nature was in no way impacted by this union. Now, of course, the person of Jesus Christ was limited in physical location due to His human nature; yet, in His Divine nature He continued upholding the cosmos (Col 1:17; Hebrews 1:3) even during His earthly existence. Accordingly, His Divine nature did not perish on the Cross.

3 Christ’s two wills—one Divine as part of the Trinitarian ‘Godhead’ and one human—was codified at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680–681.

4 And this is no contradiction, as some detractors might say, but a Divine mystery. There is no contradiction, properly understood.

Nevertheless . . . To Whom Shall We Go?

Perplexed at Jesus’ teaching of flesh-as-bread and blood-as-drink, many disciples desert Him. At this, Jesus questions the Twelve to see if they too wish to abandon Him. Simon Peter replies, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:60–68). Paraphrasing Peter’s words and thoughts: We too are confused by this teaching; nevertheless, to whom shall we go?

The Twelve were perplexed; nevertheless, they (minus one—John 6:70–71) still believed.

Job felt as though God was slaying him; nevertheless, he continued to place his faith in Him.

The composition is at points plaintive, at others elegiac. At times slumbering, hesitating; at times faster-paced. Its myriad and changing moods, emotions, and tempos mirror mine at times, providing a musical metaphor.

Latvian composer Georgs Pelēcis describes the piece:

One of the fundamental characteristics of my style rests in the principle of the concerto . . . The principle of the concerto [in unifying two different themes] is . . . evident in “Nevertheless”. Moreover, this double concerto for violin, piano and strings reveals the importance of the psychological dimension in music. At the beginning of this piece, the piano plays in a minor key, in a state of permanent melancholy. The violin on the other hand, almost always in a major key, swims in happiness and wants to convince his partner to join him there. For a long time he doesn’t manage it, and it is only after three violin solos, three passionate cadences, that the piano finally says “yes”. Because true happiness is happiness shared!

Like Paul in Romans 7:14–25, I engage in this internal conflict, warring with myself. But too often I tend towards the piano. The violin is there for sure, but I am more apt to hear the piano. Listen to the violin!

Feeling drained and downtrodden at times, nevertheless, I remain inspired to study and write. Something inside drives me on. Feeling a bit confounded by this topsy-turvy stage of life, nevertheless, I still cling—haphazardly at times—to the hope in Christ. To whom shall I go instead? Only His Words provide eternal life.

Psalm 40, U2, War and Scripture References

I bought U2’s album War just after its initial release in 1983. The record quickly became one of my new favorites.

Years later, as I grew to collect more Jazz and Classical music, War—like many other Rock-oriented records—was essentially cast aside and listened to only occasionally.

Upon my Christian conversion in 2000, I began culling my record collection. Much of the Rock records were sold off (or even thrown away). But I kept War.

Years later, I pulled the record for a re-listen. Some of the lyrics were seen in a new light. This began when I realized that the final song of the record, “40”, was quite obviously sourcing Psalm 40. See this video here:

After discovering this, I began to listen to and read the other song lyrics anew. One that caught me right away was the following from “Drowning Man”:

Rise up, rise up with wings
Like eagles you’ll run, you’ll run
And not grow weary

I immediately recognized this as a paraphrase of Isaiah 40:31. I then realized that the entire song was loosely based on Scripture. Another rather obvious point of contact is found in these lyrics:

The storms will pass
It won’t be long now
The storms will pass
But my love lasts forever

Bono sings it from God’s perspective: Take my hand; you know I’ll be there, if you can. I’ll cross the sky for your love. I was delighted to find another vlogger who sees this as I do:

And here I originally thought this was a love song from a man to a woman!

Another point of contact finds itself in “Surrender”: If I want to live, I’ve got to die to myself. And the song “Red Light” can be read from a Christian perspective quite easily.

This all surely comes from Bono’s and other band members’ Irish Catholic upbringing.1

After my conversion I’ve found a number of songs with an underlying Christian message. And I’ve found others that probably were not originally intended to be understood in a Christian context, yet I’ve adapted them that way nonetheless. I now have a different worldview and see things from a different perspective than I previously had. I thank God for that.


1 And, yes, I’m well aware of Bono’s subsequent (to this record’s release) questionable associations with globalists, etc. and his questionable beliefs, but they are beyond the scope of this post. It would be anachronistic to impose later views upon this 1983 release.

Is Jesus Christ Lord and Savior?

In answering this question a Christian can simply rearrange the words and turn it into a statement, a truth-claim:

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

But let’s ponder this further.

Let’s break it down into two separate claims. First: Jesus Christ is Savior. Any Christian would have no trouble affirming the truth of this statement. This is an intrinsic and necessary part of the Gospel—the Good News!

Let’s make the second claim: Jesus Christ is Lord. Once again, a Christian would find no difficulty affirming its truth.

Now let’s make it more personal: Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I cannot speak for you, of course, but I can tell you that I have difficulty affirming this. Honestly—and shamefully—I must confess that far too often Craig is lord of his own life. And, truthfully, I don’t do a very good job in that role. Yet I stubbornly persist.

How easy it is to take up—to merely give mental assent to—the message of the Cross. But how difficult it is to take up your own cross.

Cross on a hill

Confusing Eschatology

The vlog below is very well presented. The speaker has a good grasp of Jewish eschatological expectations as well as Christian eschatology. His presentation likely finds allies in ‘former’ Christians, those acquainted with and/or adhering to orthodox Jewish beliefs, and those generally opposed to Christianity.

His basic premise is that the split nature of Christian eschatology, specifically the ‘already’ (inaugurated eschatology) and the ‘not yet’ (future eschatology)—which is at odds with Jewish expectations—was a Christian invention in the wake of Jesus’ death. In accordance with this view, he thinks the New Testament writers fabricated Jesus’ resurrection as a means by which to alleviate the supposed cognitive dissonance resulting from His Crucifixion. Furthermore, he claims that the 2000 year gap between Jesus’ first century appearance in flesh and the Second Coming makes such a split view of eschatology even more untenable.

There are many ways to counter his views; however, given that he does not affirm the NT writings as (in any way?) authentic, the argument would be unable to properly proceed. Yet, there are a number of Old Testament passages one could point to, the first of which I think should be Isaiah 53. Surely, if this is describing the Messiah, and yet Jewish expectations include a Messianic reign, then the Resurrection must implicitly be part of the plan. Motyer lays out Isaiah’s implied resurrection in 53:10–12 succinctly:

Isaiah does not use the word ‘resurrection’ but these verses display the Servant ‘alive after suffering’ (Acts 1:3). Not, however, alive in the Old Testament sense that the dead possess in the half-life of Sheol  [ED: cf. Luke 16:19–31] . . . The dead (9) is alive (10), the condemned (8) is righteous (11), the helpless (7) is the Victor (12).1

The way the vlogger chooses to discount the split aspect of Christian eschatology, though, is problematic. In tune with his confirmation bias, he posits a false analogy. He uses failed ‘prophecy’ in the form of Second Coming predictions—even though such predictions violate the Scriptures Christian orthodoxy accepts—to ‘prove’ how Christians use Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) to resolve such failed prophecy.

He uses the Millerites and Seventh Day Adventism as his example, in which the failed date-setting is salvaged via a ‘spiritualized’ fulfillment, while the Second Coming remains yet future. He then implicitly equates this to the Resurrection and its attendant eschatology, suggesting that first century Christians supposedly used similar CDT in order to relieve their dissonance following Jesus’ Crucifixion.

My point in posting this is to show merely one way a person can try to cast doubt on the truths contained in Scripture. It’s all about one’s presuppositions.


1 J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary [TOTC], (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009 [1999]), p 381 (I Capitalized “Victor”).



Creating Straw Men from Cognitive Dissonance

Hymn to God and Jesus

This song has long been somewhat of an enigma for me. It clearly lays out the Gospel message and has appropriate accompanying music, which builds as it goes. Yet it contains some lyrics that strike me as a bit odd, out of place. Despite my own reservations, it may function well enough as a nice praise/worship song. Those familiar with the song may find my critique here a bit too—well—critical.

The song is “Hymn” by the progressive rock band Barclay James Harvest, the first track from their 1977 album Gone to Earth. See/hear video below the lyrics:

(John Lees)

Valleys deep and the mountains so high
If you want to see God you’ve got to move on the other side
You stand up there with your head in the clouds
Don’t try to fly you know you might not come down
Don’t try to fly, dear God, you might not come down

Jesus came down from Heaven to earth
The people said it was a virgin birth
Jesus came down from Heaven to earth
The People said it was a virgin birth
The People said it was a virgin birth

He told great stories of the Lord
And said He was the Saviour of us all
He told great stories of the Lord
And said He was the Saviour of us all
And said He was the Saviour of us all

For this we killed Him, nailed Him up high
He rose again as if to ask us why
Then He ascended into the sky
As if to say in God alone you soar
As if to say in God alone we fly

Valleys deep and the mountains so high
If you want to see God you’ve got to move on the other side
You stand up there with your head in the clouds
Don’t try to fly you know you might not come down
Don’t try to fly, dear God, you might not come down

The first two lines together declare God as Creator. And though the second line affirms that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20; Isaiah 6:5–7; John 1:18, 6:46; 1John 4:12), it yet also seems a bit out of character with the rest of the verse. And the song. More on this further below.1

The next verse lays out the Virgin Birth. I could quibble, but it adequately functions as part of a simple worship song.  The third verse calls Jesus “Saviour of us all” (British spelling). It works well enough in the context of the song (though, again, I could quibble).

But the theological rubber hits the road in the fourth verse. After verses two and three proclaim Jesus’ coming to earth—and recall the album’s title Gone to Earth—being born of a virgin, and being “Saviour”, verse four declares His death by crucifixion (“For this we killed Him, nailed Him up high”) and His resurrection from the dead. The words “as if to ask us why” can be chalked up to poetic license to rhyme. The final two lines can be interpreted as Jesus being the first-fruits of many. That’s the Gospel!

The final verse is identical to the first. As such, they provide bookends to the Gospel message in between. So how does the song cohere?

According to one (secondary) source, the song is—presumably first quoting John Lees, the writer here—“’primarily about the dangers of drug abuse’ comparing it with the spiritual high of religion.”2 So now we have the interpretive key!

The first line has a double meaning. Besides the one described above, it refers to being high and, conversely, low in an illicit drug sense. This, then, makes sense of the rest of the lines. Some abusers have remarked how drug highs have a spiritual/religious feeling—a sense of ‘God’s’ presence or even seeing ‘God’. But Lees explains that this cannot be done in this life, but “on the other side”.

I think the reader can understand the rest.

So what do you think? Could this song be used in a Christian setting?

P.S. (Pre-Script)

I don’t know that I ever would have heard “Hymn” had it not been for a radio station I listened to when I was a teenager. My introduction to Barclay James Harvest was the track “May Day”, from their 1976 album Octoberon, when the station played the selection upon the album’s release. Though I was intrigued by the music and lyrics, it was the completely unexpected choral/orchestral (the latter likely using keyboards) ending that captivated me (beginning at around 4:53 in the video/vlog further below). I’d never heard such an unusual juxtaposition before. I bought the LP shortly after my initial hearing of this song. From there I explored some of the band’s other output, eventually acquiring the album Gone To Earth, but this was well-before my Christian conversion.

At the time I picked up Octoberon I was not yet aware of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, so I didn’t have a point of reference for the lyrics.3 Oh, but now I certainly do:

(John Lees)

The rock on which I stand is slowly sinking in the sand
The sheer realities of life are rushing by
I am looking out at life and I don’t know what’s wrong or right
And I can’t even see the bright side of the moon

I stopped a man in the street today
And I asked him, “Sir, is it night or day?”
He just stared in disbelief
I asked again but he walked away
He said, “Don’t you know?”
I said, “Can’t you say? Is there something in between?
Is it something I’ve not seen?
Did it change so fast or was it just a dream?”

Time and time again I’ve tried to recreate the past few days
Evaluate the constants from the haze
But every time I think I’m right, they say I’m wrong
“This day is night and night is day –
It’s there in black and white”

Night is light and dark is day
If I disagree they say I’m insane
And the treatment will begin
If I say that the day is light
They just point my eyes to the blinding night, saying,
“We can’t set you free if you always disagree,
So the State is going to pay your doctor’s fee”

They put me out in the pouring rain
To enjoy the sun or to feel the pain
Of the nightmare life’s become
I asked a man in the street today
Or was it yesterday or the day before?
“Is there something I’ve not seen?
Is there something in between?
Did it change so fast or was it just a dream?”

The rock on which I stand is now beneath the ever-flowing sand
The sheer realities are here to stay
I’m looking out at life and now I know what’s wrong and right
It’s what you hear and what you read and what they say

I saw a man in the street today
Asked another man, “Is it night or day?”
He just stared in disbelief
He said, “Friend, it’s your lucky day
I’m a party man, won’t you step this way?
I’ve got something you’ve not seen.”
Now I know it’s not a dream
It just came so fast, that something in between

1 I also wince at the fifth line’s “dear God”, for, to me, it breaches the 3rd Commandment.  Lyrically, I understand why Lees wrote it in, but it comes off a bit frivolous. It doesn’t appear reverential but as a parallel to “you know” in the fourth line; but, “oh no” would have been much better. In fact, I propose that substitution for anyone wishing to cover the song.
2 See Songfacts.
3 The lyrics may have been influenced by David Bowie’s 1974 LP Diamond Dogs, with its dystopian landscape, as based on Orwell’s book. Bowie uses hyperbole to get the dystopian message across, then exaggerates the extent to which one will go to numb its inevitable emotional toll: They’ll split your pretty cranium, and fill it full of air / And tell you that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care / You’ll be shooting up on anything, tomorrow’s never there / Beware the savage jaw of 1984 (“1984”). But after the requisite preconditioning, the apocalyptic vision is accepted, welcomed: Someone to claim us, someone to follow / Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo / Someone to fool us, someone like you / We want you Big Brother (“Big Brother”). For his part, John Lees describes the workings and outworkings of the ‘Ministry of Truth’.

Art Intimates Scripture: In the Winter of ‘The American Four Seasons’

24:36 “Now, concerning that day and hour, no one knows—not even the angels of heaven, and not even the Son—except the Father alone. 37 For as the days of Noah, so will be the Parousia of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark 39 —and they did not realize until the Flood came and carried them all away. So will be the Parousia of the Son of Man. 40 At that time, two men will be in the field: one is received and one is disregarded. 41 Two women will be grinding in the mill: one is received and one is disregarded.”1

What follows below is strictly my own interpretation and application of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, aka The American Four Seasons. But the composer explicitly welcomes such individual interpretation:

[Robert McDuffie’s] interpretation, though similar to my own, proved to be also somewhat different. This struck me as an opportunity, then, for the listener to make his/her own interpretation. Therefore, there will be no instructions for the audience, no clues as to where Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall might appear in the new concerto—an interesting, though not worrisome, problem for the listener. After all, if Bobby and I are not in complete agreement, an independent interpretation can be tolerated and even welcomed.2

A bit of background information is necessary to explain my interpretation/application. The concerto is composed in eight parts, with a prologue preceding the first movement, and each succeeding movement preceded by a song:

Movement I
Song No. 1
Movement II
Song No. 2
Movement III
Song No. 3
Movement IV

The Prologue and songs are short solo violin pieces. In contrast, the movements incorporate the ensemble. The Prologue, then, serves as a prelude to Movement I, while the songs function as interludes bridging each Movement.

In view of its overall structure, each Movement correlates to one of the four seasons. It seems best to conceive these seasons as proceeding in order beginning with spring, then summer, fall, and winter. Thus far, this is fairly straightforward.

Digressing just a bit while providing additional context, I must say I really like this piece. I think it is fairly accessible, even to the Classical music hesitant (or Classical music “purist” put off by ‘minimalism’). Movement I may be the most ear-pleasing. The slower and more melancholic Movement II features some achingly beautiful moments, after which it segues into its waltz section—my favorite part of the concerto. The up-tempo Movement III lifts the mood of II, and its quasi-harpsichord accompaniment and occasional flourishes—played on a synthesizer—merges the past with the contemporary. Movement IV is the fastest and musically the ‘busiest’ of them all:

I interpret these movements as indicating segments of time in chronology—as opposed to literal seasons of a calendar year. As such, Movement I correlates to the birth of the USA and each successive Movement relates to subsequent time periods. Movement IV, then, represents the time period we are currently living within. The American Empire is in the winter of its existence.

The winter of America seems to be moving exponentially faster than previous seasons. Notice how Movement IV’s tempo quickens sharply, almost chaotically, just before it abruptly ends. I interpret that as analogous to the USA’s forthcoming demise.

Interestingly, Movement IV is seven minutes long. Just before its halfway mark it slows a bit, briefly pausing altogether before beginning anew. It returns to the original tempo, yet as it begins to decrease instrumentation, it appears to slow a bit. Following that, the full ensemble reenters. The violin plays faster arpeggios (the overall tempo remaining the same), until the tempo rapidly increases and the violinist speeds his bowing to match. Then the end.

Though the concerto was written specifically for Robert McDuffie (and it was premiered with this violinist featured), the above was performed by violinist Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica ensemble. In the liner notes for this release, new seasons, Kremer remarks:

The subject of seasons in music has always interested me and has become the focus of a number of my recordings and concert programs . . . Why the seasons? Why “new seasons”? As an artist I’ve always tried to keep in step with the times. Time and seasons are virtually synonymous.3

In the Greek of the New Testament, “time” is chronos, while “season” (or “appointed/proper time”) is kairos. The latter term, kairos (as opposed to chronos), is used when referring to Jesus’ Parousia—His return to usher in the end of all things. [See Not One Parousia, But Two.] For example, kairos is found twice in the Parable of the Tenants (21:34 and 21:41). And the term is found just after the section of Scripture beginning this post:

24:42 “Therefore, be alert, because you do not know on what day our Lord is coming. 43 But be certain of this: If the owner of the house had known which segment of nighttime the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Considering this, you must also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom his master has put in charge of his household—the one giving them nourishment in season [kairos]? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master finds so doing when he comes! 47 Amen I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant should say in his heart, ‘My lord delays’ . . .”

How long till the closing of this American winter season I will not venture or dare to predict.  Yet I do suspect the end of the empire will come near the end of it all, though, again, I will not hazard a guess as to timing (concerning that day and hour, no one knows . . . except the Father alone). But I want to be ready, no matter the case.

Only time will tell in this season. Sadly, most will continue “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”, oblivious to the coming wrath.

Let’s endeavor to keep each other alert.


1 After exegeting this passage, I consulted a few commentaries, especially regarding vv. 40 and 41. Some attempt to read too much into the context, construing 39’s ēren (“carried away” [some translate “taken away”, neglecting other nuances in the term]) as parallel to paralambanetai (“is received” [“is taken”, by many]) in 40 and 41, thereby concluding both refer to judgment. But this is clearly incorrect. 24:31 illustrates that the Son of Man sends His angels to “gather His elect” at His Parousia. This ‘gathering’ is what is referred to in paralambanetai in both 40 and 41. This is why I contrast “received” with “disregarded” in 40 and 41. One is “received” as part of the elect, the other is “disregarded” and s/he will be among those who will mourn (24:30). One is received as a child of God, the other is disregarded just as s/he disregarded the Son of Man. Donald A. Hagner (Matthew 14–28, WBC [Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1995]) is a fount of clarity here (24:40–41): “Presumably, those who are “taken” [ED: or “received”] are among the elect whom the angels of the Son of Man are to gather at his coming (v 31), while those who are left await the prospect of judgment. The application of these verses is made clear in the exhortation that follows” (p 720).

2 Taken from “NOTES” tab here: Philip Glass recordings: Violin Concerto No. 2 – The American Four Seasons 2010.

3 Liner notes to Gidon Kremer | Kremerata Baltica, new seasons (Glass, Pärt, Kancheli, Umebayashi), 00289 479 4817, © 2015 Deutsche Grammophon, GmbH, Berlin.

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